Alaska’s national parks are a site of breathtakingly stunning scenery and a number of the country’s last genuine, unspoiled wilderness areas. One of the few genuine wild areas on earth is the Alaskan wilderness.
It is a rough region with vast expanses of open space, striking topography, steep peaks, and enormous glaciers.
Over 60% of this vast wildness is preserved by Alaska’s National Reserves and Parks. Additionally, due to Alaska’s size, this region is larger than the total space of all national parks in the USA.
Denali, Kenai Fjords, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Gates of the Arctic, Wrangell-St Elias, Lake Clark National Park, and Kobuk Valley are the eight national parks in Alaska.
With 13.2 million acres, Wrangell-St Elias National Park is the largest national park in Alaska as well as the USA.
An Amazing 101 Guide to National Park Alaska:
1. Where in Alaska Can You Drive to A National Park?
Kenai Fjords National Park, Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Denali National Park are three of the eight national parks in Alaska that are reachable by car.
A long gravel road drive is necessary to get to Wrangell-St Elias. You can take the bus or train to get to Kenai Fjords and Denali as well.
Ferries, cruise ships, small planes, and occasionally even commercial jets may all get you to Glacier Bay National Park.
The only way to reach Katmai National Park, Lake Clark National Park, Kobuk Valley National Park, and Gates of the Arctic National Park is via a small plane, typically a float plane that descends on the water.
2. All About Alaska’s National Parks and Things to Try There
2.1 Denali National Park
One of Alaska’s most beautiful national parks is Denali.
Mount Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, is situated there. The mountain itself appears to be from another planet.
Massive Mt. Denali may be seen as far away as Anchorage. Don’t skip the bus to the park. You have a variety of options and tours to pick from.
The Eielson Visitor Center has the most breathtaking views of Mount Denali.
If you’ve got extra time, rent a “camper bus” and spend a few days exploring the wilderness. In Denali National Park, backpacking is a truly special experience.
The husky performance shouldn’t be missed if you love dogs. It is a daily program that costs nothing and lasts for approximately thirty minutes.
The summer months, roughly from June through August, are the finest for visiting Denali National Park. It’s best to schedule your visit for at least a few days.
Also, remember that the majestic Mt. Denali is only visible one-third of the time, meaning the longer you remain, the higher your chances of seeing it will be. The Alaska Travel Guide has further information.
Enjoy this tour via Healy and then go Aurora seeking in the Denali region if you’re travelling in the winter, between the months of September and April, and you’d like a chance to view the Northern Lights.
2.2 Wrangell St. Elias National Park
All of Alaska’s national parks are very large, but none of them compare to Wrangell-St. Elias. It is the largest National Park in the country, covering 13 million acres.
Wrangell-St. Elias is twice as large as Denali and twice as large as Costa Rica. Even the 7.5-hour trip to the area from Anchorage crosses three separate mountain ranges.
The park is famous for glaciers, volcanoes, and mountain summits. Nine of the sixteen tallest peaks in the USA are found in Wrangell-St. Elias.
The longest non-polar valley glacier in the world is the Nabesna Glacier in the park. The Wrangell mountain range is one of several mountain ranges in the region that are volcanic.
In contrast to the rest of Alaska’s National Parks, Wrangell-St. Eliss is reachable by car. Chitina, which is outside the park, is connected by a rough road to McCarthy, a small community, and Kennicott, a neighbouring ghost town.
McCarthy is a prime area from which to explore the park. For a few days, you can either get a modest cabin or a room at any of the local lodges.
In addition to multi-day tours to the Wrangell-St. Elias region, Kennicott Wilderness Guides offers hiking, ice climbing, pack rafting, and other outdoor activities.
2.3 Glacier Bay National Park
A realm of tidewater glaciers and snow-capped mountains, Glacier Bay National Park is an ice wonderland. Many classifications, including that of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, preserve this vast natural area.
The park may only be travelled by boat or small plane due to its isolation and lack of any real roads. A cruise ship is the most convenient and common method to see Glacier Bay.
Several cruise lines make Glacier Bay a stop on their summer routes through Alaska.
Go to Gustavus, a small town that functions as the park’s gateway, if you’re a solo tourist. There are a few lodging alternatives near the shoreline if you want to spend the night in Gustavus. You can then take a car to Bartlett Cove, which is the gateway to Glacier Bay.
