Alaska Quick Information
Travel to Alaska is a fantastic experience. We will show you the best places to visit in Alaska from (but not only) photography perspective. We want you to treat this article as a kind of Alaska photography travel guide.
Alaska is a hidden gem in the U.S. It is a sanctuary for wildlife. With its massive glaciers, majestic mountains, pristine National Parks, bears, moose, and last frontier history, Alaska is a fantastic destination for vacations and best spots for wildlife photography. Actually, it’s a paradise for photographers.
It is a place you won’t want to miss.
This state is full of amazing places just waiting to be explored. After both traveling and photographing this beautiful state, we’ve put together this photo travel guide for you, highlighting the best of what you can see and do in Alaska.
What are the best Alaska photography spots to see bear or moose or beautiful sunsets? What is the best time to visit Alaska? Do you want to spend a lot of time in one area exploring the wilderness and mountains or make those side excursions while visiting Alaskan towns? Maybe you like kayaking? Would you like to take an Alaska cruise to admire glaciers and fjords? Or would you like to make an Alaska fishing trip to catch salmon or big halibut? Yes, it’s possible! Where to eat? Where to stay? How to get there, and much more you will find in this Alaska photography travel guide.
With these Alaska travel tips, we will help you prepare your dream Alaska vacations and take great photos.
And even much more!
You are busy or a little confused about how to prepare step by step to your dream travel ? Or it seems a little bit overwhelming for you? Check our ready 10 Days Alaska Itinerary for 2020 free travel plan with plenty of photo opportunities.
Why we share it? – You ask. Because we have extensive experience in traveling and taking pictures through America, and we both love Alaska. But it wasn’t easy to prepare for our journey. We had to look for the necessary information for a long time. And it wasn’t easy to find everything we needed in one place. It was impossible. We really walked through everything. So we share our experience and our opinions, and we hope to help you avoid disappointments and problems you could encounter. Check our ready free plans, and if you have a question, we are prepared to support you!
Where is Alaska? It is a U.S. state in the northwest extremity of the United States West Coast, just across the Bering Strait from Asia. The Canadian province of British Columbia and territory of Yukon border the state to the east and southeast. It is the largest U.S. state by area and the seventh largest subnational division in the world. In addition, it is the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated of the 50 United States. On March 30, 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire for 7.2 million U.S. dollars, or approximately two cents per acre ($4.74/km2). It was admitted as the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959. The population is estimated at 738,432 and half of Alaska’s residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area.
It’s important to check Alaska weather when you prepare your travel to Alaska. Climate depends on region, f.e. in Southcentral Alaska is a subarctic climate due to its short, cool summers. In the south climate is more humidity and gentle. The climate in the extreme north of Alaska is an Arctic climate with long, cold winters, and cool summers where snow is possible year-round. So you should be prepared for four-season during your stay.
|The MILEPOST 2020: Alaska Travel Planner||Moon Alaska: Scenic Drives, National Parks, Best Hikes||Moon Anchorage, Denali & the Kenai Peninsula||DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer: Alaska|
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When is the best time to go to Alaska?
Summer in Alaska is the best for great vacations. June, July and August are the best months to visit Alaska. It’s the most popular time to travel. September is also very good, and for sure less crowded, but you have to know that winter season starts and some of the services are closing for the season. Depending on the region, temperatures vary a lot, but it is slightly warm. You’ll find Alaska’s summer temperatures surprisingly pleasant. Daytime highs range from 60°F – 80°F. Nighttime lows are refreshingly cool, dipping into the 40’s – 50’s. May and September are 5°- 10° cooler.
It depends on which region are you going to visit but summer is still the best. If you want to travel in late fall, winter, or spring, you have to be prepared for icy weather conditions.
We have been to Alaska a few times and love these State. During our travels, we used several maps and guidebooks. Very helpful for us in planning each of our trips. Their updates appeared this year, which is great. They enrich your knowledge of the nature, history, and culture of the area.
Our favorite is The MILEPOST 2020: Alaska Travel Planner. It includes mile-by-mile descriptions of more than 15,000 miles of road in Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, and Alberta. Its 700-plus pages detail guide with camping, fishing, gas stops, restaurants, attractions, and services found along the highways and byways of Alaska and western Canada. So, it’s perfect if you plan longer road trip.
