In Alaska, mountains provide the very best scenery. In this state, getting as high up as you can will always yield the best views. Trot up peaks or hop in a sea plane to view Alaska’s glaciers and national parks – or get right into the wilderness to find flower-strewn meadows peppered with berry bushes of almost every kind. The best scenery in Alaska is the landscape that lies just around the next corner. You almost can’t fail to find something glorious to look at. But for the peak of picturesque, pop our pick of the best landscape spots on your Alaska map.
Good old-fashioned leg work will only get you so far in this state. Alaska’s mountains may be more accessible than you might think, but the vast sprawl means you’ll need a little help. Heli-hiking could still be a step too far for some – but there’s also the Wilderness Express, mountain top trams and flightseeing to try. The big question then, is just where you’re going to point your hiking boots. For easy access to the state’s most awe-inspiring scenery, head to Anchorage. The Crown Point Mine Trail in the Chugach mountains brings together the best of Alaska. A long and winding climb up to 3,900ft above sea level on the Kenai Peninsula, your reward for the making it to the top? A relatively easy path through the Chugach National Forest that brings glacier views, lake views, wildlife spotting and remnants of the area’s mining history.
The Alaska glacier numbers are staggering. And getting to around 27,000 ice shelves in one trip could be a bit much. Best then to pick a few top tier glaciers and get as close as you can. By far the easiest – and most beautiful, glacier to get to in Alaska? The Matanuska Glacier. Accessible with a short road trip from Alaska, you can swing into the car park on Glacier Park Road and the toe of the ice flow is just a 20 minute walk away. To mix and match a day’s hike with some glacier views, hop on the Gold Mint Trail. The 8 mile stint is easy on the legs, follows the Little Susitna River and ends with a cracking viewpoint of the Mint Glacier. To get a little closer to a glacier?
Alaska’s national parks are numerous, vast and dotted across the state. So picking the right one for the best scenery could be tricky. Do you want to pair landscapes and Alaska’s animals? Your eyes aren’t ready for Denali national park’s 6 million acres. Yes, you’ll spot bears, caribou and wolves – in the right season, but it’s the Denali mountain backdrop that equally wows. The towering icy range weighs in as the tallest peak in North America. Peer up into the clouds and let your eyes wander down to mirror-perfect lakes, dense pine forest and meadows of moss, lichen and wildflowers. Just one road winds through the park – though, as private vehicles can only drive the first 15 miles of the highway, it’s best explored on foot, with a guide.
For a wild and remote look at the Alaskan wilderness, it’s hard to beat Lake Clark national park. Steaming volcanoes, the kind of Alaskan mountains only Bob Ross could paint and glacial lakes that bring new meaning to the colour turquoise.
If you thought Norway was the global fjord queen, Alaska makes a mockery of their glorious inlets. In particular, the shimmering spectacular that is Kenai Fjords national park. With just 600,000 acres, compared to Denali’s 6 million, Kenai feels instantly more accessible – until you realise 60% of the park is covered with ice and snow. But therein lies its beauty. To experience the very best of it, pop your hiking boots on for an 8 mile schlep along the Harding Icefield Trail. Your trek will take you from the valley floor, up through alder forests into wildflower-filled meadows. Your goal? When you break through the tree line, brace your eyes for a top down view of the ice-field.
For a more relaxing fjord experience, book a spot on the Adventure Bound boat that weaves through Tracy Arm Fjord’s icebergs. Expect waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, whales, seals and more, but the real stars are the icebergs that have seemingly impossible colours glittering through them.
We can’t stress enough just how vast the Alaskan landscape is. And as jaw-dropping as it is to see the coastline on foot, by boat or kayak, sometimes only a top–down view will do. And that’s where Alaska Seaplane Adventures come in. Their flightseeing tour whisks you over the craggy coast of Sitka, where you’ll see the incredible sea stacks, beaches and grottos that the local whale, sea otter and bear population call home. For a very different view of some remarkable Alaskan coastline, there’s much to be said for chartering a boat to the Eastern Aleutian Islands. Volcanoes rise up out of the ocean in a realm where sea birds flourish and few travellers go. Perfect for those who like their wilderness as untouched and craggy as it gets.
Prince William Sound
An honourable mention has to go to Prince William Sound. A kind of one stop shop for the best of Alaska’s scenery, the vast inlet is home to 100 glaciers, sits in the Chugach National Forest and its coastline comes with wildlife-crammed coves, mountains that dwarf all that lie below, navigable fjords and islands you’ll want to sail around. Close to Anchorage, Prince William Sound’s three towns add those essential urban facilities you need to set you up with everything you’ll need for a day – or ten in the Alaskan wilderness.