If you consider yourself an adventurer at heart, Alaska is one of those destinations you need to slot into your bucket list.
The largest U.S. state by land area, Alaska also happens to be the least populated. But it is in the vast, untamed outdoors of this frosty wilderness that the real magic awaits the adventurous traveler.
Whether it’s hitting the pristine trails, climbing the glaciers, skiing in Alyeska, embarking on whale watching cruises, taking an Alaskan cruise (or two), paddling or fishing, exploring the fascinating museums or national parks, you will understand why this uninhabited natural beauty is called The Last Frontier.
Check out these 15 best Alaska tours you should include in your itinerary.
1. Catch a Flight to or from Denali National Park
Catch the wonder of the Alaskan wilderness from up above as a seasoned pilot guide flies you over multiple points of interest, including glacial valleys, the Alaska Range, and if the weather is happy, the highest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley.
All seats are by the window so everyone can drink in the best views. A voice-activated headset is provided to communicate with the pilot and amongst guests.
This trip is ideal when you want to drastically cut your travel time to or from the Denali National Park area. Flights are scheduled in the late afternoon and evenings, flying to or from Anchorage, Talkeetna, the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks and of course, Denali.
2. Pan for Gold and Enjoy a Sled Dog Adventure
The Yukon Dogs and Gold package is one of those unique, memorable adventures that live long in the memory.
The four-and-a-half-hour tour starts with a trip to the mountainous territory of Yukon.
You will explore the 3,292-foot White Pass elevation as you head to Yukon, making stops to get out and witness multiple natural wonders up close – Alpine valleys, azure glaciers, large mountain lakes, snow-capped mountains, and waterfalls dropping from 3,000 feet.
A guide will enlighten you about the history of this wild land and share information about its flora and fauna, not to mention narrating tales of the famous Alaska gold rush.
The trip is not complete without a 20-minute sled dog ride and some time to feel the thrill of panning for gold in an actual gold rush town.
3. Go on a Self-Guided Audio Tour of Ketchikan
This is an enlightening tour that takes you on a historic journey of Ketchikan, popularly known as the Salmon Capital of the World.
This three-hour trip lets you explore the old fishing village at your own pace.
You will learn about the many legends, including the Stedman Thomas Historic and aboriginal tribes at the Totem Heritage Centre.
Other highlights include the Ketchikan Creel with Salmon Ladder, the Tongrass Historical Museum, and the Thomas Basin Harbor.
The Chief Kyan Totem Museum is a must-visit, so is Dolly’s House with the Red Light District.
Hear about the Legend of Raven Stealing the Sun and a lot of other informative and stimulating stuff.
4. 3-Hour White Pass Summit Bus Tour from Skagway
This scenic bus tour leaves from the Pacific Ocean in Skagway, gliding through the Gold Rush National Park and up the Klondike Highway which parallels the Yukon Route Rail Road.
The journey takes you up over 3,200 feet in 15 minutes and is the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the coastal mountains as you learn about the wonderful history of this region.
There are plenty of stops along the way and your local guide ensures you don’t miss any of the popular attractions en route to Canada.
5. Visit Eagle Sanctuary and Rainforest Wildlife Center in Ketchikan
The family-friendly trip starts with a scenic eight-mile journey along the coast and heads to the exclusive Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary, a private reserve nestled in the forested mountains at Herring Cove.
Here, you will find seals, the black bear, an array of birds – including, of course, the bald eagle, which is the main highlight – not to mention other species lured by the salmon.
Get into the heart of the forest with your naturalist guide and get a feel of what an unspoiled forest actually looks and smells like.
This tour is nothing short of a true treat for the environmentalist. At the end trail, you will get a chance to feed Alaskan reindeer and see raptors in close range.
6. Get Up Close with Bears with an Excursion to Icy Strait Shore
The Icy Strait Shore was named by National Geographic Bear Island; it boasts the highest concentration of bears anywhere in the world – 1-2 brown bears/sq. mile.
And that’s what this four-hour tour offers: a chance to get up close with this furry kind.
A seasoned guide will take you to key points to get a glimpse of these large mammals, in addition to other wildlife that call this place home.
These include the Sitka black-tail deer, mink, otter, red squirrels, beaver, bald eagles, marten, seabirds, and wild ducks.
7. Visit Mushers Camp and Go on a Sled Dog Forest Discovery Tour
Running between the months of May and September, this family-friendly tour is one of the most popular packages when vacationing in Alaska.
It takes you to Mushers Camp, the location where the sled dogs train and play. You will hear interesting stories about the famous Alaskan dog races and get to see the close bond mushers share with their dog teams.
More than that, the tour takes you on a once-in-a-lifetime trip through the Tongass National Rainforest as you enjoy a scenic sled ride pulled by 16 strong huskies.
Hot and cold beverages are provided during the two-and-a-half-hour trip and infants can join in the fun at no extra charge, provided parents keep them on their lap.
8. Embark on an Evening Getaway in the Arctic Circle
This 4.5-hour tour is one of the most comprehensive and memorable trips to the Arctic Circle you can take on an Alaskan cruise.