We also used DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer: Alaska. We like its topographic maps, which provide information on everything from cities and towns to historic sites, scenic drives, and trailheads.
Our favorite travel guide is Moon Alaska: Scenic Drives, National Parks, Best Hikes. There is a new version from April 2020, which is excellent. You have a paperback or Kindle version to choose from. We love it because it’s very detailed and informative. It gave you a plant of ideas on how to spend time in Alaska according to your needs and interests. It is set to become a must-have guide for travelers in Alaska. It is succinctly written by someone who lives and loves Alaska and who knows this place. Full of educational information about wildlife, plants, local customs, geography, history, ecology, and safety. We love this series.
Transportation to Alaska
How to get to Alaska? The fastest and easiest way to get to Alaska is taking a flight to Anchorage and rent a car there. You have plenty of connections to Anchorage, and this is the best option to start your travel to Alaska. Anchorage is the biggest city in Alaska, and its a great place to prepare yourself for your vacations. You can buy everything you need there. And without tax! (later it might be a problem to find well-equipped stores).
We share with you opinion where and what kind of car is best to rent.
Actually, during our long road trip through America, we decided to buy a car (camper truck) because it’s the best option for a 3+ month journey. You can check our experience in this article. So if you are planning a more extended tour or road trip as we did check please How to choose a vehicle for your road trip? It can help you avoid many mistakes we made.
But of course usually you are traveling for 7, 10 or 14 days, so it’s better to rent a car or motorhome. We recommend companies like Alamo, Great Alaskan Holiday, or ABC Motorhome.
Of course, it’s possible to visit Alaska by train or bus. Main cities are well connected. But if you decided on this option, you should reserve more time to get from place to place. Anchorage has an excellent bus schedule and plenty of train connections with the Kenai Peninsula and Denali National Park and more. But the best and cheapest option is to rent a car.
Bears safety in Alaska
If you are planning a trip to Alaska, you have to be aware that this is one of those unique places where you can sometimes meet more animals than people. Wild animals can behave unpredictably. And you are a guest, only a guest. Often an uninvited guest. We should respect their customs. We should prepare for the meeting. And it is essential that this meeting is safe for both sides. Alaska is bear country and one of the few places in the world where all three species of North American bears live. Brown bears, also called grizzly bears, are found nearly everywhere in Alaska. Black bears are also in most of Alaska’s forests. Bears are curious, intelligent and tend to avoid or ignore people, but can be dangerous. Respecting bears and learning proper behavior can help you avoid conflict.
- Never Approach Bears—Give Them Space. Every bear has a personal space– the distance within which the bear feels threatened. If you enter that space, the bear may become aggressive. Especially female bear, which protects their cubes.
- When photographing bears, use zoom lens. Use binoculars and telephoto lenses. Don’t stalk bears or try to get up close to them. Getting close could put you in danger. Never try to attract a bear’s attention with food or loud noises.
- Stay with other people; it’s safer to be in a group.
- Bears use trails and roads, so during your trip make noise, sing or talk loudly, clap your hands, especially if you are going through a brush. Always let bears know you are there. You can buy some bear bells. A bear bell is a small 1.5-inch bell with either a thick velcro strap or a carabiner used for attachment. You can attach it to the outside your backpack, waist belt, or any other external piece of gear. Bear bells are not meant to scare a bear. They are designed to warn a bear (and other animals – cougars, etc.) of your presence. Their sound helps you make some noise during your hike. So it’s worth to have them.
- Don’t leave your lunch or any food out where a bear can smell it. Keep your food away from your tent. Keep it 100 yards away if you can. Use bear-proof containers.
- It’s essential to pack your food properly in bear-proof containers or smell proof bags.
- Don’t set up camp next to a trail or close to a riverbank.
- If staying in a campground, take your garbage to the bear-proof garbage. Do not leave it laying around camp. If backpacking, pack out what you pack in.
- Keep your personal belongings with you.
- If you encounter a bear, stand your ground, even if it approaches. Never run from a bear, as the action may encourage it to chase you. If it’s not approaching, back away slowly and give the bear space and access to its trails.
- Most people who hike in Alaska’s wilderness don’t carry a weapon. They know that the best defense is common sense. Traveling and camping carefully are all that they need. If you feel the need for additional protection, consider carrying “pepper spray”, a bear deterrent made from the juice of red-hot peppers. This incapacitating spray teaches bears a lesson without permanently maiming them. You can take with you bear spray or pepper gun in case of attack. But be careful with using it. It’s dangerous.
