Amazing Alaska's most beautiful sights



Slide 1 of 35: This once-in-a-lifetime destination has long intrigued humanity with its bewildering array of stunning scenery, plentiful wildlife and the fact it's bursting with history and culture. While it might be America’s largest state, it’s also one of the least populated with an average of just over one person per square mile, making this the perfect place for some off-grid adventures (when it's safe to travel again). Click or scroll through to see the Last Frontier’s most incredible sights.
Slide 2 of 35: High on any traveler’s wish list should be Mount Denali, North America’s tallest peak which rises a dizzying 20,310 feet (6,190m) above sea level. Located in south-central Alaska, the Native Koyukon Athabascan people named it Denali, which translates as “The Great One”. However, in 1896, a gold prospector decided to name the mountain after then-presidential nominee William McKinley, spurring a naming dispute between indigenous people and settlers which would last more than a century. After a 40-year stint of being officially called McKinley, the name was changed back to Denali in 2015.
Slide 3 of 35: A 27-mile (43km) long fjord surrounded by razor-sharp cliffs lined with waterfalls, this dramatic natural wonder around 45 miles (72km) south of Juneau is mesmerizing. Highlights include the Twin Sawyer Glaciers (pictured), bright blue icebergs and an array of wildlife including bald eagles, harbor seals and mountain goats. True Alaskan Tours offers a day trip to the fjord from the city of Juneau, requiring travelers to wear face masks while inside the ship and practice social distancing.
Slide 4 of 35: Alaska is home to some of the most awe-inspiring stretches of road on the planet. Alaska Highway, which stretches 1,387 miles (2,232km) between Dawson Creek in British Columbia, Canada and Delta Junction in south-central Alaska, certainly doesn’t scrimp on beautiful scenery. If you’re planning a road trip on the Alaskan side of the route, stop off at Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge to see an array of birds migrating to and from Canada, backdropped by a landscape of expansive forests, wetlands and tundra. See more of America's most scenic roads here.

Slide 5 of 35: Despite being one of the state's smaller national parks, Kenai Fjords National Park certainly gives you bang for your buck when it comes to jaw-dropping scenery. Situated in the south-central region, one of the park’s most impressive features is the Harding Icefield, a 714-square mile (1,850sq km) sheet of ice that's up to a mile thick in places, which feeds more than 30 glaciers. Visitors can drive to the fjord between May and October, when the road into Exit Glacier is open, or arrange a flight-seeing trip from Seward at other points in the year, subject to weather conditions.
Slide 6 of 35: Named after early travelers who turned around after getting cold feet, Coldfoot is the furthest-north truck stop in the US, situated at Mile 175 on the Dalton Highway near the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Today, visitors who brave the journey to the Arctic Alaskan village are rewarded with miles of unspoilt tundra and rugged mountains. What’s more, its northern location makes it one of the best spots in Alaska for catching the Northern Lights. See more stunning images of the Northern Lights here.
Slide 7 of 35: Stretching 550 miles (885km) from the Endicott Mountains in the central Brooks Range to the village of Koyukuk, the Alaskan Koyukuk River is a must-see for anyone wanting to catch a glimpse of Alaska’s epic wilderness. Koyukuk River Tribal Tours usually offers either three-day or six-day inclusive guided tours of the river, including air travel from Fairbanks to Hughes, with an emphasis on educating guests about Koyukon Athabascan cultural practices and providing jobs to local people.
Slide 8 of 35: The former Klondike Gold Rush town of Dyea was visited by thousands of people in the late 1890s as they poured through on their way to gold fields. Long before that, Dyea was used as a seasonal fishing camp and base by Chilkat Tlingit people, from where they traveled up the Chilkoot Trail to trade with people in the interior. Today, the town has been reclaimed by nature, having been abandoned due to successive natural disasters and a lack of transport links. However, it offers a fascinating insight into the rich and overlapping histories that coexist in Alaska. Discover more abandoned ghost towns in America here. 
Slide 9 of 35: Popular with road-trippers in summer and intrepid skiers in winter, Haines is one of the best spots in Alaska for fishing, hiking and bird-watching – the area attracts the world’s largest concentration of bald eagles each fall. Located along the edge of North America’s longest and deepest fjord in southeast Alaska, the town’s historic gems include museums dedicated to the native Tlingit people and gold rush era Fort William H. Seward.

