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10 Places to visit in Alaska

In this article, you will find our subjective selection of 10 places to visit on your trip to Alaska. It is the summary and more information you can find in our separate articles. Enjoy!

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Katmai National Park (Brooks Falls)

We ranked this place number 1 among 10 places to visit in Alaska because it is unique! You can watch some of 2200 brown bears in their natural habitat catching fish or fighting. They pretend not to see you, so it’s like the cinema, but in the cinema, you will never have such excitement. It is not easy to get to the place, but it’s worth every dollar! The best time to go is July and September. Please make sure you have the lodge or campground reservation; otherwise, there is no place to stay. You might choose a one day trip, but we do not recommend it, because it is just too short to enjoy. Read more…

brown bear in brooks falls alaska

Activities: wildlife watching, hiking

Photography hints: The best place for bears is, of course, Brooks Falls. Recommended gear is a good camera with fast AF and 200-600mm lens, and the tripod is handy. Take a lot of memory cards and spare batteries, because charging is limited in the Katmai National Park.

Talking with BearsOne of Us: A Biologist's Walk Among BearsThe Bears of Brooks FallsThe Nature of Alaska
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Denali National Park

It was a hard decision to put Denali under number 2 of 10 places to visit in Alaska because it’s as beautiful as Katmai. However, it’s much more crowded and much easier accessible. Still, it has a lot to offer. You can encounter wildlife everywhere and if the weather is good mountain sights are breathtaking! Definitely, we recommend the bus trip to Wonder Lake – it takes the whole day, but at the same time allows taking great pictures or at least see fantastic wildlife. Read more…

denali national park clody day

Activities: wildlife watching, hiking, wild water rafting, ATV

Photography hints: Recommended gear is a good camera with fast AF, image stabilization, and 200-600mm lens (for wildlife) and 16-70mm lens (for landscape), the tripod is recommended for landscape. 

McCarthy

Number 3 on the list is a tiny, remotely located, but very charming town. Actually, we can’t explain why McCarthy is so lovely, because we only discovered the fact after visiting this place. And the visit was a little bit accidental. On the way to Kennicott, we just noticed this place and decided to take a couple of pictures, only in 15 minutes. This 15 minutes changed to a couple of hours and everlasting love to the place. Maybe you will have the same feeling, maybe not. Just it’s worth trying! Give yourself some time on the way to Kennicott or back. And make sure to visit Golden Saloon! Read more…

golden saloon mccarthy alaska

Activities: hiking, history

Photography hints: everything is right here, even a mobile phone should be enough. Take a short walk through the town and discover all hidden gems on your own.

The MILEPOST 2020: Alaska Travel PlannerMoon Alaska: Scenic Drives, National Parks, Best HikesMoon Anchorage, Denali & the Kenai PeninsulaDeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer: Alaska
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Kennicott

Kennicott was our dream for years. This is why it ended up on the list of 10 places to visit in Alaska. We heard stories about how hard it is to get there because of poor quality roads. People were afraid to go with rental cars because agreement often does not allow them to. It’s a pity. However, I would take a risk and get there now, even in a rental car. But you must consider one thing – if the weather is dry, then it should be safe to get there. If it rains, it might be a problem on some parts of the gravel road. In such a situation, we do not advise you to go until on your own risk.

But when you finally get there, it is a lot to see. Old red mine with beautiful mountains in the background is not everything! You still have some restaurants to take a break, and then definitely it is worth hike Root Glacier – just a couple of miles from the mine. One or two days would be enough, make sure to take your tent or book your room if you plan to stay two days or more because lodging options are limited in this small town. Read more…

kennicott mine alaska

Activities: hiking, ice climbing, history

Photography hints: everything is right here, even a mobile phone should be enough. If you want to take a picture inside the buildings (like the old power plant, etc.), it’s good to have a tripod or camera with a high iso and wide lens (16-35mm, for example). 

Kenai Peninsula

Kenai Peninsula is a lovely place for a week if you are starting from Anchorage. At this time, you will be able to visit all the most important places like Girdwood, Wittier, Seward, Hope, Anchor Point, Kenai, Homer, Soldotna, and maybe a couple of smaller towns. Kenai peninsula is the kingdom of glaciers and wildlife. Great hikes, places for fishing, kayaking, and boating opportunities are everywhere accessible from land and sea. Distances are not that long so that you can spend more time sightseeing and less time driving. Read more…

wildlife on the road kenai peninsula

Activities: wildlife watching, hiking, kayaking, fishing, cruises

Photography hints: On the peninsula there is a plenty of places you can have great shots and each of those requires various gear. Let’s focus on some most interesting in our opinion:

Seward, near Exit Glacier, there is an opportunity for great glacier shots as well as spotting some marmots and mountain goats. If you want more, we recommend going for an all-day photography cruise from Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park. It gives you the possibility to take pictures of sea lions, puffins, otters and orcas.

