Alaska is huge. From the state’s panhandle in the southeast to the Aleutian Islands in the west, it spreads roughly the length of Jacksonville, Florida to San Francisco, California. With Alaska’s size comes endless opportunities for exploring, and autumn is the ideal time to book for spring and summer trips. Most clients’ vacation to Alaska includes a cruise and perhaps a visit to Denali National Park. For any newcomer, these are absolutely the must-dos. This week, however, we wanted to highlight Alaska’s wild and “off the beaten path” side to enhance your base Alaska vacation. While you may never experience all that Alaska has to offer (and who could!), we hope these inspiring experiences help you capture the spirit of the Last Frontier for your next trip north!
The Iditarod – Alaska’s Trail
Most people have heard of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held every year in early March, but did you know how deep its legacy goes? It gained international notoriety in 1925 when a group of mushers were recruited to deliver an emergency shipment of serum to Nome when a diphtheria outbreak swept over the city. In the early 1900s, the trail also served as a main transportation channel for remote towns during the gold rush – bringing mail in, and gold out, all by dog teams. If you’re wanting to experience the trail, many of the towns along the way have museums and plenty of stories about the Iditarod, the dog teams, and the people that lead them. Be sure to also see the Ceremonial Start of the race the first Saturday of March in downtown Anchorage – the only part of the trail that goes through an urban area. We have a variety of packages that will get you up close and personal and not just in Anchorage either, but out in the bush to give you a real sense of what it’s like.
The Famous Alaska Railroad
Experience the remote Alaska wilderness from the comfort of a railcar! The Alaska Railroad offers a variety of trips into the state’s interior, offering majestic views of Denali (aka Mt. McKinley), wildlife sightings, and cultural excursions. If you’re taking a cruise, the best way to catch the train is to port out of Vancouver, Canada, where many itineraries go to south-central Alaska. It may also come as a surprise, but the Alaska Railroad offers service year-round, so don’t rule out a winter vacation either. Days are shorter (about 5 hours in Anchorage at the minimum) and you’ll certainly need warm clothing, but you’ll come back with a perspective that many visitors don’t get. Plus, a big perk of winter travel is the chance to see the Northern Lights, and we can pair you up with an experienced guide to help maximize your changes of seeing these elusive wonders. Finally, if you’re into cross country skiing or hiking, many towns along the railroad have trail networks to you can get in your workout. Regardless of when you visit, the Alaska Railroad is a great way to see sights that many visitors miss.
If you talk to any angler, you can bet that a trip to Alaska tops their bucket list. The most well-known fishing in the state is along the Kenai Peninsula, just south of Anchorage, where the Chinook “King” salmon rules. Saltwater fishing also is big, with places such as Kodiak being the place for halibut and lingcod. If you’re really looking for adventure, the Brooks Range, in the far north, should be on your list. This is Alaska at its best – extremely remote and beautiful – but getting there will take some planning and flexibility. Many of the most popular fishing locations get crowded during peak times, so make sure to go with a guide, which we can help arrange. They’ll take care of the logistics for you, plus they’ll bring you to their “out of the way” places for the best catch.
Alaska is a culturally diverse state with a fascinating history. As early as the 1700s, Russian Orthodox missionaries were visiting Alaska, and as a former Russian territory, there’s even a unique dialect of Russian spoken by some residents. All across the state, you’ll run into signs of Russian influence including the onion domes of the churches and Orthodox crosses at cemeteries. Wanting to get really close to Russia? Little Diomede is a tiny community located in the Bering Strait. From there it’s technically possible (though not legal) to walk the 2.4 miles to Big Diomede, which not only is in Russia, but also is on the other side of the international date line. Alaska also has many diverse Native cultures. During your visit to Anchorage, get a better understanding of Native cultures’ traditions, history, and contributions with a visit to the state-of-the-art Alaska Native Heritage Center.
With Alaska’s size and magnificence, there are more vacation options to count. Luckily, that’s where we come in! Whether it’s a cruise, a trip on the Alaska Railroad, or another adventure, we can guide you to the fulfilling, memorable vacation you’ve always wanted. We hope by showcasing these experiences, you’ll be inspired to explore this beautiful state, whatever your desires are.