Over twice the size of Texas and boasting a longer coastline than all the other U.S. states combined, Alaska's expansive terrain means that any road trip through it requires careful planning. The roads here can be difficult (particularly in Winter), cellphone coverage patchy and cities few and far between, however; travelers who are prepared and eager will be rewarded with dazzling images of snow-capped peaks, ethereal glaciers, wildlife straight from a Disney tale and lakes that reflect an expanse of white spruce and bright blue sky.
Near the northern most point of Alaska (and the entire united states for that matter) is the distinctive city of Barrow. Home to the native Inupiat Eskimo people for over 1000 years, Barrow's original name,Ukpeagvik, translates to "place where snowy owls are hunted" and gives an indication of the wintry climate of the region. Aside from the the opportunity to experience the Inuit culture, the main draw card for Barrow's visitors is its unusual weather; from early May to August the city has continuous sun and in November is plunged into ten weeks of constant blue twilight.
As well as being incredibly scenic (as you'll find most drives here are), The George Parks Highway is also one of the most important roads in Alaska; acting as an arterial link between the metropolitan cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks and providing access to must-see visitor areas such as Hatcher Pass and Denali National Park.
Though Juneau may be the official capital, the city of Anchorage is certainly the beating heart of Alaska. A stunning year-round destination on it's own, this four-time All-America City winner offers all the activities and ammenitites of an urban center while being only a 30-minute drive from unspoiled wilderness. Further north, in the Alaskan Interior, is the picturesque city of Fairbanks with its gold rush history, healing outdoor hot springs and spectacular view of the famous Northern Lights.
Known as the 'roof of North America', Mt McKinley is the highest peak in the United States and stands like a king amongst the expansive splendor of Denali National Park. Carpeted in tundra and covering nearly 25,000 kilometers with lakes, rivulets, glacier-filled canyons and snow-capped peaks, the Denali National Park is a special part of the world that attracts over 400,000 visitors a year. Most of these visitors come in summer, when the heart of the park can be accessed by bus and the weather is favourable for camping, mountaineering, fishing, wildlife-watching and general sightseeing. Those who brave a visit in winter, however, will experience a greater sense of solace and tranquility – a reward for the challenges put forth by the harsh conditions!
For those wanting a glimpse into an ethereal, near untouched world, a trip to Glacier Bay National Park is a must-do. Located in the southeast edge of Alaska, this park is best accessed and explored by boat. Park up your RV in one of the many fully-equipped campgrounds in Juneau and catch a ferry or flight into Gustavus, where there are a number of boat charter options available. It may not be a budget trip but it does offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to mesmerizing glaciers and fjords, coves of cerulean water and wildlife such as humpback whales, porpoises, seals, and Alaskan brown bears.
Of course, all this is simply a sampler of all that can be experienced in Alaska. This a truly magical place, a land of wonder and mystery and a final frontier that will always remain full of new discoveries.
Here are a couple of great itinerary ideas for travelling around Alaska:
While Juneau may be the official capital, the city of Anchorage is definitely the beating heart of Alaska. Nestled against the backdrop of the craggy Chugach mountains, this four-time All-America City winner offers all the activities and ammenitites of an urban center while being only a 30-minute drive from unspoiled wilderness.