wild alaska bear

The Wild is Calling: 12 Off the Beaten Path Experiences in Alaska

Bears at fallsWhat do you think of when you hear the word “Alaska?” Wildlife? Incredible natural scenery? The Last Frontier? Adventure?

Alaska is all that and more—the place to go when the same-old, same-old summer vacation just won’t do. The place you go to make once-in-a-lifetime memories and experience things you’ll never see or do anywhere else.

Thinking of a trip to Alaska? Here are 12 incredible experiences you won’t want to miss.

1. Kayak with the otters and sea lions at Resurrection Bay.

If you’ve ever stopped to watch the otters at a zoo or other park, you know what hilariously entertaining creatures they are. The Northern Sea Otters of Alaska are a breed apart—unlike the River Otters in the lower 48, these otters are huge and hearty. Males reach 5 feet in height and weigh up to 100 pounds!

Imagine paddling your kayak among these clever water weasels as they frolic and feast on fish. And if that’s not enough, the waters of Resurrection Bay are home to a host of marine mammals including Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and a host of porpoises, dolphins, and whales.

As you glide through the crystal-clear waters of Resurrection Bay, the playful antics of the otters and the majestic presence of the sea lions create a magical atmosphere that is truly unparalleled. Witnessing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, free to roam and interact with each other, is an experience that will stay with you forever. The harmony of the marine ecosystem, with its diverse inhabitants ranging from tiny seals to gigantic whales, serves as a reminder of the beauty and fragility of our planet’s underwater world. Each stroke of your paddle brings you closer to nature’s wonders, immersing you in a realm of breathtaking beauty and awe-inspiring wildlife encounters.

An Alaskan Northern Sea Otter

2. Watch the bears snorkel for salmon at Brooks Falls.

Brooks Falls is famous the world over for its incredible bear-viewing. As many as 25 bears fish at one time, standing over the falls waiting for a salmon to jump into their mouth, or searching beneath the surface for the big juicy fish.

Most people see their first bear within a few minutes of arriving at Brooks Lodge, the renowned inn just steps from the bear viewing platforms at the falls. You’ll never get a better closeup of Alaska’s brown bears, so this is a must do to add to your Alaska itinerary. You can always experience the untamed beauty of Alaska from the comfort of your own home by tuning into the live grizzly bear cam. Witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat as they roam the rugged Alaskan wilderness in search of food and adventure. With the live grizzly bear cam, you can immerse yourself in the wild without ever leaving your screen.

As the grizzly bears navigate the rushing waters at Brooks Falls with such grace and power, it’s truly a mesmerizing sight that captivates wildlife enthusiasts from around the globe. Their sheer size and agility as they deftly catch salmon demonstrate the raw beauty of nature in its purest form. Visitors often find themselves in awe of these majestic creatures, gaining a newfound respect for the delicate balance of the Alaskan ecosystem. Observing the bears through the live grizzly bear cam allows for an intimate and unfiltered connection to the wilderness, reminding us of the importance of conservation efforts to protect these magnificent animals for generations to come.

Grizzly bear fishing for salmon in Alaska

3. Go whale watching on a catamaran cruise of Kenai Fjords National Park.

The waters of Kenai Fjords are famous for breaching whales—if you’ve ever wanted to go whale watching, it’s tough to beat Alaska. Humpbacks, orcas, fin whales, gray whales, and Minke whales all swim the waters off the coast of Kenai Fjords. Did you know a female humpback whale can reach nearly 50 feet in length and weigh 35 tons? They’re actually bigger than the males.

Be sure to have your camera ready for your catamaran tour—you’ll want to remember every minute of the trip with plenty of snaps to show your friends back home.

The thrill of catching a glimpse of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As you glide through the pristine waters on the catamaran, the anticipation builds with each passing moment. The expert guides on board share fascinating insights about these gentle giants, enriching your journey with their knowledge and passion for marine life. Keep your eyes peeled for the tell-tale signs of a whale surfacing or breaching in the distance, and savor the exhilaration of witnessing such a breathtaking display of nature’s beauty up close. This unforgettable adventure promises to leave you in awe and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

A whale jumping out of the water in Alaska

4. Bike Anchorage’s Coastal Trail and search for moose.

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail starts just a few steps from Anchorage’s Copper Whale Inn, and you can walk or bike straight from the city to Kincaid Park. You’ll have incredible views of Cook Inlet and Denali in the background—and don’t be surprised if you encounter a moose or two on your journey!

