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An Unforgettable Adventure: 8 National Parks in Alaska

by NPF
A still lake reflects a snowy mountain and an autumnal landscape
Denali National Park & Preserve
NPS Photo / Tim Rains

At once initing and forbidding, there is simply no place in the world like Alaska. These eight Alaskan national parks are home to stunning natural beauty and some of the last remaining examples of true, untouched wilderness in the United States.

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Serpentine Hot Springs at Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
Serpentine Hot Springs at Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (NPS Photo)

This rugged landscape on the Alaska coast is unlike any other place on earth. Home to rich deposits of Ice Age fossils and unique geothermal features like Serpentine Hot Springs, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve also holds the key to the intercontinental migration of prehistoric people between Asia and North America. Activities include:

  • Camping
  • Ranger programs and exhibits
  • Hiking and backpacking
  • Wild berry picking
  • Hunting and fishing

Denali National Park & Preserve

One of the most iconic national parks in Alaska, Denali National Park & Preserve is home to North America's tallest peak – 20,310-foot Mount Denali. This vast 6 million-acre wilderness also harbors abundant wildlife in a landscape that ranges from lush forests to harsh alpine tundra, with opportunities for:

  • Climbing and mountaineering
  • Camping (winter and summer)
  • Wildlife viewing and photography
  • Flightseeing
  • Mushing and snowmobiling

Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve

Gates of the Arctic
Gates of the Arctic (NPS Photo / Steve Andrews)

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is aptly named. Situated above the Arctic Circle, this northern Alaska national park is one of the wildest places on the continent, without a single paved road or trail. The sun scarcely sets throughout the long days of Arctic summer, and the cold winter nights are lit only by the Aurora Borealis. Enjoy activities such as:

  • Hiking and backpacking
  • Camping
  • Bird-watching
  • Scenic river kayaking

Katmai National Park & Preserve

An active volcanic landscape with thousands of years of human history, Katmai National Park & Preserve has been managed by the National Park Service since 1918 to protect the abundant sockeye salmon that spawn in its wild rivers, along with the thriving brown bear population that feeds on the fish. Things to do include:

  • Bear-watching
  • Fishing
  • Backcountry camping and hiking
  • Floating
  • Flightseeing

Kenai Fjords National Park

Whale spotted in Kenai Fjords National Park
Humpback whale spotted in Kenai Fjords National Park (NPS Photo / Kaitlin Thoresen)

The last Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago, but somebody forgot to tell Kenai Fjords National Park, where nearly 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Ice Fields all the way to the sea. It's a staggering sight, but the shrinking glaciers at this coastal park are also a sobering reminder of the effects of climate change. This national park offers:

  • Boat tours
  • Backcountry kayak camping
  • Mountaineering
  • Glacier tours and programs

Kobuk Valley National Park

There may be no truer example of what makes national parks in Alaska so unique than Kobuk Valley National Park. The park is not only home to wild rivers and conifer forests, but also vast swaths of sand dunes that wouldn't look out of place in the Utah desert. Enormous herds of caribou migrate across the park every year, and native people hunt them just as they did thousands of years ago. During your visit, you can go:

  • Sightseeing and flightseeing
  • Backpacking and backcountry camping
  • Fishing
  • Floating and boating

Sitka National Historical Park

On a rugged island where towering spruce trees rise churchlike above the calm waters of Sitka Sound, Sitka National Historical Park preserves a place rich in history. Tlingit and Haida totem poles stand watch along the coast, and visitors can tour the battle site where invading Russian traders once clashed with indigenous Kiks.ádi Tlingit people. While at this park, take advantage of:

  • Ranger-guided programs and tours
  • Hiking and sightseeing
  • Children's programs

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

The largest national park in the United States, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is also one of the country’s most diverse. With 13.2 million acres that range from temperate rainforest to frigid tundra, this quintessentially Alaskan national park offers virtually limitless opportunities for exploration and adventure, including:

  • Backpacking and day hiking
  • Guided tours
  • Mountain biking
  • Floating and boating
  • Backcountry and front-country camping
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hunting and fishing

Every season offers different opportunities at these wild Alaskan national parks, from the harsh beauty of the Arctic winter to the vibrant bloom of summer. Wherever you choose to go, an Alaskan adventure is sure to be an unforgettable one.

If you’re looking for other parks where you can enjoy fun activities in cooler temperatures, check out our free “Winter Wonderlands” Owner’s Guide.