Top 10 Most Famous Alaska Landmarks Travelers Talk About
For many, a trip to Alaska is a lifelong aspiration or a soon to be checked off bucket list item. It’s no surprise as the state boasts truly untamed and wild landscapes and sights seen nowhere else on Earth. While it is easy to get sidetracked in touristy Anchorage and Juneau attractions, the real allure lies beyond the city lights, where bears and wolves roam freely and mountain peaks sit undisturbed in the distance. It surely comes as no surprise to most that the most famous Alaska landmarks are national parks and nature preserves dedicated to maintaining and ensuring the survival of the wildlife found here and the lands they need to survive. While it’s hard to decide which places in Alaska to visit first, past visitors have helped piece together a sampling of the ten best landmarks found in the northernmost state.
1. Glacier Bay National Park: To Juneau’s north lies over three million acres of glaciers, rainforests, fjords and mountains. It’s an adventurer’s paradise and there is no shortage of things to see or do here. One of the most well known of all Alaska landmarks, the park is actually a portion of a larger, protected World Heritage Site that covers more than twenty five million acres. In addition to the natural, stunning, serene beauty found here, visitors can also learn about the region, commercial fishing’s impact on the park, early explorers and settlers and the Huna Tlingit people that once called the park home. Glacier Bay promises an exciting blend of history and inspiration for thousands upon thousands of guests it greets each year.
2. Totem Bight State Park: Just south of Juneau can be found a small, 11 acre historical community park set in a lush and vibrant rainforest like environment. Featuring totems from the original indigenous residents of Alaska that have been re-carved or restored, guests can sneak a peek back in time through the remnants of villages and artifacts from a people that left from here in the earlier part of the 1900s. Perhaps one of the smallest of all Alaska landmarks, there is one thing that makes a trip here unique. Guests partaking in a Totem Bight State Park tour get an opportunity to enjoy a model Native village, complete with more than two dozen totem poles and a community house.
3. Wrangell St. Elias National Park: Boasting more square footage than the entire country of Switzerland, this National Park proves that size does matter; and, nowhere is it more evident than at the more than 18,000 ft. high peak of Mt. St. Elias, found in the park. However, one giant mountain, serving as one of the most well known of all Alaska landmarks, isn’t all that can be found in the enormous nature preserve. The Liberty Falls Trail is very popular with guests, as is a stop in the quaint town of Chitina.
4. Kenai Fjords National Park: Near Seward a particularly unique place can be found in the Last Frontier State that is said to contain every types of ecosystem found in all of Alaska. Here, slow and gentle Alaska cruises take guests along the parks coastline along phenomenal landscapes. Some of the best examples of Alaska landmarks can be found in just a short boat tour including the Harding Icefield (which feeds the almost forty glaciers of the park) and the prehistoric fjords that frame them. And, a wealth of wildlife and plant life are easily observed by visitors to the area.
5. Lake Clark National Park: A bit of a jaunt west of the magnificent Fjords at Kenai lies Lake Clark, home to steamy volcanoes and snow capped mountains. The park is home to some of the state’s most well known residents, bear and salmon, and while they might be the most familiar local residents, the people of the area that celebrate a rich culture are perhaps more intriguing. The park boasts many important Alaska landmarks, including the 60s built cabin of Dick Proenneke, amongst many others.
6. Kodiak Island: Kodiak is the largest island of Alaska’s 5,000 mile long archipelago, and behind Hawaii’s Big Island, the country’s largest. Visitors come to the island to witness the grandeur that nature has created with glaciers, which were responsible for carving the unique islands and valleys found here. A rich diversity of both land and marine life awaits guests who venture away from the island’s main city, partaking in popular activities like hiking and water sports. Kodiak is one of the most treasured Alaska landmarks, and the island is a very popular tourist destination.
7. Katmai National Park: Although our number six pick may seem more associated with the giant, furry land mammal, bear watching is one of the most popular activities at Katmai, where over 2,000 of the enormous animals can be spotted. In this unique environment, both visitors and the scientific community take advantage of the opportunity to observe the bears in one of their last remaining, unspoiled habitats. A delicate balance has been stricken here, where humans and bears coexist peacefully with the utmost respect for their needs and fragile environment. Alaska landmarks like Katmai provide a natural retreat and refuge for bears, and draw many visitors each year.
8. Denali National Park: Southwest of Fairbanks can be found yet another National Park, although this one holds the unique distinction of being home to the tallest mountain in North America and the most well known of all Alaska landmarks, Denali. It peaks at 23,320 feet and overlooks forests and tundra that are rich with wildlife like wolves and bears. Tours here are incredibly popular as visitors find one of the most perfect places found in nature irresistible.
9. Gates of Arctic National Park: Perhaps its name provides a clue as to this landmark’s location. Found not only in the northern part of Alaska, but it also is the most northern of all national parks. Creeping towards the arctic, there are no roads to take travelers here. However, the lack of accessibility does not keep the adventurous from getting to pristine Alaska landmarks like Thunder Valley, one of the most amazing sights on the planet. Here, twisty and oddly shaped rock formations look as if they could be from another planet, a sure allure for dedicated and determined hikers.
10. Prudhoe Bay: If you want to drive to this northern Alaskan city from Washington D.C., plan to settle in for over 3,500 miles of driving – it’s that far north. It’s so far north in fact that what draws visitors here is a chance to see the Northern Lights in their most brilliant glory. Whether choosing to snowshoe or dogsled while in Prudhoe, the end result hopefully will be a clear viewing of the green a blue hues dancing across the arctic sky. Of all Alaska landmarks, the lights visible in various parts of the state are amongst some of the most stunning, and they’re what draw many visitors to The Last Frontier each year.