Alaska adventures

Never been to Alaska? You’re lucky, then, because one of life’s extraordinary discoveries is ahead of you. The sweeping landscapes and pristine wilderness of our 49th state are well-known, but being there—as each long day melds into the next—is unforgettable. Where else can you encounter blue-tinged glaciers, braided rivers winding across tundra valleys, bears feasting in salmon-packed streams and whales bursting forth from the sea—all before dinner? Scroll down to explore the possibilities.


Watch this video to see all that awaits you in the Last Frontier.

Our whole week was filled with great, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, from wake-up calls of dolphins off the bow to watching a glacier calve!




From wildlife to resort life, Alaska offers many options. Click each spot below to see slide shows and videos that may inspire your vacation.


  • The park’s centerpiece is Denali, North America’s highest mountain, rising more than 20,000 feet into the sky.

    Photo: John R. Delapp/Design Pics Inc/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Flightseeing tours near the park allow visitors a bird’s-eye view of pristine landscapes.

    Photo: Brown Cannon III
  • Braided rivers and tundra valleys run through Denali’s 6-million-acre expanse.

    Photo: Brown Cannon III
  • For overnight stays, lodges and cabins near the park often feature forests, rushing rivers and more just beyond the front door.

    Photo: Princess Cruises
  • Some 1,800 moose make their home in Denali National Park, along with bears, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and more.

    Photo: iStock
  • At Denali Park Kennels, a ranger shows off some of the many sled dogs, which have been helping patrol the park since the 1920s.

    Photo: Getty Images
  • A bus takes visitors some 60 miles into the heart of Denali on the park’s Tundra Wilderness Tour—ideal for enjoying the stunning views and spotting wildlife.

    Photo: H. Mark Weidman Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

5 Must-Do Adventures

  • #5: SAVOR SEAFOOD—AND CATCH YOUR OWN! With more coastline than any other state, Alaska offers up some of the freshest seafood on the planet. Salmon, crab, halibut, shrimp and lobster—plucked straight from Alaskan waters—can be savored just about anywhere, from harborside crab shacks to upscale eateries. Best places to dig in? Ask a local—or search for AAA Diamond designated by town. Keen to catch your own? There are plenty of guides happy to help you reel in a big one—with salmon (five species!) and halibut the most plentiful.

    Photo: Brown Cannon III
  • #4: TAKE A SCENIC TRAIN RIDE Riding the train in Alaska takes you through pristine wilderness not accessible by road. Your train car becomes a moving room with a view, as you see birch-tree forests, rushing rivers, snow-capped mountains—maybe even bear or moose. Two to try: Alaska Railroad’s 8-hour journey between Anchorage and Denali National Park is relaxing and informative (opt for the ticket class that seats you in the domed viewing car, if possible); and the White Pass & Yukon Route, out of Skagway, is a historic narrow-gauge railroad taking you past plunging gorges and sparkling waterfalls.

    Photo: Brown Cannon III
  • #3: HAVE A WHALE OF A TIME An Alaska whale-watching tour might be one of the greatest shows on earth. And the water is full of performers: Coastal Alaska serves as the summer feeding grounds for some 10,000 humpback whales, along with belugas, orcas and gray whales. The stars are the humpbacks, due to their massive size and propensity for breaching (using their massive tail fin to catapult from the water and land with a splash). Best spots to see them? The nutrient-rich waters of the Inside Passage boast Alaska’s highest concentration of the leviathans. Many boats are so sure of whale sightings, they promise your money back if none are spotted.

    Photo: samchad/Getty Images
  • #2: GET A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW Only from above can you admire some of Alaska’s most beautiful treasures, such as the filigreed beauty of braided rivers or the jagged peaks of the Ruth Amphitheater (one of the most dramatic mountain amphitheaters on Earth). If you’re keen to see more of Alaska in less time, or to access remote locations for sightseeing, hiking or fishing, a flightseeing excursion is a great option. Whether you take a quiet helicopter to land on a glacier or a high-flying plane to circle Denali’s peak, you’re sure to gain a perspective you won’t forget.

    Photo: Danita Delimont/Alamy Stock Photo
  • #1: SEE “THE GREAT ONE” When Denali stands in full view, the sight is jaw-dropping. But seeing North America’s tallest peak can be tricky: The mountain is part of the Alaska Range, where colder, drier weather systems collide with warmer, wetter ones—producing lots of clouds that can shroud the mountain. Best places to try? The road that travels 92 miles into Denali National Park includes excellent vantage points after mile 15 (you must take the park bus). The quirky town of Talkeetna (pop. 800) offers great views, too—including from the deck of Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. Flightseeing trips can clear cloud cover to provide vistas of the peak. And, on clear days, Denali can even be seen from Fairbanks and Anchorage.

    Photo: Patrick Endres/Alaska Stock/Alamy


  • A small ship like the 684-guest Oceania Regatta can explore narrow, less-traveled inlets.

    Photo: Oceania
  • Smaller ships stop in off-the-beaten-path ports such as Kodiak and Homer (pictured).

    Photo: Niebrugge Images/Alamy Stock Photo
  • It’s easy to spot wildlife on a smaller ship that can navigate through narrow inlets.

    Photo: iStock
  • Holland America Line’s Westerdam is perfect for getting closer to glaciers and wonders onshore

    Photo: Holland America Line
  • Large ships like Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner offer many amenities and the comforts of a nice hotel.

    Photo: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • On large ships, a park ranger might board for the day to share his passion for the area with guests.

    Photo: Holland America Line
  • Large ships can include high-tech features, such as a viewing capsule on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas that gives a bird’s-eye look of the scenery.

    Photo: Royal Caribbean Artistic Rendering
  • This infographic helps to visualize the difference between a small ship and a large ship.

    Photo: Steve Stankiewicz


  • With a crack, rumble and splash, a massive iceberg calves from Hubbard Glacier.

    Photo: Don Mennig/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Cruising is an excellent way to experience glaciers’ enormity and brilliant-blue ice.

    Photo: Alaska Stock Images/Design Pics Inc/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Many cruises spend a day exploring Glacier Bay, which features seven tidewater glaciers.

    Photo: Shutterstock
  • Harbor seals are a delight to watch in Glacier Bay, where they lounge on ice floes.

    Photo: Shutterstock
  • The 13-mile-long Mendenhall Glacier is an easy drive from Juneau.

    Photo: Terry Friedman/EyeEm/Getty Images
  • Prince William Sound, near Whittier, features the highest concentration of tidewater glaciers in the world.

    Photo: Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon/Getty Images
  • A flightseeing helicopter lands visitors on a glacier near Juneau.

    Photo: kmaassrock/Getty Images

Inside Passage

  • The Inside Passage is a coastal route for ships. It weaves through the islands and past port towns from Skagway to Seattle.

  • Majestic mountains and pristine wilderness are the backdrop of a cruise along the Inside Passage.

    Photo: Brown Cannon III
  • Inside Passage cruises stop at quaint port towns, each with its own allure.

    Photo: Brown Cannon III
  • Sitka’s totem poles reflect the heritage of native Tlingit and Haida tribes.

    Photo: Brown Cannon III
  • Local flavor awaits in shops and restaurants such as Juneau’s Red Dog Saloon.

    Photo: Brown Cannon III
  • In Ketchikan, historic Creek Street is actually a boardwalk on stilts.

    Photo: iStock
  • Ports offer a range of activities, such as exploring an old-growth rainforest.

    Photo: olf Hicker Photography/Alamy Stock Photo
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Considering Alaska? AAA Travel’s Trisha Ross answers common questions.


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