Alaska's National Parks

Alaska’s National Parks

Alaska's National Parks

Embark on authentic adventures in Alaska’s National Parks. Home to some of the nation’s tallest mountain peaks, massive glaciers and undisturbed landscapes, Alaska is a fascinating state to explore. Hike park trails to reach beautiful lookout points, or hike the backcountry land to explore nature. Tour mountains, glaciers and tundras from the sky for breathtaking views and an unforgettable experience. Witness a changing landscape in action by visiting an active glacier up-close, or view rising steam from an active volcano. 

Whether you are looking for an exhilarating adventure or the opportunity to witness some gorgeous views, Alaska is the place to explore.

In This Article

Alaska’s 8 National Parks

Alaska is home to eight epic national parks, and each one is full of fascinating history, awe-inspiring views and some of the world’s last remaining arctic ecosystems. Massive landscapes remain untouched by human development, and numerous animals inhabit Alaska’s national parks.

Some Alaska national parks are easily accessible by road while others require flight or water transportation to access, offering a truly extraordinary travel experience away from large crowds. If you are looking for an unforgettable adventure, consider the following list of national parks in Alaska:

Denali National Park

Explore one of the most popular national parks in Alaska. Denali National Park and Preserve consists of 6 million wildland acres and features North America’s tallest peak. Denali became a national park in 1917, and ever since it has been preserved and devoid of human development. A few trails are located near the park’s only road, but you can also hike off-trail and explore Alaska’s undeveloped land.

Walk the park’s hiking trails and nearby paths or wander Denali’s land to see if you can spot various wildlife species such as wolves, grizzly bears, caribou, moose and Dall sheep. If there are any crowds, escape to Wonder Lake and capture some spectacular photos of the surrounding scenery.

Denali National Park

During the summer, you can explore Denali on a narrated tour bus with a knowledgeable guide to learn about the park, stop to see wildlife and scenery and enjoy lunch. Tour guides will provide captivating information while you enjoy the gorgeous scenery along the way. Hop on a transit bus to disembark and re-board on your own schedule. Explore the park at your own pace and spend extra time at your favorite spots.

If you’re looking for an exhilarating experience, consider booking a guided whitewater rafting adventure or a helicopter tour. View Denali from the air and land on a glacier for an unforgettable experience. Most helicopter tours last between an hour to two and a half hours, so you can enjoy this adventure no matter how long you will be in Denali.

You can also learn about Alaska’s sled dogs and the Iditarod at the Husky Homestead in Denali. Seasonal tours allow visitors to meet husky puppies and champion sled dogs, see racing sleds and equipment, witness dog training and catch a glimpse of the authentic Alaskan lifestyle.

Summer is the high season, but if you visit Denali National Park at night during the fall, winter or early spring, you can stargaze and witness the dazzling Aurora Borealis also known as the Northern Lights. The best time to view the Northern Lights is when the sky is darkest. Denali National Park also offers the following adventures:

  • Ziplining
  • Guided hikes
  • ATV adventures
  • Horseback riding
  • Backcountry safaris
  • Covered wagon tours
  • Jeep rentals and excursions

Glacier Bay National Park

At Glacier Bay National Park, you can witness tidewater glaciers and soaring mountain peaks. Take a guided kayaking tour to see the glaciers up close and explore shimmering waters. Visiting Glacier Bay National Park means you could see wildlife such as eagles, sea lions, whales and bears.

Explore this arctic national park on the trails with an adventurous hike. You can view incredible ocean and forest views and look for opportunities to see wildlife such as moose, bears and porcupines. Make sure to follow safety guidelines as you explore and view wildlife.

You can also experience Glacier Bay by air to view the vast expanse of its water, ice and mountains. Book a small flightseeing tour to view the park from the sky for a breathtaking perspective.

Kenai Fjords National Park

Hike exciting trails and walk close to an active glacier in southcentral Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park. See Exit Glacier up close and witness how a glacier can re-shape a landscape. As you walk, notice how the glacier’s gradual melting has helped vegetation flourish in the area, and enjoy informational signs along the way that elaborate on plant life’s return after the ice. You’ll want to take a photo in front of the glacier to remember your adventure.

At the Harding Icefield, you can explore the lingering remains of the ice age where forests, icy waters and wildlife surround a spectacular expanse of ice. If you take a boat tour to see the glaciers entering the ocean, you could also spot wildlife such as sea otters, harbor seals, whales and bald eagles. You can also explore the park by air to see an awe-inspiring view of the entire Harding Icefield.

Kenai Fjords National Park

You could embark on a peaceful guided kayak trip or opt for a more adventurous guided kayak tour, exploring the park’s gorgeous views and icy waters up close as you paddle past mountains and wildlife. If you’re interested in fishing, be sure to obtain an Alaska state fishing license to fish freshwater lakes in the area, or take a boat tour to fish in local captains’ favorite fishing spots.

Katmai National Park

If bears are your favorite animal, you can enjoy bear watching in one of the world’s best brown bear viewing areas. Katmai National Park is home to about 2,200 brown bears, and it provides an undisturbed habitat for them along with excellent viewing opportunities for visitors. Visit Brooks Camp to view bears from safe wildlife viewing platforms overlooking the river where the bears feed on sockeye salmon.

You can also take a guided fishing tour to catch fish such as arctic char, rainbow trout, lake trout, grayling and dolly varden in Katmai. Several commercial operators offer opportunities for guided sport fishing in Katmai, or you can fish on your own as long as you have an Alaska sport fishing license.

