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Soaring snow-covered mountain ranges, stark tundras, towering glaciers, and sprawling forests all collide within the boundaries of Alaska, where you’ll find the highest peak in North America and eight national parks. The state’s vast wilderness is home to grizzly bears, wolves, and moose, as well as off-the-gridders happy to trade the comforts of urban living for the austere beauty of Alaska’s rugged landscape. The ways you can experience this place are myriad: slice through the frontier on a glass-domed train, hitch a ride on a dog sled, or navigate the legendarily scenic Alaska Highway. Even the sun shines differently here. Thanks to Alaska’s location in the top half of the Northern Hemisphere, long summer days culminate in the summer solstice, during which it stays light for nearly 24 hours a day, before transitioning to the dark winter months. These unique features elevate Alaska to a singular state with stellar natural beauty.
Alaska’s major airports are Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), Fairbanks International Airport (FAI), and Juneau International Airport (JUN). Located in Alaska’s largest city, ANC is the most trafficked option. Smaller airports service communities throughout Alaska, and can be a convenient way to get around the largest state in the U.S. Once you’re on the ground, there are several transportation options, including driving, rail travel, and motorcoaches. The Alaska Maritime Highway System is a network of ferries that connects 35 communities and accommodates cars and motorhomes.
Alaska's vast geographical footprint means you can expect a range of weather throughout the state in any season, and timing your visit depends on what activities you want to optimize for. Summers in Alaska can be quite warm, particularly in the interior, and you can expect long, sunny days that make for great hiking. Winters are chilly, dark, and snowy — depending on where you are going, the temperatures can dip well below freezing. This season is ideal for skiing, snowmobiling, and all other kinds of cold weather fun, as well as spotting the Northern Lights. The shoulder seasons bring a mix of cold and warm weather as well as their own enticements, such as sightings of migratory whales and baby animals in the spring and changing leaves in the fall.
Alaska affords travelers many opportunities to get up close and personal with staggeringly large ice formations. In Juneau you can watch brown bears munch on salmon from the safe distance of a viewing platform on the 13-mile-long Mendenhall Glacier. Explore dazzling ice caves — with a seasoned guide — on the Hubbard Glacier near Yakutat, which towers 350 feet above the sealine. A kayak or boat is the preferred way to experience the Columbia Glacier in Valdez, which is one of the fastest moving in the world.
Alaska is one of the best places to see this fantastic atmospheric phenomenon that produces spectacularly colorful, undulating light displays in the night sky. August through April are prime viewing months, and you have your choice of experiences, such as peeping them from a natural hot spring.
At more than 20,300 feet high, this park’s namesake peak draws mountaineers in droves but is hardly the only attraction here. The national park’s six million acres encompass glaciers, rivers, and valleys accessed by a single road and are home to the Big Five mammals: moose, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, and Dall sheep, famous for their extravagantly curved horns.