Just because your summer job has come to an end, doesn’t mean your Alaskan adventure is ancient history quite yet. In fact, with your final paycheck in hand, it’s just beginning! Here is an up close and personal look at the top 10 activities to check off your bucket list before heading back to the lower 48.
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1. Hop on a Horse
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or the closest you’ve ever come to a horse is a Kentucky Derby viewing party, a horse riding adventure is the perfect way to see the Alaska wilds. Adventures range from day rides to multi-day safaris that take you deep into the backcountry. If you’re in the McKinley area, we highly recommend the McKinley Wilderness Trail Ride or a tamer (but equally fun!) horse-drawn wagon ride.
2. Give Hang Gliding or Paragliding a Whirl
Ever wanted to know what it feels like to float on a cloud? You’ll do just that with hang or paragliding – with, admittedly, a few more adrenaline pumping moments woven in. While you’ll likely have to take a training course beforehand, both the sights and the thrills are entirely worth it. Midnight Sun and Alaska Paragliding are great places to take training courses or to ride in tandem.
3. Spot the Wildlife
From bears, birds and moose to humpback whales, you haven’t really seen Alaska until you’ve seen our wildlife. For heart thumping – and distinctly muddy – thrills, Black Bear ATV Adventures is the way to go, taking you over land, rivers and foothills for close encounters with black bears, moose and more.
4. Summit a Mountain
Chances are, you’ve already done a fair bit of hiking. Why not take your game up to the next level and attempt to summit a mountain? Whether you’re new to mountaineering or not, we highly recommend hiring a guide. If you’d like to make your way into the backcountry but crampons aren’t your thing, you could always take a seaplane flight into the remote wilds of Denali National Park, where you’ll prove your mountain worthiness with the help of expert guides.
5. Stay Up With the Sun
The summer solstice may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t celebrate those long summer days. After all, how many other chances will you get to stay up as long as the sky is light? For a true adventure, gather a few buddies, perk up with several rounds of coffee, eat a square three to five meals in local dining establishments, catch a baseball game, explore the shops, and dance the daylight away.
6. Explore a Glacier
You may have explored a cave or two, but how about one made from ice? Glaciers are also great to explore via kayak or seaplane, giving you an up close and personal look at these massive ice sheets from almost every angle. But if you have to pick just one adventure, the Glacier Landing Explorer Tour, which takes you via seaplane over the lengthy Kahiltna Glacier, can’t be beat.
7. Take a Not-So-Lazy “Float” Down the Stream
There are few whitewater rapid sites in the world that can rival those on offer throughout Alaska. Many daytrips are available near Anchorage, and there are also many multi-day trips on rivers that snake across the state. Chulitna River provides peaceful yet fun rapids, while the tamer Byers Lake is ideal for any ability level.
8. Hop Aboard the Alaska Railroad
If all of this sounds a little too wild to you, why not traverse Alaska in style from the comfort of a luxury rail car? The railroad is a great way to travel between your adventure spots, but it also can be an adventure itself, with a number of vacation packages available throughout the coast and interior. When you travel by train, you’ll always have a great photo opportunity waiting for you right outside your picture window.
9. Catch Your Dinner (if you can)
Fishing and hunting are a way of life in Alaska, and if you’ve never given it a try, you’re missing out on a lot of fun and even more delicious grub. Get started with some fly fishing (you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted freshly caught salmon), join a tour, or charter a boat if you’re more experienced. Dall Sheep, Goats, Grizzlies, and Coastal Brown Bears are also popular targets for hunters this time of year. Again, hire a guide if you’re new to the sport.
10. Tour the State From Up Above
Alaska may be beautiful from the ground, but it’s all the more breathtaking from high above. Both seaplane and helicopter tours are popular options, especially for viewing glaciers and navigating deep into the backcountry. Ziplines are also a popular option in Talkeetna and in the rainforests near Ketchikan and Juneau.
Where will you begin the next chapter of your Alaskan summer adventure? Let us know in the comments below!