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Alaska is a wonderland of glowing blue glaciers, towering mountains and some of the last untouched wilderness in the United States—where the Aurora Borealis shines on many nights like a personal lightshow. Natural resources like gold and oil brought thousands to this wild expanse of land and many stayed to make this place home. Alaska, a state larger than Texas, is split into six regions in this guide for those wanting to discover its varied riches.
Wherever you travel in Alaska, you will experience the majestic power of this untamed land. Most come to Alaska to fish its waters or view wildlife, but leave with profound appreciation of the history and culture of the unique 49th State.
Home of Fairbanks, a metropolis full of cultural activities, historical wonders and interesting places to visit like the University of Fairbanks and Pioneer Park. Interior Alaska is teeming with hot springs just waiting for a traveler to sink into the warm, soothing waters. From tiny towns like Chicken to larger urban areas like Fairbanks, this area has something for everyone.
Taking the Dalton Highway across the Arctic Circle and farther north is an amazing journey never to be forgotten. The northern Alaska wilderness is home to many species of wildlife including arctic fox, grizzly bears and caribou. As you head north, trees disappear and the summer days get longer and longer until there is just an hour of darkness a day in towns like Deadhorse. Although Prudhoe Bay is home to only 25 permanent residents, it is the location of the famous oil fields, which support the entire state’s economy. Probably the most famous of the northern towns is Nome, endpoint of the annual Iditarod dogsled race.The Iditarod Trail gained notoriety after dogsled teams fought harsh conditions to bring residents lifesaving serum in 1925.
This region is teeming with Gold Rush history in areas like Petersville and Trapper Creek. It is also home of the “largests” with Anchorage, the largest city in the state and Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park, the largest mountain in North America. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the country’s largest national park and rich in wildlife and towering mountain peaks. Reaching the coastline, Southcentral Alaska is where the largest tidewater glacier, Columbia Glacier flows into the icy blue waters of the Pacific between Whittier and Valdez. This is also where more than half of the state’s residents live.
The Kenai Peninsula is a region rich in excellent fishing grounds and full of businesses playing host to eager anglers. View beluga whales from Portage, hike tranquil trails through wilderness areas in Sterling and Cooper Landing and visit the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is home to over 200 species of wildlife and a paradise of paddling opportunities and backcountry hiking options. Visitors should not miss the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer or the Homer halibut fishing grounds, where anyone who can hold a pole can catch a 200-pound fish.
Kodiak Island was discovered in the 1700s by Russian Fur Traders—it is now a top tourist destination. Home of the Kodiak Brown Bear, this is where you come to view them from the air on a flight seeing trip, or even hunt the bears with a local outfitter. Sport fishing is another popular activity and the waters around Kodiak Island are filled with both commercial vessels and people out for a fun day on the water. At the end of the Aleutian Island Chain is remote Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, the only place to be bombed by the Japanese in WWII other than Pearl Harbor.
Serviced by the Alaska Marine Highway, the Inside Passage is a paradise of fjords and glaciers. In towns like Skagway and Haines, travelers depart from the ocean ferries and have access to Interior Alaska via scenic highways. Kayaking and fishing are popular attractions and the mild marine climate makes this area a pleasant place to play in the summer months. Popular cities in the Inside Passage region include the capital city of Juneau; Sitka, Alaska’s first capital and a town brimming with history; Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan are excellent areas to fish, whale watch and relax in the splendor of Alaska’s coastal region.