Aptly named “The Last Frontier,” Alaska is larger than California, Texas and Montana combined with only 10 percent of the last state to be admitted into the union being accessible by car. Still, there is still enough to see and do in Alaska to keep you busy for weeks. If this is your first time in Alaska, here is a list of what you should do:
Alaska is world renowned for it fishing and draws more anglers each year than any other place in the world. All five species of Pacific salmon, some of the biggest halibut on earth and world-class trout fishing make Alaska a must for any angler. Guided fishing trips are available from various outfitters or, if you are the adventurous type, you can go it on your own. If you decide to go it alone, be sure you bone up on the fishing regulations.
Spanning 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks, the Alaska Railroad was constructed over a nine year period and connects numerous Alaskan towns and villages. The route traverses some of the most spectacular scenery found on earth and the train offers a dining car and observation area. Several types of passes are available so you can stop and stay over at various locations along the route.
Watching the giants of the deep breach the ocean surface is one of the most spectacular sights known to man. While you can get in plenty of whale watching from shore with a good pair of binoculars, there are many half- and full day whale-watching charters available. Some even provide lunch. Call around and ask what each trip offers to get the best bang for your buck.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Open year round and located in Anchorage, the Alaska Native Heritage Center promotes native Alaskan culture with educational programs and collections of native artifacts. The center offers hands-on workshops and interpretive tours.
The Kenai and Yukon are the two best rivers in the state for float trips. You can hire a river guide who will provide all the gear or rent a raft and have a do-it-yourself trip. Reputable outfitters offer single or multi-day trips or pack your own camping and fishing gear and go it alone. Just be sure to pick a section of the river suited to your skill level.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Holding over six million acres of land accessed by a single road, Denali National Park is home to the highest peak in the U.S. Once named for President McKinley, Mt. Denali stands at 20,310 feet and overlooks a taiga forest and alpine tundra. There is a special viewing area where you can watch grizzly bears snatch salmon from the air as the fish make their way upriver in the fall.
Kayaking Through Southeast Alaska
Kayaking around glaciers in the Kenai Fjords, Glacier Bay Prince and William Sound in Southeast Alaska is an adventure few people get to experience. You can rent kayaks at many places and experience the solitude of the bays and inlets while viewing wildlife and doing some fishing. There are plenty of online maps that show put-in and take-out spots and dozens of camping spots. Some maps are interactive and allow you to search by feature.
The Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis or “Northern Lights,” only occur during the winter when magnetically charged particles enter the earth’s atmosphere. The best time to view the lights is in the very early morning hours, just after midnight. There are numerous lodges that offer accommodations, meals and viewing of the lights.
Hiking Hatcher Pass
Set in the breathtaking beauty of the Talkeetna Mountains, Hatcher Pass offers so many hiking trails and abandoned mines left over from Alaska’s gold-rush days it will take you days to explore them all. You might even find a nugget or two.