best place to visit in Alaska

Best place to visit in Alaska with your family and friends

If you are looking for the best place to visit in Alaska, we have quite a list for you! Starting with coastal cities, continuing to national parks, and including attractions like glaciers, this is the only guide you will need for your upcoming adventure. Alaska is the place everyone should visit in their lifetime, and one of the last locations that are completely untouched and unspoiled.

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1. Sitka

Sitka

For those wondering what is the best place to visit in Alaska, there is no simple answer. You can start your visit from the sea or from the land, whichever way you go, the views will be impressive. Sitka is one of those scenic places you will remember from your trip to Alaska.

Sitka is located on the island, between the mountains and the sea. People live closely connected with nature, and here the ancient native cultures are well respected, and artwork inspired by ancient tales is on every corner.

On the doorstep of the rainforest, visiting Sitka is great for those who love nature. You will have the opportunity to see not only whales breaching in the sea, but also brown bears, bald eagles, five species of salmon, and so much more.

There is so much to do in Sitka, including hiking, kayaking, flying on the sea, fishing in freshwater, and more. You can explore wilderness, volcanoes, mountain forests, islands, and glaciers. Other interesting things to do include a narrated tour to discover the significance of many major historical sites in Sitka.

2. Skagway

Skagway

Skagway is a historic city that nowadays has about 1000 residents. It is visited by over a million tourists per year. The easiest way to reach it is by plane or a cruise ship. Most of those visitors come from cruises, and the entire city is devoted to them, with restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops on every corner.

The city is surrounded by gorgeous nature, beautiful mountains, and waterfalls. You can explore nature on your own by grabbing a map from a tourist information center and going on a hike. Or you can book one of the amazing tours like helicopter rides, dog sledding on top of a glacier, train rides, and so much more.

History buffs will love to listen to Klondike Gold Rush history from a tour guide and to see famous sites where the gold was dug. When you have some free time from your tours, grab a fudge or an ice cream in one of the fudge stores on the main street.

One of the most popular tours, especially for families with kids, is the White Pass Railroad Summit. It is a train ride from the tidewater to the 2,865-foot elevation Summit of the White Pass. You will see Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point, Dead Horse Gulch, and the original Klondike Trail of 1898 along the way.

3. Juneau, the best place to visit in Alaska for whale watching

Juneau

Although the capital city of Alaska and the economic center of the state, Juneau is famous for its wildlife. Here you can see Juneau i280 species of birds, brown and black bears, five species of salmon, and whales, primarily humpback and orca.

The biggest attraction on land in Juneau is Mendenhall Glacier, a glacier that is 20 km long and that impressively leans straight to the sea, and which is part of Tongass National Forest. It is nestled right next to the scenic Nugget Falls. You can walk all the way to the waterfall and see the glacier closely, but if you feel more adventurous, some local tour guides even offer tours that explore ice caves on top of the glaciers and include hiking on ice.

Juneau is a busy cruise ship port, built in the time of a gold rush in the 1880s. Today the city is a mix of modern architecture with some history. One of the historical attractions in the city is a Russian Orthodox church (1894) and abandoned mines that are now museums.

4. Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is surrounded by rainforest and gets a lot of rain year-round. That is why it is the best place to visit in Alaska in July when the weather is mostly sunny. The city is located at the entrance to the famous Inside Passage.

If you like history, a walk around downtown will be a blast for you. The centuries-old buildings which are now turned into restaurants, pubs, and souvenir shops still look frozen in time. Go over to Creek Street, which was once similar to the “Red light district of Amsterdam” and now it is a place where you can buy authentic souvenirs, native art, and have lunch with a beautiful view.

Some of the most popular tours in Ketchikan include a seaplane flight to Misty Fjords National Monument, a hike in Tongass National Forest, and exploring a coastline on a kayaking adventure.

If you want to familiarize yourself with native art, a visit to Saxman Native Village is the best option. Here you can see amazingly carved totem poles and the Clan House which features an amazing carving of a Beaver on the outside. You will learn the meaning of totems and see a traditional native dance. There are 25 totems in a beautiful natural setting that you can view.

5. Anchorage

Anchorage

Anchorage is the biggest city in Alaska and a good starting point for your Alaskan adventure. The city was established as a port and tent city for railroad workers who built the Alaskan railroad. When the railroad was completed in 1923 the city was already spread around Ship Creek, and during World War II population grew.

Before gold-seekers and railroad workers, this place was home to Dena’ina people for 9000 years. If you take a city tour you will hear not just about the indigenous people of Alaska but also about cultural heritage, 19th-century settlements, and what life is like in Alaska today.

