Make the most of your vacation to the Last Frontier with these unique Alaskan adventures. Between catching halibut and king salmon, enjoying the great outdoors and finding treasures in a streambed, you’ll have plenty of stories about Alaska to tell when you go back home.
Fishing for “a Barn Door”
The cold, rich waters of Alaska’s expansive coastline teem with tasty seafood. Fishing for salmon returning to the rivers where they hatched offers anglers a chance to try for these delicious fish in both salt and fresh waters. You can fish both off the Alaskan coast and along the Kenai River, and you’ll enjoy extreme views and thrilling catches. King, silver, red and pink salmon all return to Alaska’s waters between May and September to spawn in the rivers. Some of Alaska’s biggest salmon have been caught in the Kenai River near the small communities of Soldotna and Kenai — the biggest King salmon caught on record weighed in at close to 100 pounds.
If you prefer deep-water fishing and want a chance to reel in a truly humongous catch, focus on the Pacific halibut. These bottom-dwelling flat fish can be as big as the proverbial “barn door” and can weigh up to 300 pounds. Fresh tasty halibut makes a great meal and many Alaskans say they prefer eating halibut over salmon. The “smaller” halibut, weighing fewer than 40 to 50 pounds, seem to make the best eating fish.
Camping by North America’s Highest Peak
Mount McKinley — often known in Alaska as “Denali,” which means “The High One” in an Athabaskan dialect — towers over the central Alaskan landscape at 18,000 feet from base to peak. The summit is 20,237 feet above sea level and is officially the highest point in North America.
As such a prominent landmark, it provides some of the best views to the Denali National Park Campgrounds. The National Park boasts six separate campgrounds linked by about 90 miles of park roads.
In addition to stunning views, the park’s campgrounds offer hiking and encounters with moose, bear and other Alaskan wildlife.
Hiking on Glaciers
Nothing says “Alaska” to your friends back home more than a few photos of you are hiking around on a glacier. The 49th state has about enough glacial ice to cover the state of Maine, so you’ll find plenty of places to explore these frozen winters. The Southeast Alaskan panhandle has some of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska; state capital Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier is sometimes referred to as a “drive up glacier,” and is a popular destination for visitors to Juneau. Many Alaskan towns and villages offer helicopter tours of the ice fields, and it’s an amazing experience to get an aerial view of the ice cutting through the mountainous landscape and then land on the ice for a short hike.
Exploring “The Bush”
If you thought Australia was the only place you could visit “the bush,” you’d be wrong. Alaskans often use this term to describe the vast, remote hinterlands of the state’s interior. Travel to these areas can only be done by small airplane (“bush plane”), snowmobile or, sometimes, boat. For adventurous tourists, short trips to the remote Alaskan communities and the forests and tundra that surround them are an unforgettable experience.
For many travelers, the draw to the Alaskan bush is the chance to sight numerous animal species, including polar bears, moose and seals.
Reliving the Gold Rush
In the late 1800s, Alaska was swarmed by would-be miners infected with “gold fever” who hoped to strike it rich in the Yukon. Though the Yukon is technically in Canada, the easiest route to the places where the most gold was said to be was through Alaska. Visiting the town of Skagway, in Southeast Alaska, is a good start to any adventure in Alaska that seeks to follow the path of the miners.
Hoping to get rich before they ran out of supplies, settlers would take a ship up from Seattle or San Francisco, land in Southeast Alaska (where other veins of gold were also found and are still mined today), hike over a mountain carrying a small boat, and then navigate the Yukon River to the Klondike. These feats of endurance that the early Alaskan pioneers endured in pursuit of their dream are awe-inspiring. Travelers who want to recreate the gold rush trek have plenty of opportunities in Alaska, including the option to hike the 33-mile Chilkoot trail from Alaska to Canada in the summer months. If reservations for the trail are full, you can try your own hand at panning gold in many of the historical centers in Alaska.
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