Contrary to what a glimpse at a world map might lead you to believe, Aaska is massive. So huge that it is bigger than California, Texas and Montana combined. And it’s absolutely wild! Because of its massive size, an Alaskan road trip is by far the best way to see the best that the “last frontier” has to offer. Public transportation won’t get you very far in Alaska. Below is a guide to making the most of your drive through this rugged and diverse state:
Photo by Barbara via Flickr
Alaska’s most populated city still feels a million miles away from anything resembling a concrete jungle of other major cities in the United States. With loads of activities and wildlife inside the city’s borders, it’s the perfect place to get a taste of Alaskan living. Speaking of taste—be sure to grab a meal that includes fresh salmon. This is also a great place to catch a whale watching expedition if visiting between May and September.
Denali National Park:
Start your drive by heading north to Alaska’s most famous national park and home to the highest peak in North America: Mount McKinley. Due to the unpaved roads and dangerous driving conditions inside the park, it’s best to grab a campsite, park the car and hop on a narrated bus tour. The bus will take you into the park where it’s common to see caribou, sheep, moose, birds and many other animals. During my trip back in 2005, our bus tour actually had an adult bear come right up onto the road and lick our bus!
This town will give you the feeling of nostalgic Alaska. Fairbanks has plenty of opportunities to do some gold mining of your own, an activity for which the city was founded. During the winter this is a popular spot for dog sledding expeditions as well. During the summer months you’ll still have the chance to meet a dog musher and his huskies without riding.
Just a short drive from Fairbanks is the North Pole! Not the top of the world, but the one where Santa lives. Take a ride down roads like Santa Claus Lane and Kris Kringle Drive. Even during the summer months you can visit the Santa Claus House, which is decked out with Christmas decorations year round.
Take the Richardson Highway:
From Alaska’s first road it’s easy to catch a glimpse of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which mostly parallels the highway. If your goal is to escape it all with a rod and reel, take a pit stop at historic Copper Center where you can slow down and rent a riverfront log cabin and fish for king salmon. For the anglers out there you can find an Alaska packing guide here.
On your way back to Anchorage stop by the Matanuska Glacier, the largest glacier accessible by car in the state. It’s an easy 15-minute walk to base of the 13,000 feet high and 27-miles long glacier. Book a tour if you’re up for an adventurous ice climbing tour onto the glacier.
An Alaskan road trip gives you the freedom to see and do what you like, in the true Alaskan way. I’ll never forget my trip to the rugged and wild state – and I certainly hope to bring Casey back with me one day soon.
Have you been to Alaska?