You can read more about bears’ behavior in the books presented below. It is worth reaching for them, especially if you are interested in nature photography and would like to take exciting pictures of bears. You will learn a lot about the behavior of these animals from the book: What Bears Teach Us. The author has been working with bears for nearly 20 years. You can learn a lot from this inspiring book. Another one we like is Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance. Very informative and useful in the wilderness.
Please check our post and photos from the fantastic adventure of photographing bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park!
|Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance||The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters||What Bears Teach Us||Bear: Spirit of the Wild|
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Bears fascinate us, and that is why we try to find out as much about them as possible. We have had the opportunity to observe and photograph these amazing animals a few times in several places around the world. Katmai National Park is one of the best places to photograph bears in their natural environment. Therefore, if you are also interested in such photo activity, we also recommend books about Brooks’s Falls and Katmai National Park map. Below our recommendations.
We love Talking with Bears: Conversations with Charlie Russell. It is written for everyone who yearns to rekindle the magic of living in alignment with nature and bring the teachings of Charlie Russell and his bears into their own lives. The man Charlie spent his life living with bears, peacefully. He always respected and honored them. He tried to convince humanity that bears (especially Grizzlies) were not inherently dangerous, vicious, nor ready to kill.
Well written and containing many interesting facts from the life and behavior of bears, it is also The Bears of Brooks Falls: Wildlife and Survival on Alaska’s Brooks River. If you are going to Katmai, it’s worth reading it before your trip.
|Talking with Bears||One of Us: A Biologist's Walk Among Bears||The Bears of Brooks Falls||The Nature of Alaska|
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Consider of getting deeper into the Alaskan wilderness and book exciting tour on viator.com.
What to Pack for Traveling Alaska
It’s essential to pack properly because it might be difficult to find the necessary equipment when you arrive. Except for Anchorage and Fairbanks, it’s challenging to find well-stocked stores. No matter when you travel to Alaska, it’s going to be changing weather. You have to be prepared for four-season, especially if you are going to the higher parts of the mountains or going hiking and camping, especially in a tent. It might be warm during the day but it can still get cool in the evenings and mornings. So for us, the best idea was to pack thermal underwear and we always pack two pair of this kind of underwear. Most notable in the mountains are hiking waterproof boots.
It’s a good idea to bring a lightweight rainjacket because of often showers. If you are going to the mountains windbreaker jacket is must have. And if you would like to stay a few days higher in the mountain, especially in Denali National Park, you should be prepared even for winter. So winter waterproof jacket, winter hat and gloves will be needed.
Alaska Photography Tips
Alaska is a paradise for photography enthusiasts. Photography is one of the ways to capture the beauty and wilderness of this unique place. From beginner to professional, each will find something for himself. Are you interested in Alaska landscape photography? Mountains? Glaciers? Or maybe lake reflections? We share with you the best spots for taking landscape photos, including sunrise and sunset in this Alaska photography travel guide.
Wildlife photography? We love it. We will tell you where and how to prepare to take great shots of animals. Dreaming about bear photos and bear watching? It was our dream, too, and we realized it! We captured terrific brown bear catching salmon and eating salmon in Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park. We spent there three days. And it was a fantastic experience observing the biggest bears in the world in their natural habitat. And we give you all the details on how to prepare such a trip.
Maybe you dream of taking a photo of a grizzly bear? We made it in Denali National Park. Caribou? Or moose? Yes, we did it and will tell you how to prepare for that. Birds photography? We had a cup of coffee when we spotted eagles dancing above our heads at Anchor Point and took great photos of them. We share our opinion about the best cruises and best fishing options where you can take great pictures of animals.
Maybe you are passionate about street photography? And you think Alaska it’s not for this kind of photo? Well… It’s not New York; it’s not Paris. It is Alaska. And it has excellent street photo opportunities in its towns like Anchorage, Talkeetna, Hope, or Homer when you see small town and its locals, as we did in King Salmon. You will understand!
In each of our articles on this website, we prepared a part for photographers. We share there our tips and recommendation. You will find there what kind of equipment we used, and more. In each section, our photography hints for particular place include answers to questions:
- What season is best?
- Best time of the day
- What photographic opportunities are here?
- What gear should I take with me?
- Does it require any hiking or other activities?
