Spotlight on Alaska
Alaska. Imagine your vacation in Alaska for one moment. Delight at the sight of a grizzly bear with a cub or two. That instant when the silence of a misty fjord is shattered by a pod of giant humpback whales, breaching high into the air, then crashing back against the sea. While your floatplane flies over crystal glaciers, toward the midnight sun, remember: This is Alaska. This is real. This is the adventure of a lifetime. Traveling in Alaska is like traveling no other place on earth. There are 586,000 square miles here and many possibilities. Choose from wildlife viewing, sea kayaking and guided glacier hikes. Relax aboard a one-day cruise, pan for gold, bait a rod for Alaska’s world famous King salmon fishing.
Juneau is one of America's most beautiful state capitals, with the looming summits of Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts providing a gorgeous backdrop. Once part of Alaska's Gold Rush, the city boasts natural and manmade attractions. Downtown is filled with many vibrant buildings, including must-see St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, which houses artwork and artifacts dating back to the 18th century. From the bright mural in Marine Park to the carvings in House of Wickersham, downtown is filled with Alaska's own unique brand of culture and architecture. Often hailed as Juneau's most impressive sight, nearby Mendenhall Glacier is approximately 12 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. See the glacier on a float trip or a "flightseeing" adventure, or hike up one of its trails for a closer inspection. For a bird's-eye view, the Mt. Roberts Tramway offers a short, six-minute trek to the top of Mt. Roberts, 1800 feet above the city. If wildlife is your passion, scenic Admiralty Island has the world's highest concentration of brown bears.
Denali National Park and Preserve defines the Alaskan Experience. Towering above it all is Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America. At 20,320 feet, its summit beckons more than 1,000 climbers each year who brave the elements for the chance to scale its majestic face. Denali encompasses 6 million acres of forests, tundra, glaciers and mountains. Moose, caribou, sheep and bears free to roam a wide area of land untouched by man. There are ample opportunities for animal watching, whether it is a grizzly foraging for berries or a golden eagle soaring through the crisp, clean Alaskan air. Denali is one of the few places where visitors come in contact with the Alaskan tundra - a "vast, rolling, treeless plain." The tundra starts at 2,500 feet and extends up along the massive Alaska Range. Muldrow Glacier, which descends 16,000 feet from the upper slopes of Mt. McKinley, comes within one mile of the road.
Skagway - This "Gateway to the Klondike" watched as fortune-seekers headed to Chilkoot and White Pass Trails during Alaska's Gold Rush. Today, feel like a prospector in Skagway, as you walk along its rustic boardwalks and frontier-style storefronts. This cozy town offers a pleasant respite from the hustle and bustle of most cities. With classic cars and one of the oldest narrow-gauge railroads in the world, the city retains the flavor of days gone by and remains an important link to Alaska's history. A stroll down Broadway is a must. Highlights include Arctic Brotherhood Hall. Other buildings like the Trail of '98 Museum, Corrington's Museum of Alaskan History and the Alaskan Wildlife Adventure and Museum present different facets of prospecting times. Before hitting famous Chilkoot Trail, there are other well-marked trails to try. Hiking to Lower Dewey Lake is an easy 20-minutes, and there are more adventurous trails to remote Sturgill's Landing, Upper Dewey Lake and Devil's Punchbowl. The White Pass Scenic Railway and Eagle Preserve Wildlife Quest provide additional options.
Kenai - Magnificent Kenai Fjords stirs the souls of artists inspired by locations like this. The ice-sculpted "Alaska's playground" begs to be explored. Long, intricate trails afford some of the best views, including an up-close encounter with scenic Exit Glacier, the most famous of more than 30 glaciers surrounding spectacular Harding Icefield and the crown jewel of Kenai Fjords. This unrelenting blanket of white is punctured by peaks of high, rocky mountains, which are best viewed at the crest of the steep, 4.5 mile-long Harding Icefield Trail. In addition to hiking, nearly every other outdoor activity can be found here, including kayaking, river rafting, mountain climbing, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, tours by land, air and sea - even dogsledding. Glacier viewing is popular in the most impressive of the park's seven long fjords - Aialik Bay, where glaciers launch icebergs into the sea. Resurrection Bay holds the perfect opportunity to see humpback whales, orcas, seals, sea lions, otters, porpoises, and puffins. Blue-green Kenai River is perfect for trophy-size fishing.
Inside Passage - Imagine being confronted with a myriad of mysterious channels. Following each fjord to the interior, encounter massive mountain ranges, towering cliffs, tumbling waterfalls, virginal forests of two-hundred foot tall spruce, while whales, bears, seals, salmon, eagles and other wildlife. Always they were stopped by an inevitable face of ice - glaciers pushing inexorably downward to meet the sea. What must have been a mapmaker's nightmare is today cherished as the continent's last great untouched wilderness, harboring the world's largest temperate rain forest. An Eden of the North to captivate the every modern-day explorer. The string of islands of the Inside Passage create a protective barrier to the open sea running from the Washington State/Canadian border and the bottom of Vancouver Island all the way up to the top of Chichagof Island, where the Gulf of Alaska begins its curve westward, offering a supremely serene cruising environment in some of the most dramatic surroundings on earth.
Anchorage / Seward - Located at the upper end of Cook Inlet in the Gulf of Alaska, Anchorage is Alaska's largest community. This popular tourist destination and crossroads for global air travel is only minutes away from the recreational areas bordering the Gulf of Alaska. Seward and its surroundings comprise a land of memorable beauty--saltwater bays, blue glaciers, majestic mountains and alpine valleys. Located on the Kenai Peninsula at the head of Resurrection Bay, the city is one of Alaska's oldest communities, and also one of the most scenic.