Alaska has a reputation for being wild, free and spectacular. Visitors to the state always return home with exactly that impression, but they cannot always express the impact of this extraordinary state that has taken the motto of the “Final Frontier.” Here a number of reasons why Alaska should be on your bucket list of places you must visit.
1 – The Mountains
The mountains of Alaska provide an overwhelming presence in almost every part of the state. Fourteen separate mountain ranges are evident, with a range of elevations and visible appearances. A few of these are most notable:
The most famous mountain peak, Mount McKinley or its native Alaskan name, Denali, lies in the Alaskan Mountain Range in the center of the state. It rises 20,000 feet above sea level and is often cloaked in clouds.
The Chugach Mountains in the south central region have the highest concentration of glacial ice in Alaska and has some of the highest snowfall levels in the state. One peak, Alyeska, is the site of Alaska’s most popular ski resort.
The Kenai Mountains, in southwestern Alaska offer visitors incredible views of fjords that form where the mountains meet Prince William Sound.
The Wrangell Mountains, between the Chugach range and St. Elias range, in the southeastern corner, contains several active volcanoes. Each mountain range differs from the next and offers visitors a variety of interesting formations and botanical species.
2 – The Wildlife
With hundreds of thousands of acres of preserved areas and numerous parklands, visitors to the state can enjoy viewing wildlife in a number of different regions of the state. Denali National Park is one of the most popular stops, where travelers can view black bears, grizzly bears, deer, elk, caribou, foxes, Dall sheep, wolverines, as well as hundreds of species of birds. The waters around Alaska team with a variety of marine life such as dolphins, whales, seals, sea lions, sharks and walrus.
3 – The Glaciers
Each year, thousands of visitors cruise through Alaskan waterways to see the mammoth glaciers that cover various regions of the state. Although most of these glaciers are viewable by water, a few are land-based and can be enjoyed by car or on tours. Visitors will learn about the retreat of these great frozen rivers and will speculate on the amazing turquoise blue colors that emanate on the surface.
4 – The Weather
The Alaskan weather patterns are legendary. The high tourist season is from May to October with the greatest number of people coming to the state in June, July and August. During the summer months, temperatures can vary widely from day to day and even during the day, from the low 60s to above 80. In the summer, visitors can also experience the endless daylight that lights up summer nights in the state. In the collar months, daytime temperatures can reach the 50s, but nights can dip into the 30s. In the winter, Alaska becomes a landscape of snow and ice that discourages many travelers. However, those that join tours during these months experience the most quintessential Alaskan weather, with temperatures that stay below zero for long periods.
5 – The History
The story of Alaska’s development offers a look into a broad range of cultures and nationalities, from the native tribes who first inhabited the land to the Russian, the British and Americans who came to settle this rugged landscape. The history of trappers, miners, fishermen and entrepreneurs provides a varied tapestry of the many forces that shaped the state into its current form.
6 – The Waterways
Cruising is an integral part of the Alaskan tourism economy, and many people get the opportunity to travel the coastal regions and inlets that provide a unique glimpse of the Alaskan waters. However, travelers by land will see a myriad of mountain-fed streams and rushing rivers, each with its own unique flavor. Along with the unique alpine fjords south of Anchorage, these waterways are a memorable experience for all who visit the state.
7 – The People
One of the most surprising aspects of a visit to Alaska is its people. You will find young and old, rural and urban, professional and primitivist types almost everywhere you go. The population has found a way to integrate the various groups of people almost seamlessly into its everyday life, with a respect for self-reliance, a reverence for personal freedom and a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit. If you travel widely within the state, you will get an opportunity to meet and talk with many of the individuals in each of these groups. You will begin to understand the unique character than makes them all “Alaskan.” +