6 of the Best National Parks in Alaska You Must See

Alaska, the largest state in the United States, is a treasure trove of natural wonders, with national parks that are among the most expansive and least visited in the country.

Here are the top takeaways for those seeking the best national park experiences in Alaska:

Key Takeaways:

  • Denali National Park is home to North America’s highest peak and offers stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife.
  • Glacier Bay National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its spectacular tidewater glaciers and marine wildlife.
  • Kenai Fjords National Park provides opportunities to witness the effects of glacial movements and explore diverse marine ecosystems.

Alaska’s national parks are pristine wilderness areas that offer unparalleled opportunities for adventure and solitude.

Whether you’re a mountaineer, wildlife enthusiast, or someone who appreciates breathtaking natural beauty, Alaska’s national parks have something to offer.

1. Denali National Park and Preserve: The Crown Jewel

denali national park

Mount Denali: The Tallest Peak

Denali National Park is named after Mount Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, which soars to 20,310 feet above sea level.

The park’s vast landscapes range from taiga forests to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, providing habitats for grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and caribou.

Wilderness and Wildlife

With only one road winding through 6 million acres, Denali offers the ultimate wilderness experience.

Visitors can embark on bus tours to spot wildlife, hike countless trails, or take flightseeing tours for aerial views of Mount Denali.

2. Glacier Bay National Park: A Marine Wonderland

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Watching and Calving

Glacier Bay National Park is a realm where the ice age still lingers.

It’s recognized for its stunning tidewater glaciers, such as the Margerie Glacier, which dramatically calve into the bay.

The park can be explored by cruise ship, kayak, or tour boat, providing up-close encounters with these ancient rivers of ice.

Abundant Marine Life

As a marine sanctuary, Glacier Bay is teeming with sea life. Visitors may see humpback whales, sea otters, harbor seals, and a variety of seabirds.

The park is also an excellent place for sport fishing, with halibut and salmon in abundance.

3. Kenai Fjords National Park: Glaciers Meet the Sea

Kenai Fjords National Park

Fjord Landscapes and Sea Kayaking

Kenai Fjords is characterized by its ice-sculpted fjords and peninsulas.

Sea kayaking in Resurrection Bay offers an intimate experience of the park’s rugged coastline, while boat tours provide a broader perspective of its glaciers and the chance to witness glacial calving events.

Harding Icefield Trail

For those willing to tackle a strenuous hike, the Harding Icefield Trail provides a breathtaking view of the expansive icefield that feeds the park’s glaciers.

This hike underscores the park’s dedication to preserving its wild and remote landscapes.

4. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park: America’s Largest National Park

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Massive Glaciers and Peaks

Covering over 13 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest national park in the U.S. It’s a land of superlatives, with some of the tallest peaks and largest glaciers in the country.

Visitors can hike, climb, and even ski within the park’s vast wilderness.

Historical Sites

The park is also rich in history, with abandoned mining towns like Kennecott providing a glimpse into Alaska’s copper mining past.

These historical sites add depth to the natural exploration of the park.

5. Katmai National Park: A Volcanic Landscape

Katmai National Park

Bears and Brooks Falls

Katmai is famous for its population of brown bears, which can be seen fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls.

This park provides one of the most spectacular opportunities to view these animals in the wild.

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

Katmai also encompasses the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a unique volcanic landscape formed by the 1912 eruption of Novarupta.

Guided tours offer visitors the chance to learn about the area’s geology and observe steam vents still escaping from the ash-filled valley.

6. Gates of the Arctic National Park: The Ultimate Wilderness

No Roads or Trails

For the most adventurous, Gates of the Arctic offers a truly remote experience.

This park has no roads or established trails, challenging visitors to navigate the wilderness using their skills and instincts.

Caribou Migration and Northern Lights

The park is also a witness to the caribou migration, a breathtaking natural event. During the winter months, the aurora borealis provides a captivating display, adding to the park’s mystical appeal.

Wrap Up

Each of Alaska’s national parks is a world unto itself, offering a different slice of the state’s wild and pristine beauty.

From the soaring peaks of Denali to the glacial majesty of Glacier Bay, these parks promise unforgettable experiences.

Adventure seekers can trek across unforgiving terrains, while those seeking tranquility can find solace in the remote and untouched landscapes.

The best national parks in Alaska provide a chance to witness nature’s raw power and serenity and to reconnect with the natural world in one of the last truly wild places on Earth.

Whether you’re marveling at the northern lights, paddling through a fjord, or watching bears at play, Alaska’s national parks are where memories are made, and the human spirit is ignited by nature’s grandeur.

About the author

I'm Chloe Raley, the proud founder and curator of this travel haven. As an intrepid explorer and wordsmith, I founded this website to share my adventures.