The last frontier is home to stunning landscapes that should top every adventure lover’s must-do list. With dramatically different experiences between seasons, Alaska is a state so nice you’ve got to visit it twice (or thrice!). Here are ten reasons to visit Alaska in every season.
10 Ways to Adventure Travel in Alaska
By Steffani Cameron
Maybe you’re into cozy ice-fishing opportunities accessible only by floatplanes, while hunkering down in a cabin over a lake with ice 20-inches thick. Or maybe you long to wade through rivers while eyeballing bears gobbling salmon. Either way, fishing is an ultimate Alaskan experience. From salmon and pike to grayling and Arctic char and rainbow trout, Alaska’s waterways teem with incredible fish.
Thanks to fat tires or trusty all-seasons, mountain biking is a year-round activity in Alaska. Two-wheeled adventure travel can take you up single-track paths under the Midnight Sun, or carving icy snow during short-lived daylight or long silent nights at Alyeska Ski Resort over Christmas. Cycling adventures can be had solo or guided from Juneau to Denali and beyond for day trips or more ambitious runs. Winter mountain biking has happened in Alaska for more than 30-years, so if you want to take a break from the saddle and play spectator, check out the Iditarod Invitational and other big-name winter races.
Once the rivers and coastal ice thaw, it’s kayaking season in Alaska. Kayaking can seem intimidating, but many guided expeditions welcome beginners. Imagine paddling near a pod of orca or a humpback whales. Picture dolphins frolicking nearby. Spend nights camped on beaches under the midnight sun as red and orange skies dapple mountain peaks in wee hours. Close your eyes. Smell that fish cooking the fire? Hear the water lapping the shore? Think of the majestic pines and towering mountains, and you in a two-seater kayak, as deeply immersed in Alaska’s adventure lifestyle as anyone could be.
Road-tripping For Fall Color Photography
People dream of New England in autumn, but for foliage you’ll never forget, autumn in Alaska awaits you. Take a self-guided trip up the Dalton Highway. Visit Denali National Park. From the third week of August until Columbus Day you’ll find blankets of red and gold dotted with evergreens, topped with early snow dusting the mountains. Watch bears fattening on fish before winter falls, and bull moose towering over flame-red bushes as they cross the plains. Be on the road when Northern Lights reappear after their absent summers, as nights grow longer.
After bears emerge from hibernation, they’re the star of the show in Alaska. If you’re a fan of wildlife but prefer to shoot through a lens, guided tours can be the Alaskan adventure of a lifetime. Imagine snapping photos of the salmon-catching brown bears of Brook Falls. See calving glaciers from the deck of chartered yachts while orca-spotting. Get an expert guided tour of Denali for wildlife-viewing. See beavers in the wild, scout for moose, photograph American eagles, and more. Adventure travel doesn’t get better than guided Alaskan wildlife excursions, where nature really lives.
The Alaska Cruise
No Alaskan adventure list is complete without the cruise. It’s one of the world’s great cruising destinations, and with good reason – Alaska’s coastlines never disappoint. With cruises up to 30-days in length, from standard amenities through to luxury travel, there’s an Alaska cruise for nearly any budget. Depending on the time of year, expect calving glaciers, whale-spotting, puffins, bears, cougar, Dall sheep, caribou, eagles, seals – all with a backdrop of mountains and coastal forests in world-class fjords. And it’s all enjoyed from the safety of world-class cruise lines, making adventure accessible to all ages and all fitness levels.
Legendary in Alaska adventure travel, dog sleds are powered by huskies and malamutes raring to run. Bundled-up seated or standing on the sled while rushing over snowy plains and through forests, will be as thrilling a ride as any you’ve had. With sledding, deep in these dogs’ bones for centuries, bringing a harness out for a day of adventuring gets them stoked. Visit in March to witness the famous 1,150-mile dog sled race – the annually-changing route on the Iditarod Trail from Anchorage to Nome.
Indigenous people believed the Northern Lights were messages from great spirits, and they’re as awe-inspiring an experience as you’ll ever have. There are no guarantees on seeing Aurora Borealis, but locals say three nights in Fairbanks gives you an 80% chance of spotting them. The best months for viewing are from late-October to February, when nights are long and opportunities abound.
HINT: Nights with no moon have the best visibility, so map your dates with a moon phase calendar.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Alyeska Resort in the Chugach Mountains, just 27-miles from Anchorage, was dubbed one of America’s best ski resorts by Outside Magazine. And with around 650-inches of annual snowfall on 76 trails criss-crossing 3,200 vertical feet, it’s one of Alaska’s biggest ski resorts. Diehards say March and April are the resort’s best months, making it perfect for spring break close to the comforts and amenities of a major city, but if your inner-adventurer’s looking for epic fun, heli-skiing and heli-boarding in places like Haines, Alaska give you as much as 6,000 vertical feet of mind-blowing virgin powder runs in a single descent.
Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing Expeditions
Adventure travel doesn’t need to be high-speed or high-octane – it can be snowshoeing through powder-laden Douglas firs and alpine forests in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, or elsewhere in the state. To see Alaska at its wintery best, a spring snowshoeing and cross-country expedition could be your adventure of a lifetime. Remote scenery, untouched snow, toasty cabins, mountains all around, Northern Lights in the evening…they’re all part of a guided expedition through the Alaskan wilderness. Some expeditions include photography classes or photo-walking under the incredible winter light that has inspired artists for decades.