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Alaska Travel Highlights for All Seasons

It’s probably safe to say that whoever came up with the expression “everything’s bigger in Texas” hadn’t been to Alaska. One of the unique thrills of visiting, is feeling dwarfed by the sheer vastness of the state. Here, the skies are big, the land spacious, the mountains tall and rivers wide. Alaska even has some of North America’s largest animals including large populations of humpback whales, Brown Bears, and Moose.

Alaska’s wild expanse can have an almost mystical ability to make you contemplate your place in the world. The vastness of the land seems to dwarf manmade structures. Huge areas of land remain unpopulated, allowing wildlife to flourish. Whether you’re planning a trip to Alaska during the busy summer tourist season or peaceful quiet of winter, here are a few attractions you won’t want to miss.

Mendenhall Glacier

Head to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor’s Center to enjoy one of Alaska’s most breathtaking views in climate controlled comfort, or hike around the area. Rangers are on-hand at the center to answer questions about glacier history and local wildlife. Make sure to pack a lot of film. In addition to the namesake glacier, in an afternoon at Mendenhall visitors can see Bullard Mountain, Mendenhall Lake, Nugget Falls, and a hanging valley. Here it seems no matter where you point your camera, you’re bound to score a stunning image.

Northern Lights

People come to Alaska from all over the world to see the Aurora Borealis, also known as Northern Lights. Though visible year-round, the lights are most dramatic against the dark canvas of a winter’s night sky. Travel to the outskirts of Alaska’s cities or, better yet, to a lodge nestled in the rugged countryside to behold the lights’ full, unobstructed majesty.

Glacier Bay National Park

This massive park stretches across 3.3 million acres and is richly populated with all variety of Alaska wildlife. Marine mammals such as black and brown bears, deer, moose, wolves, and bald eagles can be spotted on land. The park’s waters are home to humpback whale, orcas, sea otters, harbor seals, and porpoises among others species. Ten miles of maintained hiking trails are located at Bartlett Cove. Kayaking is a popular way to sightsee around the Bay and visitors can choose to join a guided tour or strike out on their own.

Whale Watching Tours

Few things will cause you to consider your size in the world like seeing a massive humpback whale breach the ocean’s surface. Whale watching tours are a common tourist activity in Alaska and can be a great way to experience some stunning wildlife encounters in an afternoon. Humpbacks and orca whales are the most commonly spotted, though beluga whales can also be seen from some ports. Point Aldolphus is a common feeding area for humpbacks; from there it’s possible to spot dozens of whales on one outing.

Alaska By Air

Some of Alaska’s most beautiful attractions are difficult or impossible to reach through ground transportation. Luckily Alaska’s numerous small plane companies offer a quick ride to anywhere in the state. Tour books and guides can recommend lots of amazing fly-in destinations, from secluded resorts to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If you don’t have a particular destination in mind, a scenic flight can offer an unforgettable sightseeing experience.

Kodiak Island

A perfect weekend getaway for exploring Alaskan culture and wildlife can be found 250 miles southwest of Anchorage on Kodiak Island. Accessible by either plane or ferry ride, Kodiak landscape includes mountain ranges, lush forests, and features a large portion of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

Stop by the Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center to see a 36-foot long Grey Whale skeleton and pick up a map of the area. Visit the Russian Orthodox Church or Baranov Museum for a glimpse into Kodiak Island’s rich cultural history. Dine on fresh sushi at a restaurant in town, or cook beans over the fire at a backcountry camp. A Kodiak Island trip can be just as comfy or exciting as you’d care to make it.

No matter which direction your travels take you through Alaska’s varied and beautiful terrain, endless opportunities await those with a little time to spend and a healthy sense of adventure.

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