Alaska is a stunning and mystical place and the unparalleled beauty of its wilderness is a treasure. The rugged state is surprisingly a wonderful destination for a solo trip.
Don’t be fooled though, Alaska is huge. It is larger than California, Texas, and Montana combined and has a longer coastline than all other states combined. It is a monster to explore and requires dedicated amounts of time to discover in its entirety. The majority of the population lives in or around Anchorage, so if you’re looking for a destination where you will be hard pressed to find another soul off the beaten path, then this might just be the place for you.
I have never been a fan of crowds so I usually opt to travel outside of peak seasons and take my chances with more questionable weather instead. Summertime is usually high season in Alaska, with tourists coming and going in July and August. Consider travelling in September when the days are still warm but the air is crisp and the colors of the fall foliage are spectacular.
How much you can explore really depends on how much time you have. If only on a short trip, consider using Anchorage as a base and explore outwards from the city. Travelling by rental car is a really good option because the highways are in great condition and allows more flexibility to stop at the many scenic viewpoints in all directions. These are my recommendations for exploring a small piece of Alaska:
-Spend some time checking out the local trails just outside of Anchorage – there are many hikes ranging in length and difficulty. Hiking to the top of Flattop Mountain provides stunning birds eye views of the city, check out Elutnka Lake and Thunderbird falls for a relaxing walk, or stroll along the ocean on the Tony Knowles Coast Trail during sunset.
-Heading south to Seward, explore the Seward Scenic Byway with the stunning scenery and mountain ranges en route. The highway is equipped with many vehicle turnouts in either direction, to stop and enjoy the views.
-Take some time to hike to Exit Glacier or take a boat to Portage Glacier along the way. There is a well-maintained trail to Exit Glacier and it provides stunning views. For a longer hike, try the Harding Icefield Trail, which takes 6-8 hours to complete.
-To get to Portage Glacier, walk along the shore (possibly with floating icebergs) and buy a ticket for a cruise in the lake that takes you close to the glacier face. Or even find the trailhead past the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center that takes you to Byron Glacier.
-Head South of Anchorage to explore some of the smaller sea side towns. Seward is a small fishing village with a lot of character and very friendly locals. Take a boat tour down into Resurrection Bay to see some of the glaciers in the Kenai Fjords. Opt for a longer tour that continues on into Aialik Bay to see Aialik Glacier and Holgate Glacier. Chances are you’ll see wildlife along the way as well.
-Head North to Denali National Park and explore some of the rugged Wilderness trails.
-Drive through the Whittier Tunnel on the Portage Glacier Highway and drive the longest combined vehicle/railroad tunnel in North America at 4km in length!