America’s Last Frontier is the wildest, rawest and most unspoilt state. Alaska’s landscape is as diverse as it is immense with vast forests, massive mountains, dramatic coastlines, towering fjords, and tundra and taiga. It is also a wonderland for wildlife lovers. There are endless adventures in nature to enjoy. Ready for the trip of a lifetime? Here are some of the best national parks in Alaska.
7 of the Best National Parks in Alaska
1. Lake Clark National Park and Reserve
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is located in southwest Alaska, roughly 100 miles southwest of Anchorage. This park preserves the ancestral homelands of the Dena’ina people and is a rich cultural wilderness. As you journey through this diverse landscape, Volcanoes that emit plumes of steam surround you. As do craggy mountains, their reflections shimmering in the turquoise lakes. Here, in the wildness of Lake Clark National Park and Reserve, you’ll see incredible displays of nature including salmon runs and bears foraging as you venture deeper, you too become part of the wilderness.
2. Denali National Park and Reserve
Denali National Park and Reserve is the most well-known national park in Alaska. That’s because it is home to the tallest peak in North America, Mount McKinley. This peak towers 20,310-ft above the surrounding tundra. This epic park is 6-million acres of wide-open Alaskan wilderness. It is comprised of diverse terrain, for instance, you’ll come across forests, glaciers and tundra. The wildlife watching here is fantastic too. Keep your eyes peeled for grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and Dall sheep. These animals roam with complete freedom in the un-fenced lands. In the summer, Denali National Park and Reserve is a stunning place in which to enjoy adventures such as biking, backpacking, hiking and mountaineering.
3. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
The Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve protects portions of the Brooks Range. It is the United States’ northernmost national park. Located in far north Alaska, above the Arctic Circle, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is the least visited national park in the U.S. and the ultimate wilderness getaway. Sprawling nearly 8.5 million acres, this park has no roads or trails. It is only accessible by bush plane or on foot. So it is the perfect location for adventure seekers looking for a remote and extreme landscape to explore. In the summer, you can experience the midnight sun. In the winter the aurora borealis dance across the night sky. If you are here in the autumn, you’ll witness over half a million caribou migrating through the Central Brooks Range. All incredible, bucket lists experiences.
4. Kenai Fjords National Park
Located on the Kenai Peninsula in south-central Alaska, this park protects the Harding Icefield. This is one of the four major ice caps in the United States. With outflowing glaciers, coastal fjords and islands this is a great place for Ice Age explorers. The Kenai Fjords National Park contains 38 glaciers, which flow from the Icefield. These make up around 51 per cent of the park. Dark, rugged mountains and lush backcountry surround the powdery blue glaciers, which jut out of the water. It all combines to create a very surreal landscape. As you kayak beneath the ancient glaciers, you really do feel like an intrepid explorer. Backpacking through this icy wilderness is an epic Alaskan adventure.
5. Katmai National Park and Preserve
Katmai National Park and Preserve is located on a peninsula in southern Alaska and spans over four million acres. Its diverse landscapes include tundra, forests, lakes and mountains. It is also where you’ll find The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Ash flow from the eruption of Novarupta way back in 1912 fills this valley. There are still active volcanos in Katmai National Park and Preserve and the park is also famous for the thousands of brown bears who are drawn to the abundant salmon in Brooks Falls. In fact, the park contains the world’s largest protected brown bear population. Apart from wildlife watching, the park is a popular place for hiking, kayaking, backpacking, camping and backcountry skiing.
6. Kobuk Valley National Park
Situated some 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley National Park is where dessert and forest meet. It is a remarkable environment where endless expanses of sand dunes swell up to meet lush emerald forests. This serves as a reminder of just how diverse the Alaskan landscape really is. In addition to its unique topography, the Kobuk Valley National Park is home to a massive (over half a million of them) annual migration of caribou, which are still hunted by the Native communities as they were thousands of years ago. Also in the park, you’ll find the Onion Portage Archeological District, which is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Arctic and an important cultural site to Native Alaskans.
7. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Encompassing 13-million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest national park and preserve in America. In fact, it is the world’s largest international protected wilderness. Full of volcanoes, glaciers, towering peaks and untouched backcountry, the park is a world of its own of epic proportions. Here you’ll find the Malaspina Glacier. This is the largest piedmont glacier in the world. You’ll also find nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States, including Mount St Elias, the second-highest peak in the U.S. Also awaiting you at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve are diverse landscapes, for instance, endless wintery valleys, braided streams, mountain trails and dense Aspen woods. The park is also home to historic mining sites and incredible wildlife like caribou, moose and 1,500lb grizzly bears. Oh my!