Summer Guide: Best Things to Do in Alaska - Karta.com

Summer Guide: Best Things to Do in Alaska

Top Destinations Mar 25, 2024

Alaska, a pristine wilderness of extraordinary beauty, is a destination where adventure and tranquility coexist. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, iconic landmarks, and charming towns, the state offers an endless array of activities for travelers. 

Exploring beautiful Alaska places is an adventure in itself. Denali National Park, home to North America's tallest peak, offers hiking, wildlife viewing, and the chance to immerse oneself in unspoiled nature. The Kenai Fjords National Park, with its glaciers and abundant marine life, provides breathtaking views and opportunities for kayaking and glacier tours. For those captivated by the beauty of the Northern Lights, Fairbanks is the place to be, offering some of the best Aurora viewing experiences in the world.

Alaska is also known for its unique landmarks that embody the state's rich history and natural wonders. Among the best towns in Alaska, each with its charm, Sitka stands out for its blend of Tlingit culture and Russian history, set against a stunning backdrop of islands and ocean. Talkeetna, with its quirky vibe and stunning views of Denali, is a gateway to outdoor adventures.

From the serene beauty of its national parks and the allure of its unique landmarks to the charm of its best towns, Alaska invites travelers to explore and discover.  

1. Exploring Denali National Park and Preserve

Exploring Denali National Park and Preserve stands as a pinnacle experience for any adventurer looking to immerse themselves in the unparalleled natural beauty of Alaska. This majestic park, home to North America's tallest peak, Denali, embodies the essence of what Alaska is famous for: its dramatic scenery, abundant wildlife, and endless opportunities for exploration. As the best place to visit in Alaska for first-time visitors, Denali offers a gateway to understanding and appreciating the vast wilderness that defines the state.

Denali National Park
Source: The Pew Charitable Trust

Venturing into Denali during the summer months unlocks a plethora of activities tailored to every type of traveler. From leisurely wildlife viewing tours that allow you to witness the park's diverse inhabitants in their natural habitat to challenging hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the Alaska scenery, there's something for everyone. The park's landscapes, teeming with landmarks and natural wonders, become easily accessible through the park's single, scenic road, which offers glimpses of the park's grandeur from the comfort of a vehicle or during stops along guided tours.

For those looking for things to do in Alaska in June, July, or August, Denali becomes a vibrant playground under the midnight sun, offering extended days to enjoy everything the park has to offer. The park's comprehensive guides and summer activities ensure that visitors can tailor their trip to Alaska, making the most of their journey whether they're seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both.

Denali's unique combination of accessible adventure and natural beauty makes it a must-add to any Alaska summer bucket list. From the chance to see the majestic peaks of the Alaska Range to discovering the park's hidden valleys and wildlife, a trip to Denali National Park and Preserve promises a complete guide to the wild heart of Alaska, offering memories that will last a lifetime.

2. Witnessing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Witnessing the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, in Fairbanks offers a spectacular display that epitomizes the magical essence of Alaska. Known for its clear dark nights and minimal light pollution, Fairbanks is undoubtedly the best place to visit in Alaska for first-time aurora seekers and seasoned stargazers alike. This natural phenomenon, illuminating the night sky with vibrant hues of green, pink, and sometimes even purple, is not just a sight to behold but a bucket list experience for many.

Things to Do in Alaska
Source: Travel Alaska

The best times to view the Northern Lights in Fairbanks stretch from late August to early April, when longer nights provide a dark canvas for nature's light show. The peak viewing season, however, is in the heart of winter, when the nights are longest. For those planning a trip to Alaska in August, the tail end of the month can sometimes offer the first glimpses of the aurora, making it a unique addition to the list of things to do in Alaska in summer.

3. Glacier Trekking on Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau

Glacier trekking on Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau offers an exhilarating adventure that stands out as one of the best things to do in Alaska, especially during the summer months. This unique experience allows visitors to explore the magnificent ice formations, deep crevasses, and the stunning blue hues of one of Alaska's most famous landmarks. For those planning a trip to Alaska in July or August, adding glacier trekking to your itinerary promises an unforgettable journey through the heart of Alaska's natural beauty.

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau
Source: Shore Excursion Group

For first-time visitors to Alaska, Mendenhall Glacier represents the quintessential Alaskan adventure, combining stunning scenery, physical challenge, and the chance to witness the natural world in a way that few other activities can match. What to do in alaska in June varies because during this season, the days are long and the landscape is bursting with new life, or in the warmer months of July and August, when the glacier can be explored in milder conditions, glacier trekking on Mendenhall Glacier is a bucket-list-worthy experience that captures the essence of what makes Alaska famous.

