Alaska is famous for its stunning scenery, giant glaciers, pristine forests, romantic lodges and abundant wildlife. See the highest mountain in North America, watch the Northern Lights, drive along the 1,500-mile Alaska Highway, and explore Alaska’s charming towns and cities, including Juneau, Anchorage, Ketchikan, Talkeetna, Skagway, Sitka, Haines, Homer and Valdez. Here are the best places to visit in Alaska, including Denali, Glacier Bay and Mendenhall Ice Caves. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1. Denali National Park
3. Mendenhall Glacier
4. Glacier Bay National Park
5. Places to Visit in Alaska: Hubbard Glacier
6. Alaska Destinations: Talkeetna
9. Places to Visit in Alaska: Homer
10. Northern Lights in Fairbanks
12.Alaska Destinations: Valdez
13.Places to Visit in Alaska: Seward
15.Tracy Arm Fjord
16.Tongass National Forest
18.Places to Visit in Alaska: Columbia Glacier
19. Kenai Fjords National Park
20. Alaska Destinations: Matanuska Glacier
21 Best Places to Visit in Alaska
- Denali National Park, Photo: Courtesy of ballllad - Fotolia.com
- Ketchikan, Photo: Courtesy of Alan James - Fotolia.com
- Mendenhall Glacier, Photo: Courtesy of Thawatphong Bunsoemm - Fotolia.com
- Glacier Bay National Park, Photo: Courtesy of braniffman - Fotolia.com
- Places to Visit in Alaska: Hubbard Glacier, Photo: Courtesy of lhboucault - Fotolia.com
- Alaska Destinations: Talkeetna, Photo: Courtesy of tonympix - Fotolia.com
- Skagway, Photo: Courtesy of Ruth P. Peterkin - Fotolia.com
- Sitka, Photo: Courtesy of Shakzu - Fotolia.com
- Places to Visit in Alaska: Homer, Photo: Courtesy of alpegor - Fotolia.com
- Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Photo: Courtesy of Beelix - Fotolia.com
- Girdwood , Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Bibbo - Fotolia.com
- Alaska Destinations: Valdez, Photo: Courtesy of Ulrich Becker - Fotolia.com
- Places to Visit in Alaska: Seward, Photo: Courtesy of Chris Boswell - Fotolia.com
- Haines, Photo: Courtesy of Mark - Fotolia.com
- Tracy Arm Fjord, Photo: Courtesy of jumpingjammie - Fotolia.com
- Tongass National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of Harry HU - Fotolia.com
- Alaska Highway, Photo: Courtesy of gordon__shumway - Fotolia.com
- Places to Visit in Alaska: Columbia Glacier, Photo: Courtesy of Gail Johnson - Fotolia.com
- Kenai Fjords National Park, Photo: Courtesy of tonawilliams - Fotolia.com
- Alaska Destinations: Matanuska Glacier, Photo: Courtesy of Rocky Grimes - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of lhboucault - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Misty Fjords
With an enormous two million acres of natural beauty, Misty Fjords attracts thousands of tourists on a yearly basis due to its hiking, wildlife, and general sightseeing possibilities. This tourist attraction and official natural monument is in Ketchikan, Alaska, which offers the best of both the untamed wilderness and city amenities that all guests will enjoy.
Part of the much larger Tongass National Forest, Misty Fjords is both a national monument and official wilderness area that is supported by the United States Parks Department. It was set up in December of 1978 by then President Jimmy Carter. It has similar glacial morphology and geology to Yosemite Valley and was originally charted by European explorers in the late 1700s. The forests are made up of a variety of types of trees, like spruce, cedar, and hemlock.
Misty Fjords is well known for attracted tourists to its many different outdoor activities. Most of those outdoor activities allow tourists some of the best views of this exceptionally beautiful part of Alaska.
One of the most popular outdoor activities at Misty Fjords is kayaking through the inlets and protected coves. Due to its immense size, many of the tourists who kayak through Misty Fjords will choose to have one of the tourist boats drop them off and pick them back up. This allows even beginning kayakers to enjoy the beautiful waters of the fjords without having to commit to spending longer on the water than they are capable of handling.
Another way for seeing the majesty of the fjords is by taking a flightseeing tour. Tours are available and cater to small tours of between two and eight people in a small plane. Experienced tour guides and pilots fly guests over the fjords and point out the sights from the sky, allowing them to see Misty Fjords from a unique angle unavailable to most people. Photographs are encouraged. There are also helicopter tours, allowing an even small tour of only up to four at a time. Many of these tours will take guests over the 1000-foot waterfall off Big Goat Lake and the giant walls of granite that are 3000 feet in height.
