Your Ultimate Alaska Bucket List

Home to hundreds of sky-high mountains, impressive glaciers, Arctic coastlines, and some of the best wildlife opportunities in the United States, the Frontier State offers some of the best landscapes and things to do in the entire world.

As the largest state in the US, choosing what to see and do during your visit can get pretty overwhelming.

If you’re currently struggling to plan your itinerary, we’ve put together some of the best things to do in Alaska that need to be on your bucket list!

Get your notepad and get inspired. These are some awe-inspiring, once-in-a-lifetime experiences worth waiting for!

The Ultimate Alaska Bucket List

Map of places to visit in Alaska with a collage of images from Alaska

See the Northern Lights at Fairbanks

If you want to explore the Arctic Circle and see the Northern Lights, Fairbanks is one of the best places to do just that.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Northern Lights Fairbanks

Aside from its nighttime light displays and arctic adventures, Fairbanks has many more to offer visitors regarding culture.

While here, take up the chance to check out the antique cars and vintage clothing collections from the 1900s at the Fountainhead Auto Museum, learn about the Northern Lights at the Aurora Ice Museum, visit the Museum of the North, and taste craft beer at Hoodoo Brewing Co.

Admire Bear Cubs at Katmai National Park

Home to over 2,000 brown bears, Katmai National Park is one of the best places in Alaska to see them.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Katmai National Park

Even though getting here requires quite a trek, visiting Katmai is something that needs to be on everyone’s Alaska bucket list. You’ll be able to witness hundreds of bears gathering at the park’s Brook River, where mamma bears and cubs get together to fish for salmon and create a scene that feels straight out of an Animal Planet documentary.

Aside from witnessing the incredibly heart-warming sight of bears, Katmai National Park has plenty more to offer visitors, including hiking to mountain tops, helicopter rides, scenic drives around volcanic grounds, and boating or kayaking over lakes.

Meet the Huskies of Husky Homestead

Ran by Jeff King, the four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Husky Homestead is a place in Denali Park that you can visit to meet some of the huskies at their breeding and training grounds.

Here, you’ll be able to pet puppies for hours on end. Still, you’ll also get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fully understand the essential roles huskies play in Alaskan culture and history and witness trained huskies practising their favorite sport.

Explore Anchorage

As the most populated city in Alaska, visiting Anchorage is a must on your itinerary.

Even though most people use Anchorage as a place to land and explore the rest of the state, we highly recommend staying at least for a night to discover some of the best this unique city has to offer.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Anchorage

Not only is Anchorage a great place to base yourself in order to explore some of the best Alaska offers in terms of easy-to-access nature, but it also boasts a fabulous dining scene, amazing hotels, and a wide array of cultural offerings.

Must-dos while in the city include checking out the Anchorage Museum, the Alaska Zoo, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and the Alaska Aviation Museum.

Visit the Actual Capital of Alaska, Juneau

Juneau is the capital of Alaska and the most popular port in the state (nope, it’s not Anchorage, as most people think!).

Despite being one of the most important cities in the Frontier State, there are no roads leading to it, and the only way to reach it is by ship or plane!

Most people skip Juneau and opt to visit Anchorage instead, but if time allows, we highly recommend including this unique town in your itinerary.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Juneau

Juneau is located between Mount Rovers, Mount Juneau, and the Gastineau Channel, making the backdropping landscape a treat to look at. To top it off, the city is dotted with gorgeous historical buildings from the 1900s, making the entire scenery feel like it belongs in a painting.

Some of the top attractions to check out during your visit include the Mendenhall Glacier nearby, the Marine Hall, the State Capitol buildings, Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, and historic South Franklin Street for great food, historical buildings, and shops.

Adventure at Denali National Park

Home to the tallest mountain in the United States at an elevation of over 20,000 feet and some of the most striking sights Alaska has to offer, Denali National Park is a must on everyone’s nature lover’s bucket list.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Denali National Park

The park covers an area of over 6 million acres, giving visitors plenty of choices when it comes to deciding what to see and do. Hiking, fishing, rafting, and biking are favorite activities here, especially when you consider you’ll get access to tons of wildlife sighting opportunities.

Stay on the lookout for caribou, wolves, Dall sheep, moose, and grizzly bears, as sightings are pretty common.

Learn about Alaskan History at Hatcher Pass

Mining played a huge role in Alaskan history. During the gold and copper rushes, many people moved out from the continental United States into the Frontier State and made it their permanent home.

A visit to Hatcher Pass will give you the opportunity to learn about Alaska’s mining activities and their importance to the state. Visit the Mine State Historical Park to see mining buildings and equipment or ride the 22-mile trail to see old mining buildings in the mountains!

USA Alaska Bucket List - Hatcher Pass

Witness the Goose Creek Tower

If you’re into a little quirkiness here and there, check out the Goose Creek Tower between Talkeetna and Willow is an absolute must.

This incredibly unique house is often dubbed the “Dr. Seuss House” because it looks straight out of the author’s imagination! These days, the house stands tall at 185 feet, with a main house at the bottom and several other smaller houses built on top of each other.

The best part? The owner, an attorney from Anchorage, claims the house isn’t even finished yet!

Experience True Wilderness at Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve

If you’re up for an adventure like no other and have enough skills to brave the wilderness, visiting Gates of the Arctic is one of the most remote adventures you can have in Alaska and even the entire world.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Gates of the Arctic

Due to its remoteness, accessing this park is not easy, with an air taxi being the only option to get there aside from canoeing, rafting down the river, or hiking. Because of this, Gates of the Arctic is very rarely visited (less than 10,000 people enter the park every year), which means you’re more likely to spot Grizzly bears than people here!

