One of the best ways to see Alaska’s is by car, but even if you spent an entire summer driving around its vast interior you wouldn’t be able to see it all. If you do planning on taking a road trip across the 48th state, we recommend not missing the following places:
Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge
What better way to guarantee Alaskan wildlife sightings than visiting a wildlife refuge? Home to dozens of species of birds, from raptors to waterfowl and land birds, the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge is the perfect year-round birdwatching site. In addition to flocks of fowls it’s also inhabited by at least 42 mammals, such as caribou, coyotes, black and brown bears, lynx, wolf, and moose. Located in the Tanana River Valley just across the border from Canada, it’s often the first stop for drivers entering Alaska.
Denali National Park
Perhaps the most well-known national park in Alaska, Denali is a must-see for any Alaskan visitor. Begin in Anchorage and make your way north to Denali National Park; the drive is approximately 238 miles. The park on its own is a major destination for travelers from all over the world, but the route there also offers opportunities to explore places such as the following:
Thunderbird Falls Trail. A quick one mile trail leads to the two hundred foot waterfall. Take in the falls from a viewing platform and snap some photos.
Eklutna. Just a few miles to the north of the Thunderbird Falls Trail is Eklutna Village, the oldest continuously populated Athabaskan Indian settlement. Explore St. Nicholas Church and take in the history of the 1650s settlement.
Once you arrive at the park, there’s an unlimited number of activities to enjoy. Open year-round, Denali has six campgrounds, miles of biking and hiking trails, and daily flightseeing expeditions. If you work one of our seasonal jobs, you’ll have daily opportunities to check out the wildlife and incredible landscape.
University of Alaska Museum of the North
History-lovers rejoice! Get your fill of Alaska art and artifacts from indigenous tribes, check out the dinosaur remains excavated along the Yukon River, and marvel at Big Blue, the body of a 50,000-year-old mummified steppe bison at U of A’s Museum of the North. The journey from Anchorage to the museum in Fairbanks takes about six hours, but with all the parks, museums, and historical sites to see along the way, the time will fly by. Bonus: The building itself, designed by Joan Soranno to resemble the wild Alaskan landscape, is a wonder to behold.
No road trip would be complete without a stop at an amusement park. But if you’re excepting an experience similar to the “Happiest Place on Earth,” think again! Mukmuk land was created in 1985 by husband and wife team George and Beth Jacobs and features a gigantic mukmuk, a slipper traditionally worn by Alaskan natives made from seal or reindeer skin. Part salvage yard, part fantasy land, the park boasts a random collection of Alaska memorabilia, an 18-gold mini golf course, and perhaps most interesting of all, an entire cabin filled with hundreds of dolls. There seems to be no rhyme, reason, or actual “theme” to this park, but that’s what makes it so memorable! Located a few miles outside of Tok, Alaska, off the famed Alaska Highway, Mukmuk Land is a once-in-a-lifetime road trip destination not to be missed.
Delta Junction, the end of the Alaska Highway
The highway was originally constructed during WWII to connect the lower continental U.S. to Alaska via Canada and was completed in October of 1942. Although the Alaska Highway ends in Delta Junction, Alaska, it starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. If you plan to embark on this duel-country road trip via the original route, make sure to pack your passport. The 1,500-mile highway affords awe-inducing views including the highest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan, as well as the opportunity for dozens of side trips along the way.
The next time you’re brainstorming travel destinations, throw out the idea of an epic Alaska road trip and see if it sticks. We bet that after your visit, you’ll be counting down the days until you can return!