Bush pilots, active volcanoes, calving glaciers, wild salmon and king crab: Alaska is a wilderness. From moose in downtown Anchorage to remote fishing in glacier-fed rivers, visitors will find a wealth of adventures awaiting.
Choose a cruise in Prince William Sound, a flight over America’s highest peak or ride one of the country’s great railroads for your holiday. From whale-watching to the Moose Dropping Festival, you are guaranteed a unique stay in the Land of the Midnight Sun’s remote splendor, where backyards in Anchorage have more small planes than automobiles.
While Juneau is the capitol, Anchorage is the hub of Alaska. Itself a destination with the picturesque Chugach Mountains to the east and Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm to the west, Anchorage has fine restaurants, museums, salmon-watching and downtown salmon-fishing on your lunch hour as well as hikes, glacier walks and wildlife-viewing.
It is also the terminus of the Alaska Railroad, which will take you south to cruises or north to Denali country and Fairbanks (www.akrr.com).
Choose a cruise
Cruises take off from Whittier and Seward, with Prince William Sound and Kenai fjords the ultimate destinations for animal-watching, calving glaciers, icebergs and spectacular scenery. Don’t worry about missing a whale or bald eagle, the captain will stop the ship (or train or bus) if necessary to allow everyone a good camera angle. Cruises run from two to six hours and have naturalists on board to point out the sights.
Many visitors know Alaska from major cruises from the Lower 48. Ships dock in Anchorage, and cruisers can take trips inland to see Mt. McKinley or Fairbanks.
With the highest percentage of bush pilots around, the chance to book a flight to a remote lodge or to see glaciers or McKinley from the air is irresistible.
Talkeetna, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Anchorage, is the nearest town to Denali National Park and the base of most of the flight-seeing. Pilots get so close that it feels like the wings are brushing the sheer cliffs. Landing at Base Camp filled with climbers waiting to start their ascent is a thrilling option.
With 34,000 miles of coastline and sprinkled with rivers and lakes, Alaska is a wonderland for fishermen. There are five species of spawning salmon that begin in March each year and are followed by trophy halibut. Trophy fish are caught regularly.
Guides offer ocean adventures as well as interior power boats and canoes and kayaks to suit every taste.
Alaska is full of festivals, especially in the summer. Find a full listing at the Anchorage Daily News site, www.alaska.com/events.
Two in particular are world-famous: the Iditarod dogsled race in March and Talkeetna’s Moose Dropping Festival in July.
The Iditarod starts in Anchorage, then again from Wasilla the next day. Nome is where the tired teams cross the finish line nine to 15 days later and offers a great view of the winners and also-rans.
Discover quaint Talkeetna, the gateway to Denali, at the annual Moose Dropping Festival. There is a parade that turns around and passes twice and a chance to win cash with your own personal moose dropping and a festival with Denali as a beautiful backdrop.