If you like hiking, Anchorage has more than 200 miles of trails. You can walk or bike along the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a popular path with incredible views of Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range. In Chugach State Park, which is located in the eastern section of town, you can explore miles of forest and alpine trails for short or longer guided hikes.

6. Denali National Park

Denali National Park

Denali National Park is the best place to visit in Alaska for wildlife sightseeing. About 400,000 visitors come to Denali each year for its unspoiled beauty, primarily between late May and early September. While the season is incredibly beautiful there is a lot to see outside of the season too, but it is more for adventure travelers that don’t mind a lot of snow.

When you come to Denali take one of the bus rides along the 92 miles long road, the only road in the national park. You will see exceptional landscapes and scenery during your trip. But nothing compares to the end of the road where the next part of your trip begins.

When you arrive at the heart of Denali sign up for ranger tours which are free. The only exceptions are the Kantishna Experience Tour and the Discovery Hikes, which are free, but you’ll probably have to get a bus ticket and make reservations in advance. All other ranger hikes,campground programs, sled dog demonstrations, and other talks in Denali do not require you to sign up in advance.

7. Inside Passage

Inside Passage

At the beginning of summer, there is still plenty of ice in the water, and it is hard for the ships to go through the fjord and get to the glaciers in Tracy Arm or Endicott Arm. That is why Inside Passage is the best place to visit in Alaska in September. At the end of the summer, the scenery is incredible, you can go close to the glaciers, and you can still see whales and dolphins swimming by the ship.

The Inside Passage is a coastal route for ships and boats that extends from southeastern Alaska in the United States, through western British Columbia in Canada, to northwestern Washington state in the United States.

It is a very popular tourist destination in Alaska, mostly visited by cruise ships. The mountain ranges and islands offer wildlife viewing opportunities. If you visit by land you can also enjoy boating, fishing, kayaking, camping, and hiking.

8. Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park

This incredible national park consists of 40 glaciers, icy rivers, and lush forests. Kenai Fjords were home to Sugpiaq people for thousands of years, before settlers arrived. You can see the entire park in just two days if you pack your days with tours, or you can stay for a week and explore the park at your own pace.

You can explore the park on foot or by boat. Either way, you will have a lot of opportunities to see wildlife like bears, eagles, moose, whales, seals, etc. One of the most popular tours is a boat tour of the fjord. It takes you close to the glaciers, where you can watch ice break in big chunks.

For those who like hiking, The Harding Icefield Trail is the longest and most popular hike in the park. It is a round trip long 8.2 miles that climbs about 1,000 feet. You will see forests, dense meadows, glaciers, and icefields.

9. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Wrangell - St. Elias National Park & Preserve
Photo credit: doi.gov

Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve is another impressive natural area worth visiting in Alaska. It consists of tundra and rainforest, and it is home to a large diversity of animal species. Some of the wildlife you can see here are lynx, ground squirrels, marten, fox, porcupine, beaver, coyotes, river otters, wolverine, and various other.

There are two roads that lead to the park: The Nabesna Road and the McCarthy Road. They are usually passable to all vehicles during the summer months. If you want to visit this park, you should go to the Eastern region of South-central Alaska. The Wrangell, Chugach, and St. Elias mountain ranges are often called the “Mountain Kingdom of North America”. This national park is the largest one in the United States, six times the size of Yellowstone.

In the park, you can take guided tours, go on a backpacking adventure, enjoy hiking, mountaineering, boating, sea kayaking, wildlife viewing, and more. You will enjoy the expansive landscape, and views of mountain peaks, glaciers, volcanoes, rivers, and boreal forests.

10. Seward

Seward

Seward is a town located in between rainforest, sea, mountains, and glaciers. Here you can enjoy hiking, experience abundant wildlife, paddle, and fish crystal clear waters. You can also xplore our historic community of the Alutiiq, or Sugpiaq, people.

The most popular attraction is the SeaLife Center where you can see Alaska’s unique wildlife up close. Your kids will love to see harbor seals, Steller sea lions, puffins, giant octopuses, and much more.

Another reason to visit Seward is the spectacular northern lights. There is no guarantee of northern lights. But this is one of the best places in Alaska for viewing this incredible natural phenomenon. The best time to see the northern lights is during late September or early October through April.

best place to visit in Alaska

Conclusion

It is hard to choose the best place to visit in Alaska when there are so many great places to choose from. Staying in Alaska for longer, or visiting on a cruise ship is the easiest way to visit several locations and soak in all the beauty this great place has to offer.

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