So as you guys know, I’m all about Alaska lately! I’ve been itching to go back ever since I left last summer, and I’m having a blast planning my next trip to America’s biggest state.
Alaska is impossible to do in one vacation—I saw a lot during my last trip, when I spent time in Anchorage, Denali, and Seward, but there’s so much more of the state that I’m eager to explore. This time I’m hoping to spend time in some smaller towns as well as do some more hiking.
While I haven’t fine-tuned all the details yet, one thing I’m sure of—Alaska never disappoints! Here are some of the fun things to do in Alaska in the summer I’m considering on my next trip.
Things To Do in Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage is a good starting point for any Alaskan trip since it’s the home of Alaska’s biggest airport. From Anchorage, you can easily access beautiful scenery and outdoor adventure while enjoying all the amenities that a large city has to offer.
Hike at Chugach State Park
Chugach State Park has some of the best hiking trails in Alaska, including Flattop Mountain Trail and Portage Pass Trail. Both trails offer stunning views of mountains and lakes. Its close proximity to Anchorage makes hiking at Chugach State Park an easy day trip.
Go Flightseeing at Denali National Park
Denali National Park is a little farther from Anchorage, but trust me, the trip is worth it. Denali National Park is the home of the largest mountain in North America, Mount Denali.
Ever heard of “flightseeing”? If you haven’t, you can probably guess what it is—sightseeing from the air! Special flightseeing tours of Mount Denali tour the mountain from above, and some even land on the glaciers and allow you to get out and walk around!
This unique experience doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re already splurging on an Alaskan getaway, why not spend a little more for this once-in-a-lifetime experience?
Experience the Midnight Sun
As many people already know, some Alaskan summer evenings the sun famously stays up all night long. That’s right, you could go for a hike or go rafting, even in the middle of the night!
While this magical effect lasts for most of the summer, it peaks at the summer solstice on June 20th. Because Anchorage is a larger city, it’s a great place to enjoy the unique “nightlife” during the midnight sun.
Things To Do in Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks is the second-largest city in Alaska. It’s north of Denali National Park, where it’s surrounded by protected forests such as the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. If you’re looking for an Alaskan experience that’s really going to make you feel like you’re in the wild, then Fairbanks is a great place to visit.
Take a Ride on the Alaska Railroad
Travel to Fairbanks from Anchorage on the famous Alaska Railroad. On the way, you can make a pit stop at several historic towns, including Talkeetna, the town at the base of Mount Denali. Riding the Alaska Railroad gives you the unique opportunity to view the beautiful Alaskan frontier from the comfort of a train car. How cool is that?
Get a Glimpse of the Northern Lights
If you’re traveling too early in the summer to enjoy the midnight sun, count yourself lucky because you’ll have a shot at seeing the northern lights! It might be tough to get out of your warm bed to check out this amazing phenomenon, but trust me, it will be worth it! The best time to see the northern lights is after midnight between September and April.
Go on a Polar Bear Expedition
OK, I am totally doing this one the next time I am in Alaska! This expedition is based out of Fairbanks, but this day-long trip takes you to the remote village of Kaktovik to see wild polar bears! Not only that, but you get to truly experience what life in the Arctic Circle is like.
The tours are limited to 114 people a year, so if you’re as excited about this idea as I am, you better get your tickets early!
Things To Do in Juneau, Alaska
Juneau is a popular place for Alaskan cruise ships to dock because of its incredible scenery and wildlife. While you don’t need to go on a cruise to visit this picturesque town along the inside passage, you will need to take a boat, plane, or ferry, since Juneau isn’t directly accessible by road.
Check Out the Mendenhall Glacier
One of Juneau’s most beautiful attractions is the Mendenhall Glacier. Located about 12 miles from downtown Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier is a 13-mile-long remnant of the last ice age—there’s nothing else quite like it in the world! Take in the view of this glacier by foot, kayak, or cruise (and keep your eyes out for some whales and waterfalls, too!).
Learn About the History of the Gold Rush
Did you know Juneau is named after a gold prospector? In the 1880s, Joe Juneau came to Alaska looking for gold, and boy did he find it! Although gold mining is not a major source of revenue for the town today, you can learn about the history of the gold rush (and Alaska!) at one of Juneau’s museums, or try your hand at gold panning while you’re in town.
Go Whale Watching
Juneau is a great spot for whale watching, and the best time to do it is in the summer! Book a whale watching tour (or combine it with a Mendenhall Glacier cruise) for a chance to see one of the approximately 600 humpback whales who hang out in the inside passage all summer.
Things To Do in Seward, Alaska
I visited Seward last time I was in Alaska, and I’ve been eager to go back ever since. This quaint town is located on the Kenai Peninsula. From Seward, you can easily access hiking, amazing wildlife, and great food. Seward is also a stop on the Alaska Railroad!
Visit Kenai Fjords National Park
One of my favorite things I did during my last trip to Alaska was to go hiking in Kenai Fjords National Park—I’m definitely planning on going back on this trip! The park is unique because many of the trails are not maintained in order to protect this fragile ecosystem from human interference.
You can drive in and hike the Exit Glacier Trail, or book a tour (like I did!) to see Kenai Fjords National Park from the water.
Go Kayaking During the Salmon Run
Maybe you’ve heard of salmon run before, but have you experienced it? Once you have, I guarantee you’ll never forget it! Every summer, salmon swim upstream to mate and lay eggs. As a result, the waters are filled with salmon—it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before!
Seward is one of the best places in Alaska to experience the salmon run. If you like fishing, then summers in Seward are a great time to catch some pretty big fish. But if you’re just interested in enjoying this unique nature experience, grab a kayak and get out into the water. You’ll see (and feel!) the power of nature at work from the comfort of your kayak.
Check Out the Iditarod Trail
The current Iditarod Trail runs from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, but the original Iditarod Trail used to carry supplies and mail throughout the Alaskan countryside actually began further south in Seward. As the historic start to the Iditarod, Seward offers many dog sled excursions. You could even explore Alaskan history by taking a ride in a sled yourself!
Explore the Alaskan Frontier This Summer
There’s so many more things to do in Alaska in the summer, it’s tough to know where to stop. I haven’t even mentioned riding the longest zipline in the world in Sitka, going glacier dog sledding in Skagway, or checking out the inside passage from its southernmost city, Ketchikan!
There’s no right or wrong way to spend an Alaskan vacation—so just get out there and experience all that this special slice of the northwest has to offer!