Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors
Glaciers, Fjords, and Coastal Mountains: National Parks in Alaska
The last frontier has always attracted people looking for something new. Alaska is the largest state in the U.S., and it's home to some of the most majestic scenery on Earth. For those who are wondering what there is to do once they get their fill of wildlife viewing (including humpback whales and sea lions), active volcanoes, northern lights, glaciers, fjords, and coastal mountain ranges, we have a few suggestions for you in Alaska's National Parks.
Denali National Park
The Denali National Park is a World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alaska. It's home to Denali, which at 20,320 feet tall is the tallest mountain and highest peak in North America. The summit or tallest peak can be reached by a 31-mile hike from one of several trailheads or via guided expedition that usually takes about six days. This area also contains five glaciers that are larger than any other glacier on either continent outside Antarctica.
This area is also home to an Alaskan brown bear that has been a resident since 1972 and Dall Sheep. This section of land was established as a national monument by President Carter in 1978 for its rich history and wildlife diversity - both topics worthy of preservation! The Koyukuk Wild River Area preserves an untouched corridor through central Alaska with access to some remote areas such as Big Delta State Historic Park & Preserve where visitors can experience firsthand what Alaskan life used to be like.
Katmai National Park
This national park is home to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes - a landscape that was created when Novarupta Volcano erupted in 1912 and sent ash billowing into the sky for days afterwards, leaving behind an environment as barren and lifeless as it sounds. The rugged terrain includes swamps, wooded areas, rivers and lakes where visitors can catch glimpses of brown bears fishing for King Salmon among other wildlife native to Alaska. Get there while you still have time!
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park is a marine park that faces the Pacific Ocean. It's world-renowned for its scenic beauty and includes mountains, glaciers, fjords with coves and offshore islands - all of which are worth exploring! The whole area seems to be covered in ice; visitors will have plenty of opportunities to see the sea-ice, glacier ice and glacial ice. You can also take a train on the Alaska Railroad from Kenai to Denali
Glacier Bay National Park
The Glacier Bay National Park is one of the most popular destinations in Alaska, and for good reason. The park's name says it all - this area has glaciers galore and is home to many tidewater glaciers! It also contains an array of wildlife from bald eagles to mountain goats to sea otters which you'll come across while exploring some of its trails.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
This is the largest national park in the United States and is home to Mount St. Elias, which at 18,008 feet tall, is also one of its most dramatic mountains. There are more than 500 glaciers that can be found here as well - an astonishing site for any nature lover!
Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park is a more remote destination, but it's well worth the extra time and effort. This region not only has outstanding views of wild landscapes but also bears, caribou, moose - you name it! The park was established in 1980 for its rich history and wildlife diversity (just like Koyukuk Wild River Area).
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
This national park and preserve is the National Park Service's most northernmost unit, in a remote location spanning nearly 700 miles from east to west and located entirely north of the Arctic Circle. It includes a variety of landscapes that span tundra, boreal forest and coastal areas as well as wildlife such as grizzly bears, walruses, wolves and caribou - all in their natural habitats.
Koyukuk Wild River Area
This section of land was established as a national monument by President Carter in 1978 for its rich history and wildlife diversity - both topics worthy of preservation! The Koyukuk Wild River Area preserves an untouched corridor through central Alaska with access to some remote areas such as Big Delta State Historic Park & Preserve where visitors can experience firsthand what Alaskan life used to be like.
Kobuk Valley National Park
This national park is a great place for those who are looking to get away from it all. There's not much in the way of tourist attractions here, but plenty of opportunities to see wildlife that you won't find anywhere else! It was established in 1980 as well and has one main avenue - on foot or by car - which visitors can traverse to experience the vast wilderness for themselves. It is also home to the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes - the largest active sand dunes in the Arctic - and the Kobuk River - a scenic river that traverses the park.
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
This national preserve was created in 1980 and is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Beringia. It protects remote areas like Shishmaref - an Inupiat village that's now threatened by climate change, erosion and storms.
The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is the world's largest protected continuous swath of territory and includes a variety of terrain that spans from desert-like conditions to taiga (or boreal) marshlands. Much like Kobuk Valley, this area doesn't offer much for tourists in terms of attractions but has plenty to see - such as animals that are unique to the region and not found elsewhere, such as grizzly bear.
Noatak National Preserve
Noatak National Preserve is the largest national preserve in Alaska and includes a variety of landscapes, wildlife and cultural attractions. It's worth visiting for its diverse natural beauty as well - from flat tundra to lush forests (which are home to moose) that visitors can explore on their own thanks to dirt roads throughout the park.
Chugach National Forest
This national forest is home to the second largest contiguous stand of old-growth trees in the United States. In addition, it has a vast array of wildlife - including bear, moose and caribou!
If visitors take one thing away from their time spent here, it's that this National Forest isn't just about sightseeing but also about taking care of our natural resources so they're preserved for future generations (just like Bering Land Bridge).
Cape Krusenstern National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument is where visitors will find a variety of coastal mountains and glaciers, as well as the Arctic's most majestic fjords. It was established in 1980 to protect its natural beauty for all who come to see it - from those exploring on foot or by boat!
El Morro National Monument
This National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 and includes over one million acres of land, sea, rivers and lakes. It's home to a variety of animals - including the North American brown bear as well as all five species of Pacific salmon! There are plenty of opportunities for exploration here too through kayaking or boating (or even on foot) so visitors can experience this unique part of Alaska that not many people know about.
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a designated wilderness area that offers visitors the opportunity to explore and reconnect with nature. You'll find some of the most diverse ecosystems in North America here, as well as amazing views from meadows, steep-sided canyons and more! Visitors will enjoy camping on beautiful ground or taking part in one of many outdoor activities - including rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding and much more. It's an experience you won't forget anytime soon!
Final Thoughts on National Parks in Alaska
These iconic parks are national landmarks and worth a trip if you happen to be in the area...
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