Discover the 10 Best National Parks to Visit in Alaska

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 17, 2022
Image Credit wu hsoung/Shutterstock.com
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Home to everything from beautiful landscapes and a vast wilderness to the radiant glaciers and midnight sun, Alaska is relentlessly pursuing its dream of being a “state in a garden.” Situated in the western United States, Alaska offers some of the most unique fishing and hunting opportunities you’ll never come across anywhere else.

When it comes to wildlife, Alaska is home to herds of bison, bears, caribou, whales, moose, salmons, and many species of birds. You don’t have to tour Iceland to see puffins because they are found in Alaska.

If you fancy yourself as a bit of an adventurer or a lover of the great outdoors, you’ll want to know about the best national parks you can visit in Alaska. Below is a list of ten amazing national parks in Alaska that bear impressive reputations due to their natural, breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife.

1. Kluane National Park and Preserve

Kluane National Park and Preserve
Kluane National Park and Preserve is famed for its vast wilderness of ice fields.

A. Michael Brown/Shutterstock.com

Kluane National Park and Preserve
Size5,439,530 Acres
Animal to SeeBlack Bear
Attraction to SeeMount Logan

Bordering Alaska and Canada, Kluane National Park and Preserve is famed for its vast wilderness of ice fields. The park is renowned worldwide for its diverse grizzly population and Canada’s highest peak, Mt. Logan.

There is so much to explore in Kluane, whether you’re there for an hour, a day, or a week. You can hike along Kathleen Lake or explore high mountain passes to see black bears, wolverines, wolves, mountain goats, and Dall sheep.

Kluane offers several outdoor activities during winter, such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing, as soon as the snow arrives and the lakes freeze over.

2. Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve is home to about 37 species of mammals, ranging from black and grizzly bears to wolves and wolverines.

Santiparp Wattanaporn/Shutterstock.com

Denali National Park and Preserve
Size4,740,911 Acres
Animal to SeeGrizzly and Black Bears
Attraction to SeeWonder Lake

Denali National Park and Preserve is the heart of Alaska and is undoubtedly one of the most popular parks in America. The park is home to about 37 species of mammals, ranging from black and grizzly bears to wolves and wolverines.

Denali is open year-round, and you can expect solace and tranquillity if you visit the park in winter. With approximately six campgrounds within the park, Denali is a perfect place for campers.  

Popular activities in summer and fall include hiking, mountain climbing, scenic drives, and biking. You can hike off-trail or on marked trails in nearly any direction. All trails lead to stunning views of spruce glaciers and forests.

3. Katmai National Park and Preserve

Katmai National Park and Preserve
Katmai National Park and Preserve offers a magical escape from the city’s hectic work life.

Chase Dekker/Shutterstock.com

Katmai National Park and Preserve
Size4,093,077 Acres
Animal to SeeBrown Bear
Attraction to SeeBrooks Falls and Mount Katmai

Well known for its rugged coastline, pristine waterways, and brown bears, Katmai National Park and Preserve offers a magical escape from the city’s hectic work life. Katmai reveals millions of years of history regarding different cultures.

Explore plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking and biking, some of which may lead you to a plethora of northern wildlife. Aside from brown bears, Katmai is home to river otters, martens, minks, sea lions, and many other animals.

July is the best time to visit Katmai if your sole purpose is to watch bears. This is when salmon make their annual runs, and brown bears flock to the river to catch and feast on them. You can view them very well from the Brook Falls viewing platforms.

4. Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park offers some of the best whale-watching opportunities.

Tomasz Wozniak/Shutterstock.com

Kenai Fjords National Park
Size600,000 Acres
Animal to SeeBlack Bear
Attraction to SeeHolgate Glacier

Located in south-central Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park is a land of coastal fjords and islands. It’s one of the unique places with wildlife and lush forests thriving in icy waters. The park offers some of the best whale-watching opportunities between March and October.

You might not know that Kenai Fjords is also home to Exit Glacier, the most beautiful glacier in Alaska, which also provides information and exhibits about the surrounding areas. Soar over the fjords in a helicopter, or hike to some of the largest icefields for a fantastic experience.

5. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
The Gates of the Arctic provides visitors with countless opportunities for new experiences and tranquillity.

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Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
Size8,472,506 Acres
Animal to SeeBrown Bear
Attraction to SeeArrigetch Peaks

Be the first one to set your camp at your chosen destination in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve since it’s among the largest parks in the world. The Gates of the Arctic provides visitors with countless opportunities for new experiences and tranquillity due to the area’s thousands of miles of untouched land.

