Meet Alaska’s 8 National Parks
Alaska is big, wild, and powerful. The state boasts some of the most beautiful and remote national parks in the country, each with its own unique characteristics. I’ve lived in Alaska on-and-off for seven years, and it’s my pleasure to introduce you.
Firstly, it’s important to point out that the state has more than just these eight national parks! There are also national rivers, historic sites, and more. You can read all about the National Parks in Alaska on The Parks Expert.
Denali National Park & Preserve/Photo by Riley
Denali National Park & Preserve
Denali is Alaska’s prime attraction. Visitors flock here for a chance to see the “Big Five” (bears, moose, wolves, caribou, and Dall sheep) and North America’s tallest peak, Denali. There are plenty of things to do in the park, such as hiking and camping, but visiting also brings its challenges. Make sure you do your research to learn the inner workings and tips for visiting Denali before you go.
Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve
Many parks in Alaska are not accessible by car, which makes exploring a challenge. This includes visiting Gates of the Arctic, as the park is only accessible by plane, boat, or on-foot. Floating one of the many rivers or completing a backcountry camping trip is easily the best way to explore the wilderness in the northernmost national park in America.
Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve/Photo by Riley
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
Most visitors arrive to Glacier Bay via cruise ship. These will take you through the inner passage, where you have the opportunity to view wildlife and see calving glaciers. You can also reach the park by air to allot more time for exploration, perhaps kayaking or camping.
Katmai National Park & Preserve
Katmai is most famous for its resident grizzly bears. You may have seen them fishing for salmon on Brooks Falls on the park’s webcam. While bears are charismatic and thrilling to watch, Katmai has much more to offer. For instance, take a bus ride through the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes to witness the park’s volcanic history.
Kenai Fjords National Park
One of my favorite national parks to visit in Alaska is Kenai Fjords, due to its sheer diversity. Want to accomplish a challenging hike? Head for Harding Icefield. Want to see incredible marine wildlife? Take a boat tour. Interested in seeing a glacier up close? Exit Glacier is a must-see. This park has so much to offer, and you can drive to it!
Kobuk Valley National Park
Did you know there are sand dunes in Alaska? Kobuk Valley is one of the most unique national parks in America. When you fly in, you won’t believe you’re in the arctic when you see the desert-like dune fields below you.
Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
If you’re seeking wilderness, Lake Clark is your park. Whether it’s hiking near headquarters at Port Alsworth or flying to Dick Proenneke’s cabin to escape society, Lake Clark is wilderness at its best. Float trips and backcountry camping are common ways to explore this park.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve/Photo by Riley
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
The largest national park in America, Wrangell-St. Elias is one many haven’t heard of, and it’s located right here in Alaska. Two dirt roads take you into the depths of the park. There are a variety of trails to hike, including my personal favorite: Root Glacier Trail. As the name suggests, it will lead you to a glacier you can walk on or climb. Furthermore, the trail is the perfect gateway to copper mines that once fed the Kennecott Mill, which you won’t be able to miss.
Header photo: Denali National Park/Photo by Jacob W. Frank/Courtesy of NPS
Riley is a lifelong traveler who has been visiting national parks as long as she can actually remember. Her newest passion is sharing her love of national parks with the world by planning trips, writing about travels, and offering advice. One day, she hopes to visit all 419 national parks.