Continuing along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, you’ll find yourself immersed in the breathtaking beauty of Alaska’s wilderness. As you pedal further towards Kincaid Park, the serene views of Cook Inlet and the majestic Denali towering in the distance create a picturesque backdrop for your adventure. Keep a keen eye out for moose, as these gentle giants often graze along the trail, adding an element of excitement and wonder to your outdoor escapade. The tranquility of nature combined with the possibility of encountering wildlife truly makes this journey along the Coastal Trail an unforgettable experience for any outdoor enthusiast.

Moose are often seen on trips to Alaska

5. Take a flightseeing tour over the Valley of 10,000 Smokes.

In 1912, the massive Novarupta volcano blew her top and spewed incredible quantities of lava, ash, and gas across Katmailand. If that wasn’t enough, earthquakes rocked and rumbled the earth for a solid week.

When it was all over, the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century had changed the landscape beyond recognition, leaving thousands of smoldering steam vents across the valley floor. That’s how the Valley of 10,000 Smokes got its name.

The Valley of 10,000 Smokes stands as a stark reminder of the Earth’s raw power and the unpredictability of nature. As the plane soars overhead, the remnants of the catastrophic eruption are laid bare beneath, a desolate yet mesmerizing sight for spectators. The steam rising from the countless vents creates an otherworldly atmosphere, shrouding the valley in a ghostly haze. From above, the scale of destruction and renewal is evident, showcasing nature’s ability to both devastate and rejuvenate the land. It’s a humbling experience to witness the aftermath of such an event, a testament to the ever-changing and formidable forces that shape our planet.

Alaska's Valley of 10,000 Smokes

6. Snap a perfect shot of bald eagles on the Kenai Peninsula.

As you’ve already guessed, Kenai Peninsula is a wildlife lover’s paradise—but if you’ve got a passion for bald eagles, you’re really going to love it here. There are more bald eagles in Alaska than anywhere else in North America (about 30,000 of them, actually), and few places offer better eagle spotting opportunities than Kenai.

Their majestic wings spread out against the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains and crystal-clear waters make for a truly spectacular sight. Beyond just capturing them in photographs, witnessing these iconic birds in their natural habitat is an experience that truly resonates with the soul. As you gaze up at these symbols of freedom soaring through the Alaskan skies, you can’t help but feel a profound sense of awe and reverence for the untamed beauty that surrounds you on the Kenai Peninsula.

bald eagle alaska tour

7. Hike the famous Harding Icefield trail.

The Harding Icefield is a 700-square-mile hunk of frozen splendor, one of just four major ice caps in the U.S. You can hike a bit of the Harding Icefield Trail, famous for its incredible views of Exit Glacier terminus and endless horizons of snow and ice.

If you’re an experienced hiker, you can hike the full 8 miles to the top to see the icefield in all its glory. You might even encounter mountain goats, black bears, and other wildlife. It’s considered one of the most exhilarating hikes in the country.

If you’re not an experience hiker, there is another option. Walk the ‘Edge of the Glacier Trail’ also known as the lower trail. This short hike will give you a close up look at Exit Glacier, with some brilliant photo opportunities along the way.

For those seeking a more leisurely adventure, the ‘Edge of the Glacier Trail’ provides a captivating experience without the intensity of the full Harding Icefield Trail. This lower trail offers a unique perspective of Exit Glacier, allowing hikers to witness the impressive scale of the ice up close. With stunning photo opportunities dotting the path, it’s a great option for all levels of hiking enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the beauty of Alaska’s icy landscapes.

Alaska's famous Harding Icefield Trail

8. Spot grazing Dall sheep in the Chugach Mountains.

Dall sheep are right at home in the Chugach Mountains. They’re accomplished climbers, able to scale the steep slopes and rocky ridgelines with ease. They sleep at high altitudes, 5,000 feet or more, insulated by their thick, white fur.

If you’re lucky enough to spot them, you’ll be a member of a relatively small club. Dall sheep are only found in the remote parts of Alaska and northern Canada—they’re a very rare subspecies.

Those who are fortunate enough to witness Dall sheep in their natural habitat are often left in awe of their elegance and resilience in such rugged terrain. Despite their secluded habitat, these majestic animals have adapted remarkably to the harsh conditions of the Chugach Mountains. Their ability to navigate the treacherous landscapes serves as a testament to their evolutionary prowess and survival instincts. As they gracefully navigate the rocky precipices and high altitudes, Dall sheep embody the untamed spirit of the wilderness, captivating all who have the privilege to witness their graceful movements in this remote corner of the world.

A Dall Sheep grazing in Alaska

9. Touch the toe of massive Exit Glacier.

How many people will ever get up close and personal to a glacier? Will see the massive wall of blue ice and the way its movement reshapes the landscape? Will walk the moraines made by the glacier’s movement?

