The 3 best places to visit in Alaska
Are you planning a trip to Alaska? If your answer is yes, you’ve come to the right place. Alaska is a huge state and narrowing down what you want to do and see can sometimes be a challenge. So, trust us when we say we’ve got the inside scoop on some of the best places to visit in Alaska to add to your itinerary.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park is home to some of the most iconic wildlife that travelers can see which comes as no surprise since the park boasts 6.1 million acres to wander. With many animals roaming around the park, keep an eye out for the big five — moose, bears, Dall sheep, wolves and caribou.
While visitors are permitted to take a self-drive adventure along the Denali Park Road up to mile 15, those who plan to go further will need to take the hop-on, hop-off park shuttle bus or one of the other tour buses. This mass transit system was put into place as park officials began to anticipate an increase in traffic, and they were right. Roughly 600,000 people travel to the park each year! Using the bust system helps reduce traffic and protect the park.
There are a number of bus tours to choose from including narrated tours that combine stories about the park’s rich history and information about the vegetation and animals that live inside the park. In 2022, bus tours will travel up to mile 43.
If you are curious about all the attractions and activities that are offered in the park, we recommend you don’t skip out on making a stop at the Denali Visitor Center and the areas surrounding the center. At the visitor center you can explore exhibits, catch panoramic views of the park through the large glass windows, chat with a ranger and watch the park film before you take off on your adventure through the park.
For the easiest way to get to Denali National Park, hop on a Blue or Yellow Denali Rail Tour for uninterrupted views of Alaska’s natural beauty en route aboard glass-domed rail cars.
Portage Glacier is just a short drive from Anchorage and is one of the most visited glaciers in Alaska. There are two main ways to view the glacier: a short hike or a day cruise. Take a leisure hike on Portage Pass Trail starting from the nearby community of Whittier. The four-mile roundtrip trail is the only established trail with a view of the majestic glacier and is friendly to all ages. The hike can be done in two hours or longer, depending on how much time you want to enjoy the trail’s natural beauty and surrounding scenes.
If you want to get up close to the glacier, the day cruise is the way to go. Professionals onboard the Portage Glacier Cruise deliver information on the glacier’s history and additional fun facts while you get to sit back and take in the views. This is an entertaining and scenic way to spend the afternoon. The cruise allows you to get up close and personal with the glacier and wildlife, and you will catch views of waterfalls spilling into Portage Lake. If you listen close enough, you might be able to hear the glacier calving.
Want to make it a day trip? After you check out the glacier you can enjoy one of the many nearby hiking trails (with views of more glaciers). Byron Glacier Trail is a mild trail for all ages. The well-maintained trail is a little over one mile with a 100-foot elevation gain. Much of the trail runs close to Byron Creek which gives off the calming sounds of nature for those hiking along the trail.
For a more moderate challenge, check out the Trail of Blue Ice. Visitors can find the trailhead along Portage Lake Road for the 4.7 mile trail that reaches from Portage Lake to Moose Flats near the Seward highway. The hiking/biking trail features captivating views of the mountains and the glaciers between them.
On your way back to Anchorage, be sure to stop at the nearby Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Conservation, education, and research are the center’s primary focus and the outdoor attraction allows visitors to see moose, brown and black bears, musk ox, caribou, wood bison, and more along the 1.5-mile loop. You can walk or drive (since you’ve been hiking all day!) through the center. While you’re there, enjoy daily guest programs to get a closer look at the everyday life of the animals that call the center home.
Head south out of Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula, where you can get hooked on some of the finest salmon fishing in the state and embark on many sightseeing tours. Bonus, the scenic drive south is unlike any other. Take a full- or half-day Kenai Upper River Fishing tour and hook into the season’s fish. The tour is good for all fishing skill levels. Or, enter the turquoise waters of the Kenai River on a Scenic Float tour, where you can enjoy the serene beauty inside the heart of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
After a day on the water, test out your luck and hope to strike gold while you gold pan with Prospector John in the quaint town of Cooper Landing. This entertaining opportunity is fun for the whole family —roll your sleeves up, have some laughs, and learn about the history of gold mining in Alaska.
No matter what epic Alaska adventure you want to embark on, let Gray Line Alaska help you find the perfect tour for your travels.
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