There are so many reasons to visit Alaska! To help get you started on your adventure, we’ve put together our top five reasons to visit The Last Frontier.
This post was written by BTTM team member Alicia Glassmeyer.
The Alaska Wildlife
The first reason to visit Alaska is the abundant wildlife; on land, in the sea, and in the air. On our trip to Seward, Alaska, we took a one day small group whale watching and glacier tour with Alaska Saltwater Lodge. Within 5 minutes of being on the boat, we saw the most adorable sea otters relaxing on the surface of the water and I was instantly hooked!
Throughout the day we saw a variety of wildlife, all from the comfort of a small boat with an amazing captain who really tried to make sure everyone on the cruise got the opportunity to see the things they wanted to see. For me, this was puffins, and we saw both Tufted Puffins and Horned Puffins!
We also saw orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, porpoises, sea lions, mountain goats, bald eagles, and so many sea birds. And when you’re not out on the ocean, there is no shortage of wildlife viewing opportunities. My main goal while in Alaska was to see a bull moose, and I saw my first Alaskan bull moose within an hour of getting off the plane in Anchorage, on our drive to the Kenai Peninsula. In fact, we saw three moose along our drive from Anchorage to Seward.
Pro Tip: Drive carefully when you’re in Alaska. Take your time on the roads to avoid collisions with extremely large moose.
The Alaska Scenery
Another reason to visit Alaska is its scenery, which is like nowhere else in the world. Where else can you see beautiful coastal mountains that rise up out of the ocean, age old glaciers calving into the sea, or view “Denali” the tallest mountain peak in North America?
The glacial rivers are pristine and an icy color of blue that is near impossible to describe. The vast amount of open spaces with amazing views around every corner gives you a true chance to escape from the stress of everyday life and some unbelievable landscape photography opportunities.
The Alaska Adventures
Hiking, kayaking, fishing, boating, riding ATVs…the list of Alaskan adventure opportunities is almost endless. During our short 5 day trip to Alaska, we were able to fly fish for salmon on the Kenai River, spent a day kayaking next to icebergs on a glacial lake, and rode ATVs in the mountains near Denali National Park. There is no shortage of outfitters ready and willing to help you have the experience of a lifetime, but the ones we used and recommend are Alaska River Adventures and Backcountry Safaris.
If you visit Alaska during salmon season, please do yourself the favor of giving salmon fishing a try. It will challenge you physically and mentally, allow you to literally stand in one of those beautiful glacial rivers we mentioned above, and if you’re successful it will provide you with many pounds of the best salmon you will ever taste.
There is nothing better than receiving your shipment of fresh Alaskan salmon at your door when you arrive home from your trip, allowing you to re-live your vacation at dinner time for months. Our guide Gary with Alaska River Adventures, was outrageously entertaining and extremely knowledgeable. He joked around that I should kiss the fish once I caught one, because I struggled for a bit keeping them on the hook. I don’t think he thought I’d do it but I showed him!
If you’re like us and enjoy really experiencing your vacation destinations, we recommend kayaking at Bear Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. This place is the definition of remote wilderness. We were the only people for as far as the eye could see, and even though it was cold and drizzling the whole day we still look back on this adventure as the best day of our lives.
We kayaked among icebergs freshly calved from the glacier, made friends with a seal we named George due to his intense curiosity of us, and had a picnic on a beach watching bald eagles soar. Getting to the glacier was an adventure in itself- we got to take a helicopter over the ocean and mountains! Our guide Eugene was very accommodating; he even fed us hot chocolate and cookies while we were stopped and exploring the beach by the glacier!
The Long Days of Summer
We visited Alaska in early June which is the beginning of the major summer tourist season in Alaska. We were fortunate enough to have great weather, we missed the mosquitoes, and we did not see a ton of other tourists. The benefit of traveling to Alaska during the summer months is that the daylight hours are almost unending.
We arrived around 10pm at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage and it was still light out. The sun hung on the horizon for hours which made it seem like we were witnessing the longest sunset you can imagine…breathtaking. We even got treated to a sunset rainbow right away as we drove along the Turnagain Arm on our way to Seward. The long days give you a chance to see more and make the most of every day you have on your vacation.
The Alaska Art And Culture
We had a chance to spend some time at the Museum of the North, located on the University of Alaska campus in Fairbanks. This allowed us to soak up some of the culture, which is always a good idea when you visit a new place. The more you can learn about where you are visiting, the better off you will be.
At the museum, you will see amazing artifacts, totem poles, and learn about the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. You can also visit the pipeline just outside of Fairbanks, in Fox. It is a marvel of engineering and standing underneath it really puts its scale into perspective.
In Denali National Park, we were able to watch sled dogs in action and learn about how they help protect the park during the winter months. Sled dogs have a rich history in Alaska, and getting a chance to see them up close and watch them run is an unforgettable experience.
Additional things to consider if you’re planning a trip to Alaska:
- – Alaska is a very large state and travel time between cities is long. Even if Google maps says it only takes 5 hours, it will take longer when you stop for photos, wildlife, or construction because summer is also roadwork season.
- – Bring layers of clothing. The weather can change quickly and it is not always cold, in Fairbanks it was almost 90 degrees and very hot when we were there in mid-June, while the coastal areas of the Kenai Peninsula were cooler.
- – If you go later in the summer, the mosquitoes are pretty bad from what we hear, so bring bug spray and/or protective clothing.
- – Be prepared to pay a little more for things like gas and food, but also know that if you’re road tripping through Alaska, it is all totally worth it!
So there you have it, five reasons to take that bucket list trip to Alaska. Have you considered a trip to The Last Frontier? If you have any questions, or if you’ve been to Alaska and have additional tips, feel free to place them in the comments below! 🙂
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Alicia is an amateur photographer from Colorado. She loves camping, dogs, and cake.