Alaska

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Where else but Alaska can you plan glacial hiking and salmon fishing one day, and spot a whale breaching or set out dog mushing the next, all the while counting caribou, bear, Dall sheep, and moose among your land-based companions? With nearly two-thirds of the United States’ national park acreage unfolding here, Alaska easily comprises one of the world’s premier wilderness destinations, boasting outdoor adventures like sport-fishing and day hikes to more adrenaline-fueled outings like sea kayak adventures or mountaineering treks.

Alaska Summer Activities

Bike & Brew tour

Cycle Alaska’s 4.5-hour guided Bike & Brew tour is a fantastic way to visit Mendenhall Glacier, tour Juneau’s suburbs, and wind down with a visit to the Alaskan Brewing Company all in one shot.

Cycle Alaska, Mendenhall Valley, 3172 Pioneer Ave., AK, 907-780-2253, www.cycleak.com
Tags: biking | outdoors | brewery | summer activity

Chugach State Park

This half-million-acre wilderness (the third largest state park in America) lies on Anchorage’s doorstep. Hiking, climbing, fishing, rafting, and more can be enjoyed, along with bird’s-eye views of Anchorage.

Potter Section House, Mile 115 Seward Hwy., AK, www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/units/chugach
Tags: hiking | fishing | whitewater rafting | state park | climbing | summer activity

Climb Denali

Some 1,200 climbers attempt to climb Mt. McKinley’s peak each year. Considered one of the world’s most challenging climbs (averaging about 18 days to ascend), prospective climbers must register two months in advance and pay fees of $200; professional guides can be hired from the park service's Talkeetna Ranger Station.

Talkeetna, AK, 907-733-2231, www.nps.gov/dena
Tags: hiking | outdoors | summer activity

Drive the Seward Highway

This 127-mile highway traverses the Kenai Peninsula, cutting through diverse landscapes – from glistening glaciers to alpine meadows, with vistas of jagged peaks and majestic fjords. Many miles of the route wind past waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife, hugging the base of the Chugach Mountains and overlooking Cook Inlet down the shoreline of Turnagain Arm (where twice daily there’s a bore tide – a wave up to 10 feet tall). Watch for grazing sheep and mountain goats amid the cliff tops, and beluga whales swimming the frigid waters below.

From Anchorage to Seward, AK, www.byways.org/explore/byways/10390
Tags: outdoors | wildlife | road trips | summer activity

Glacier Bay

A comprehensive eight-hour Glacier Bay Tour aboard a high-speed catamaran, including lectures by National Park Service naturalists and lunch, provides an intimate seafaring perspective of the 16 spectacular tidewater glaciers that converge in the bay. Dress in warm layers and bring binoculars – humpbacks and orca sightings are a near guarantee. Cruises can be arranged through the Bartlett Cove visitor services.

AK, 888-229-8687, www.visitglacierbay.com
Tags: cruise | outdoors | national park | summer activity

Hike Exit Glacier Trail

Though hikers have limited access to Kenai Fjord National Park’s periphery, they can easily follow this half-mile trail, which leads along a forested path to the base of Exit Glacier. The option to continue on to the more serious eight-mile Harding Icefield Trail, a fantastic day hike through otherworldly glacial landscapes, is also available.

At the end of Herman Leirer/Exit Glacier Rd., AK, 907-224-7500, www.nps.gov/kefj
Tags: hiking | outdoors | summer activity

Hike Wonder Lake

This lake comprises one of the most scenic areas in Denali National Park, providing terrific introductory hiking trails, and great views of Mount McKinley on clear days. Be sure to bring mosquito repellent as the lake area is prone to these pests.

Mile 85, AK, 907-683-2294, www.nps.gov/dena
Tags: hiking | views | outdoors | summer activity

Kodiak Island

Mammoth Kodiak Island is home to verdant mountains, salmon-rich streams, glacier-moraine beaches, and 2,000 Kodiak bears (some of the largest bears in the world). Floatplane tours from the Kodiak airport (like those hosted by Andrew Airways) get you to prime bear-viewing perches. Binoculars are a must since guides will keep you at a lengthy and safe distance at all times. July to mid-August is the peak viewing time, when bears congregate for the salmon runs.