Keep in mind that there are no roads or any kind of amenities in the park. Visiting here requires knowing how to live off the land and having plenty of survival skills, but if you want to experience the Alaska you’ve seen on National Geographic – this is where that will happen!

Take a Flightseeing Tour

Even though Alaska is gorgeous from the ground, there’s no better way to fully take in the magnitude of its landscapes than by flying above them.

Flight tours are available from pretty much any major destination in Alaska, but the most popular ones for unraveled vistas are those that soar over Denali (the highest mountain in the United States) and the ice fields at Kenai Fjords National Park.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Flightseeing Tour

Walk Over the Sand Dunes of Kobuk Valley

Even though sand dunes are probably the last thing you’d expect to see in the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley is proof the Frontier State is full of incredible surprises!

The Great Kobuk Sand dunes are the largest active sand dunes in the Arctic, rising for 30 miles along the banks of the Kobuk River. They create scenery that will make you forget you’re in Alaska at all if it weren’t for the cold temperatures and the footprints of bears and other northern animals appearing on the sand.

If you’re wondering how this is even a thing, the sand dunes at Kobuk Valley were formed when glaciers receded during the Ice Age, and chunks of ice churned over rocks and ground them into fine sand.

Much like the Gates to the Arctic, accessing Kobuk Valley is challenging due to its incredibly remote location. Still, if you’re able to make it, we guarantee this will be an experience like no other!

Go Hiking at Kenai Fjords National Park

Located on the Kenai Peninsula only 126 miles south of Anchorage, Kenai Fjords is the most accessible of Alaska national parks and one of the best spots to visit to experience picture-perfect landscapes.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Kenai Fjords National Park

During your time here, you’ll get to see humongous glaciers, hop on a boat or kayak to explore the ocean, and get plenty of opportunities to spot native wildlife like whales, sea lions, otters, puffins, and more.

Most of Kenai Fjords is made up of ice and water, so many of the activities here are water-based. If you want to explore on land as well, you can hike the Exit Glacier Trail, a 2.2-mile hike that will have you walking in the forest and into an overlook for jaw-dropping vistas of the glaciers below.

If you’re up for an adventure, another amazing hike is the Harding Ice Field Trail, which is 8.2 miles long and provides views of ice fields and over 40 glaciers in the park.

Explore an Actual Ghost Town

Back in the early 1900s, the town of Kennicott became a bustling place when people flocked to settle there after hearing about the opening of copper mines in the area.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Kennicott

Over time, copper began to dwindle, and this town’s residents inside the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve moved to other places in search of more opportunities.

These days, Kennicott still preserves its buildings from its golden era, and the only people that actually step foot there are curious visitors looking to take a peek back in time. Despite efforts to turn it into a tourist attraction, still very few people actually go here, making the experience a pretty unique (and yet somehow eerie) one!

Get Your Cool on at the Aurora Ice Museum

Located inside the Chena Hot Springs Resort in Fairbanks, the Aurora Ice Museum is a museum entirely carved out of snow and ice that provides a truly dazzling (and literally “cool”) experience.

Aside from marveling at this museum’s architectural wonder, you’ll also be able to enjoy displays of incredible ice sculptures, see reenactments of aurora borealis, and  enjoy fantasy ice scenes.

Cruise Around Prince William Sound

Encompassing over 3,000 miles of coastline in the Gulf of Alaska, Prince William Sound is the perfect place to explore if spotting marine life and gawking at fjords and glaciers is on your Alaska bucket list.

While it’s possible to visit any of the towns along Prince William Sound and explore the area from there, the ultimate way to fully get to see it in its full splendor is by booking a cruise to take you further into the inlet.

USA Alaska Bucket List - Prince William Sound

During the expedition, you’ll be able to see colossal tidewater glaciers up close, gawk at the beauty of fjords choked with ice, and get to see an impressive amount of Alaskan marine life, including rafts of otters, sea lions chilling out on icebergs, bears hunting for salmon, and plenty more.

Visit the Museum of the North

If you really want to learn more about Alaska, make sure to add the Museum of the North to your bucket list.

Located on the University of Alaska campus in Fairbanks, this museum will take you on a journey through over 2,000 years of art, heritage, history, geology, and wildlife of the state.

You’ll be able to find plenty of exhibits here displaying a variety of different aspects of the Frontier States, but some of the ones that stand out the most are mummies of bison, Eskimo carvings, and mineral collections from the Gold Rush in Alaska.

More on Visiting Alaska

While Alaska might not be the most road-trip-friendly state due to its remote position in the world and geographic challenges, it’s undoubtedly a destination that should be on every family’s bucket list. There are so many unique and once in a lifetime experiences to enjoy in the Frontier State.

While you’re here, you may also enjoy learning more about:

  • The best day trips from Anchorage – many visitors to Alaska will use the largest town as their base point for exploring further afield. Here’s what you can manage in a day’s drive. Coming Soon!
  • If you’re still unsure what national parks to visit and narrow down your bucket list of Alaskan experiences, here we take you through a list of every Alaskan National Park – looking at the distances and travel methods for each, best times to visit and what you’ll experience.
  • The best wildlife spotting experiences in Alaska – we’ve included several on this list, take a closer look at a wildlife-lovers guide to Alaska Coming Soon!

© Family Road Trip

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