When it comes to outdoor activities year-round, few locations can beat the state of Alaska. This largest state in the Union offers a seemingly endless variety of outdoor activities for residents and visitors alike to enjoy. For a prospective visitor, planning a trip to Alaska and deciding on what to do may be difficult. There are the logical options of skiing and hiking, of course, and those things should most certainly not be missed; however, Alaska has a host of unique activities and once-in-a-lifetime experiences on offer that could make the decision-making process even more difficult.
Getting outdoors in Alaska
Before we discuss things to do in Alaska, it is a good time to say a word about the climate and offer a few packing tips. Alaska’s climate features relatively mild summers, averaging between 50 and 70 degrees, and the occasional rain and windy weather during these warmest months still necessitates bringing a fleece or waterproof jacket along. No matter what time of year your trip occurs, it is always wise to pack clothing that may be layered on or removed easily. Remember to bring comfortable shoes; this is not the time to be breaking in your new pair of sneakers or boots.
Dog sledding has become an iconic part of Alaska’s image. The impact of dog sled lore, including the story of Balto and the race to bring a life-saving vaccine to the children of Nome, has had a major effect on Alaskan culture. Today, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is held every year to commemorate this impressive feat. Dog sledding is not just for the veterans, though. Many kennels throughout the state offer tourists the chance to ride on a dog sled or participate in custom tours that let the visitor become the driver. The premier winter sport, dog sledding is also available during the summer months, with wheels taking the place of runners on the sleds and well-traveled trails becoming the new route for the dogs to follow. Skilled sled drivers may also be helicoptered out to a glacier where they can mush even in summer.
Another option for summer is skijoring, which allows individuals to spend some quality time with a good pulling dog. In skijoring, a person on cross-country skis is pulled by a dog or dogs. Skier and dogs must work together to successfully navigate trails and are tied together with a harness and a bungee cord to facilitate better control and greater speeds.
Fishing is extremely popular in Alaska, with a wealth of streams, rivers and watershed areas available and accessible for visitors to set about catching the big one. There are, indeed, plenty of big ones in the waterways of Alaska, with fly fishing for rainbow trout yielding massive results close to three feet long. Other types of fish include several varieties of salmon, including pink, sockeye and king, as well as the arctic grayling and halibut. Some of the best fly fishing available is along the Kvichak River; a high number of fishing lodges have sprung up along the shores of the river, catering to the experienced fishermen, the eager amateur and everyone in between.
Alaska is home to a great many national parks and preserves. The Kenai Fjords National Park is a premier location for glacier viewing as well as some prize fishing. Chugach State Park is one of the most accessible of the parks. Located just outside Anchorage, Chugach has loads of hiking and climbing, cycling, horseback riding, skiing and other winter pursuits, boating and rafting.
Hiking and climbing in Alaska is one of the most popular things you can do when visiting. Many of the mountains are quite accessible for the average hiker, and some of the ascents, such as Flattop Mountain, offer you a nice view from its 3, 510-foot peak. For more daring climbers, there are a number of steeper, taller and altogether more challenging mountains to climb; Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in the country and looms over the Denali National Park, another great place for you to pursue outdoor activities.
While there are certainly plenty of museums and monuments and the like, journeying to Alaska is about something else, something far more primitive and inherently human: spending time outdoors and observing the animals and birds, getting in touch with that ancient part of ourselves. Of course, it is also about finding adventure and excitement in the Great North, traveling Gold Rush trails, following in the footsteps of migrating caribou and Grizzlies (although not following too closely), and embracing the natural and cultural history of Alaska.