Slide 10 of 35: In the early 20th century, the town of Kennecott was a busy copper mining camp. The area’s copper deposits were first discovered in 1900, and the industry thrived in the area until the mid-1920s when the low price of copper took its toll on business. Fast-forward to today and it’s become a ghost town, attracting and intriguing visitors for its eerie-looking dilapidated red buildings which provide a fascinating insight into the town’s former industry.
Slide 11 of 35: The largest national park in the US at a whopping six times the size of Yellowstone, Wrangell-St. Elias is filled with an outstanding array of mountains and glaciers, a diverse wildlife population and stunning views galore. Roughly 70% of the park is designated and managed as wilderness, meaning the landscapes are about as unspoilt as they come, and the park is also home to some of the largest glaciers in North America. See more of the world's most wonderful wildernesses here.
Slide 12 of 35: One of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers, Mendenhall Glacier is located a mere 13 miles (21km) from the town of Juneau and can be reached by car, on foot, by air, or by boat. Part of the 1,500 square mile (3,900sq km) Juneau Icefield, the glacier has been retreating since the Little Ice Age between the 16th and 19th centuries. The glacier is accessible all year but May to October, when the weather is warmest, is the most popular time to visit (when COVID-19 restrictions allow).
Slide 13 of 35: Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Canada, Glacier Bay National Park is home to some of the most incredible tidewater glaciers on the planet. The park also has an array of wildlife, including humpback whales, porpoises, sea otters, bears, wolves and moose. It’s best to explore this icy wilderness by boat – 95% of visitors usually do so – but avoid the big cruises and take a smaller ship for a more sustainable option. Responsible Travel usually offers an eight-day small ship tour starting at Sitka and finishing at Glacier Bay and Juneau, with opportunities to see wildlife up close and engage with local indigenous communities.
Slide 14 of 35: Flanked by the fall’s vibrant oranges and reds in this stunning shot, the seven-mile long (11km) Eklutna Lake is backdropped by majestic mountains, the tallest of which is Bashful Peak. It’s a favorite spot of hikers, with ample trails to try including the two-and-a-half mile (4km) Twin Peaks Trail, and the 13-mile (21km) Eklutna Lakeside Trail. Alternatively, thrill-seekers can take a three-and-a-half-hour quad bike tour with locally-owned Riding Alaska ATV Tours, which takes visitors through the Chugach State Park and traverses along the lake, up towards the Eklutna Glacier itself.

