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The Ultimate Ways to Discover Alaska’s Vast Wilderness

By Miranda Smith

May 31, 2018

From the July/August 2018 issue

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Flying by bush plane is the best way to see Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Photo by Brian Flaherty

Flying by bush plane is the best way to see Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

The least populous state in the U.S. is also home to some of the country’s most wondrous natural landscapes. Choose one of the following ways to see it—or opt for all three.

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At 665,384 square miles, Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas. The state—nicknamed the Last Frontier for its abundance of uninhabited, unexplored land—is home to eight national parks, some 100,000 glaciers, and more than 98 percent of the United States’ brown bear population. Clearly, there’s a lot to be discovered. Here are three ways to explore Alaska’s wildest spaces.   

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park spans 13.2 million acres.

By Air

In several of Alaska’s national parks, where the roads are few and trails limited, flying is often the best—and safest—way to enjoy the wilderness. Fly Denali offers a two-hour Glacier Landing Tour that touches down on North America’s tallest mountain. From $549. 

Ultima Thule, the luxury lodge in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park that hosted writer Freda Moon, sits 100 miles from the nearest maintained road and specializes in exploring places you can’t reach by foot. A four-night stay includes as many customized flight safaris in the park as weather permits. From $8,275.

Opportunities for backpacking and day hiking abound in Alaska.

By Land

On the nine-day Grand Journey with Alaska Wildland Adventures, you’ll get a variety of perspectives on Alaska’s natural wonders. Hike through the remote Kantishna region in Denali National Park, raft down the Kenai River in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and kayak past the Pedersen Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. The trip begins and ends in Anchorage, with nights on the journey spent in cozy lodges. From $6,595.

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Prefer glamping? Exposure Alaska leads a custom three-day Matanuska Getaway that begins and ends in Anchorage and includes whitewater rafting, glacier ice climbing, and a stay with Alpenglow Luxury Camping where you’ll have a wood-fire hot tub and spectacular views of Matanuska Glacier from your canvas-and-cedar tent. From $1,119. 

More than 600 species of fish inhabit Alaska waters.

By Sea

With 6,640 miles of coastline, the state is an ideal cruising destination. Alaska Dream Cruises—owned by a family of lifelong Alaskans—specializes in small-ship cruises along the panhandle, the narrow southeastern portion of the state that’s bordered by British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska. The eight-day Glacier Bay and Island Adventure takes you through the panhandle’s glacier- and wildlife-rich Inside Passage, stopping along the way to kayak, hike, and visit Tlingit villages. From $3,590.

Renowned luxury cruise line Silversea offers a variety of Alaska trips, including a 16-day Seward to Nome cruise that takes you across the Bering Sea to experience Alaska’s most remote island—St. Matthew—and the Russian Far East. Expect to see a variety of birds, sea lions, and—if you’re lucky—a gray whale. From $11,340. 

>>Next: Yes, You Can Experience Authentic Alaska on a Cruise

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