In July of 2019, as part of my 50 before 50, I headed to Alaska. The state is so vast, it was hard to narrow down where to concentrate my time and money on my visit. To help plan my trip I did a lot of research. I have spoken to all my friends who live in Alaska or have recently visited and asked for their recommendations on what to do in Alaska. Continue reading for the most recommended sights and activities in Alaska to make your own Alaskan bucket list.
Alaska is the largest US state but has the lowest population density. It has our highest mountain, Denali, which is found in Denali National Park. It actually contains 17 of our top 20 highest mountains.
Table of Contents
- 1 Take an Alaskan Cruise
- 2 Visit Glacier Bay
- 3 Explore Alaska’s Rivers
- 4 Visit Alaska’s Capital, Juneau
- 5 Take a Hike in Alaska
- 6 Take an Alaskan Road Trip
- 7 Visit Chicken, Alaska
- 8 Experience Dog Mushing, Alaska’s State Sport and Visit a Glacier
- 9 Kayak to an Alaskan Island
- 10 See the Arctic Ocean and a Polar Bear!
Take an Alaskan Cruise
Alaska has more coastline than all the other US states combined (34,000 miles). There are not always roads connecting towns. It is logical to visit by boat. The first thing I booked for my trip was my cruise on Royal Caribbean. I picked one that ended in Seward so that I could spend time experiencing Alaska by land after our voyage. On our cruise we even spent a day traveling into Glacier Bay to see Mendenhall Glacier! A cruise is an easy way to see some of the best Alaska has to offer. Our trip was as epic as I had hoped. Read our Alaskan itinerary here.
Visit Glacier Bay
from Heather at Trimm Travels
Explore Alaska’s Rivers
There are over 3,000 rivers in Alaska.
A Scenic River Float in Skagway
from Margie at DQ Family Travel
Our family went on an Alaskan cruise and enjoyed a scenic river float in Skagway. Our children were 5 and 3, so we chose an activity that was unique yet suitable for younger kids. We all enjoyed the peaceful river float and saw beaver, eagles, and birds frequently. Tucked between mountains, this river float was truly scenic and idyllic.
Our guide taught us about the history of the river valley, the animals that inhabit the lands and how the gold rush impacted the growth of Alaska. This river float was a perfect introduction to the Alaskan wilderness for young children and my mother in law who accompanied us on the ride. I highly recommend a river float in Alaska for families with smaller children and anyone looking for serene natural beauty and some wildlife spotting.
Visit Alaska’s Capital, Juneau
Juneau is the only US capital city not accessible by the highway system.
While there, see the city from the Mount Roberts Tramway
from Sue at Travel Tales of Life
For more information on what to do in Juneau read Travel Tales of Life Five Tips for Visiting Juneau.
Take a Hike in Alaska
Hiking Reeds Lake
from Cydny at Goal Traveler
You can expect a variety of adventurous activities in Alaska, why not take part in the free ones. Alaska is known for being picturesque and I believe it’s best to explore the land by foot. One of my favorite hikes is Reeds Lake in Fishhook, about an hour out of Anchorage. This is a moderate level hike that is 8.7 miles with a 2200 elevation gain. It provides everything you would want on a hike, starts off flat and easy and leads into a strong uphill gain followed by some light scrambling. Your first milestone is getting to the first of three lakes, each one getting bigger and bluer as you trek out. You’ll walk past a waterfall, scramble across a river, and hear plenty of marmots whistling throughout. Pack a lunch, fill up the water bottle, and get out there!
Take an Alaskan Road Trip
Travel Alaska’s Highway System
from Dashin’ Ash
In my opinion, the best part of traveling Alaska is the actual traveling. I recommend taking a road trip, because the scenery is breathtaking. My favorite routes include the Denali Highway, the McCarthy Road, and the Sterling Highway. Each offer picturesque, but unique, landscapes. In Alaska, as long as you can safely park on the side of the road, you can short term camp pretty much anywhere. Even if you find yourself in more formal campgrounds, hostels, or hotels, having the ability to pull over, just to take in the beauty that surrounds you, was the highlight of my trip. There are also plenty of places to hike alongside these highways.
The Denali Highway is surrounded by mountains, and it offers the best views of the Alaskan Range, crossing the state East to West. The McCarthy Road traverses McCarthy St. Elias National Park, ending in the small town of McCarthy. This road is also surrounded by mountains, along with rivers, and abundant wildlife. Finally, the Sterling Highway is much less mountainous than the former highways, but the views are no less interesting. It runs South into the Kenai Peninsula, along the cook inlet.
Visit Chicken, Alaska
by Ben from Horizon Unknown
Experience Dog Mushing, Alaska’s State Sport and Visit a Glacier
Over half of the world’s glaciers are in Alaska.
My friend, Michelle, inspired my trip to Alaska. She is well-traveled and thinks it is one of the most stunning spots in the world. Her highlight was a helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier where they met sled dogs and took a ride across the glacier.
Kayak to an Alaskan Island
from Rowena at A Nomad on the Loose
One of my favorite memories from our family trip to Alaska was sea kayaking to Eagle Island near Ketchikan.
See the Arctic Ocean and a Polar Bear!
Read on about my trip to Barrow, Alaska, which was one of our favorite Alaskan destinations.
Get more Alaskan inspiration by reading about how my epic 16-Day Alaskan Adventure played out.