PRIVATE & SMALL GROUP TOURS TO THE WORLD'S BEST DESTINATIONS
Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!
Summer Trips To Alaska
Grizzlies & Glaciers Tour
Winter Trips To Alaska
See The Northern Lights
Summer Trips To Alaska
Denali Discovery Adventure
Where To Vacation In Alaska
The biggest question for anyone planning a first trip to Alaska is where to go? The state has so many different places to see and so many interesting things to do that it’s difficult to fit everything into one trip! But for the outdoor enthusiast, the answer to the question above is simple – book a trip to one or more of Alaska’s national parks on an Alaskan National Park Tour for a vacation you will never forget.
Alaska’s National Parks
Alaska is home to eight national parks, and more than half of all U.S. National Park Service land is located in the state. Alaska’s National Parks are huge! In fact, the eight National Parks located in Alaska are double the size of all the National Parks in the Lower 48 states combined. The sheer size of the parks makes them difficult to access, but their stunning beauty and magnificent wildlife make up for the extra work travelers need to put in to get to the more remote locations.
If your bucket list includes a trip to all eight national parks, expert guides warn that you need at least a month to make that happen! The logistics needed to plan a trip like that are complicated, involving a myriad of flights and boats to get to all eight national parks, and can be stressful. For that reason, expert guides recommend prioritizing the parks you want to see and not trying to visit them all in one trip.
The Best Way To Plan An Alaskan National Park Tour
Seasoned travelers all agree that the best way to visit all eight of Alaska’s Nation Parks is to group the visits into multiple trips! Trying to visit all eight during one vacation would be exhausting. Instead, group your visits to parks that are in the same part of the state or can be accessed from the same major city. This will help you plan where to vacation in Alaska, how to get the most out of your first trip to Alaska, and where to go.
Alaskan National Park Tour #1
You can visit Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic during the same trip. Both of these national parks (while remote) are easily accessible on a flightseeing trip from the city of Kotzebue.
Alaskan National Park Tour #2
Denali, Kenai Fjords, and Wrangell St.-Elias National Parks are all located within driving distance from Fairbanks and Anchorage. You can use the cities as your home base for day trips or plan overnight camping adventures in the backcountry after leaving the big city behind. You can also fly into Wrangell St.-Elias from either of these two major cities.
Alaskan National Park Tour #3
Katmai National Park & Preserve and Lake Clark National Park are both easily accessible by floatplane from Anchorage or Kodiak. The flights are short, which means day trips are popular with tourists, but you also have the option to book a longer stay at a lodge or go camping in the backcountry at both of these locations.
Alaskan National Park Tour #4
Glacier Bay is the one park that guides recommend saving for a solo tour! The park is located in Southeast Alaska and can be combined with a trip to the cities of Juneau, Haines, or Skagway.
If you need more information to plan your first trip to Alaska and where to go, the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers are a great resource. These centers are located on the way to Alaska’s national parks and are staffed by knowledgeable and friendly people who can answer questions, provide maps, and direct you to campgrounds. The centers are located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and Tok, right along the Alaska Highway.
What Can I Do At Alaska’s National Parks?
Alaska’s national parks feature massive glaciers, mountain ranges, herds of caribou, grizzly bears, bald eagles, wild salmon, and so much more. The eight national parks total a combined 54 million acres and are mostly wilderness. Some are easier to access than others – Denali, Kenai Fjords, and Wrangell St.-Elias are accessible by car, while Kobuk Valley, Katmai, Lake Clark, and Gates of the Arctic are accessible only by plane. Glacier Bay, on the other hand, can only be reached by cruise ship or ferry!
Now that you know how to get to each park, you may be wondering what you can do at each one. No worries – we have the inside scoop for you!
- Glacier Bay National Park – this icy wonderland of snow-capped mountains and tidewater glaciers is a sprawling wilderness sanctuary protected by several international organizations. Still, visitors are allowed in the park, which they can explore via boat tour. Other popular activities include hiking, flightseeing, tent camping, fishing, kayaking, and wildlife watching.
- Katmai National Park & Preserve – Katmai is famous for its brown bear population, which numbers close to 2,200 and is considered one of the largest in the state. The park is located on the Alaskan Peninsula, about 290 miles southwest of Anchorage. Visitors can stay overnight at Brooks lodge or camp nearby to watch the bears at Brooks Falls or explore the park’s volcanoes on a trek through the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.
- Lake Clark National Park – Lake Clark is also famous for its brown bears and provides visitors with excellent views of the magnificent creatures in their natural habitat at Chinitna Bay, Crescent Lake, Silver Salmon Creek, Shelter Creek, and Tuxedni Bay. Hiking the well-maintained Tanaluan trail system is also a popular pastime for park visitors.
- Kenai Fjords National Park – hike the Harding Ice Field Trail for a unique experience, visit Exit Glacier, take a scenic ferry tour, or kayak around a glacier at this one-of-a-kind park! Kenai Fjords is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife in the state. Visitors can spot orcas, humpback whales, seals, and puffins in the park’s many fjords from a helicopter that allows them to admire the park’s untouched beauty from above.
- Denali National Park – this park is home to Mount Denali, the highest mountain in North America. Visitors are not allowed to take their car into the park, but you can take a guided tour of the park’s famous road by bus. Once in the backcountry, popular activities include hiking the Savage Alpine Trail, camping, wildlife watching, and the daily husky demonstration at the park’s visitor center.
- Wrangell St.-Elias National Park - twice the size of Denali and bigger than Cost Rica, Wrangell St.-Elias encompasses 13 million acres of land. Nine of the 16 highest mountain peaks in the U.S. are located in the park, and the Nabesna Glacier is the longest non-polar valley glacier in the world. Visitors can book a wilderness guide to take them on hiking, pack rafting, and ice climbing trips in the park’s wilderness.
- Gates of the Arctic – this is easily the most difficult national park to access in Alaska. It takes multiple flights to get there, and hiring a guide is highly recommended! Gates of the Arctic is a true pristine wilderness, and its 8 million acres have no trails or roads running through it. The best way to explore the park is by floating down one of its six wild rives or by hiking through the wilderness, although you will need to depend on your navigation skills. Because of its remote nature, guided tours exist and are recommended for the more adventurous visitor.
- Kobuk Valley – home to Alaska’s only sand dunes, Kobuk Valley is also famous for its massive herds of caribou! The park offers a variety of activities for the outdoorsman (and woman), including fishing, dune hiking, rafting, mushing, river boating, wildlife viewing, and hiking. You can even camp near the dunes and establish a base for your adventures in this unique location.
First Trip To Alaska, Where To Go?
Now that you’ve decided where to vacation in Alaska – the national parks – you just have to figure out which ones to visit, and when! Grouping a park or two together based on geographic location is a great way to experience all that Alaska has to offer without exhausting yourself in the process. Establish a home base in a nearby city or join a guided tour that handles all of the logistics for you, and you will be sure to get the most bang for your buck out of your Alaskan National Park Tour!