Alaska, The Last Frontier, is a state that has always intrigued only the most adventurous of travelers, or so that would seem.
I always thought of Alaska as a remote and wild place – cold, snowy and full of wild animals. After spending three months in the most northern state of The United States of America, I can confirm the remote wilderness and wild animals, but it’s much more than that.
Alaska is an exciting destination with so much to offer and so much to experience.
If you’ve ever wondered; what is Alaska known for? Then you’re about to find out.
In this guide, we’ve listed some of the most amazing things Alaska is known for, so you can get an understanding on what this state is all about.
- What Is Alaska Known For?
- 1. Long hours of daylight in the summer
- 2. The Northern Lights
- 3. Incredible hiking trails
- 4. The Denali Highway
- 5. Vast wilderness: no cell phone, no cars and no trails
- 6. Amazing wildlife encounters
- 7. A great place for gazing at the stars
- 8. Alaskan cruises
- 9. Salmon fishing
- 10. Whale watching
- 11. Dog sledding
- 12. Glaciers and Fjords
- 13. Trans-Alaska Pipeline
- 14. Klondike Gold Rush
- 15. Supernatural encounters
- Final Thoughts
What Is Alaska Known For?
Below are some of the most amazing things Alaska is known for and many reasons why you should add this unique and rural state to your bucket list.
1. Long hours of daylight in the summer
Many people assume Alaska is cold all year round, but that’s not so much true during the summer months.
In fact, Alaska is also called the land of the midnight sun, so during June and July you will almost get 24 hours of sunlight!
That does also mean that during the winter you get 24 hours of darkness. However, that’s not such a bad things, because with darkness you get…
2. The Northern Lights
That’s right, you can see The Northern Lights in Alaska! This illuminating display typically can be seen in the more northern locations towards the arctic circle.
Most people travel to the Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks (198 miles south of the Arctic Circle) to see this unique natural phenomenon in the sky.
The best time of year to see them are from August until April when the seasons move into Autumn and Winter, as the skies become dark enough to see them.
Typically, The Northern Lights happen at around 10.00pm – 2.00am, but they can happen at any time. Just keep your eyes on the skies!
If you’re only visiting places like Anchorage or Juneau, you may miss out on the lights as they are too far south, but sometimes you get lucky!
Cross the Arctic Circle, see the Northern Lights, and enjoy the landscape of a lifetime in Alaska’s wilderness on this Arctic Circle Northern Lights Full-Day Trip from Fairbanks. See rates and availability.
3. Incredible hiking trails
Alaska takes any hiking experience to a new level as there are many places where you won’t find hiking trails. It’s for you to decide whether to head north, south, east or west.
Alaska is home to the highest peaks in North America, Mount McKinley, which sits at 6,190 meters above sea level. If you want to hike this beast, it will take 23 days and a few oxygen tanks, plus some sledging gear.
So if you would prefer a more manageable hike, I recommend hiking a section of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, which spans over 2,300 miles and follows the historic route of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
This iconic trail takes you through rugged terrain, frozen rivers, and remote wilderness, allowing hikers to immerse themselves in the untamed beauty of Alaska.
Then there’s the challenging Flattop Mountain Trail in Anchorage to the picturesque Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park, or the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway, which weaves through historical gold rush sites and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a first-time visitor, Alaska’s trails cater to all skill levels and offer unforgettable experiences in some of the most pristine wilderness areas on Earth.
You can watch a short video of hiking in Alaska here:
4. The Denali Highway
Another thing that Alaska is famous for is the adventurous ride on Denali Highway – one of the most remote highways in Alaska – a gravel road in partially poor conditions.
We were bouncing around in our remodelled school bus on this road as we made our way from Paxson to Cantwell.
The highway opened in 1957 and was the first road to Denali National Park.
5. Vast wilderness: no cell phone, no cars and no trails
One of the most famous things Alaska is known for is its wilderness.
Out in the wilderness on our own, we had no mobile phone reception and no roads, no Wi-Fi and no way to contact anyone if we were in trouble.
But this is what we came to Alaska for – experiencing the wilderness and getting out of our comfort zones.
If you are planning on camping in Alaska, you will quickly learn to enjoy the freedom and choose your own path.
Just make sure to look out for…
6. Amazing wildlife encounters
Alaska is known for having a huge diversity of wildlife. From grizzly bears to wolves to moose to elk in the forest, to humpback whales, seals and dolphins in the ocean.
It’s even home to the USA National Bird, the Bald Eagle.
We were lucky enough to spot the antlers of a caribou on our visit, which isn’t supposed to be dangerous.
We duck down and watch him curiously looking at us, prancing back and forth to get a better line of sight.
It’s important to know that these are wild animals and could charge at any minute. If you do want to see some animals in Alaska, it’s best to go with a knowledgeable guide or local.
7. A great place for gazing at the stars
What is better in life than sitting next to the campfire, listening to the river, birds, and wind while chatting with your fellow travellers about your trailblazing adventure?
Maybe the fact that most of us decide to sleep outside and gaze at the stars for a while before we fall asleep.