Experienced Alaskan bush pilots will fly you 225 miles (362 km) north of Denali to the remote city of Bettles.
Its roots trace back to 1898 at the time of the last great Gold Rush in Alaska and it served as a strategic aviation hub during WWII.
Located at the foot of the Brooks Range, 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle, this community of just a dozen residents is engulfed by one of America’s last pristine wildernesses and is home to the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.
A local guide will take you on a tour of the town and the neighboring Eskimo village of Evansville.
Choose between additional time to explore the village on your own or a dinner at the historic Bettles Lodge.
9. Go on a Backcountry Safari in Denali
Board a 4×4 and take an off-road safari deep into the Alaskan backcountry.
The adventure takes you to Stampede Trail, an oft-forgotten road that was fashioned by early miners searching for gold and antimony.
The Stampede Trail was brought to the public’s domain by Jon Krakauer’s 1996 best-selling novel, Into The Wild, and later by Sean Penn’s acclaimed film going by the same title.
During the 3.5-hour adventure, your guide will detail the area’s history and show you plenty of interesting sights along the way.
You will have ample time to enjoy the vast plains and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of Mt. McKinley on a clear day.
Expect to see wildlife such as bears, foxes, caribou, moose, and other smaller creatures.
10. Take a Self-Guided Audio Tour of Seward
This is an informative three-hour tour of the fascinating port city of Seward that allows you to explore the picturesque location at your own pace with an audio guide.
Drink in the beauty of this quaint town as you learn about its history, from the time it was flattened by an earthquake, tidal waves, and fire, to bouncing back into a buzzing community that is today the proud home of the iconic Iditarod National Historic Trail and the beautiful Alaska Sea Life Center.
Other attractions include the Resurrection Bay Historical Society Seward Museum, the Old Alaska Railroad Depot, and interesting sights of Seward’s quirky characters.
11. Skagway Shore Excursion: Full-Day Tour of the Yukon
One of the best Skagway tours, this one excellently blends wildlife and scenery opportunities.
It is a full-day guided excursion that starts at Skagway and takes you through the scenic Klondike Highway by minibus, all the way to Yukon, Canada’s westernmost territory.
There will be plenty of stops to enjoy the views and take photos on an expedition that leads you through the natural splendor that southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory are known for.
Stop by the Caribou Crossing Trading Post once you get to Carcross area to browse through exhibits at the museum and meet sled dog huskies and pups at the dog sled camp.
In addition to wildlife, you will see the spectacular Emerald Lake, as well as Lakes Bennett, Tutshi and Tagish.
A traditional Yukon-style lunch comes wrapped in the package.
12. Whale Watch and Mendenhall Glacier Combo Tour
This five-hour combo tour provides a wonderful chance to enjoy two of the most popular activities in the Alaskan capital of Juneau: whale watching and a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier.
Roundtrip transportation is provided from Mt. Roberts Tramway and the package has flexible times to suit various schedules.
The cruise, aboard a 24 or 49 passenger boat, lasts two hours and the captain slows the boat to allow you perfect sightings of the whales, with a naturalist on board to answer any questions you might have.
Then head over to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and have some free time for a walk down the nature and hiking trails as you take your photos.
13. Arctic Circle Day Trip from Fairbanks with Lunch
A tour to Alaska is not complete without visiting the Arctic where, depending on the time of year, the days or nights run for 24 hours straight.
This is a small group tour limited to eight people and involves a trip on Dalton Highway as you make your way along the Yukon River.
Your guide will explain the region’s unique geology and this is a great opportunity to learn about Eskimo culture as well.
There will be plenty of personal time to walk around, take photos and enjoy a warm bowl of homemade stew for lunch.
What’s more, at the end of the tour, there will be an Arctic Circle certificate to show for it.
14. Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise with Optional Buffet Lunch
This is a five-hour tour that takes you on an exploration of the beautiful waters of Resurrection Bay aboard the Kenai Fjords cruise.
The 55-mile round trip will take you along a rugged coastline from where you can catch awe-inspiring views of the famous alpine glaciers snuggled high up the mountains.
Sail past Bear Glacier as you snap Instagram-worthy photos, then make a stop to view colonies of sea lions and seabird breeding grounds up close.
Keep an eye out for whales, Dall’s porpoises, sea otters, eagles and mountain goats along the way, as a ranger from the National Park provides onboard commentary.
There is the option to treat yourself to an Alaskan salmon and prime rib buffet onboard.
15. Juneau Shore Excursion: Helicopter Tour and Guided Icefield Walk
Dock at Juneau port and go on a 2.5-hour adventure-packed exploration of the shore.
It starts with a narrated helicopter ride over the Juneau Icefield, before landing on Herbert Glacier, where you will embark on a guided tour of the Juneau Icefield by foot.
This is the perfect opportunity to learn about the Alaskan wilderness and it is not short of amazing scenery to capture some memorable photos.
This package includes transport to and from the port.