Best Ways to Visit Alaska This Summer

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Best Ways to Visit Alaska This Summer

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It’s highly likely you won’t be cruising to Alaska in the near future, due to the Canadian government’s current cruising ban, but there are plenty of other ways to explore the Great Land. From train trips through the vast wilderness to hiking in the shadow of Denali, here are the best ways to visit Alaska this summer … and next.

 

Am I Allowed to Travel to Alaska?
Of course! According to Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, “Alaska is open for business.” You’re not alone with your wish to head north – before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 2.25 million visited traveled to Alaska between May and September each year. It is among the top five states American wish to visit, according to a poll in February 2021. And, it’s easier than ever to fly there, thanks to additional flights with Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines.

 

How Should I Travel to and in Alaska?
Take the slow road. Immerse yourself in the grandeur, wildlife and history of the state with these incredible modes of travel in Alaska.

Alaska Railroad

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Take your comfortable seat in Adventure Class or indulge in the inclusive GoldStar Service aboard the Alaska Railroad. The train travels from Fairbanks south through Denali and onwards to Anchorage and Seward. There are several stops along the way. Even if you choose the more economical class of seating, you’ll have views through large picture windows and the ability to head to the Vista Dome cars and choose from open seating. All Alaska Railroad routes offer dining in the Wilderness Café. Those in the GoldStar category sit in a glass-dome ceiling train car, dining in a lower-level, full-service dining care, a private bar and guided narration of what you’re seeing. (This upgraded experience is available on the Coastal Classic route – Anchorage, Girdwood, Seward – and the Denali Star route – Anchorage, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Denali National Park and Preserve, Fairbanks).

 

There are many ways to incorporate the train into your Alaska vacation. Choose from day trips, one-way rides and multi-day packages, during which you’ll stay in hotels along the way, not overnight on the train. You’ll have the added benefit of knowing you are helping keep Alaska green by keeping more than 14,000 tour buses off the road annually.

 

As you pass through the magnificent scenery, you’ll likely spot bears, moose and more – and hopefully catch a good view of Denali if the sky is clear. If you choose the Coastal Classic route, keep an eye out for beluga whales in Turnagain Arm from mid-July through August.

Cycling Through Alaska

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Active types will jump at the chance to take a guided cycling trip through Alaska. A typical adventure might be four days in southeast Alaska, during which time you can explore the local history and culture of the Tlingit people, visit a bald eagle reserve and learn about the Klondike Gold Rush in Skagway. Again, you’re traveling under human power and in a small group, so you’re minimizing your carbon footprint on this treasured landscape. These cycling trips also tend to focus on using locally owned companies, making sure that a large portion of the revenue remains in Alaska.

 

Give Back While Traveling

Just about every soul who travels to Alaska feels a visceral need to protect the land they’re experiencing. Join a tour operator who puts conservation and community support top of mind and travel the state by train, boat and plane, visiting – among other places – Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park and Katmai National Park for bear viewing. Some operator will include the chance to help support the communities they visit and lessen their impact on the environment by urging guests to bring refillable water bottles, laundry bags and toiletries.

 

Take a Small-Ship Cruise

Remember how we said you can’t take a cruise to Alaska in the near future? Well, there’s still a great way to take an Alaska cruise, just not on a mega-ship coming in from elsewhere. For these small-ship expeditions, you’ll be sailing on locally based vessels only. Consider Alaska Dream Cruises in Sitka, with six small, all-inclusive ships that hold from 12 to 76 guests for 5 to 10 days. The owners are part of the Tlingit tribe with roots in southeast Alaska and are uniquely positioned to offer itineraries based upon generations of explorations and lifestyles in this area of Alaska. Your expedition guides and leaders will share all they know about biology, geography, ecology, wildlife, local cultures and more.

 

Remote Alaska Adventure is another small-ship cruise operator with one 12-passenger vessel, the Kruzof Explorer, which sails from Sitka to Ketchikan. You’ll make your way through Glacier Bay National Park, Frederick Sound and on to Admiralty Island, the areas with the highest brown-bear density in North America.

Stay at an Alaskan Lodge

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Base yourself at one of the state’s incredible wilderness lodges, each a destination unto itself. Use your home-away-from-home at the all-inclusive Stillpoint Lodge at the edge of Kachemak Bay State Park as a jumping-off point for exploration of the peninsula, glacier kayaking, fishing, bear viewing and more. You’ll dine on hyper-local fish and produce from the lodge’s own farm.

 

Or, venture even farther afield to Camp Denali, founded in 1952. The lodge is set near the end of the 92-mile-long road that leads into Denali National Park. The family that owns the lodge takes meticulous care of the 19 guest cabins – each with a picture window facing Denali – and invites in speakers who share their knowledge of everything from dinosaur sites to renewable energy.

 

Finally, consider private Orca Island in Resurrection Bay, where you can stay in a yurt with its own living and dining spaces, a fully equipped kitchen and a deck. Rest assured that you’ll be minimizing harm to the environment with your choice of airy, light-filled accommodations complete with solar power, compost toilets and propane-heated hot water, fireplaces and ranges.

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