This second-to-last US state is also the largest. Explore this faraway land of mountains, gold mining, dog sledding, whale watching and hiking glaciers.
Alaska’s sheer size, 663,300 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers), means you’ll find myriad adventures as you travel across diverse regions of the state. Experience mountains, glaciers and beaches as they change character with the seasons.
In the center of the state, Fairbanks showcases its history as a gold-rush town. Try panning for gold like the old-timers did in the 1840s and ’50s. Visit Alaskaland Pioneer Park with a replica of a Native American village and a Wild West theme park. From early fall to mid spring, watch for the shimmering lights of the aurora borealis.
From Fairbanks, take the McKinley Explorer railroad to one of the state’s most impressive sites, Denali National Park. If you’re an experienced mountain climber, scale the 20,237-foot (6,168-meter) Denali peak (formerly known as Mt. McKinley). Otherwise simply enjoy the impressive view reflected in Wonder Lake. Look for moose, grizzly bear, caribou and 130 different bird species in the park’s natural wilderness area.
Take a soothing thermal bath at the Chena Hot Springs Resort. Stop nearby to see ice carvings at the Aurora Ice Museum. Kayak along the Chena River or brave the chilly waters floating in a tube.
On the southern coast, Anchorage offers opportunities to tour fjords in Prince William Sound, hike in the Chugach Mountains and see the start of the March Iditarod dog sled race. Learn about local history at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center and see lifelike exhibits at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Enjoy a sandy ocean shoreline at Kincaid Beach or watch Pacific loons and swim in the warmer waters of Goose Lake.
Farther south in Homer, watch commercial fishermen haul in the day’s catch. Even better, charter a fishing boat to cast your own line for salmon or halibut. Hike the Kenai Mountains and ski down the Wosnesenski Glacier.
Alaska’s capital of Juneau is a great spot for whale-watching. Do a glacier walk; you have many sites to choose from: Herbert, Sawyer, Mendenhall Glaciers and Tracy Arm Fjord.