Slide 15 of 35: If you’re willing to brave the cold and visit Alaska’s Arctic region (when travel is allowed again), you’ll be rewarded by views of the awe-inspiring Brooks mountains. This epic mountain range extends out from Canada’s Rocky Mountains, spanning around 600 miles (1,000km) in total, with its highest peaks reaching between 8,500 and 9,000 feet (2,590-2,740m). Ideal for hiking, camping and mountaineering, it’s best to visit in the summer when the temperatures are mildest – although even then, temperatures typically only reach around 40°F (4°C) in the most northerly regions.
Slide 16 of 35: Located on the Kenai Peninsula, which stretches out from Alaska’s southern tip, Lost Lake is a rugged and remote outpost that ticks all the boxes for keen hikers. To experience it on foot, take a 15-mile (24km) hike between mile post five on the Seward Highway and Primrose Campground, which takes in scenic vistas, forests and lakes as the path traverses the eastern side of Lost Lake.
Slide 17 of 35: Aptly-named Wonder Lake has captured the hearts of many visitors – and it’s not hard to see why. Located in Denali National Park, Wonder Lake offers incredible views of the Alaska Range and Denali’s north flank, on clear days acting as the perfect mirror for Mount Denali. The three-and-a-half mile long (5.6km), 250-foot (76m) deep lake is often classified as a kettle lake, which means it was formed by the melting of glaciers.
Slide 18 of 35: One of the most accessible glaciers in the Last Frontier, Exit Glacier is just a 10 to 15-minute drive from Seward and can be reached after a short walk from the parking area, making it popular with cruise tour groups. The stunning bright-blue glacier is retreating quickly, however, and has been held up as a symbol of the effects of global warming. According to local guide Rick Brown, speaking to National Geographic, the normal rate of retreat is 150 feet (46m) a year. Currently, the glacier is retreating by around 10-15 feet (3-4.6m) per day. See more historic sights and landmarks under threat from climate change.
Slide 19 of 35: For those who want to get a taste of Alaska’s ancient history, Beringia is worth a visit. This stretch of ocean between Alaska and Russia was once the site of a 620-mile (1,000km) wide ice sheet joining the continents of North America and Asia, which early humans crossed in order to populate the Americas some 18,000 years ago. Although it’s no longer there, the bridge existed between around 30,000 years ago and 16,000 years ago, according to global sea level estimates.
Slide 20 of 35: A favorite with backpackers, Kesugi Ridge is a 27.4-mile (44km) hiking trail between Little Coal Creek and Byers Lake in Denali State Park. You’ll see plenty of sweeping, panoramic views along this route, which takes in wide swathes of tundra, alpine lakes and wildlife including moose, bear, caribou and beaver. It’s a challenging trail which features 5,990 feet (1,826m) of elevation gain, and is best hiked in the summer months of June to September.
Slide 21 of 35: It’s easy to get lost in Alaska’s breathtaking wilderness but its cities are every bit as spectacular. Take Anchorage for example, where shimmering lights are offset by jewel-toned skies and inky blue mountains in this sunset shot. Here, you’ll find everything from craft beer and coffee to museums such as the Anchorage Museum and the Oscar Anderson House.
Slide 22 of 35: Aviation fans will love Lake Spenard and Lake Hood where the world’s largest and busiest seaplane harbor is – there are more than 87,000 take-offs and landings per year. The nearby Alaska Aviation Museum, which documents Alaska’s aviation history through interactive exhibitions, photographs, artifacts and memorabilia, is also worth a stop off.
Slide 23 of 35: At an immense 27 miles (43km) long and four miles (6km) wide, Matanuska Glacier flows north from the Chugach Mountains up to near the Glenn Highway, between interior and coastal mountains. It’s possible to visit in a day by traveling the 100 miles (161km) northward from Anchorage, making it an ideal day trip. What’s more, the glacier naturally pushes warm valley air upwards, meaning that the weather here is a little milder than at many other glaciers.
Slide 24 of 35: If you’re keen to see bears in Alaska, look no further than Kodiak Island. Alaska’s largest island, also known as the “Emerald Isle” for its lush green landscapes, is a designated wildlife refuge home to as many as 3,000 of the largest grizzly bears in the world. Kodiak Island also has several harbors including St. Paul Boat Harbor, which served as a major port during the Second World War, when the island was an important staging area for North Pacific operations. See the most amazing animal encounters in every state here.
Slide 25 of 35: Known for its diverse array of landscapes, including everything from tundra and volcanoes to lakes and glaciers in one fell swoop, you might be surprised to learn that Lake Clark is something of a lesser-known gem among Alaska’s many national parks. Along its center run the rugged Chigmit Mountains, while there are also two active volcanoes, Iliamna and Redoubt. It’s usually best to visit in summertime for the mildest temperatures – or go in September, to see the region lit up by fall colors. 