4. Fishing Expeditions in Kenai River

Fishing Expeditions in the Kenai River offer some of the most exhilarating and world-renowned fishing experiences, making it the best place to visit in Alaska for first-time anglers and seasoned fishers alike. The Kenai River is not just famous for its stunning Alaska scenery but also for its incredible salmon runs, providing anglers with the chance to catch trophy-sized fish amidst breathtaking landscapes. Whether you're visiting in May, June, July, or August, each month offers its unique fishing opportunities, making Alaska a premier destination for fishing enthusiasts year-round.

Kenai River
Source: Peninsula Clarion

May in Alaska kicks off the fishing season with king salmon runs, setting the stage for an exciting summer of fishing. As you move into June and July, the river becomes alive with the vibrant energy of sockeye and silver salmon runs. By August, fishermen from all over the world are drawn to the Kenai for its peak seasons, hoping to land a record-breaking catch. What makes the Kenai River particularly special is not just the size and variety of fish but the surrounding Alaska landmarks and scenery, providing a serene backdrop to a day spent on the water.

Embarking on a fishing expedition in the Kenai River is truly a unique way to experience the beautiful Alaska summer, merging the thrill of the catch with the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the state. 

5. Kayaking and Wildlife Viewing in Kenai Fjords National Park

Exploring the unique marine wildlife and stunning glacial landscapes of Kenai Fjords National Park through kayaking tours is a bucket-list-worthy adventure, especially for those seeking the best places to visit in Alaska for the first time. This national park, renowned for its breathtaking Alaska scenery and iconic Alaska landmarks, offers an intimate way to experience what Alaska is famous for—its untouched natural beauty and abundant wildlife. 

Kenai Fjords National Park 
Source: Medium

Kayaking in the park allows visitors to glide through serene waters surrounded by towering glaciers and rugged fjords, making it one of the most memorable Alaska things to do in summer. The opportunity to see the park's marine life up close—whales, seals, sea otters, and a variety of bird species—adds an exciting element to the journey, turning it into a live-action guide to Alaska's ecosystem. 

6. Cultural Heritage at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage

The Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage stands out as a cornerstone for those looking to immerse themselves in the rich cultural tapestry of Alaska's Native peoples. This venue is not just an exhibition space but a vibrant hub where the traditions, arts, and ways of life of Alaska's indigenous populations are celebrated through a dynamic array of live performances, art demonstrations, and engaging exhibitions. For first-time visitors to Alaska, it is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit, offering a profound glimpse into what Alaska is famous for beyond its breathtaking scenery and landmarks.

Alaska Native Heritage Center 
Source: Expedia

During the summer months, the Alaska Native Heritage Center comes alive with a series of activities and events that are tailored to educate and entertain visitors. From the traditional dances that tell stories of the people and the land, to the hands-on art demonstrations where skilled artisans share their crafts, visitors are provided with an unparalleled opportunity to learn about and experience the diverse cultures that make up Alaska's identity. This period, especially from May through August, presents an ideal time for those planning a trip to Alaska to witness the state's rich cultural heritage amidst the beautiful Alaska summer backdrop.

For anyone compiling a bucket list of things to do in Alaska in May, especially during the vibrant summer season, adding the Alaska Native Heritage Center is a must. It's not only an educational experience but a chance to witness the enduring spirit and beauty of Alaska's Native cultures.  

7. Hiking the Historic Chilkoot Trail

Hiking the Historic Chilkoot Trail offers a unique blend of adventure and history, making it a bucket list item for many who visit Alaska, especially those looking for the best place to visit in alaska for first time. This trail, steeped in the history of the Klondike Gold Rush, presents a remarkable journey through stunning Alaska scenery, challenging trails, and the remnants of the past, where thousands once tread in search of gold. 

Historic Chilkoot Trail
Source: National Park Service

Embarking on this trek is not just a physical journey but a step back in time, walking the same paths that miners and adventurers took over a century ago. The Chilkoot Trail crosses through diverse landscapes, including coastal rainforests, alpine passes, and boreal forests, showcasing some of the most beautiful Alaska landmarks and breathtaking views that define Alaska's natural beauty.

8. Bear Viewing at Katmai National Park and Preserve

Bear Viewing at Katmai National Park and Preserve stands as one of the most thrilling and unforgettable experiences for wildlife enthusiasts and marks a top contender on the bucket list for anyone planning a trip to Alaska. Katmai National Park, renowned for its unparalleled Alaska landmarks and as a sanctuary for one of the world's largest concentrations of brown bears, offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Katmai National Park
Source: Wikipedia

Choosing the best way to experience Katmai involves considering guided tours, which provide not only safe viewing spots but also enriching educational insights into the life cycle of brown bears and the ecosystem of the park. These tours are essential for ensuring a respectful distance is maintained for the safety of both the bears and visitors.

Visiting Katmai National Park in July or August immerses travelers in the heart of Alaska's summer activities, where the days are long under the midnight sun, offering extended hours of daylight for exploration and bear watching. For those wondering where to stay in Alaska to experience such majestic wildlife viewing, accommodations range from lodges near the park to camping sites within, allowing for a full immersion into Alaska's natural beauty.