Hike the Cultural Site Trail from the Brooks Camp Visitor Center to walk through part of the Brooks River National Historic Landmark. This fascinating historic site was home to one of North America’s most concentrated prehistoric human dwellings. Both sides of the Brooks River feature over 900 indentations remaining from prehistoric campsites and homes. Park rangers will guide you on an informational hike from the visitor center at certain times of the day, so you can learn more about the area’s history.

Katmai National Park is the perfect place to explore Alaska’s rich natural history. The government established Katmai National Park in 1918 to protect the region devastated by the Novarupta volcano in 1912. This region is known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, and you can visit the valley with a service guide to hike to some excellent lookout points. You can also view the area’s volcanoes from above on an exhilarating flightseeing tour.

Kobuk Valley National Park

Visiting Kobuk National Park is a truly authentic adventure. Since the park has no developed facilities, the only way to access it is by snowmachine, dogs or a plane. You can book a flight through a commercial business to fly into the park or explore by snowshoeing, skiing or skijoring into the park if you are feeling adventurous and have experience using the equipment.

Fly into the park to take a flightseeing adventure full of gorgeous views. Once you’re there, you can enjoy activities such as wildlife watching, fishing, photography and hiking. Soak in the solitude and wide expanse of nature.

As you fly over the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, witness a relic of the last ice age. When glaciers formed 28,000 years ago, their slow grinding of the rocks underneath formed fine sand that blew into the Kobuk Valley. When the glaciers eventually began their retreat, rolling sand dunes were left along the river banks. Even though vegetation has reclaimed much of the land, you can still see about 30 square miles of the dunes that remain.

Lake Clark National Park

Visit Lake Clark for a remote, rugged experience. Lake Clark National Park is only accessible by boat or plane, so you can choose to take an air taxi or boat to the park depending on weather conditions. Once you reach the park, you will be rewarded with incredible scenery and wildlife.

At Lake Clark, you can explore undisturbed forests, tundra, rivers, waterfalls and lakes in an uncrowded area. From the snow-covered volcanoes, you could see wildlife such as bears, caribou, moose, wolves and foxes.

Lake Clark has established trails to such sights as Tanalian Falls, or you can explore Crescent Lake on a motorboat or kayak. View or photograph bears from the water for a unique experience or book a sport fishing trip.

Gates of the Arctic National Park

Gates of the Arctic National Park is another rugged and remote area, so it’s a great place to explore if you have extensive wilderness skills and experience. Visitors who lack wilderness skills and experience should plan to visit with a guided tour.

You can book a local air taxi for a fun flightseeing trip or book a day trip to relax by a wild river, fish in the lake, watch caribou or hike the land. A flight will allow you to see the park’s sand dunes, and you can also watch for wildlife such as wolves, foxes, bears and caribou. The park is home to over 200,000 caribou, so you are likely to see at least a few on a flightseeing tour or a hike through the park.

Gates of the Arctic National Park

Gates of the Arctic National Park is full of diverse landscapes including lakes, rivers, a flat arctic tundra, towering mountain peaks and wetland forests. With no developed trails or roads, it is one of the only remaining intact arctic ecosystems. If you enjoy hiking, you can follow natural trails created by the park’s wildlife for an authentic Alaska adventure.

No matter how you choose to spend your time in the park, you are sure to have a peaceful and exciting time witnessing the wilderness in a quiet area. Admire the rugged beauty of valleys, mountains and wildlife.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Explore Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve to see the United States’ largest national park. Its size is equal to Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Switzerland combined. Despite its size, the park is accessible by only two roads that equal a total of 101 miles. Full of mountain peaks and glaciers, this park is sure to dazzle anyone who witnesses its unbelievable beauty.

The park is home to four mountain ranges — the St. Elias Mountains, the Wrangell Mountains, the Alaska Range and the Chugach Mountains. Nine of the United States’ 16 tallest mountain peaks are located in the park, and Mount St. Elias is the park’s tallest peak at 18,008 feet. Mount Wrangell last erupted in 1900, but it remains an active volcano, and you can still witness steam rising from its summit.

Watch the clouds and sun disappear and reappear from behind ridges and peaks and enjoy the way the light changes the mood by the minute. You can view major peaks such as Drum, Blackburn, Sanford and Wrangell from nearby highways, so you don’t even have to enter the park to see how grand it is.

The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is also home to massive glaciers, including the Nabesna Glacier, which is 53 miles long and the world’s longest interior valley glacier. Within the park, you can hike trails, see wildlife and explore historic mining sites. Visit the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark to see the lands and buildings of the early 20th-century mining town. Various structures such as the Post Office and General Store feature informational exhibits about the Kennecott Mill, mining operations and bear safety.

Explore Alaska With Windstar Cruises

Explore Alaska With Windstar Cruises

Visit some of the nation’s most famous national parks in Alaska for an unforgettable experience. Soar over towering mountains, stand next to enormous active glaciers and witness a continuously changing landscape. Alaska’s national parks are full of exhilarating adventures, peaceful solitude, fascinating wildlife and breathtaking scenery.

One of the best ways to visit Alaska is on an immersive travel experience with Windstar Cruises. Whether you’re traveling on your own or with your significant other, Windstar Cruises will give you the experience of a lifetime. Give yourself an authentic travel experience devoid of clichés and crowds on an elegant ship carrying less than 310 travelers. Our small ships will take you to unique ports and other areas larger ships cannot reach, so you can see more than just the standard tourist attractions.

With Windstar Cruises, you can travel in an intimate and welcoming atmosphere as you connect with other travelers and enjoy attentive service from the staff and crew. Book a cruise to explore Alaska’s magnificent landscapes with Windstar.

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