Slide 26 of 35: With its log cabins, clapboard store fronts and hand-sewn signposts, former gold mining town Talkeetna is about as quaint as the come. This characterful little spot, located 115 miles (185km) north of Anchorage in the Mat-Su Valley, was once a thriving riverboat steamer station which supplied nearby gold miners and had a population of 1,000 at its peak during the First World War. There are plenty of ways to explore the surrounding area, from rafting and jet boat tours to hiking trails and guided walks.
Slide 27 of 35: Sitka, located on Baranof Island’s west shore in the southern tip of Alaska, is one of the few remaining places that nods at the state’s Russian influence. In the mid-1700s, the Russians arrived in Alaska and in 1804, they attacked a Tlingit fort and Sitka became America’s Russian capital four years later. Today, it’s a patchwork of pastel-colored buildings, reminders of Russian history and culture – such as St Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral – and stunning views across the mountains.
Slide 28 of 35: A rugged wilderness that’s perfect for adventure-seekers, Prince of Wales Island is packed full of hiking trails, mountain biking tracks and canoeing spots. Yet it’s great for those wishing to take a scenic drive, too, with 1,300 miles (2,092km) of paved or maintained gravel roads that take in an array of scenic views as they travel through tiny villages and skirt along miles of coastline. When travel is back on the agenda, visitors should fly into Ketchikan, from where it’s a three-hour ferry to reach the island. 
Slide 29 of 35: In 1778, British explorer James Cook was traveling up this narrow waterway when he was forced to “turn again” because he couldn’t proceed any further inland – and so the name “Turnagain Arm” was born. Today, a trip down the narrow channel usually delights visitors with its picture-perfect views, as well as providing opportunities to spot beluga whales and Dall sheep. There’s also the Seward Highway, an incredibly scenic stretch of road that provides ample access to hiking routes and stunning views of Chugach State Park's mountains.
Slide 30 of 35: Descend into the thick pine forest of Virgin Creek Falls Trail for a short yet beautiful hike, which takes in a glacial waterfall strewn with fallen trees and moss-covered rocks. Located in the temperate rainforest of Girdwood, it’s an ideal trip from Anchorage or on the Kenai Peninsula, and can be hiked all year round (under usual circumstances) – although it’s especially stunning in the summer and fall.
Slide 31 of 35: For one of the most scenic train journeys you’ll ever experience, look no further than the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. Built during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 for gold prospectors trying to get out of Skagway and into Canada, the 110-mile (177km) stretch can be traveled today via two excursions (when safe to do so). Either take a two-and-a-half hour Summit Excursion which retraces the original route to the White Pass Summit, or the eight-hour Bennett Scenic Journey between Skagway, Alaska, and Carcross, Yukon – the same route taken by gold prospectors. Here are more of the world's most scenic train journeys.
Slide 32 of 35: Stretching 1,100 miles (1,770km) across the North Pacific from the Alaskan Peninsula, the Aleutian Islands are a bewildering mix of desolate and breathtakingly beautiful. The archipelago, consisting of 14 larger and 55 smaller islands, is home to numerous active volcanoes, such as Shishaldin Volcano on Unimak Island. First inhabited by the Aleut people some 9,000 years ago, at its peak the population was as large as 25,000, but the isles were stormed by the Russians in the 1700s and the majority of Aleut people were killed off. Today, only a small number of Aleut people remain, in communities including Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove and Sand Point.
Slide 33 of 35: The volcanic-formed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes gets its name from the fumaroles – holes in the valley floor which spout gas, smoke and steam – which can be found along it. The 56-square-mile (145sq km) valley was created in 1912, when the Novarupta and Mount Katmai volcanoes erupted, in what was one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever recorded. Today, this wide and desolate expanse is like nowhere else on Earth, attracting intrepid explorers eager to experience its wild and untamed beauty for themselves. Discover the world's most remote small towns here.
Slide 34 of 35: An essential stretch to explore on any Alaskan road trip is Dalton Highway, which travels through the most remote and northerly parts of the state. Often referred to as “America’s loneliest road”, there are just three villages along the entire 414-mile (666km) route, and from the midpoint at Coldfoot to the end, at Deadhorse, you won’t find a single gas station, hotel or rest stop. Clearly not for the faint-hearted, the road also has many steep, muddy sections so it’s necessary to travel in a well kitted-out vehicle with plenty of supplies.
Slide 35 of 35: Its quaint, colorful wooden houses reflected in the water make Ketchikan a picture-perfect spot which is popular with visitors. Known as Alaska’s “First City” – it’s the first settlement you reach when traveling northwards up the Inside Passage – Ketchikan has a rich history of salmon fishing, having been originally founded as a salmon cannery site in 1885. Don’t miss Alaska’s largest collection of totem poles housed in the Totem Heritage Center, which offers an insight into the traditions and cultures of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples.

