Alaska National Parks
Alaska holds 2/3 of the total acreage of the National Park System. In recent years, the land tours and the cruise ship industry have fueled the popularity of Alaska’s National Parks.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Near Skagway, in southeastern Alaska, this park offers a glimpse into the pioneer days and the gold rush frenzy that gripped the area from 1896 to ‘99. The nearby White Pass and Chilkoot Pass were the routes to the Yukon River with its waiting riches.
Denali National Park and Preserve
North of Anchorage, Denali was originally designated to protect Dall Sheep. The fact that the land is home to Denali (Mt. McKinley), the tallest mountain in North America is an added bonus. The park is open year round for wildlife, and if you’re lucky, mountain viewing. The weather conditions often shroud the mountain in clouds. The park has one road which is 92 miles long. The first 15 miles are paved, and after that a tour bus will carry you the rest of the way to the visitor’s center.
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
This park, located in southeastern Alaska near the Yukon, is the largest National Park to the United States. With 13.2 million acres, this park could fit six Yellowstone Parks inside itself. This remote area is home to a variety of glaciers and their confluences such as The Kennecott and The Root Glaciers. The Malaspina Glacier, the largest piedmont glacier in the world, also flows from St. Elias.
Alongside the rivers of ice the historic mining town of McCarthy lies within the park and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The site of a once fully operational copper mine. The Wrangells mountain range is volcanic in origin but only Mount Wrangell itself is active (last erupting in 1900). You can catch it emitting steam from its vents against the yearly snow covered peaks. Many rivers run from the park such as The Chitna and The Copper River. These rivers are known for their whitewater travel and epic views through carved canyons. In addition to the vast terrain, the park is filled with wildlife, giving ample opportunity for sightings.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
This national park is located in Southeast Alaska west of Juneau. Explore fjords, mountains, and the lush environment while in this coastal rain forest. Glacier Bay is a marine and terrestrial wilderness sanctuary. It is part of one of the largest internationally protected Biosphere Reserves in the world, and it is recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.. This provides protection and sanction to the diverse and wild species of Alaska while honoring the remoteness and solitude necessary for many ecosystems. With an abundance of tidal glaciers there are many companies that take boat tours to get close to the caving ice. There are learning and interactive centers in the park to enrich your educational experience. With the vast amount of area for exploration and abundance of life, it comes with little surprise that this park also serves as a center to many different research studies.
Katmai National Park and Preserve
Located on the northern Alaska Peninsula, northwest of Kodiak Island and southwest of Homer, Alaska, Katmai is teeming with wildness. This park gives visitors the chance to view wild brown bears fishing for salmon that are spawning up river. Home to Bristol Bay, one of the largest and most important spawning and rearing ground for the sockeye salmon. There are also hundreds of acres of lakes and waterways perfect for fishing and wildlife sightings. This park has less than 6 miles of managed hiking trails so the opportunity to get off trail and navigate the wild yourself is outstanding. In addition, The Valley of Ten Thousands Smokes, the site of the worlds largest volcanic eruption of the 20th center, exists within the park boundaries. Many outfitters supply experiences to fly over this majestic terrain in a bush plane if you wish.
Kenai Fjords National Park
This park lies on the edge of the Kenai Peninsula. Home to hallmarks such as the Harding Icefield and the Exit Glacier, this ecosystem thrives around flowing ice. The Exit Glacier provides easy access from the road as many outfitters supply guided tours and glacial landings by plane. Surrounding the glacier and ice field are hiking trails and even a nature center to learn about the ecosystem and history of the area. Exploring the fjords by boat gives chance for whale sightings and other coastal animals. Sea kayaking is a great way to get up close and personal with the fjords as well. As of recently, wildfires tore through the park leaving vast burn areas and changing roadway options.
Gates of The Arctic
In the northern bush of Alaska you will find the Gates of the Arctic. Accessible only by bush plane or hiking. These glacially carved valleys wind with rivers through 8.4 million acres. The Brooks Range towers over the landscape here. This park gives space to boreal forests and alpine tundra that indigenous people still hunt and gather through. This remote area has few amenities but is perfect for the raw experiences Alaska has to offer. The park protects and preserves the integrity of this solitary environment.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Lake Clark sits to the southwest of Anchorage by 165 miles. This park is not accessible by road way but only by air taxi, boating, or hiking in. There are a variety of outfitters that serves these transportation options. The lake itself is centrally located in the park and fifty miles long. There is lots of room for fishing and kayaking here. Many trails exist through the park, some are established and maintained while many others are not. There are public cabins you may reserve and toenjoy some of the other lakes and forested areas that are situated within the boundaries. The wildlife is robust in this remote area as bears roam the salt marshes of Chinitna Bay and salmon run up Silver Salmon Creek. The mountains overlook the cook inlet here and consistently set scene to become immersed in the pristine outdoors.
Kobuk Valley National Park
Situated to the southwest of the Gates of the Arctic, this valley is carved by the Kobuk River. The river is surrounded by sand dunes and mountains in the distance. This area has an ancient migration route that caribou still travel to this today. One of the largest harvest of caribou still occurs at the Onion Portage to this day. The access to this park is by plane, snow machine, or dogs solely. This park is a great place to enjoy winter sports and have the opportunity to see the aurora borealis. The Northwest Arctic Heritage Center resides in the park as a headquarters and learning center. This park gives freedom to explore the outdoors in many different forms.