THINGS TO SEE IN ALASKA
While a highway trip to Alaska is mostly through beautiful mountainous wilderness and near-wilderness, but there are some special places that you should include in a visit to Alaska.
Mt. McKinley National Park. The top tourist attraction in Alaska is Mt. McKinley National Park. It is just off the Parks Highway about half way between Anchorage and Fairbanks and is readily accessible by road. There is a ninety-mile gravel road that takes you into Eielson Vistors Center, but you need a special permit to drive it. However, there are park buses leaving several times a day. It's an all day trip and affords beautiful views of Mt. McKinley when the weather co-operates. By the way, some of the best views of Mt. McKinley, and its sister peaks Mt. Foraker and Mt. Hunter, are not in the National Park, but from the George Parks Highway, just a few miles south of the Denali Highway (the road to Paxson.)
The Kenai Peninsula. The road extends about 230 miles south from Anchorage to the little fishing village of Homer, one of the most beautifully situated towns you will ever visit, right on the shore of Katchemak Bay. In addition, Homer, Kenai and Seward are all small towns on the Kenai Peninsula that are worth a visit. Please take time to read my journal about our trip to Homer.
Prince William Sound. A great side trip is to take the ferry from Whittier (about 40 miles south of Anchorage) across Prince William Sound to Valdez, and them ride the bike north on the Richardson Highway to connect with either the road to Anchorage or back to the "Lower 48" states. Just south of Valdez is Bligh Reef (sorry, you can't ride to Bligh Reef) the site of the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill. Prince William Sound is a surreal marine wilderness, with more tidewater glaciers than you need to see in a lifetime. We had a boat in Whittier for several years, and have explored this area thoroughly.
Southeast Alaska. This perhaps the most beautiful part of the state, and is accessible only by air and ferry. The ferry traverses the length of Southeast. Rain is a real issue in Southeast, but July and August are normally the driest months of the year.
This is my favorite part of this great state. When you travel to Alaska, plan to come home on the Alaska Marine Highway - the ferry. The trip through the Inside Passage may well be the highpoint of your trip. Before you make your trip plans, read my journal about Southeast.
Outlying areas. There are many other parts of the state that deserve a visit; some of which I haven't seen. The Aleutian chain stretches well over 1,000 miles toward Japan, and looks more like Iceland or Greenland, than the U.S. Access is only by plane. Katmai's Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is a national park with substantial volcanic activity. I haven't been there but I understand it is outstanding, as is Lake Clark National Park, in the same general area. Nome and Kotzebue are Eskimo villages on the Bering Sea that are major tourist attractions, but both are accessible only by plane.
I lived in Alaska for sixteen years, traveled extensively, and still haven't seen much of it. In a four-week trip you will barely scratch the surface.
That's all for now. I hope the overview I've provided helps you understand the trip we took, and also provide some insights about the North Country to those of you who may be contemplating such an adventure.
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