Jaw-dropping photos of the Last Frontier

Mount Denali

High on any traveler’s wish list should be Mount Denali, North America’s tallest peak which rises a dizzying 20,310 feet (6,190m) above sea level. Located in south-central Alaska, the Native Koyukon Athabascan people named it Denali, which translates as “The Great One”. However, in 1896, a gold prospector decided to name the mountain after then-presidential nominee William McKinley, spurring a naming dispute between indigenous people and settlers which would last more than a century. After a 40-year stint of being officially called McKinley, the name was changed back to Denali in 2015.

Tracy Arm Fjord

A 27-mile (43km) long fjord surrounded by razor-sharp cliffs lined with waterfalls, this dramatic natural wonder around 45 miles (72km) south of Juneau is mesmerizing. Highlights include the Twin Sawyer Glaciers (pictured), bright blue icebergs and an array of wildlife including bald eagles, harbor seals and mountain goats. True Alaskan Tours offers a day trip to the fjord from the city of Juneau, requiring travelers to wear face masks while inside the ship and practice social distancing.

Alaska Highway

Alaska is home to some of the most awe-inspiring stretches of road on the planet. Alaska Highway, which stretches 1,387 miles (2,232km) between Dawson Creek in British Columbia, Canada and Delta Junction in south-central Alaska, certainly doesn’t scrimp on beautiful scenery. If you’re planning a road trip on the Alaskan side of the route, stop off at Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge to see an array of birds migrating to and from Canada, backdropped by a landscape of expansive forests, wetlands and tundra. See more of America’s most scenic roads here.

Kenai Fjords National Park

Despite being one of the state’s smaller national parks, Kenai Fjords National Park certainly gives you bang for your buck when it comes to jaw-dropping scenery. Situated in the south-central region, one of the park’s most impressive features is the Harding Icefield, a 714-square mile (1,850sq km) sheet of ice that’s up to a mile thick in places, which feeds more than 30 glaciers. Visitors can drive to the fjord between May and October, when the road into Exit Glacier is open, or arrange a flight-seeing trip from Seward at other points in the year, subject to weather conditions.

Coldfoot

Named after early travelers who turned around after getting cold feet, Coldfoot is the furthest-north truck stop in the US, situated at Mile 175 on the Dalton Highway near the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Today, visitors who brave the journey to the Arctic Alaskan village are rewarded with miles of unspoilt tundra and rugged mountains. What’s more, its northern location makes it one of the best spots in Alaska for catching the Northern Lights. See more stunning images of the Northern Lights here.

Koyukuk River

Stretching 550 miles (885km) from the Endicott Mountains in the central Brooks Range to the village of Koyukuk, the Alaskan Koyukuk River is a must-see for anyone wanting to catch a glimpse of Alaska’s epic wilderness. Koyukuk River Tribal Tours usually offers either three-day or six-day inclusive guided tours of the river, including air travel from Fairbanks to Hughes, with an emphasis on educating guests about Koyukon Athabascan cultural practices and providing jobs to local people.

Dyea

The former Klondike Gold Rush town of Dyea was visited by thousands of people in the late 1890s as they poured through on their way to gold fields. Long before that, Dyea was used as a seasonal fishing camp and base by Chilkat Tlingit people, from where they traveled up the Chilkoot Trail to trade with people in the interior. Today, the town has been reclaimed by nature, having been abandoned due to successive natural disasters and a lack of transport links. However, it offers a fascinating insight into the rich and overlapping histories that coexist in Alaska. Discover more abandoned ghost towns in America here. 

Haines

Kennecott Mine

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

The largest national park in the US at a whopping six times the size of Yellowstone, Wrangell-St. Elias is filled with an outstanding array of mountains and glaciers, a diverse wildlife population and stunning views galore. Roughly 70% of the park is designated and managed as wilderness, meaning the landscapes are about as unspoilt as they come, and the park is also home to some of the largest glaciers in North America. See more of the world’s most wonderful wildernesses here.

Mendenhall Glacier

One of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers, Mendenhall Glacier is located a mere 13 miles (21km) from the town of Juneau and can be reached by car, on foot, by air, or by boat. Part of the 1,500 square mile (3,900sq km) Juneau Icefield, the glacier has been retreating since the Little Ice Age between the 16th and 19th centuries. The glacier is accessible all year but May to October, when the weather is warmest, is the most popular time to visit (when COVID-19 restrictions allow).

Glacier Bay National Park

Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Canada, Glacier Bay National Park is home to some of the most incredible tidewater glaciers on the planet. The park also has an array of wildlife, including humpback whales, porpoises, sea otters, bears, wolves and moose. It’s best to explore this icy wilderness by boat – 95% of visitors usually do so – but avoid the big cruises and take a smaller ship for a more sustainable option. Responsible Travel usually offers an eight-day small ship tour starting at Sitka and finishing at Glacier Bay and Juneau, with opportunities to see wildlife up close and engage with local indigenous communities.

