Go big. Go Alaska.
It’s easy to reach for adjectives like magical, awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping when trying to describe Alaska. But honestly those words hardly do it justice. And listing off its superlatives (the biggest state, the most coastline, the highest peak in North America, the largest bears, etc.) doesn’t evoke the right feeling or sense of wonder... until there’s a visual experience that goes along with it. You know those moments in nature when you suddenly realize just how mighty and majestic it all is? Yep, that’s Alaska over and over.
If you’re ready to seek out those moments, here are just a few places to start:
1) Alaska is the largest state in the country and more than twice the size of Texas. But that doesn’t really sink in until you’re flying over the state for several hours, driving, or even riding the Alaska Railroad for a full day and Alaska’s beauty spans as far as your eyes can see. Take a road trip or train trip through the Interior and Southcentral regions of the state and watch endless miles of old-growth forest, rolling meadows, alpine tundra, mountains and glaciers roll by.
2) Denali is the tallest mountain in North America, but you probably won’t comprehend its magnitude until you arrive at Denali National Park & Preserve and see this towering mountain for yourself, its peak soaring into the clouds. Splurge on a flightseeing trip to get up close and personal with “The Great One,” the English translation for Denali in the Athabascan language.
3) Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is not just America’s largest national park. It is home to four major mountain ranges; nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States, including the second highest peak in the country; one of the largest active volcanoes in North America; the longest valley glacier in North America and the world's longest interior valley glacier; the largest non-polar piedmont glacier in North America; and one of the largest and most active tidewater glaciers in North America. Translation: this park’s backcountry will blow your mind. Head to McCarthy and book a few adventures: glacier trekking, river rafting, backpacking or flightseeing.
4) Whether you’re talking about polar bears or Kodiak bears or the fat bears of Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska is home to the largest bears on the planet — and the island with the largest concentration of brown bears in the world! Admiralty Island is dominated by the Kootznoowoo Wilderness, which translates from Tlingit to English as “Fortress of the Bears.” Seek out an experienced bear viewing guide and spend a day with any of these mighty mammals to feel small in the face of nature.
5) It’s not uncommon to see a bald eagle just about anywhere in Alaska, but head to Haines and the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve to see the world’s largest concentration. More than 3,000 eagles converge on the area in the fall, so you’ll see multiples lined up on a tree branch overlooking the river. Plan to go in November for the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival. It can’t get much more American than this.
6) While Alaska may not be known for its beaches in the traditional sense, it does have the longest coastline of any state. You should spend some part of your vacation on a boat to explore the remote bays and dramatic fjords, whether you opt to travel on a multi-day cruise, the state ferry, a day cruise or charter boat. Somehow it leaves you feeling as if you’ve found the edge of the world.
Go big. Go Alaska. All of these moments are possible, as soon as you order an Alaska vacation planner and map out your trip. See you there!
Editor’s note: The health and safety of Alaska’s visitors and residents, along with its member businesses, remains a top priority to the Alaska Travel Industry Association throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Alaska tourism businesses are open under the Reopen Alaska Responsibly plan and can help you decide if it’s right for you to travel now or in the future. We encourage you to stay in touch with your travel providers for the latest updates and guidelines.