The park is also home to different species of wildlife, including wolves, snowshoe hares, muskox, brown bears, grizzly bears, caribou, and numerous birds. Head to the northern part of the park if you want to see bears.

Picnic by the wild river, watch for the lynx and beavers passing through the northern valleys or spend your day fishing at Alpine Lake. Prepare for an experience of a lifetime at the Gates of the Arctic, no matter what kind of outdoor activity you choose.

6. Kobuk Valley National Park

Kobuk Valley National Park
Kobuk Valley National Park is a large valley surrounded by Baird and Waring mountain ranges.

Lloyd Wallin Photography/Shutterstock.com

Kobuk Valley National Park
Size1.75 Million Acres
Animal to SeeGrizzly Bear
Attraction to SeeKobuk River & Great Kobuk Sand Dunes

With desert-like dunes occupying most areas of the park, Kobuk Valley National Park is another place in Alaska that displays wilderness at its best. The park is a large valley surrounded by the Baird and Waring mountain ranges.

Hike to one of the broadest dune fields in Kobuk, sand sled in the dunes, or spot iconic Arctic animals like porcupines and grizzly bears while on a wildlife cruise. There are plenty of summer activities to explore, such as hiking, boating, backpacking, and fishing.

The park is only accessible by snowmachine, dogs, or planes during winter. So, you can fly into the park if you don’t have your dog team or snow machines. Nevertheless, it’s possible to cross-country ski and snowshoe through the frozen rivers and mountains in winter.

7. Chugach National Forest

Chugach National Forest
Chugach National Forest is a haven for nature lovers.

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Chugach National Forest
Size700,000 Acres
Animal to SeeSitka Black-tailed Deer
Attraction to SeeSitka Spruce

With its rich biodiversity and thriving ecosystems, Chugach National Forest is a haven for nature lovers. Covered with mountain hemlock, western hemlock, and Sitka Spruce, Chugach is one of the best places in Alaska to unravel the mysteries of nature.

Chugach is also home to many animals, such as Sitka black-tailed deer, brown bears, mountain goats, black bears, marten, caribou, and many others. Explore hundreds of miles of trails within the park to see all these animals.

Chugach also provides more than 20 magnificent camping grounds where you can unplug and enjoy the simplicity of nature.

8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a good place to visit if you want to see the highest peaks and active volcanoes altogether.

BlueBarronPhoto/Shutterstock.com

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Size13 Million Acres
Animal to SeeSteller Sea-Lion
Attraction to SeeKennecott Copper Mine

Being the biggest national park in America, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is among the best places to visit if you want to see the highest peaks and active volcanoes altogether.

It’s one of the places you’ll never run out of activities to do. Drive the famous McCarthy Road to Kennecott Copper Mine for amazing views of the surroundings, including the Kuskulana River Canyon and Bridge. Ensure you know how to change a flat tire while on this drive because McCarthy is not roadworthy.

Explore the coastal areas of the parks to see some of the marine animals like whales, porpoises, sea otters, seals, and the endangered species of Steller sea-lions.

9. Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve

Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve
Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve is a great place to tour if you’re looking for a unique Alaskan experience.

wu hsoung/Shutterstock.com

Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve
Size3.3 Million Acres
Animal to SeeBrown and Black Bear
Attraction to SeeMargerie Glacier

Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve is a great place to tour if you’re looking for a unique Alaskan experience away from the crowds in other parks and cruise ship sports. It’s a perfect destination for wildlife lovers.

In addition to marine mammals, Sitka black-tail deer, wolves, moose, mountain goats, and bears also thrive in the park. There are approximately 41 species of land and water mammals.

Take a full-day 130-miles boat tour that departs from Bartlett Cove and moves throughout the park, allowing you to view tidewater glaciers and wildlife.

10. Lake Clark National Park

Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park offers an oasis of tranquillity amidst the shimmering sounds of the turquoise lakes.

Malachi Jacobs/Shutterstock.com

Lake Clark National Park
Size4,030,015 acres
Animal to SeeBlack Bear
Attraction to SeeLake Clark & Mulchatna River

Lake Clark National Park is among the best places to visit in Alaska because it offers a picturesque craggy mountain view and an oasis of tranquillity amidst the shimmering sounds of the turquoise lakes.

Bear viewing is one of the most popular activities in the park. Spend a day on the Lake Clear Coastline to catch a glimpse of bears. The lake valleys are also home to many wildlife species, including Dall sheep and foxes.

Lake Clark offers outstanding tundra hiking with stunning scenery of volcanic steam and jagged granite spires. Undertake a cold-water boating activity to explore the lakes and their surroundings.

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