Eklutna Lake

Flanked by the fall’s vibrant oranges and reds in this stunning shot, the seven-mile long (11km) Eklutna Lake is backdropped by majestic mountains, the tallest of which is Bashful Peak. It’s a favorite spot of hikers, with ample trails to try including the two-and-a-half mile (4km) Twin Peaks Trail, and the 13-mile (21km) Eklutna Lakeside Trail. Alternatively, thrill-seekers can take a three-and-a-half-hour quad bike tour with locally-owned Riding Alaska ATV Tours, which takes visitors through the Chugach State Park and traverses along the lake, up towards the Eklutna Glacier itself.

Brooks Range

If you’re willing to brave the cold and visit Alaska’s Arctic region (when travel is allowed again), you’ll be rewarded by views of the awe-inspiring Brooks mountains. This epic mountain range extends out from Canada’s Rocky Mountains, spanning around 600 miles (1,000km) in total, with its highest peaks reaching between 8,500 and 9,000 feet (2,590-2,740m). Ideal for hiking, camping and mountaineering, it’s best to visit in the summer when the temperatures are mildest – although even then, temperatures typically only reach around 40°F (4°C) in the most northerly regions.

Lost Lake, Kenai Peninsula

Wonder Lake, Denali National Park

Exit Glacier

One of the most accessible glaciers in the Last Frontier, Exit Glacier is just a 10 to 15-minute drive from Seward and can be reached after a short walk from the parking area, making it popular with cruise tour groups. The stunning bright-blue glacier is retreating quickly, however, and has been held up as a symbol of the effects of global warming. According to local guide Rick Brown, speaking to National Geographic, the normal rate of retreat is 150 feet (46m) a year. Currently, the glacier is retreating by around 10-15 feet (3-4.6m) per day. See more historic sights and landmarks under threat from climate change.

Beringia

Kesugi Ridge

Anchorage

It’s easy to get lost in Alaska’s breathtaking wilderness but its cities are every bit as spectacular. Take Anchorage for example, where shimmering lights are offset by jewel-toned skies and inky blue mountains in this sunset shot. Here, you’ll find everything from craft beer and coffee to museums such as the Anchorage Museum and the Oscar Anderson House.

Lake Spenard and Lake Hood

Aviation fans will love Lake Spenard and Lake Hood where the world’s largest and busiest seaplane harbor is – there are more than 87,000 take-offs and landings per year. The nearby Alaska Aviation Museum, which documents Alaska’s aviation history through interactive exhibitions, photographs, artifacts and memorabilia, is also worth a stop off.

Matanuska Glacier

At an immense 27 miles (43km) long and four miles (6km) wide, Matanuska Glacier flows north from the Chugach Mountains up to near the Glenn Highway, between interior and coastal mountains. It’s possible to visit in a day by traveling the 100 miles (161km) northward from Anchorage, making it an ideal day trip. What’s more, the glacier naturally pushes warm valley air upwards, meaning that the weather here is a little milder than at many other glaciers.

Kodiak Island

If you’re keen to see bears in Alaska, look no further than Kodiak Island. Alaska’s largest island, also known as the “Emerald Isle” for its lush green landscapes, is a designated wildlife refuge home to as many as 3,000 of the largest grizzly bears in the world. Kodiak Island also has several harbors including St. Paul Boat Harbor, which served as a major port during the Second World War, when the island was an important staging area for North Pacific operations. See the most amazing animal encounters in every state here.

Lake Clark National Park

Known for its diverse array of landscapes, including everything from tundra and volcanoes to lakes and glaciers in one fell swoop, you might be surprised to learn that Lake Clark is something of a lesser-known gem among Alaska’s many national parks. Along its center run the rugged Chigmit Mountains, while there are also two active volcanoes, Iliamna and Redoubt. It’s usually best to visit in summertime for the mildest temperatures – or go in September, to see the region lit up by fall colors. 