- What kind of clothes do I need?
- How long I need to get great pictures here?
Check our 10 places to visit in Alaska (and photograph) on the trip to Alaska!
If you are looking for excellent tutorials about photographing aurora borealis, please try this post: Photographing Aurora: A Guide to Aurora Photography.
And remember that in each of our articles in this Alaska travel photography guide you have much more.
If you like organized guided photography tours and activities, check viator.com, which offers trips for photographers! You will get more chances to take photos of wildlife.
Best Things to do in Alaska
Alaska is a state for those who love wildlife, mountains, wilderness and small towns. Here are a few of the best places and things to do in Alaska which we have personally experienced and share with you. Where to stay in Alaska and where to eat in Alaska you will find in our free travel plans.
Brown bear watching in Katmai National Park
If you are looking wildlife photography opportunity and tips, especially bear watching, this place is one of the best in the world. Katmai National Park and Preserve contains the world’s largest protected brown bear population, estimated to number about 2,200. Bears are especially likely to congregate at the Brooks Falls when the salmon are spawning. Many well-known bear photos have been taken there at this unique Alaska bear cam. If you dream about seeing bear catching salmon and bear eating salmon, go to Katmai National Park. It’s for sure the best bear viewing place in Alaska. How to get there, where to stay, where to eat, and what to do, you will find in our story Eye to eye with brown bear where we share our experiences. You can see also our bear pictures taken in Katmai and find lots of photography hints to make a great shot.
Go Hiking and Camping in the Denali National Park and Preserve
Hiking and camping in the Denali National Park is an adventure you will remember for the rest of your life. Pure wilderness, Mount Denali – highest mountain in North America – which you can admire. Grizzly bear, moose, caribou, which you can meet every day on your way. But it also lot’s of difficulties connected with weather, wildlife, or the best places to stay in Denali. Which camping, lodging, or hotel choose – we will help you to prepare for that. And all the answers you will find in our story where we share our trip and tips.
Take pictures of Magic Bus 142 from „Into the wild” movie
Well, if you are planning to travel to Alaska is highly possible you know the tragic story of young men Christopher McCandless. Probably you read Jon Krakauer’s book or watched Into the wild movie directed by Sean Penn from 2007. You might be interested in a replica of a bus 142 from the film. Or you are a daredevil who wants to overcome the Teklanika river and see the original one. This story had a significant impact on us, on our project, on our journey, and we share all our experiences with you.
See Kennicott copper mine
Kennicott or Kennecott copper mine? It’s always a problem because of the spelling mistake from years ago. But it’s worth to see this abandoned copper town with a fantastic history. Now it’s a ghost town. The place is hidden in the biggest National Park of U.S. Wrangell – St. Elias, and you can see also Kennicott glacier there or go hike. From our article, we recommended taking a Kennecott copper mine tour, because it’s the only chance to see inside of this place. We also share opinions about Kennicott glacier lodge. So all the details you will find in article Kennicott – Abandoned copper town.
Eat lunch in McCarthy Golden Saloon
Next to Kennecott copper mine is small town McCarthy. We will tell you everything necessary about McCarthy lodging and hotel and share our opinion where to eat. And we tell you about the activities, you can take there. Place is hidden in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve so you can take a glacier tour or glacier flightseeing from this town. And from our article, you will know about immense tragedy it happens in 1983 – McCarthy murder.
Take glacier kayaking in Valdez
Alaska without kayaking is not Alaska. So it’s a great idea to take a kayak paddles tour. We will help you choose the best options for this Alaska adventure. There are many places you can go kayaking in Alaska, and we share our opinions. For us, unforgettable experience was glacier kayaking Alaska in Valdez. You can paddle between icebergs and close to the glacier itself, you can see ice caves.
Alaska cruise or halibut fishing? Explore Kenai Peninsula
For us, Homer, Hope, and Anchor Point are three best places to visit at Kenai Peninsula, to have an adventure and take great photos. Check our article to find out what to do there. But the Kenai Peninsula offers much more for visitors. No other destination offers such an up-close and personal Alaskan experience. That’s why it’s known as Alaska’s Playground. The Kenai Peninsula offers some of the most accessible wilderness adventures in this state. Halibut fishing or salmon fishing in Alaska? Probably the best option for a fishing trip you will find in Homer, and we share our opinion. Would you like to see Kenai Fjords, glaciers, and wildlife from the sea? We will recommend which Alaska cruise is best and tell you how much do Alaska cruise cost? How to travel to the Kenai Peninsula? What to do? Where to stay? Where to Eat? Check our favorites.