Homer gives you opportunities to spot bald eagles, sea lions, shorebirds, seabirds or marine mammals, especially when you go for kayaking or cruise. Best places are around the harbor (bald eagles) and Fish Processing Plant (sea lions and bald eagles).

Anchor Point is a terrific place to spot bald eagles and other seabirds and shorebirds. Just be there in the morning or when fishermen are returning from the sea.

Homer

Homer is a beautiful place on the Kenai Peninsula. Delicious fresh oysters, local beer, fishing, kayaking, walking along the beach… All with a view of the sea and glaciers flowing down from the mountains. Downtown Homer is strung along Pioneer Avenue on a sloping hill between high bluffs to the north and Kachemak Bay to the south. It’s little wonder that many Alaskans choose to vacation in Homer. The scenery is inspiring and the climate exceptionally mild. Few small towns have the culinary variety of Homer, where there are coffee bars on nearly every corner next to gourmet sandwich shops and excellent restaurants with great seafood.

On the other side of the bay from Homer is Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park, a 350000-acre paradise of glaciers, mountains, protected coves for paddling, and an extensive trail system to explore on foot. The town is famous for charter boats heading out to catch a record-breaking halibut during the summer season. Read more…

Homer Alaska top 10

Activities: wildlife watching, kayaking, fishing

Photography hints: any camera will be enough here until you want to take great pictures of wildlife (bald eagles and sealife seen from the boats) – then you need a camera with good AF, and long telephoto lens

Valdez

This small town is worth going if you plan to fish, kayak, or see glaciers. There is not too much here, just harbor, a couple of shops and restaurants, visitor services, etc. What is worth mentioning is the road to Valdez – you will drive to Thompson Pass on the way here, and the pass itself is worth going to Valdez. There is a little chance to encounter wildlife on your way, but if you want to see more wildlife, you can go to one of the watching tours on the bay. Read more…

visitors enjoying kayak adventure Valdez Glacier Alaksa

Activities: wildlife watching, kayaking, fishing, glaciers

Photography hints: good place to spot some bald eagles is Solomon Gulch Hatchery. Thompson Pass on the way to Valdez is excellent for glacier shots.

Magic Bus

If you have seen the movie or read the book “Into the wild” you know why this place is on the list of 10 places to visit in Alaska. It is just something you can’t miss being there. Many people are trying to get to the original Chris McCandless bus, but it’s deadly dangerous! We have heard plenty of stories of how people died in Teklanika River that looks innocent but is very tricky. During movie production team was using bus replica, and this replica is on display on the 49th State Brewing Co premises. You can safely see the bus and take pictures without risking your life. Read more…

magic bus in healy alaska into the wild

Activities: wildlife watching, hiking

Photography hints: nothing special is required here. Just take some photos of the bus. It’s good to be early in the morning (less crowd and better chance for pictures, light is usually better as well).

Moon AlaskaAlaska Travel PlannerLonely Planet AlaskaAnchorage, Denali & the Kenai Peninsula
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King Salmon

We decided to put this place on the list because it might be your must-stop on the way to Katmai National Park. Actually, there is no other way to get to Katmai. You must have a stopover in King Salmon. And it looks that very often flights are delayed and you are stuck here. If it happens to you, please read our article about King Salmon – it can at least help you a little bit to spend your evening and night. You can stay in King Salmon as well if you are angler and plan to catch some fish. This place is excellent and easily accessible from Anchorage. Just make sure you have lodging booked because it is not easy to find something on the spot. Read more…

seaplane in king salmon katmai air

Activities: wildlife watching, hiking, kayaking, fishing

Photography hints: it’s nothing to photograph here. But be prepared for some wildlife, it might happen if you stay longer and you are looking for it.

Chena Hot Springs

In Alaska, you will find some hot springs. They are located rather in the northern part of the state. The problem is that most of them are not easily accessible. You must hike or drive poor gravel roads. All this makes Alaska not the hot springs state (yet we hope). But still, you can find one lovely place, quite easily accessible from Fairbanks – Chena Hot Springs. Maybe the site itself is not too wild, but it has very hot water and beautiful views. If you are bored with Hot springs itself, you can jump into the swimming pool or jacuzzi (inside or outside). The road to the place is beautiful as well, especially in Autumn. You pass plenty of forests and lakes on your way to the pools, and there is a big chance to encounter some wildlife too.

chena hot springs in autumn

Activities: Hot springs, hiking, wildlife watching on the way

Photography hints: useful to have a waterproof camera to take some pics in the pools, otherwise be prepared for wildlife with a longer lens and faster DSLR or mirrorless cameras.