9. Discovering the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Discovering the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is akin to exploring one of Alaska's most thrilling and enduring traditions, deeply embedded in the state's history and culture. The race, often referred to as "The Last Great Race on Earth," stretches over a thousand miles of the most remote and beautiful terrains, from Anchorage to Nome, showcasing Alaska's breathtaking scenery and challenging conditions. This event not only highlights the incredible stamina and bond between mushers and their sled dogs but also pays homage to Alaska's historical reliance on sled dogs for transportation and communication.

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
Source: The Athletic

The Iditarod has its roots in the early 1900s, originally established as a mail and supply route to the interior communities of Alaska. However, it gained significant prominence in 1925 during the "Serum Run," where sled dogs played a vital role in delivering diphtheria antitoxin to Nome amidst a deadly epidemic. Today, the race commemorates this remarkable journey, attracting enthusiasts and competitors from around the globe to experience Alaska's landmarks and rugged beauty.

The headquarters of the Iditarod, located in Wasilla, serves as an informative and interactive venue for visitors year-round. Here, enthusiasts can delve deeper into the race's history, meet some of the participating sled dogs, and even simulate the mushing experience.  

10. Exploring the Inside Passage on a Cruise

Exploring Alaska's Inside Passage on a cruise is often cited as the best way to visit Alaska for the first time, offering an unparalleled view of the state's breathtaking scenery and landmarks. This journey encapsulates what is alaska famous for—its majestic glaciers, abundant wildlife, and the serene beauty of its natural landscapes. Embarking on this cruise, passengers are treated to a front-row seat to some of the most beautiful places in Alaska, including the awe-inspiring Glacier Bay National Park and the charming coastal towns of Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.

Alaska's Inside Passage
Source: Princess Cruises

The Inside Passage is also a wildlife enthusiast's paradise. From the comfort of the cruise ship or on specialized wildlife viewing excursions, you can spot humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, and bald eagles in their natural habitat. The rich biodiversity of this region makes every turn a new opportunity to witness Alaska's wildlife up close, adding to the bucket list experiences of visiting the state.

Timing your visit is key to maximizing the experience. Alaska's summer months, from May through August, offer the mildest weather and the longest days, thanks to the midnight sun, making them the ideal time for cruising. Each month has its unique draw: Alaska in May kicks off the cruise season with blooming landscapes and fewer crowds. June brings the vibrant greenery and the start of the salmon runs, which attract not only fish but also larger predators like bears. Alaska in August and maybe July are peak tourist months, offering the warmest weather and a plethora of summer activities, from glacier tours to kayaking in the fjords.

Conclusion

Alaska, a vast and pristine expanse at the northwest tip of North America, is a place where nature reigns supreme. Known for its dramatic landscapes, wildlife, and the indigenous cultures that have thrived here for thousands of years, Alaska offers an array of activities for those looking to explore its beauty. For travelers wondering what Alaska is known for, the answers are as varied as the state itself—from the majestic Denali, North America's highest peak, to the awe-inspiring Northern Lights that dance across its winter skies.

Visiting Alaska in August presents a unique opportunity to experience the state's natural wonders in their full glory. The weather is generally milder, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, wildlife viewing, and fishing.

Alaska is also famous for its beautiful places that capture the heart of anyone who visits. Places like the charming town of Talkeetna offer breathtaking views of Denali, while the historical city of Sitka presents a blend of Native Tlingit culture and Russian colonial history, set against a backdrop of island-studded seas. 

For those interested in landmarks in Alaska, Karta offers some of the best Alaska Vacation Rentals for you to visit.

FAQ

1. What is the Alaska Big 5?

The Alaska Big 5 refers to the five iconic wildlife species commonly sought out by visitors to Alaska, including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, Dall sheep, and caribou.

2. What is Alaska famous for?

Beyond its natural beauty, Alaska is renowned for its rich indigenous cultures, with festivals and markets throughout the year where visitors can immerse themselves in local traditions and crafts.  

3. What is Alaska 17?

Alaska 17 is a term used to describe the 17 national parks and preserves located in Alaska, showcasing the state's stunning natural beauty and diverse ecosystems.

4. What is Alaska 10?

Alaska 10 typically refers to the ten largest cities in Alaska, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and others, each offering its unique charm and attractions.

5. Who are some famous Alaskans?

Famous Alaskans include Sarah Palin, an American politician and former Governor of Alaska, Jewel Kilcher, a singer-songwriter, and Mary Carey, a professional basketball player.

6. Are there any special considerations for traveling in Alaska?

When traveling in Alaska, it's important to be prepared for unpredictable weather, wildlife encounters, and remote locations. Make sure to pack layers, bear spray, and a reliable map or GPS.

Tags

Emily Carter

With over 10 years of experience, Emily has extensive experience planning bespoke tours across the United States and Canada, specializing in eco-tourism and adventure travel.