When you get to Bartlett Cove, you may drop by the visitor center to get some advice on what to do while there.
The all-day boat cruise of Glacier Bay is the most popular activity. The most magnificent tidewater glacier on this tour is Margerie Glacier. You will cruise to the edge of the bay to see it.
Keep an eye out for ice that may fall from this active glacier. There are also activities like hiking, tent camping, flightseeing, fishing, wildlife viewing, and kayaking in the park.
When you’re on the water, you might see sea lions, otters, whales, and harbour seals so keep your cameras close by.
As Glacier Bay is a conservation area, familiarize yourself with the visitor policies and acquire the necessary permits for leisure sailing and camping.
2.4 Kenai Fjords National Park
The southern region of Alaska is home to one of the most breathtaking national parks: Kenai Fjords National Park.
One of the least frequented parks in the US, the 660,000-acre Alaska National Park is absolutely worth a visit if you enjoy glaciers, fauna, and breathtaking beauty.
The most popular site in Kenai Fjords National Park is Exit Glacier, which is also the only site accessible by car. A nature center, a tonne of hiking paths, and camping options can all be found at Exit Glacier.
Adventurers can engage in a variety of activities in Kenai Fjords National Park, including boating, kayaking, hiking, and fishing. You can even fly above the area in a helicopter to soak in its unspoiled scenery.
But most individuals don’t take a road journey to Kenai Fjords National Park. They travel there to go on a boat tour of the lovely fjords, which are the residence of a number of North America’s most amazing wildlife.
In the fjords, you can see orcas, seals, humpback whales, puffins, and many other creatures. The easiest way to see Kenai Fjords is to travel to Seward, which is the city nearest to the park.
Numerous lodging options, cozily furnished cabins, dining establishments, and cruises leave from Seward harbour. For those who enjoy the outdoors, this is unquestionably among the top spots to visit in Alaska.
2.5 Katmai National Park
The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and brown bears are two of Katmai National Park and Preserve’s most well-known attractions.
Given that Katmai is home to the biggest regulated brown bear population in the world—an estimated 2,200 bears—it is one of the best spots in Alaska to go bear viewing.
The valley of volcanoes is likewise protected by the region. Seven of the park’s potentially 18 distinct volcanoes have indeed been active ever since 1900.
For photographers and anyone who enjoys animals, Katmai National Park is a wonderland. Sockeye salmon are abundant in the area, which is why brown bears adore it.
Brooks Camp in Katmai is a good place to see and photograph bears because there, brown bears congregate to eat sockeye salmon. There are platforms where you may watch wildlife in addition to the stream and Brooks Falls.
In the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, there are also opportunities for fishing, hiking, and going on a trip to see the volcanoes. The park is located on the Alaska Peninsula, about 290 miles southwest of Anchorage.
There are no roads leading to the park. The only method to reach the park is via flying via Anchorage through King Salmon, then from King Salmon to the region by boat or float plane.
In the park, there is just one Lodge where you can spend the night. For a spot in Brooks Lodge, one must submit a lottery application.
Nevertheless, a tent campground exists that is less complicated to book. All year long, the park and reserves are accessible. However, services are only provided at Brooks Camp from June 1 until September 17.
The three months of July, August, and September are the finest for observing bears at Brooks Camp.
2.6 Lake Clark National Park
Anchorage can see Lake Clark National Park from across the river, but at specific times of the year, the only ways to get there are by air taxi or boat.
The small town of Port Alsworth, which has just over 150 residents, makes a suitable starting point for touring the park. Visitors can visit the Lake Clark Visitor Center and rent a cabin on the lake.
Brown bears inhabit Lake Clark, much as they do in Katmai National Park farther south. Every spring, a large group of hungry bears gather on the mudflats along Cook Inlet’s coastline to gorge themselves on clamp and saline marsh flora.
Lake Clark National Park, Chinitna Bay, Crescent Lake, Silver Salmon Creek, Tuxedni Bay and Shelter Creek are wonderful locations to observe bears. There are no roadways in the park, therefore the only way to get to these regions is by air taxi.
If you have additional time in the park, consider taking a hike through one of the lovely pathways into the pure Alaskan wilderness.
