When it comes to describing wild Alaska, the word ‘beautiful” is often used. Vast, striking landscapes are found over every horizon, from deep and luscious green forests that coat mountainsides to towering off-white glaciers that calve off into the deep blues of an ocean teeming with life. And when it comes to adventure, the state offers plenty of that too—think outdoor treks and whale watching. Here, the best activities to enjoy with the entire family.
Of course no trip to the wild would be complete without crossing a bit of it on foot. There are countless Alaska hiking areas to choose from, but perhaps one of our favorites is the wild and remote temperate rainforests of Tongass National Forest area. It requires a permit from the U.S. Forest Service, but anyone who’s been there will tell you it’s worth it to walk through a place where there are more animal prints than human ones. Don’t worry, the trails encompass all ranges of difficulty.
2. Bear spotting
Alaskan brown bears are a sight to behold, especially when they’re out fishing for salmon on a river cascade. The animals are found in their highest concentration along Alaska’s southern coastline as a result of not only a booming supply of clams and sedge grass, but also because of the annual salmon runs. This bounty of food allows the bears to reach huge sizes, some of the biggest in the world. It’s quite a sight to see!
Alaska is one of the best places to introduce your whole family to the art of wildlife and landscape photography. Even with a basic camera, beginners and children can easily capture the most incredible landscape images with a few clicks of a shutter—a surefire way to kickstart their passion to becoming the next Ansel Adams.
Picture this: your sunshine-colored kayak is bobbing along a peaceful blue water, tree-layered mountains rising up all around you. Kayaking is a perfect tool for up-close, personal encounters with the beauty of Alaska. Getting the entire family into kayaks for a water-level perspective on this world is an intimate, peaceful and memorable activity. Or for a new twist, stand-up paddle-boarding can be a fun way to propel the kids through the same environment.
5. Whale watching
Alaska has some of the best whale-watching on earth. Humpbacks females travel to the state to teach their calf to forage and become independent. It prepares them for their own voyage out across the oceans of the world. Watching as these 50-foot mothers emerge around a boat is certainly an exhilarating experience. Organizations like the Alaska Whale Foundation also study the animals regularly, so getting a chance to speak with these researchers can add an important conservation dimension to whale watching in Alaska.
6. Getting up close to glaciers
Sailing into Glacier Bay National Park—some 600,000 acres of federally protected marine ecosystems—is a site to behold. Not only is this a great spot to see whales, there are also seven tidewater glaciers in the park and four of these glaciers actively calve icebergs into the bay. Watching and listening as tons of ice crashes down into the water below is an experience unlike any other.
7. Experiencing Alaska’s heritage
Learning about the lore and legends of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast makes for a captivating addition to any trip to Alaska. Experience the ancestral Haida village of SGang Gwaay (Ninstints), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and immerse yourself in the area’s history. It adds an important cultural dimension to the incredible environment visitors travel through.
Alaska is an unforgettable travel destination, and we believe our expeditions are perfect for families looking to explore. To learn more, read about our Alaska itineraries.