Exit Glacier is a bucket-list experience. It’s a small glacier, as far as glaciers go, but at 14 square miles, it’s still an impressive and awe-inspiring sight.

As you stand in the presence of Exit Glacier, feeling the cold air emanating from its icy mass, you can’t help but marvel at the sheer power of nature. The glacier’s slow but relentless movement, carving its way through the rugged terrain over centuries, serves as a reminder of the Earth’s geological processes at work. The sight of the vibrant blue ice against the backdrop of towering mountains creates a surreal yet humbling experience, stirring a sense of wonder and reverence for the natural world. Each crack and groan of the glacier becomes a symphony of nature, echoing through the valley and etching a memory that will last a lifetime.

The spectacular Exit Glacier in Alaska

10. Watch the beavers build a dam in Eagle River Valley.

Eagle River Valley’s impressive Nature Center is bounded by boreal forest and serves as the gateway to the Chugach Mountains. It’s crisscrossed by trails leading to streams and lakes and wildlife viewing platforms like the salmon deck and the popular beaver deck.

It’s an idyllic and serene setting to see Alaska’s incredible wildlife, especially the industrious beavers laboring away on their construction. They’re an essential part of the Alaskan ecosystem.

Visitors to the Nature Center can also catch a glimpse of other fascinating creatures that call the Eagle River Valley home, such as moose, bears, and a variety of bird species. The symphony of nature resonates through the valley, with the rustling of leaves, the babbling of streams, and the occasional crack of a tree felled by a busy beaver. Observing these animals in their natural habitat offers a profound sense of connection to the wilderness and a deep appreciation for the delicate balance of ecosystems in Alaska. As the sun begins to dip behind the majestic Chugach Mountains, casting a golden hue over the landscape, one can’t help but feel humbled by the beauty and resilience of the wild inhabitants of Eagle River Valley.

An Alaskan Beaver

11. Fly in a float plane over Katmailand.

The trip to Katmailand from Anchorage via King Salmon is a surreal adventure, hovering in a float plane between the sky and the sea. It’s an experience you’ll never forget—and the perfect prelude to your visit to the bears and Brooks Falls.

As the float plane descends towards Katmailand, the vast expanse of untouched wilderness unfolds beneath you, a mosaic of pristine lakes, lush forests, and rugged mountains stretching towards the horizon. The tranquil beauty of this remote Alaskan paradise is a stark contrast to the bustling city life left behind in Anchorage. As you touch down on the sparkling waters of Katmai National Park, a sense of awe washes over you, knowing that you are about to embark on a truly unforgettable journey into the heart of nature. With each passing moment, the anticipation builds for the incredible wildlife encounters and breathtaking landscapes that await you in this untamed corner of the world.

A float plane over Katmailand, Alaska

12. See the salmon run—and feast on a meal of fresh-caught fish.

A salmon jumping a river in Alaska
Alaska is the 9th largest seafood producer in the world and provides some 80% of the world’s salmon. The annual salmon run is a spectacle to behold—drawing bears, bald eagles and other natural predators to feast. This is a must do experience for every first time traveler to Alaska.

The numbers are staggering: Fishermen have caught over a million fish in a single day. Salmon run season is a time of bounty in Alaska, and there’s nothing like filling up on the succulent, fresh-caught fish.

During the salmon run season, the rivers and streams of Alaska teem with life as schools of salmon make their annual journey upstream. The vibrant hues of the fish contrast against the crystal-clear waters, creating a mesmerizing sight that captivates both locals and tourists alike. As the fishermen haul in their plentiful catches, the air is filled with the sounds of laughter and the sizzle of fish being cooked over open flames. The aroma of grilled salmon drifts through the air, enticing even the most discerning taste buds. It’s a time when the community comes together to celebrate nature’s bounty and the rich tradition of salmon fishing in Alaska.

Ready to get in touch with your wild side in Alaska?

Absolutely! Once you’ve made the decision to embrace the untamed beauty of Alaska, get ready for an unforgettable journey filled with breathtaking landscapes and thrilling experiences. Imagine traversing glaciers, encountering majestic wildlife in their natural habitat, and immersing yourself in the rich culture of the Last Frontier. Our expert guides are eager to tailor a unique itinerary that caters to your interests and ensures that your Alaskan adventure is nothing short of extraordinary. Don’t wait any longer to embark on this remarkable escapade – contact us now to begin crafting your personalized Alaska tour and creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Our Alaska tours get you off the beaten path and into once-in-a-lifetime adventures you’ve always dreamed about. We’d love to help you see a whole new side of Alaska. Why not get in touch today and let’s put some plans in motion?

Explore Topics