It’s not just The Northern Lights that you can see, most of Alaska gets plunged into total darkness at night time, which makes it the ideal location for star gazing.
8. Alaskan cruises
Alaska has miles of coastline to explore, which is why many visitors opt to visit here by taking on an Alaskan cruise.
Cruises typically start from the South before venturing up the Inside Passage.
This way they can see some of the most breathtaking landscapes of Alaska, from Glacier Bay National Park to Kenai Fjords National Park.
Cruises also take you to traditional villages home to Alaska natives, such as Sitka, which is home to the Tlingit people.
Another popular town to stop by on an Alaskan cruise is Ketchikan where you can see fantastic totem pole displays.
You may like this Alaska cruise with our preferred tour group operator, Globus. It’s a 17 Day Tour from Anchorage to Vancouver includes Denali, Kenai Fjords, and Glacier Bay National Park. Don’t forget to use the discount below when booking!
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9. Salmon fishing
Alaska is renowned for its world-class salmon fishing. With over 627 species inhabiting its waters, Alaska offers abundant opportunities to reel in these prized fish.
Salmon fishing in Alaska is particularly famous due to the numerous salmon runs that occur throughout the year.
From May through November, anglers can target different species of salmon, including king salmon and silver salmon, as they migrate up the rivers and streams.
Alaska is also known for its excellent trout fishing. Rainbow trout and Arctic grayling are plentiful in the state’s crystal-clear rivers and lakes.
Another popular fish in Alaska is halibut, which is also in abundance in Alaska’s waters.
10. Whale watching
From the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean, Alaska is not short of oceans teaming with marine life, including the largest animals of the sea – the whale.
Alaska is home to humpback whales, orcas, and beluga whales, to name a few, which are commonly seen in the Inside Passage.
Sometimes you can even see Gray whales swimming off the coast of Southeast Alaska on their way to their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea during the summer.
Here are a few whale watching tours in Alaska you may like:
11. Dog sledding
Alaska is famous for dog sledding, which has been a popular mode of transport for hundreds of years due to Alaska’s terrain and unique geographical features.
The sport of dog sledding, also known as mushing, is also an integral part of Alaska’s culture.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, often referred to as “The Last Great Race,” is one of the most iconic dog sledding events in the world.
This grueling race covers over 1,000 miles of treacherous Alaskan wilderness, testing the endurance and skill of both mushers and their dogs.
Tourists visiting Alaska can also take part in dog sledding, which is one of the most popular attractions in Alaska. It’s an exhilarating and authentic adventure that will leave lasting memories.
12. Glaciers and Fjords
The glaciers and fjords are some of the most iconic scenes in Alaska and are one of the main reasons why people travel to this state.
Glaciers in Alaska, such as those found in Kenai Fjords National Park and Kodiak Island, are massive rivers of ice that flow from extensive icefields.
These glaciers have shaped the land, carving deep valleys and creating stunning fjords.
Alaska’s glaciers and fjords provide an opportunity to witness the raw power of nature and witness the awe-inspiring beauty of these icy landscapes.
Don’t miss these glacier tours in Alaska:
13. Trans-Alaska Pipeline
The Trans-Alaska Pineline is an 800 mile oil pipe that runs from Valdez Harbour to Prudhoe Bay.
This oil transportation system spans almost the entire length of the country and is known for being the world’s largest pipeline systems.
14. Klondike Gold Rush
The Klondike Gold Rush was an era in 1896 – 1899 where more than 100,000 gold prospectors came to the Yukon region of Alaska and Canada to mine the ample gold supply.
It started when a man named Skookum Jim found gold near the Klondike River.
Word spread and it became the biggest gold rushes in history, estimated to have found over a billion dollars worth of gold.
Today you can see the remains of the Gold Rush era at the Skagway Gold Rush National Historical Park, which is an open-air museum showcasing what it was like during this monumental time.
15. Supernatural encounters
In recent years, Alaska has become a place known for its bizarre supernatural encounters.
Whether that’s alien and UFO sightings to Big Foot, Alaska has attracted many supernatural enthusiasts looking to uncover its secrets.
If you don’t believe me, just watch the Discovery Channel show, Aliens in Alaska!
Alaska is a completely unique state compared to other parts of North America. You just won’t find anywhere else like it.
From its iconic scenery, to its fascinating history, there is nowhere quite as special as Alaska.
We hope this guide helped you understand what Alaska is famous for and gave you some new insight into this mesmerizing state!
Before you go, be sure to check out our guide on things to know before visiting Alaska for more tips for your trip!
Author Bio: Natalie from Infinite Adventures left Germany at the end of 2010 to backpack West Africa. After feeling the freedom of the road, she applied for a tour leading job and since then has been driving overland trucks from Cairo to Capetown and Rio de Janeiro to Quito. After remodelling an old school bus into an ultimate overland vehicle and starting her own adventure company with Dave (who she met travelling and working in Africa) Natalie is on the road again. This time to enjoy the beauty and wilderness of Alaska with like-minded people.