Take Glacier & Wildlife Flightseeing Tour in Alaska
This type of sensational flight will take you over miles of rugged Alaskan wilderness through alpine valleys and over vast aqua-marine glaciers. It’s a fantastic experience to see icefields from the sky and landed on them. We highly recommend this activity, and we share our opinion on what tour you can take from Talkeetna to see Denali glaciers or from Anchorage to see Matanuska glacier. Trips check on:
We carefully prepare for each of our trips. Reading books is one of the most important ways. We read novels related to a given place, documentary books, and guidebooks, of course. As photographers, we love photo albums, too, which helps as to find inspirations. We also watch movies and listen to music connected with the region we are going to visit.
Below are some of our favorites suggestions for Alaska to get you inspired.
Books to read about Alaska
- James A. Michener Alaska: A Novel – The high points in the story of Alaska since the American acquisition are brought vividly to life through more than 100 characters, real and fictional.
- The Inside Passage to Alaska by Art Wolfe – For more than 15 years Art Wolfe has been documenting Alaska, from the rainforests of the Southeast to snow-shrouded mountains to the northern expanses of the Brooks Range and beyond.
- Alaska by Art Wolfe and Nick Jans – Over 130 images paired with essays from Nick Jans record the splendor of this great American wilderness. From intimate singular images to hauntingly beautiful landscapes, Alaska finds new expression under the artful lens of Art Wolfe. Wolfe brings a painters sensitivity to light, pattern, and composition in his photography of landscape and wildlife, and Alaska is his personal vision of a truly awesome landscape.
- Alaska Wild: Celebrating Our Natural Heritage by Art. Wolfe
- 1, 2, 3 Moose: An Animal Counting Book by Andrea Helman (Author), Art Wolfe (Photographer)
- The Final Frontiersman: Heimo Korth and His Family, Alone in Alaska’s Arctic Wilderness by James Campbell
- Alaska: A Photographic Excursion by Mark Kelly
- Fodor’s Alaska (Full-color Travel Guide) Paperback – February 19, 2019 by Fodor’s Travel Guides
- National Geographic Treasures of Alaska: The Last Great American Wilderness (National Geographic Destinations) by Jeff Rennicke
- History of Alaska by Hubert Howe Bancroft
- The Great Alone: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
- Lonely Planet Alaska (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet, Brendan Sainsbury, Catherine Bodry, Adam Karlin
Films to watch about Alaska
- Wild Alaska’s National Parks – It is National Geographic documentary film. Emphasized wildlife and scenery-not touristy sites. Gives a realistic overview of Alaska.
- Northern Exposure – It is an American comedy-drama Northern television series about the eccentric residents of a fictional small town in Alaska, that ran on CBS from 1990 to 1995, with a total of 110 episodes. A newly graduated doctor is required to set up his practice in an eccentric Alaskan town.
- North To Alaska – It is a 1960 comedic Western/Northern film directed by Henry Hathaway and John Wayne. The movie featured Johnny Horton’s song “North to Alaska”, sung during the opening titles, setting up an introduction to the story. During the Alaska gold rush, prospector George sends partner Sam to Seattle to bring his fiancée but when it turns out that she married another man, Sam returns with a pretty substitute, the hostess of the Henhouse dance hall.
- The Frozen Ground – It is a 2013 American thriller crime drama film directed and written by Scott Walker in his directorial debut, starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, Katherine LaNasa, Radha Mitchell, and 50 Cent. An Alaska State Trooper partners with a young woman who escaped the clutches of serial killer Robert Hansen to bring the murderer to justice. Based on actual events.
- Mystery, Alaska – This comedy from 1999 is about the residents of a small town who get over-excited when their hockey team gets chosen to host a televised event
- Snow Dogs – It is a 2002 American adventure comedy film directed by Brian Levant and starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn. When a Miami dentist inherits a team of sled dogs, he’s got to learn the trade or lose his pack to a crusty mountain man.
- The Spirit of Alaska
- Majestic Alaska
- A Journey to Alaska (Songs of the Humpback Whale)
- Eskimo Songs from Alaska
- After the Gold Rush
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