10 Things in Alaska You Need To See Before You Die

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While Alaska may have been one of the last states, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not ripe for adventures. It’s full of unforgettable and epic opportunities unlike any other.

If you’re planning a future trip to The Last Frontier, you’ll want to plan to do these activities. While it may take several trips to see them all, you won’t regret it for a minute.

Today, we’re sharing ten things you must see in Alaska before you die. Ready to dive in?

Let’s get started!

Visiting Alaska Is an Unforgettable Experience

At 665,400 square miles, it’s no contest that Alaska is the largest of any state in the United States. In addition, much of its vast, rugged terrain remains undeveloped.

This makes it easy to enjoy the natural beauty and connect with nature. With massive changes in elevation and wildlife roaming about, there’s always something exciting to see.

In addition to its scenery and wildlife, Alaska has a rich culture that can make it even more exciting. You’ll find indigenous communities throughout the state that have a deep history.

Museums and landmarks highlight indigenous customs, history, and art. You can fulfill your sense of adventure and learn a thing or two along the way.

Visiting Alaska can be a transformative experience. Many travelers who venture to the state leave differently than when they came. If you’re heading to Alaska, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

10 Things in Alaska You Need To See Before You Die

Looking for some things to add to your Alaskan itinerary? We’ve compiled the ten things everyone needs to see in Alaska before they die. Let’s get to it!

1. Denali National Park

Visiting Denali National Park sits at the top of our list of things to do in Alaska before you die. The six million acres of Denali National Park contain some of the world’s most rugged and impressive landscapes.

In addition, it’s home to Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, which stands 20,310 feet tall.

While visiting the park, take the opportunity to do some hiking. However, knowing that very few marked trails are within the park is essential. This can allow you to create your own experience by taking advantage of off-trail hiking.

Watch for grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, and other wildlife while hiking and driving. 

Pro Tip: There are many options for camping in and around Denali. Don’t get overwhelmed; read our article about Denali National Park Camping: Your Different Options.

Jason taking a selfie with Rae in the background at Denali National Park on a sunny day.

2. Soak in Hot Springs

Another great experience you don’t want to miss while visiting Alaska is to soak in the hot springs. Luckily, you’ll have plenty of options with more than 100 hot springs in the state. The best options include Chena Hot Springs, Manley Hot Springs, and Tenakee Springs.

Additionally, while Liard River Hot Springs is technically in British Columbia, Canada, many travelers make a stop when coming and going.

If you think soaking in a warm pool of water is relaxing, try doing it in a beautiful and natural landscape. These are fantastic opportunities to soak your tired muscles and rejuvenate your spirit. Doing it right can be an unforgettable experience you cherish for the rest of your life.

Pro Tip: If you can’t get enough hot springs, add some of the Best Hot Springs in the US to your bucket list!

The hot springs wiht no one in them at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska.

3. Northern Lights

Getting to see and experience the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is a bucket list item for many people. This natural phenomenon creates dancing lights in the night sky.

You’ll see hues of green, purple, and pink flowing over the sky. Because of the many remote locations, it can be easy to find the perfect viewing locations for them.

Unfortunately, the best chances to view the Northern Lights are from mid-August to mid-April. While you can spot them outside this window, they’re not nearly as predictable. You must brave the region’s winter weather for the best views. 

The northern lights over an Alaskan city on the water.

4. Mendenhall Ice Caves

Mendenhall Ice Caves are near Juneau and deserve a spot on our Alaskan adventure bucket list. The caves sit within Mendenhall Glacier and demonstrate the beauty of what nature can do on its own.

These detailed formations are a magical experience to witness. Hop on a guided tour, and you’ll see and hear more than you ever imagined possible. 

Pro Tip: Another great way to see glaciers is by jet ski. Check out Our Honest Review of Glacier JetSki Adventures to see if it’s something you’d like to do in Alaska.

A sign that says "Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center" with the Mendenhall Glacier in the background on a cloudy day.

5. Glacier Bay National Park

With eight designated national parks in Alaska, it’s no surprise we have another national park on our list. The awe-inspiring natural wonders of Glacier Bay National Park sit in the southeastern part of this incredible state.

While the towering glaciers are a given, you’ll also find fjords, dense forests, and wildlife. Many visitors spot humpback whales, sea otters, and various other wildlife.

In addition to spotting wildlife, hiking is also another popular activity. Some of the most popular trails are Forest Trail, Bartlett River Trail, and Tlingit Trail.

Jason and Rae standing on a boat smiling with a glacier in the background.

6. Wildlife Cruises

Wildlife cruises are another popular activity, as many of the most popular tourist areas are on or near waterways. These cruises can be an incredible opportunity to experience the stunning coastal landscapes and wildlife. If you’re lucky, you can see bears, eagles, seals, and an orca or two.

While these cruises may not be cheap, you can create priceless memories. You’ll enjoy a front-row seat to some of the most breathtaking views.

Remember to bring your camera and have plenty of storage space for pictures and videos. You’ll need it!

A National Park Ranger looking through binoculars to find wildlife to point out to the tour.

7. Flightseeing Tours

While seeing Alaska on land and at sea can be incredible, you can take to the skies for an even more unique view. Flightseeing tours allow you to soar over snow-capped mountains and massive glaciers. You’ll get to see some of the most pristine wilderness areas that aren’t accessible any other way.

A flightseeing tour provides you with a bird’s-eye view of the Alaskan land. Many tour companies offering these flights know the spots people want to see. Experiencing the rugged wilderness from the skies can be worth every penny.

Jason and Rae, an adventure couple standing in front of a six seater plane that is on the beach in Alaska.

8. Pan for Gold

Want to try your luck at striking it rich while panning for gold? The Klondike Gold Rush brought hoards of hopeful miners to the area in the late 1800s. While plenty of gold was found, very few individuals left the area with pockets full of gold. 

Much of it belonged to large mining operations that quickly overtook the area. Luckily, they didn’t get all the gold; you can still find some throughout the state. In addition, you don’t need high-tech equipment to find nuggets and flakes of gold.

Many areas throughout the state offer guided tours and experiences. They’ll take visitors to their claims and help ensure everyone leaves with some gold. This can be a great way to experience some of what these brave individuals went through in hopes of raking in the dough.  

Jason bending over gold panning in a river.

9. Scenic Drives

If you’re bored and need something to do, hop in your vehicle and take a drive. One of the best ways to explore the Alaskan landscapes is through scenic drives.

Many local, state, and national parks have established routes they promote as scenic drives. However, just about anywhere you drive in Alaska is a scenic drive.

While on a scenic drive, you must mentally switch to a different gear. Take the opportunity to stop at pull-offs and take in the view. Allow yourself to relax and get fresh air in areas you may never experience again.

A truck camper pulled off the side of an Alaskan highway with snow capped mountains in the background.

10. Visit Totem Poles

As mentioned earlier, Alaska has an extensive indigenous population and culture. You can spot totem poles scattered across the state.

They’re common in Ketchikan, Sitka, and Totem Bight State Historical Park. Each of these is unique and tells a detailed story of the Alaskan people. They’re visually appealing and provide an opportunity to learn about the local history and spiritual beliefs.

a totel pole at Glacier Bay National Park with the water in the background.

Don’t Miss the Best of Alaska During Your Visit

Out of all the states we’ve visited, Alaska is definitely at the top of our favorites list. We knew Alaska would be an amazing trip, but the state exceeded our wildest expectations.

There’s nothing quite like a trip to this incredible state. However, do yourself a favor and take the time to plan your itinerary. You don’t want to waste a single minute of your time here.

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