Venture out into “The Last Frontier” on a Dragoman overland journey offered in partnership with our friends at Infinite Adventures. Travel on a converted school bus, exploring the many highlights of Alaska, from the hustle and bustle of Anchorage to the pure and pristine wilderness of the Denali and Wrangell-St Elias National Parks. Although part of the USA, Alaska feels like another world, and the sheer scale of the state is hard to comprehend; but travellers looking to answer the call of the wild need look no further.
Read on for our round-up of Alaska’s must-see sights and cities.
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, and often mistaken for its capital (which is actually Juneau). Set on the shores of the Cook Inlet, at the base of the Chugach Mountains, Anchorage is the ideal point from which to begin exploring Alaska.
The city was founded in 1914 as a frontier railway town, and steadily grew in size throughout the 20th Century as a military and aviation hub. Following a massive project to beautify it in the 1980s, Anchorage became a very pleasant city to spend time in, with a great selection of parks, museums and restaurants for travellers to enjoy.
Despite being Alaska’s most populated area, Anchorage is still shared with the likes of bears, moose and wolves, and on a clear day you can see the impressive Mount Denali to the north. In Alaska, nature is never far away.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is dominated by the colossal mountain of Denali (also known as Mount McKinley). At more than 6,000m high, it’s the highest mountain peak in North America, and, along with Everest and Aconcagua, one of mountaineering’s greatest challenges. Ascending it will be beyond most travellers’ ambitions, but the incredibly scenic National Park that surrounds it is well worth investigating.
Teeming with wildlife such as moose, caribou, brown and black bears, and over 150 species of birds, and with more than 650 species of flowering plants, shrubs, moss and lichen, this is a truly raw wilderness. The park also offers some thrilling activities, including white-water rafting, quad-biking, and scenic flights over Mt. Denali itself!
Maclaren River Lodge
The Maclaren River Lodge, set in the majestic Maclaren River Valley, is run by local hosts Susie and Alan, who are known for their hospitality. There are a number of activities on offer at the lodge, including hiking, kayaking and fishing. This is high alpine territory and a favourite destination for photographers. We’ll enjoy a night of wild camping at the “Remote Glacier Camp”, as well as a night at the lodge itself.
Located on the western side of the Kenai Peninsula and Kachemak Bay, the charming town of Homer, nicknamed “the end of the road”, is simultaneously a thriving fishing community and renowned cultural centre. Its population is at first glance an odd-ball mix of anglers and artists, but the people here coexist in a spirit of goodwill, perhaps in part due to a shared appreciation of living in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with magnificent views of Kachemak Bay, the Kenai Mountains, and various volcanic peaks. When visiting Homer, stopping by the Salty Dawg Saloon for a drink is a must; make sure to leave a message on a dollar bill and stick it to the wall.
Valdez is the terminus of the 800-mile trans-Alaskan pipeline that begins at Prudhoe Bay, and an important gateway into Alaska’s interior. Although this quaint little town came to widespread attention in 1989 for unfortunate reasons (namely, an 11-million gallon oil spill…), it has since largely recovered from this environmental catastrophe, and is now a hotspot for adventure activities. Rent a bike, go fishing, cruise in search of wildlife, or try your hand at glacier sea-kayaking, all against the backdrop of the gorgeous Chugach Mountains.
Wrangell-St Elias National Park
The extraordinary Wrangell-St Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States, some six times larger than Yellowstone. It encompasses both the Wrangell and St. Elias mountain ranges, and contains 9 of the 16 highest peaks in the US. This is some of the most impressive mountain scenery in Alaska. The high ground is covered with snow all year round, resulting in extensive ice fields and glaciers. It’s also home to a great deal of wildlife, including caribou, moose, brown and black bears, beavers, porcupines, and mountain goats.
This enormous park (it’s larger than Switzerland) is naturally the base for some excellent outdoor activities, including trekking through the hills and mountains, ice-climbing on the mighty Root Glacier, and kayaking up to some breathtaking views of the Stairway Icefall. Within the park you can also explore the historic old mining towns of Kennecott and McCarthy, which retain many of their old buildings and all of their old pioneering atmosphere.