Are you going to visit Alaska and do not know what places to visit? Here is the answer what 10 places to see and how to photograph them!

18 Comments

  1. I can see why you put Katmoi National Park at the top of your list.  I would sure like to see one of the 2200 bears in their natural habitat.  But Denali has been on my travel wish list for a long time.  We did an Alaska cruise and we felt we really wanted to head inland.  We will plan to take the bus trip to Wonder Lake.  It does sound like the Kenai Peninsula has many great places to visit.  Would love to see the Seward Glacier and go kayaking from Homer.  It is good to know that the Chena Hot Springs are accessible from Fairbanks.  All great reasons why we need to head back to Alaska.

  2. What a dream to be able to explore Alaska, I think it is on everybody’s bucket-lis! You guys are so lucky! There are so many wonderful places mentioned on your top ten list but as I am a big fan of the movie “Into the wild” I would love to see the real magic bus but I wouldn’t dare to attempt going there by myself! 

  3. Thank you for providing such an informative post!  I haven’t been to Alaska yet, but it is very high on my list of places to visit.  I love how many opportunities there are to participate in outdoor activities and observe wildlife in its natural habitat.  I really appreciate that you included photography tips!  Capturing nature is sometimes difficult, so your tips are very useful.  I love your story about McCarthy.  I love stumbling on unknown places like that and falling in love with the place.

  4. Wow Alaska looks like a dream for any wildlife or adventure enthusiast. The first picture blew my mind away literally. I think given a chance or the money I would love to visit this beautiful place. And Into the Wild movie also showed such beautiful locales of Alaska.

  5. Wow, so many amazing places to visit in the Alaskan Frontier. Thank you for the detailed and informational article to help make the most of a trip. I love the book “Into the Wild” and hope to one day visit the Magic Bus (replica). Your bear photo is beautiful and your guidance for photography equipment is very helpful. 

  6. I kinda thought Alaska was all ice, so this is a bit of a revelation to me. The scenery looks breathtaking and I’d love to hang out here for a while collecting some of those amazing hiking trails. Seeing a brown bear up close would be very cool as well – as long as it’s behind the safety of a car window or something!

  7. Amazing list!!! I totally dig your list. I have always had Alaska in my list and your post makes me realized the fun that I have been missing, The pictures which you have taken are amazing and breathtaking, even though I never expected less from Alaska. The number of outdoor activities you have mentioned are amazing and the magic bus looks so sick. Thanks for sharing such a detailed and incredible post.

  8. Alaska is so beautiful. It is my dream to visit Alaska some day. I can totally understand why you put Katmai National Park in th etop. The place sounds absolutely beautiful. It would be so exciting to see the brown bears! The photograph is just a hint about what it might look in the actual. Thanks for sharing the photography tips as well. Kennikot too looks absolutely dreamy!

  9. I would love to go to Alaska one day. I hadn’t heard of several of the places your list. I never knew Alaska had a lot of hot springs. The Chena Hot Springs do look like they would be beautiful in the autumn. I would want to go kayaking in Alaska for sure so I will have to add Homer and Valdez to my list of places to visit in Alaska. 

  10. You have just made me want to go back to Alaska!  I was there on a cruise so I didn’t get to see any of these places or do any of these things.  I also didn’t see any bears unfortunately 🙁  McCarthy and Kennicot seem like my kind of place that I love to visit.  

  11. I can’t wait to get to Alaska one day – it looks so rustic and off the beaten path – places I long to get to and experience in person. It looks like it offers a true, deep connection with nature. One day!!

  12. I want to visit Alaska so badly! Despite living in BC my whole life I have not made it up there yet or even to the Yukon. Would love to maybe plan a trip next summer once the borders are open 🙂 Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  13. This is such an exciting post with varied options in Alaska that you have highlighted. Chena hot springs look very enticing that too after a hike, perfect indulgence, and probably head after for beer, oysters with great coffee & views at Homer! Valdez seems to be a great bet too with glaciers, kayaking, fishing & wildlife : what more could one ask for, isn’t it!? 

  14. I’m reading this and taking notes. I thought maybe one of these would be added to my list but I just put all ten down.. I’m gonna need multiple trips  or a very long one. On a side note during winter I’ve always want to go ice climbing in Alaska would  Kennicott be best? 

  15. Wow! I have always fascinated about visiting Alaska for the wilderness it offered.  And your account of travel and pictures are only making me want to visit them soon.  

  16. Alaska is so SO beautiful and it is a bucket list destination for me. So high up on my list that I would love to visit this fall. Living in the city, I don’t see any brown or black bears and I look forward to the experience. Katmai National Park sounds like a perfect place to start. Thank you for sharing this list – very helpful guide for my plans.

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