A combination tour available is two-hour tour aboard a floatplane. Guests will be provided with their own headsets, maps, and guides. After taking a traditional flight above the fjords and lakes, the floatplane takes a dramatic splash landing in one of the lakes. Guests can then leave and spend some time hiking in the nearby forest or enjoying the shore.
Tourists may also enjoy hiking through the forest, as the national park occupies an immense amount of land. One of the best ways to see both the space and the living creatures that call the park home is by downloading one of the available wildlife guides from the Misty Fjords website. Often seen in the park are two types of bears (black and brown), Sitka black tailed deer, moose, bald eagles, wolves, and moose. There is also a huge population of mountain goats. Make sure to bring a camera and a pair of binoculars, as well as sturdy, closed toed shoes.
Misty Fjords is in Ketchikan, Alaska, which has a variety of different fairs and festivals throughout the year.
One of the more fun and interesting named festivals, the Gigglefeet Dance Fest, happens annually at the end of July or the beginning of August. This festival focuses on residents presenting a variety of different dance styles and have featured everything from classical ballet dancing, Filipino break dancing, and boogie woogie. Many of the dancers are people who grew up in Ketchikan but left to pursue various careers, always coming back for this unique dance festival.
There are also many festivals built around the lakes of the Misty Fjords, and the immense amounts of fishing and local seafood found there. From the Halibut Derby, to the Shellfish Festival, and the King Salmon Derby, the locals love to display their local catches in a variety of regional cuisine as well as the hobby, skill, and time it takes to fish the local lakes.
Dining and Shopping
Misty Fjords and Ketchikan are often considered the Salmon Capital of the world, and the local dining options highlights exactly that. However, they also branch out into other fresh seafood options like halibut, oysters, clams, and more. One local favorite is the Alaska Fish House. There are also many shopping options, from large mall to smaller, specialty shops like Made in Alaska.
3031 Tongass Ave, Ketchikan, Alaska, Phone: 907-225-2148
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Attraction Spotlight: Katmai National Park and Preserve
Katmai National Park and Preserve is located on the northern Alaskan Peninsula, with headquarters in King Salmon. The park spans an active volcano landscape, the area surrounding Mount Katmai, and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. In addition to protecting 9,000 years of human history, the park is also a haven for thousands of brown bears, which take advantage of the salmon habitat. The Katmai geology is unique, formed by the world’s 5th largest volcanic eruption, by far the largest of the 20th century.
The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was named so due to the barren landscape marked by smoking fissures in the land just after the 1912 eruption. Today, the fissures have cooled, leaving behind colorful deposits of ash chilled into clay. Brooks Camp is the most popular destination in the park. Brooks Camp is located on the shore of Naknek Lake at the mouth of the Bear River. It’s popular as a world-class fishing location, and for the viewing of Brown bears, who also flock to the area for the fish. The camp serves as a trailhead for many of the park’s hikes and backcountry adventures. Campgrounds at Brooks Camp are located on the shore of Naknek Lake among mature poplar and birch trees. The campground is surrounded by an electric fence to deter bears from entering the area. The area surrounding the Brooks River is an archeological district on the National Register of Historic Places. Over 900 depressions in which Native Alaskan homes were once located are found along the river. There are several historic structures within the park. Among the most visited is Naknek Lake’s Fure’s Cabin and the Brooks Camp Fisheries Building. Fure’s Cabin is a one-room house available for public use. The cabin, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, was built in 1926 by Roy Fure. Fure was a Lithuanian who came to Alaska seeking fortune in the early 1900’s. The log cabin’s hand-hewn spruce logs are dovetail joined, and serve as an example of European craftsmanship. Accessible by airplane or boat only, the park is extremely isolated, allowing for a spectacular wilderness experience.
History: The largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century occurred at Novarupta in 1912, just 6 miles from Mount Katmai. The explosion, which was 30 times larger than that at Mt. Saint Helens in 1980, collapsed the top of Mount Katmai, due to magma draining from underneath it to spew forth at Novarupta. The downwind Kodiak Island was engulfed in ash and complete darkness for three full days. The eruption completely buried the nearby Katmai Village. Locals were forced to leave and never returned. As a positive, the eruption brought a renewed interest to the remote Alaskan area. The National Geographic Society funded several expeditions to the area in the early 1900’s, which eventually led to the creation of Mt. Katmai as a National Monument in 1918. Scientists at the time were convinced that the smoking fissures in the landscape would lead to geysers to rival those of Yellowstone National Park, although by the 1930’s most of the openings had cooled, leaving behind “chimneys” and clay of outstanding red, purple and orange colors.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Ranger-led programs are offered at Brooks Camp from June through September each year. All visitors to the Brooks Camp must begin their stay by watching a bear safety video. At the Brooks Camp Auditorium rangers lead illustrated talks on the area’s history, geology and wildlife. Fishing the Brooks River yields trout, salmon and arctic char. Visitors must use caution, as the area is home to the world’s largest gathering of brown bears. Most of the river is catch and release only, save for one area where the limit is one fish per person per day. A ranger-led cultural walk near the Brooks River takes guests on an easy half-mile walk past a partially reconstructed traditional Native Alaskan home. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes Tour is a ranger-led 7-hour tour. A bus trip takes guests into the valley past three river crossings. After a break for lunch, there is an optional hike to the valley floor. The 3.4 mile hike has an elevation change of approximately 1000 feet. Hunting and trapping are allowed in the Preserve, but not in the National Park. Moose and brown bear are the most common species hunted. Live online chats with rangers and a popular bear cam are available on the park’s YouTube channel year-round.
