4 Unexpected Ways to Experience Alaska

Crystal blue glaciers, the magical Northern Lights, the majestic Denali National Park—these are some of what make Alaska a popular vacation destination.

Many tourists prefer to see Alaska on a cruise for the baked-in convenience of activities and Boat cruises take you whale watching to the Kenai Fjords, Bering Sea, and other coastal areas. Cruises along Glacier Bay give you an amazing view of rocky coastlines. You may even spot bears on the shoreline, mountain goats climbing precarious cliffs, and humpback whales, orcas, and otters.

Aside from cruising the Alaska coast, there are also some unexpected ways to experience Alaska.

Go Flightseeing for a Bird’s Eye View

Much of Alaska’s economy is linked to the fishing industry, so seaplanes are a common means of transportation. It comes to no surprise that flightseeing tours are common.

Seaplanes take you over Misty Fjords, Traitors Cove, the Chugach Mountain Range, Mount Denali, and many other sites. Have your cameras ready so you can take snaps of Dall sheep and beluga whales along with picturesque scenery.

If you want to explore mountains like Mount McKinley and Mount Denali, take a ski plane or a helicopter instead as these can land on glaciers and be prepared for breathtaking views of glaciers, fjords, and waterfalls.

Enjoy a Scenic Train Ride

Another way to enjoy the scenery is to take the state-owned Alaska Railroad. It goes from Fairbanks to Seward with plenty of stops along the way.

You can see Denali National Park and Chugach National Forest, which tend to be unreachable via cruise ship. You can also disembark on one of the stops to spend the night or go rafting, hiking or fishing at the Spencer Whistle Stop.

If you’re opting for a day trip, upgrade to a GoldStar railcar and enjoy the ride in a glass-dome car. The upgrade includes dining, so make sure you try some of their delish reindeer sausages.

Pedal Along Bike Paths

Explore Anchorage by pedaling through the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which runs along the Cook Inlet. Several parks line this trail, including the famed Earthquake Park.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous—and healthy—take the 3-day Valley of the Eagles Bicycle Adventure and explore Haines through paved and dirt roads. You can also go kayaking or rafting at rest stops.

Take A Hike and Experience the Alaska Backcountry

Travel light and explore the Last Frontier on foot. Alaska has plenty of amazing trail systems from leisurely nature paths to challenging mountain hikes.

Trek along the boardwalk trail of Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park to see 8,000-year-old petroglyphs. There are about 40 rock carvings that give you a glimpse of Alaska’s ancient history.

The Kenai River Trail offers a stunning view of Kenai River and its canyon. The unpaved but well-maintained trail weaves through the alder forest just beyond Skilak Lake Road. Be careful though; there are lots of brown bears during salmon runs.

The steep path up Pyramid Mountain challenges the more adventurous trekkers, but the long hike through thick salmonberry bushes and wildflowers is rewarded by an amazing panoramic view of Kodiak.

These are just four ways you can experience Alaska in unexpected ways. There are tons of ways to see Alaska without planning everything yourself. You could start on a cruise to cover more land and get an overview of majestic Alaska, then explore land to continue your adventure off-the-beaten-path.