The Insider’s Guide to Alaska’s National Parks (Part 2)
Nature: it’s what’s going on in Alaska. Get in touch with it and you get in touch with yourself. National Parks are the best way to get out there and get exploring. Enjoy Part 2 of our Alaska National Park series! Go here for Part 1.
Mt. Katmai National Park
A mere 233 miles from Anchorage is Mt. Katmai National Park, an active volcano which erupted in 1912. A beautiful crater lake has replaced the area where Katmai’s peak once stood before the eruption. Brown bears are everywhere in the park — about 2,000 of them (watch out, yo).
Gates of the Arctic National Park
Gates of the Arctic National Park is located 458 miles north of Anchorage, and, no surprise here, it’s completely within the Arctic Circle. This means 24 hour sunlight in the summer and perpetual darkness in the winter.
Explorer Bob Marshall named the park in 1929, claiming the Boreal Mountain and Frigid Crags which surround the Koyukuk River looked like “Gates to the Arctic.” There’s no road access, so you’ll have to float through through those awesome, massive landmarks.
Getting there: hire an air taxi from Bettles, Coldfoot or Kotzebue; or hitchhike in from the Dalton Highway, which runs parallel to the park’s eastern boundary. Once you’re in, the magnificent Brooks Range is your playground.
Kobuk Valley National Park
The Kobuk Valley is the place for people who really want to leave civilization behind and become one with the wilderness. This park is way deep in the north — 513 miles from Anchorage and within the Arctic Circle.
Prepare to maybe see as few as zero humans while you’re here, but oodles of caribou. Over 400,000 are estimated to roam the valley! Who knows — you might return having truly “found yourself.”
The Chilkoot Trail
The Chilkoot Trail is the highlight of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and it’s 812.2 miles from Anchorage. Permitting for hiking and camping is pretty tight here — only a few dozen hikers are allowed over the summit each day (reserve well in advance!)
The hike — heck yeah it’s epic — is somewhat strenuous, and it follows the route of the gold-hungry miners from 1898 from sea-level in the Alaskan panhandle up over the Chilkoot Pass into Canada. Getting there requires some planning, too – you start a few miles outside Skagway, on Dyea Road, and end at the edge of Bennett Lake, a few miles off the Klondike Highway.
The Chilkoot season runs from mid-May to early September, so get on it!
But wait, there’s more
Get creative! Here are a few more National Park adventures worth checking out:
- Float the Yukon River in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
- Get uncomfortably close with salmon-chowing grizzly bears while camping at Park’s Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park (don’t worry, the camp is surrounded by an electric fence!)
- Visit the only World War II site occupied in a war on North American soil at Aleutian World War II National Historic Area (Amaknak Island, 800 west of Anchorage)
- Yes, you can actually wave hello to Russia…from the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve!