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Editor’s Note: I’m not the only one in my family who has been bitten by the travel bug. My sister Kristi is giving me a run for my money in terms of putting pins in her map. This is one of her guest posts that she is writing to share her many adventures.
When you think of Alaska, most people think of deep snow and icy glaciers. While it’s true that the winters are harsh, Alaska also provides one of the most glorious summers you could ever experience.
Because of this, Alaska is a very seasonal place to visit. Most tourists arrive sometime between the end of May through about mid-September. This is the time to explore, when the state experiences its mildest weather and longest days (with the sun not setting until almost midnight around summer solstice!).
With so much daylight, I was determined to explore all the beautiful sites Alaska had to offer. One of the best ways to see Alaska’s most spectacular scenes is to use a tour group. Most tour groups only run during summer season, and are designed to showcase Alaska’s natural wonders. If you want to see all there is to see, here are 3 tours you should definitely do in Alaska.
Depending on your mode of travel within Alaska (a cruise ship, a car, or a train), making it to Seward might be easy or take a bit more time. Many cruise ships dock at this port for at least a day, so check your port destinations if you are cruising. If you are based up in Anchorage, you can either drive a car (about 2 ½ hours) or take the train (closer to 4 hours) south. No method is a poor choice, as each offers incredible scenic views along the way!
Taking a boat tour from Seward through the Kenai Fjords National Park is an absolute MUST. This is one of the greatest tour recommendations that I received while in Alaska, and boy was it worth it. I recommend cruising with Kenai Fjords Tours, as they provide many options for length of cruise (ranging from 3.5 – 9 hours) as well as various destinations within the fjords. I had the whole day free and personally chose the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour with Dinner on Fox Island, which was 8.5 hours total and a total blast.
The day I went at the beginning of June was absolutely PERFECT, but be forewarned, the weather can vary and can honestly make or break the experience. We had sunshine all day and saw so much wildlife, including humpback whales and orcas, otters, sea lions, puffins, bald eagles, mountain goats, etc. We also saw several glaciers. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable about the animals and landscape, it was incredible. The views were spectacular, and it was such a magical day!!
Things to bring:
- A warm jacket, beanie, and gloves to keep warm when the boat is going at high speeds and the wind is vicious
- Binoculars if you want to see the wildlife better
- Don’t forget your camera!
- Money for snacks or drinks on the boat
- Cash to tip the crew after the tour
You won’t regret doing this tour!
To say Alaska has a plethora of glaciers would be an understatement. I read somewhere that there are 616 officially named glaciers in the state, but there are close to 100,000 actual glaciers. Why not go ice climb one of them?
The Matanuska glacier is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States and is a popular destination for tourists. It is about a 2 hour drive northeast of Anchorage, with lots of stunning scenery along the way. Make sure you plan adequate time for the drive to arrive on time for your tour.
If you you’ve ever thought about ice climbing, try it out! It’s a totally different sensation from rock climbing and I believe it is worthwhile to try at least once in your life if you enjoy that kind of thrill. It is worth mentioning that you should be in adequate physical condition to participate in and enjoy this tour, as it is physically taxing to climb and there is also about a 1.5 mile hike each way to get to the climb spot.
To ice climb in Alaska in the summer season (especially on a glacier), you must go through a tour group. I recommend booking through MICA Guides, as they provide all the necessary gear for your trek, keep their climbing groups small so you get more chances to climb, and have experienced tour guides to keep you safe. In addition to the cost of the tour, extra glacier access fees (per person) do apply.
Things to bring:
- Comfortable, warm clothes
- Hiking boots (ankle support recommended)
- Cash to tip the tour guide
Climbing gear is provided by MICA Guides, check out their website for more specific details
Happy climbing, it’s so much fun!
I had never done a zipline tour before, so I thought…why not do it in Alaska?? I booked through Denali Zipline Tours out of Talkeetna, AK. Talkeetna is a little more than 2 hours north of Anchorage. While it was quite the fun experience, I will be honest and say that I felt the cost was a little steep for the length of the tour (about 3 hours). Despite that, it was a thrilling adventure to be flying through the trees of Talkeetna, and we even ziplined over a pond!
You zipline across 8 lines, do a repel, and also walk across some rickety bridges. The scenery was beautiful everywhere you turned, and it was on this tour that I had my first unobstructed view of the summit of Mount Denali (located approximately 60 miles to the northwest of Talkeetna and often covered by clouds)! The tour guides make safety their number one priority, and it was a grand adventure!
Things to bring:
- Comfortable pants, you will be wearing a harness the whole time
- Good walking shoes
- GoPro (they have mounts on their helmets)
- Cash to tip the tour guide(s)
There are many tours to choose from during your visit in Alaska. I found these 3 to be rewarding experiences that had a solid mix of sightseeing, physical activity, and adventure. If you have the time, check out these tours and get outside and explore!
Which tour would you do? Leave your answer in the comments below.