The most popular and well-maintained trail network is the Tanaluan system, which includes the Tanalian Falls and Kontrashibuna Lake circuits. It’s essential to hire a guide if you want to try off-trail hiking or for an overnight trip.
2.7 Kobuk Valley National Park
The Kobuk Valley is renowned for the enormous herds of caribou that span the valley during their annual migration and for containing the most active dune in the Arctic.
It is just as wild and isolated as the Gates of the Arctic National Park. The dunes provide a wonderful setting for camping and hiking. The trails will keep you busy for a few days, or you may fly in for a day with Golden Eagle Outfitters from Kotzebue.
The park is accessible in the summertime by air taxi, boat, or on foot. Snowmobiles, air taxis, and the good ol’ trek are all available entry methods throughout the winter.
Similar in structure to most of Alaska’s distant national parks, Kobuk Valley is simpler to discover on a scheduled excursion.
For instance, Onion Portage Adventures provides lodging inside the park in addition to a range of adventures such as fishing, dune trekking, mushing, rafting, river boating, animal viewing, and trekking.
2.8 Gate of the Arctic National Park
This is the last bastion of contemporary civilization and the actual unspoiled nature. The eight million acres of Gates of the Arctic National Park are a vast expanse without any roads or trails.
Living in harmony with the land, as indigenous individuals have accomplished for millennia while coexisting with caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, and shaggy musk oxen, is the sole way to thrive there.
One way to experience the Gates of the Arctic is by floating even one of the six wild rivers in the area: John River, Noatak River, Kobuk River, Alatna River, Tinyaguk River and Koyukuk River.
Make sure your boat is foldable, such as a raft or an inflating canoe, as there is no other way to reach the rivers than by air taxi.
You can also hike into the park from the difficult Dalton Highway, which is the closest approach to the Gates of the Arctic limit.
It is essential to check one of the park’s visitor centers in Coldfoot, Fairbanks, or Bettles before embarking on a hike in this isolated and difficult area.
No matter how you reach the park, be ready to depend upon your senses of direction and survival abilities.
Gates of the Arctic gets the fewest visits of any USA national park due to its seclusion and isolation from civilization.
In 2019, just 10,518 individuals went to Gates of the Arctic. So, be prepared to enjoy the isolation and calm while being surrounded by an enormous, breathtaking, but harsh ancient scenery.
You can also join a pre-planned tour if you don’t seem ready for the task of discovering the Gates of the Arctic on your own. Alternately, enjoy the opulent aerial Iniakuk Lake Wilderness Lodge as your home base while exploring the national park.
3. Some Tips to Follow While Visiting National Park Alaska
3.1 The ideal season to visit Alaska’s national parks is summer.
In Alaska, the weather can be very changeable at any one time. Summer months can be extremely hot, but they can also be frigid and wet. Weather can result in small plane flight cancellations and delays.
3.2 In the summer, mosquitoes are prevalent throughout Alaska. Carry a spray with you at all times.
3.3 Visit Alaska in late August or early September if you’re determined to see the Northern Lights while you’re there. Additionally, at this moment there are possibly no or very few bugs.
3.4 Even if travel insurance isn’t the most interesting topic, it’s crucial to take into account when visiting isolated locations of Alaska, particularly if you’re taking a small plane because they are more likely to experience regular weather cancellations and delays.
3.5 The only national park in Alaska that is open throughout the winter is Denali National Park. This might be ideal for travellers who enjoy spending time alone and are fond of the winter season.
3.6 In Alaska, the summer months do not experience nightfall; from late May until July, there will be constant or nearly constant daylight.
While parks south of the Arctic Circle, like Glacier Bay, will only see a few hours of darkness each day, those above the Arctic Circle, like Gates of the Arctic & Kobuk Valley, will experience the sun well above the skyline 24 hours a day.
3.7 When travelling to Alaska’s national parks, the Public Lands Information Centers are a great resource and a pleasant and educational stop. They have experienced, helpful employees who can answer your queries and direct you to useful resources like campgrounds and maps.
These untamed national parks in Alaska offer a variety of experiences throughout the year, from the icy elegance of the Arctic winter to the vivacious bloom of summer.
Anywhere you decide to travel, an Alaskan journey is certain to be one you won’t forget.