Talkeetna

With its log cabins, clapboard store fronts and hand-sewn signposts, former gold mining town Talkeetna is about as quaint as the come. This characterful little spot, located 115 miles (185km) north of Anchorage in the Mat-Su Valley, was once a thriving riverboat steamer station which supplied nearby gold miners and had a population of 1,000 at its peak during the First World War. There are plenty of ways to explore the surrounding area, from rafting and jet boat tours to hiking trails and guided walks.

Sitka

Sitka, located on Baranof Island’s west shore in the southern tip of Alaska, is one of the few remaining places that nods at the state’s Russian influence. In the mid-1700s, the Russians arrived in Alaska and in 1804, they attacked a Tlingit fort and Sitka became America’s Russian capital four years later. Today, it’s a patchwork of pastel-colored buildings, reminders of Russian history and culture – such as St Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral – and stunning views across the mountains.

Prince of Wales Island

A rugged wilderness that’s perfect for adventure-seekers, Prince of Wales Island is packed full of hiking trails, mountain biking tracks and canoeing spots. Yet it’s great for those wishing to take a scenic drive, too, with 1,300 miles (2,092km) of paved or maintained gravel roads that take in an array of scenic views as they travel through tiny villages and skirt along miles of coastline. When travel is back on the agenda, visitors should fly into Ketchikan, from where it’s a three-hour ferry to reach the island. 

Turnagain Arm

In 1778, British explorer James Cook was traveling up this narrow waterway when he was forced to “turn again” because he couldn’t proceed any further inland – and so the name “Turnagain Arm” was born. Today, a trip down the narrow channel usually delights visitors with its picture-perfect views, as well as providing opportunities to spot beluga whales and Dall sheep. There’s also the Seward Highway, an incredibly scenic stretch of road that provides ample access to hiking routes and stunning views of Chugach State Park’s mountains.

Virgin Creek Falls

White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad

For one of the most scenic train journeys you’ll ever experience, look no further than the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. Built during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 for gold prospectors trying to get out of Skagway and into Canada, the 110-mile (177km) stretch can be traveled today via two excursions (when safe to do so). Either take a two-and-a-half hour Summit Excursion which retraces the original route to the White Pass Summit, or the eight-hour Bennett Scenic Journey between Skagway, Alaska, and Carcross, Yukon – the same route taken by gold prospectors. Here are more of the world’s most scenic train journeys.

Aleutian Islands

Stretching 1,100 miles (1,770km) across the North Pacific from the Alaskan Peninsula, the Aleutian Islands are a bewildering mix of desolate and breathtakingly beautiful. The archipelago, consisting of 14 larger and 55 smaller islands, is home to numerous active volcanoes, such as Shishaldin Volcano on Unimak Island. First inhabited by the Aleut people some 9,000 years ago, at its peak the population was as large as 25,000, but the isles were stormed by the Russians in the 1700s and the majority of Aleut people were killed off. Today, only a small number of Aleut people remain, in communities including Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove and Sand Point.

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

The volcanic-formed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes gets its name from the fumaroles – holes in the valley floor which spout gas, smoke and steam – which can be found along it. The 56-square-mile (145sq km) valley was created in 1912, when the Novarupta and Mount Katmai volcanoes erupted, in what was one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever recorded. Today, this wide and desolate expanse is like nowhere else on Earth, attracting intrepid explorers eager to experience its wild and untamed beauty for themselves. Discover the world’s most remote small towns here.

Dalton Highway

An essential stretch to explore on any Alaskan road trip is Dalton Highway, which travels through the most remote and northerly parts of the state. Often referred to as “America’s loneliest road”, there are just three villages along the entire 414-mile (666km) route, and from the midpoint at Coldfoot to the end, at Deadhorse, you won’t find a single gas station, hotel or rest stop. Clearly not for the faint-hearted, the road also has many steep, muddy sections so it’s necessary to travel in a well kitted-out vehicle with plenty of supplies.

Ketchikan

Its quaint, colorful wooden houses reflected in the water make Ketchikan a picture-perfect spot which is popular with visitors. Known as Alaska’s “First City” – it’s the first settlement you reach when traveling northwards up the Inside Passage – Ketchikan has a rich history of salmon fishing, having been originally founded as a salmon cannery site in 1885. Don’t miss Alaska’s largest collection of totem poles housed in the Totem Heritage Center, which offers an insight into the traditions and cultures of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples.

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