Nature in its full splendor is the main reason most people plan a trip to Alaska, but what many don’t know is that there are plenty of small towns and villages that are also worth including on their itinerary, especially if they also want to dive into the cultural and historical side of the Frontier State.
If you’re planning a road trip to Alaska and want to create a well-rounded itinerary that includes the best of all worlds, here’s a list of some of the best small towns in Alaska to check out!
8 Beautiful Towns in Alaska You’ll Want to Visit
Once a thriving mining town during the Klondike Gold Rush, Skagway is a charming town that still preserves the buildings and architecture from its golden era.
Like most places in Alaska, Skagway is surrounded by beautiful nature. Hiking is a prime activity here, with easy trails available as well as challenging 33-mile hikes!
Skagway is a stop on the Yukon Route Railroad, which takes travelers on a historical and visual journey of gorges, glaciers, forests, and waterfalls.
Situated on the state’s southern coast, popular cruise port Ketchican is one of the most beautiful small towns in America. The first place to head to is the Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre, then take a free walking tour of Ketchikan.
Totem Poles are another must-see for learning about Alaska’s culture, along with the Totem Heritage Center for a wonderfully immersive experience not to miss.
For an over head view, try a floatplane Flightseeing tour to truly experience all the surrounding mountains, lakes, and waterfalls. Nearby, hiking in Tongass National Forest (the largest in the United States!) is a popular summer activity or adventure seekers can book a zipline trip with Alaska Canopy Adventures.
Sitka sits on the 300-mile Alexander archipelago just off the coast of Alaska. As you can expect, this quaint village is a great gateway to exploring the waters around the Frontier State.
During your time here, you’ll get to taste some of the best seafood Alaska has to offer and indulge in history. Sitka has a significant Russian heritage, and you can learn more about it by visiting attractions like the Sitka National Historical Park, the Bishop’s House, and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael’s.
Moreover, Sitka is a great gateway to explore nature in its full splendor. There are plenty of hiking trails around the village where wildlife viewings are guaranteed (keep your eyes open for sea lions, humpback whales, brown bears, sea otters, and bald eagles!).
Other natural destinations worth checking out include Mt. Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano, as well as the Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bear for more wildlife goodness.
Set on the alluring Kachemak Bay, Homer is a hip small town where great restaurants and charming art galleries reign supreme.
Homer is the base for exploring some of Alaska’s mightiest natural wonders, including Katmai National Park and Lake Clark. In fact, both of these spots are great for fishing, which has given Homer the nickname of the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World”.
Moreover, Homer also acts as a base for exploring Kachemak Bay. During your visit, you can take a walk along the beach to see tidepools where sea life like sea stars love hanging out.
To explore further, rent yourself a kayak or paddleboard and make your way to glaciers to see them in their full splendor. When you’re done checking out the ocean, you can also opt to go on a hike to see mountain lakes, secret beaches, and more glaciers!
As the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward is a town most visitors to Alaska sleep in, but one that rarely gets explored thoroughly.
There’s plenty to do in Seward, so we highly recommend staying here for a day or two after exploring the national park. A top attraction is a wooden boardwalk by the harbor. Here, you’ll see spectacular views of the mountains and the bay and get spoiled with choice when it comes to food and shopping options.
Animal sightings are common here, so you may even get to spot a few sea otters and even whales during June and July!
Another highlight of Sewards is the Alaska Sealife Center, where you can meet rescued animals like harbor seals, puffins, and sea lions while they recover.
Set in Prince William Sound, Valdez is a place where beautiful glaciers, mountains, forests, wine, and delicious food come together.
Thanks to its perfect blend of the best of all worlds, a visit to Valdez will have you exploring inside ice caves, climbing a few glaciers, and hiking in the mountains during the mornings while doing some serious fine dining and art gallery hopping at dusk.
Most people visiting the park merely cruise by the bay without really stopping to check out the town. Despite this, Gustavus is a wonderful destination in itself, especially if you’re into arts and nature and wouldn’t mind combining them both in one trip.
As you stroll through its quaint downtown, you’ll be treated to a plethora of galleries, studios, and shops where local sculptors, potters, jewelers, painters, and woodcarvers proudly display their works.
Located only 40 miles south of Anchorage, Girdwood is a small town enveloped by forests, mountains, and striking glaciers. Anchorage locals have made Girdwood one of their favorite weekend getaway destinations.
Here, you’ll find a fabulous dining scene as well as plenty of great lodging options. From Girdwood, you can also explore some of the top Alaska destinations, including Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula.
While checking out the town, be sure to keep your eyes out for moose and Ptarmigans (Alaska’s official bird). These animals are known to roam pretty close to town and don’t shy away from walking the streets of Girdwood on a regular basis!
Looking for the quintessential Alaskan small town Cicely, from Northern Exposure? We’re afraid you won’t find it here in Alaska; it was actually filmed much further south in Roslyn, in the Cascade Mountains, of Washington.
Are you traveling to Alaska and planning to check a few towns there? Which of these small Alaska towns and villages are you most excited to explore? Let me know in the comment section below!
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