Andrew Airways, Kodiak Airport, State Rd. 99615, AK, 907-487-2566, www.andrewairways.com
Tags: editor pick | smart splurge | outdoors | airplane | summer activity

Mendenhall Glacier

The dramatic, bluish-white Mendenhall Glacier is one of Alaska’s most accessible and visited glaciers. Part of the ice field that sits in Juneau’s backyard, it can be viewed from a scenic lake-fronted overlook or via several trails that lead up to it (trail maps can be picked up at the onsite visitor’s center). Die-hard adrenaline seekers can even arrange glacial hiking treks.

Mendenhall Valley, 8465 Old Dairy Rd, AK, 907-789-0097, www.fs.fed.us
Tags: family | hiking | editor pick | outdoors | summer activity

Raft or salmon fish in Talkeetna

Located at the junction of the Susitna, Talkeetna, and Chulitna rivers, Talkeetna is a dream destination for river boating, rafting, and salmon fishing trips. Try one of Talkeetna River Guides’ 2-hour, 4-hour, or overnight excursions.

Talkeetna River Guides, AK, 800-353-2677, www.talkeetnariverguides.com
Tags: family | outdoors | fishing | whitewater rafting | summer activity

Ride the rails in style

Alaska Railroad’s first-class, double-decker GoldStar cars boast open-air observation decks and priority seating under glass domes, for spectacular views on the Denali Star route between Anchorage and Fairbanks. It’s an unbeatable means of getting to Denali National Park.

Anchorage, Main Depot 411 W. 1st Ave., AK, 800-544-0552, www.alaskarailroad.com
Tags: family | smart splurge | national park | train | summer activity

Riverboat Discovery

Hop aboard a sternwheeler on the Chena River for an interactive 3.5-hour tour that incorporates a dog sledding demonstration, bush plane show, and visit to a recreation of an Athabaskan native village.

Riverboat Discovery, 1975 Discovery Dr., AK, 866-479-6673, www.riverboatdiscovery.com
Tags: family | cruise | editor pick | culture | summer activity

Sea kayak in Glacier Bay

Intimate encounters with the mammoth glaciers and wildlife of Glacier Bay National Park are guaranteed on one of the daylong kayaking trips (guided or solo) organized by Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks.

Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks, 1 Same Old Rd., Bartlett Cove, AK, 907-697-2257, www.glacierbayseakayaks.com
Tags: kayaking | outdoors | summer activity

Set sail in Kenai Fjords National Park

Since the fjords are the thing to see, the preferred touring mode is by water (airplane tours can also be arranged). Kenai Fjords Tours offers six- to nine-hour cruises that include a salmon lunch. The tours of Resurrection Bay offer calmer waters but less dramatic views.

Small Boat Harbor, AK, 907-224-8068, www.kenaifjords.com
Tags: family | cruise | outdoors | wildlife | national park | summer activity

Take in Denali from the air

Denali often hides behind cloud cover, but “flight-seeing” tours guarantee spectacular views. K2 Aviation offers daily summer departures from Talkeetna; add a landing on Ruth Glacier for an optimal wilderness outing.

K2 Aviation, Talkeetna State Airport, off 2nd St., AK, 800-764-2291, www.flyk2.com
Tags: tour | national park | airplane | summer activity

Tour Denali National Park by bus

These guided coach bus tours offer extras like box lunches and insightful commentary over the standard Denali bus circuits, and include the Denali Natural History Tour (4-5 hours), the Tundra Wilderness Tour (6-8 hours), as well as the comprehensive Kantishna Experience, which takes 11 to 12 hours. The one drawback to these tours, compared to unguided park shuttles, is that travelers are confined to the bus outside of designated rest stops.

Wilderness Access Center Reservation Desk, AK, 800-622-7275, www.nps.gov/dena
Tags: family | tour | wildlife | national park | road trips | summer activity

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