1000 Silver Street King Salmon, AK 99613, Phone: 907-246-3305
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Attraction Spotlight: Alaska Botanical Garden
In the city of Anchorage is the beautiful Alaska Botanical Garden, which is a peaceful place of education within the living museum. Open year round from dawn to dusk, the center strives to be a quite an environment where visitors can connect with nature, learn and even visit the Green house to find plants to grow at home. Beginning in 1993, the first gardens where planted, since then the garden has grown to about 110 acres. Prior to the botanical garden the land was used the by the Athabascan people, and during the 1940s and 1950s the area was occupied by the US Army as a training base. Now the center is a place for visitors to admire, explore, learn, and enjoy the lush gardens in this vibrant living museum.
There are many different exhibits within the Alaska Botanical Garden, which guests can stroll through and view the 8 developed gardens and many different types of flowers. Connecting the entire center are trails that lead throughout the gardens within the garden. The most popular route is the 1.1-mile long Lowenfels-Hoersting Family Nature Trail that weaves throughout the gardens and is a great spot to watch for wildlife along the boreal forest.
Some of these gardens include the Entry Garden, Lower Perennial Garden, Herb Garden, Rock Garden, and the Junior Master Gardener Children’s Garden.At the beginning of the garden is the Entry Garden, which welcomes visitors with its colourful plants and blooming flowers throughout the growing season. This floral entrance leads into the rest of the garden such as the Lower Perennial Garden. This section of the center is focused around perennials, which are flowers native to Alaska, and other flowers that are equipped to grow in the climate of the North. The poppies, hostas, peonies, iris, delphiniums, rockcress, and meadow rue are all beautifully arranged in the garden and are in full bloom during the summer. The Herb Garden is a botanical dream and showcases a variety of culinary and medicinal herbs. By continuing through the living museum, is the exhibit of the Rock Garden can be found that is inhabited by more than 350 species of alpine plants. Coming from Alaska, China, the Himalayas, and Scandinavian countries these plants thrive in the Alaskan terrain. The garden is full of Tufa rock from British Columbia and many of the plants grow in hand-made tufa troughs. In the Junior Master Gardener Children’s Garden, this area is dedicated to allowing kids to nurture their love of gardening. The small fruit orchard, blueberries, strawberries, red currants, and perennials is grown and maintained by children with a green thumb. The Anchorage Heritage Garden is a re-creation of a typical garden between 1915-1950. Here there are many vegetables that are harvested and donated to Bean’s Café and the FoodBank to promote “Plant a Row for the Hungry.” All of the gardens showcase the biodiversity of plants within the Northern Sate of Alaska.
The Botanical Garden is dedicated to preserving nature in Alaska and provides educational classes for people of all ages to engage in learning about plants. Some of the different programs offered include classes for both adults and students to engage in wildlife. The classes for are adults are specialized for gardeners of all areas of expertise. These workshops range in topic, but some of the upcoming classes are tree pruning and care, grafting watermelons and peonies, and a class dedicated to learning about local wildflowers. For students the garden offers field trips, learners a first hand experience in the outdoors classroom as they tour around the lush gardens. With different specific activities designed to foster learning for grades 1-6, children can get their hands dirty while discovering the biology of the earth. Through educational workshops, visitors of all ages are encouraged to learn.
At the garden there are a variety of events throughout the year that allow members of the community to explore, and get involved with the center, the Mushroom Walk and ID, Garlic Tasting, and Bulbs for Beginners are all programs open to the public in Anchorage. The discovery of fungi begins in the Mushroom Walk and ID event, which showcases mushrooms and educates visitors throughout the garden. In Garlic Tasting, different kinds of garlic will be available for sampling and your favorites can be purchased to plant. During the 3 day workshop, the Bulbs for Beginners event provides information to the community about how to prepare a garden during the Fall to have beautiful blooming flowers in the Spring.
4601 I Rd, Campbell Airstrip, AK 99507, Phone: 907-770-3692
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