The 5 Best Ways To Explore Alaska This Summer

Start making your plans to explore the Last Frontier.

By: Natalie Morawietz + Save to a List

When I first thought about Alaska, I imagined ice, snow, and a pretty rugged place. After spending three months in the most northern state of North America, I can confirm the remote and rugged wilderness. Ice and snow, on the other hand, I’ve only seen on mountain peaks and glaciers, which only makes them more beautiful to look at! During the short Alaskan summer, it can actually get pretty warm and during June and July you have almost 24 hours of daylight. So much time to explore the wilderness!

When was the last time you felt like being a part of nature...a part of something much bigger? When was the last time you felt your own energy and joy of life at a higher level? If you’re chasing that feeling, start making your adventure plans now, check out my list, and head to Alaska this summer. You won’t be disappointed.

1. Trail Blazing in Denali National Park

Climb Sheep Ridge in Denali | Photo: Jacob W. Frank

I’m sure you have heard about Denali National Park in Alaska. It is home to the highest peak in North America, the park’s namesake, Mt. Denali. The entire park only has one road, which covers about 150 km. The rest is just wilderness with hardly any serviced hiking trails. The moment you step into this wilderness, you’re truly in the wild.

Making your way through the wilderness can be very difficult but extremely rewarding. Creeks and bushes are in your way and the soft tundra ground doesn’t make it too easy to find solid footing. Following a dry riverbed or small creek uphill will allow you to traverse the terrain much quicker. After five minutes you won’t see the road and you’ll most likely feel some goose bumps: You are finally experiencing the remote wilderness of Denali National Park. Take a deep breath, look around, and enjoy!

2. Camping in the Wilderness

Backpack to Mt. Eielson Loop | Photo: Devin K

Have you ever slept under the stars or in a place that has no roads and is surrounded by mountains, rivers and glaciers? It is for sure an experience that will make a difference in your life. The Denali Highway is a great launching point for such an expedition! It’s time to venture through the bush and step over creeks while looking out for caribou! Try one of the amazing backpacking trips like the Mt. Eielson Loop or Camp at Wonder Lake.

3. Glacier Hiking

Mountaineering on the Root Glacier | Photo: Lucas Pols

Ever watched one of those films on mountaineering and glacier adventures and wondered if you could handle something like it? Well, here’s your introduction to the task. Wrangell/St. Elias is the largest national park in North America and McCarthy, the small town inside the national park, is the launching point for small and big adventures. Start small with a day excursion on one of the stunning glaciers for a casual hike or some introductory ice climbing. Not heart-pounding enough? Go big! During the summer there are many backcountry and mountaineering expeditions launching from McCarthy. It will for sure get your heartbeat up and you will be able to tick a few boxes off your bucket list.

4. Sea Kayaking

Mountaineering on the Root Glacier | Photo: Matt & Agnes Hage

The fairly casual activity of sea kayaking can take you to many places other types of transportation cannot. Valdez and Prince William Sound offer amazing coves, a temperate rainforest along the shores and amazing sea wildlife spotting. One of the highlights is for sure Columbia Glacier, one of the fastest receding glaciers in the world. In the summer, it gives you this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to paddle around massive icebergs. You will spend hours paddling, photographing, and gawking at the enormity of these turquoise Titanic-sinking pieces of frozen water.

5. Spotting Wildlife

Cimb Divide Mountain | Photo: Jacob W. Frank

Animals in Alaska have a fairly small window of opportunity to prepare themselves for the next winter. You might see a bear feasting on hundreds of thousands of berries, a beaver working hard to collect plants and stabilize their dams and lodges, salmon building up their fat reserves, or even an arctic ground squirrel scurrying around collecting nuts and fruit for their den. If you are really lucky you will get a male moose with a huge rack feeding in a pond or even a breaching Orca while out and about on a wildlife cruise at Kenai Fjords National Park. You don’t have to be in a national park to spot them, watch out for movements and change of color while you are driving and you will be lucky! Wish for it and put all your energy out there, something magical will happen. Summers in Alaska will get under your skin!

Cover photo: Jacob W. Frank

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