A Guide to National Parks of Alaska

The rugged wilderness of Alaska is home to some of the most breathtaking and pristine national parks. Each park boasts a variety of wildlife and a unique landscape, ranging from towering peaks to expansive glaciers, serene lakes, and lush forests. This guide will provide you with an overview of the diverse natural wonders that Alaska’s national parks have to offer. Discover all the possibilities of Alaska’s national parks, whether you are seeking adventure, bear or moose encounters, or simply a tranquil retreat. Get lost in these majestic parks and discover the vast expanses of untamed wilderness.

A Guide to National Parks of Alaska - grizzly bears in Denali

Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park and Preserve is a sprawling expanse of natural beauty and rugged wilderness encompassing over 6 million acres of pristine Alaskan terrain. In the center of the park, Mount Denali, North America’s tallest peak, dominates the landscape with its snow-covered summit. As a wildlife enthusiast, Denali offers unparalleled opportunities to observe iconic species like grizzly bears in their natural habitats. Take a safari tour through the park to see moose, caribou, red foxes, and a variety of bird species against the backdrop of stunning mountain views. Through the park’s trails, hikers can experience the diverse ecosystems of its lush forests, alpine meadows, and tundra. Those seeking a deeper experience can take guided wilderness excursions into the park’s remote backcountry.

Mesmerizing snow-covered mountains in Denali National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Across the rugged Brooks Range of Alaska lies Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, a vast expanse of untouched wilderness. One of the least-visited national parks in Alaska, Gates of the Arctic continues to attract those seeking solitude and adventure. Hikers and backpackers will find astounding beauty in this park, with endless horizons and rugged terrain to explore. Explore scenic valleys and wild rivers, shaped by ancient glaciers and carved by nature over millennia. Gates of the Arctic offers some of the best caribou viewing experience, including the chance to encounter grizzly bears. As the park is located in a remote area, fly-in tours are the best way to explore its pristine landscapes and gain access to otherwise inaccessible areas.

Aerial landscape of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve offers stunning natural beauty and a rich biodiversity. Nestled in the rugged wilderness of southeastern Alaska, this park features tidewater glaciers, serene fjords, and an abundance of marine life. Take a boat tour to witness active glaciers calving into the sea, creating thunderous echoes and sending massive chunks of ice crashing into the water. Observe humpback whales breaching the surface, playful sea lions basking on rocky outcrops, and adorable sea otters floating effortlessly. Get up close to towering glaciers and wildlife by kayaking through pristine waters for a more intimate experience. You can explore Glacier Bay via cruise ships, ferries from Juneau, or exhilarating flightseeing tours.

Cruise surrounded by glaciers in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Katmai National Park and Preserve

The Katmai National Park and Preserve is a pristine wilderness in southern Alaska renowned for its diverse wildlife and breathtaking scenery. Katmai is famous for its large population of brown bears. You can view Alaskan Bears feasting on the abundant salmon at Brooks Falls during the annual salmon runs. Besides bears, Katmai is a prime destination for wildlife enthusiasts, with opportunities to see bald eagles, marine mammals, and other wildlife. Hike through volcanic landscapes where steaming vents and rugged peaks provide a glimpse into the area’s geological past. Visit remote bays teeming with birdlife, where seabirds nest on rocky cliffs and shorebirds forage along the shoreline. The majority of tourists who visit Katmai arrive by floatplane and stay at remote lodges or camps.

Check out Katmai National Park’s tours

Two brown bears ready for catching Salmon in Katmai National Park in Alaska

Kenai Fjords National Park

Located in southern Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park features icy fjords, towering glaciers, and rugged coastal landscapes. Kenai Fjords is one of Alaska’s crown jewels and offers visitors the opportunity to witness nature at its most pure. Take a boat tour from Seward to witness massive tidewater glaciers calving into the sea with thunderous roars. Look out for majestic marine wildlife, including whales breaching the surface, otters frolicking, and bald eagles soaring above. This park offers hiking trails winding through ancient forests, offering glimpses of surrounding mountains and stunning coastal views for those seeking adventure on land.

Glacier landscape in Kenai Fjord National Park of Alaska

Kobuk Valley National Park

Northwestern Alaska’s Kobuk Valley National Park is a pristine wilderness area above the Arctic Circle. This remote park encompasses vast stretches of sand dunes, wild rivers, and caribou migration routes. Experience the rich cultural heritage of Alaska Native communities that have lived here for thousands of years. You can witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of the midnight sun during the summer months, when the sun never sets. Small planes are the primary means of access to Kobuk Valley National Park.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

A hidden gem of Alaska, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve boasts stunning volcanic landscapes and abundant wildlife. Towering peaks, turquoise lakes, and cascading waterfalls provide a picturesque backdrop for outdoor adventures in this remote park. Its rivers and streams are often full of brown bears fishing for salmon, which is one of the park’s main attractions. You can observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat from a safe and respectful distance on boat tours and airplane adventure tours.

Lone grizzly bear in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

A true wilderness playground in the heart of Alaska, Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve is the country’s largest national park. This impressive park boasts 13 million acres of glaciers, towering peaks, and rugged wilderness. A testament to Alaska’s rich mining history is the historic mining town of Kennecott, where you can explore the remnants of the Kennecott Copper Mine. Adventure seekers can take part in backcountry hiking expeditions, ice climbing tours, and flightseeing excursions to explore glaciers. Although the iconic McCarthy Road provides limited access to the park, some areas can only be reached via small planes or boats.

Choose from Wrangell safari and wildlife activities

Snow covered landscape in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Chugach State Park

Located just a few miles from Anchorage, Chugach State Park offers pristine wilderness in south-central Alaska. Its huge expanse of over half a million acres boasts rugged mountains, lush forests, sparkling lakes, and meandering rivers. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Chugach State Park year-round for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Wildlife enthusiasts in the park can observe moose, bears, eagles, and Dall sheep in their natural habitat. Chugach State Park offers 280 miles of hiking trails winding through its pristine wilderness, ranging from leisurely strolls to challenging alpine hikes. Chugach State Park nature walk is one of the favorites among the visitors.

Dall Sheep crossing the river in Chugach State Park in Alaska

Tips for planning your national park trip

You should consider many factors when planning your trip to a national park.

  • Research Park Information: Learn about park regulations, amenities, and available activities. Look for any closures, permits, or seasonal restrictions.
  • Understand the Remoteness: Check out the accessibility and remoteness of the national parks you plan to visit. You’ll find fewer amenities and services in remote areas.
  • Prepare for Changing Weather: Make sure you pack clothing and gear that can withstand a variety of weather conditions. Make sure you check the weather forecast before your trip.
  • Consider Accommodations: Decide whether to camp, stay in a lodge, or stay nearby. When it’s peak season, book well in advance.
  • Book Tours in Advance: Book guided tours and activities in advance to guarantee your spot. Peak seasons can see tours and activities fill up quickly.
  • Embrace the Journey: Plan your itinerary to allow for spontaneity and flexibility. Take the time to explore the natural beauty and serenity of the park.
  • Respect Nature and Wildlife: Make sure you follow Leave No Trace principles. Observe wildlife from a safe distance and avoid any actions that may disturb them.

Additional Resources

The National Park Service Alaska website provides detailed information about each park, including visitor centers, permits, and current conditions. It’s hard to resist Alaska’s national parks if you are looking for adventure, wildlife encounters, or the beauty of wild landscapes. You can make your journey a success with careful planning.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *