28 Amazing Hidden Gems in Alaska

Famous for its dramatic icy landscapes, gaping gorges, stunning glaciers, glistening fjords, fascinating wildlife, cold conditions, and for being a remote wilderness, Alaska is often referred to as the USA’s last frontier.

Cruising, fishing, and wildlife spotting are some of the most popular tourist activities in the state.

Separated from the contiguous states by Canada, Alaska was bought from Russia in 1897. It finally became the 49th state in January 1959, some 47 years after the 48th state (Arizona) joined the union. It beat Hawaii, which joined in August 1959, so as not to be the last state to become part of the USA.

Alaska is the biggest state in the USA. It is also the most sparsely populated state, with much of the population concentrated in a few key areas. Additionally, Alaska is one of the least populous states in the nation, having more people than only Wyoming and Vermont and similar population numbers to North Dakota.

Many indigenous groups inhabited the lands in the past, with some still remaining today. It is believed that early Russian settlement occurred in the mid-17th century. The first European boat to land on Alaska’s shores is thought to have been in the mid-18th century, with a settlement established in 1784.

The area was named Alaska during the Russian colonial era, originally only referring to the peninsula and not the plethora of islands that sprinkle the surrounding seas.

Within the Arctic Circle, Alaska’s islands are home to many active volcanoes. The state has in excess of three million lakes, has more than 3,000 rivers, and is home to half of all the world’s glaciers. The USA’s two biggest forests can be found in Alaska. The highest point in North America is located in Alaska—the 20,237-foot-tall Mount McKinley.

It’s fair to say that raw, rugged, and wild Alaska is a fantastic destination for those who appreciate the awesome majesty of Mother Nature.

Many parts of the state cannot be accessed by road or rail. Fly across the pristine landscapes, hop on a snow machine or have an ATV adventure to discover amazing Alaska. While most of the state is pretty much a rare jewel waiting to be explored, here are some especially hidden gems in Alaska:

1. Bubbly Mermaid Oyster Bar, Anchorage

Not all of Alaska’s hidden gems are natural attractions. The dinky Bubbly Mermaid Oyster Bar is an intimate and chic dining spot in the state’s largest city of Anchorage. It’s tucked away down a tiny side street and it is easy to miss if you don’t know where it is. Stylish and sophisticated, this is THE place to go for a high-class dining experience in the locale.

With a feeling that you’ve been transported to a top-notch bistro in Paris, the Bubbly Mermaid Oyster Bar specialises in oysters and champagne. Indulge in a glass or two of bubbly as you relish delectable bounties from the sea.

Only authentic champagne from France’s Champagne Region is served here. You won’t be short on options, though, with more than a hundred bottles to choose between.

Oysters can be enjoyed raw, baked, or fried, with an enticing assortment of toppings that are sure to make choosing a tough task. A chalkboard advertises other light bites, usually included dishes like garlic toast, bruschetta, seafood cocktail, salad, and crab cakes.

The quirky homemade bar was built using reclaimed wood to look like the front part of a boat. Surrounded by a few bar stools it’s a great spot to strike up conversation while listening to the French music that plays in the background. Oyster shells artfully adorn the walls and hang from the ceilings, and nautical-themed items are placed throughout the small eatery.

2. Eklutna Historical Park, Eklutna

Eklutna Historical Park

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Eklutna Historical Park

Eklutna is a small village on the outskirts of Anchorage. It is the area’s oldest inhabited place and was originally home to the Dena’ina people, the only members of the larger Northern Athabascan group to live alongside saltwater.

The village was later settled by Russian missionaries, leading to a blend of traditions from indigenous culture and Russian orthodoxy.

Today’s visitors can look around the historic and humble log-built Russian Orthodox Church, the Old St Nicholas Church. Then, visit the New Saint Nicholas Church, a more modern wooden building whose white paint gleams in the sun’s rays and whose burnished onion-shaped domes add to the building’s attractiveness.

A three-barred cross stands in the grounds, and there are many brightly coloured spirit houses in the cemetery. Beautiful spirit houses were erected by the Athabaskan to honour the dead. Here at Eklutna Historical Park, indigenous graves have both a spirit house and a Christian Orthodox cross, combining two very different cultural death rituals. Graves of non-native people are marked with only a cross.

You can combine a visit to the historical park with the blue-green Eklutna Lake, a nice place for picnicking, walking, cycling, camping, and kayaking.

Check out the recommended hotels in Alaska (AK)

3. Miller Comb Museum, Homer

Contained within a family home, the Miller Comb Museum in Homer boasts the biggest collection of decorative hair combs in the world. Whoever knew that anyone would find combs so fascinating?!

The museum has more than 3,000 exhibits, all part of a private collection owned by Mrs Miller. Her obsession with ornamental combs began when she was a beauty school student back in the 1950s. She fell in love with the attractive hair pieces, appreciating that a comb is not only an item to pull through the hair to make it look neat and tidy, but can also be a beautiful accessory.

Mrs Miller’s early married years were financially challenging, living with her childhood sweetheart-turned-husband in a trailer while he tried to eke out a living in the construction industry. Her love for combs never waned, however, and as soon as funds allowed she began to indulge her passion and started to collect antique combs at second-hand markets. She scoured high and low to add to her growing treasure trove.

The collection today contains almost every type of comb imaginable. Big and small, pretty and practical, the combs are made from all manner of materials and adorned with diverse decorative touches. Some are in pristine condition while others show the signs of age. There are combs from all around the world.

If bizarre museum collections are your cup of tea, don’t forget to call ahead and make an appointment to view the extensive comb collection in Homer.

4. Serpentine Hot Springs, Nome

Serpentine Hot Springs

While not exactly in Nome, located a 90-mile flight away, Serpentine Hot Springs can only be accessed by air (in the winter) so it’s a relatively short journey. If you’re feeling active, the hot springs can also be reached by foot in the summer months.

Found within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, the hot waters are said to have healing, soothing, and curing properties. Native peoples have long visited the waters to bathe, with indigenous shamans regularly meeting here in times gone by. Healers also took followers to the waters.

The dramatic granite rocks that surround the site add to the rugged beauty, and you can lap up scenic views while soaking. Bathing here is especially surreal during the harsh winter, when the landscapes are covered with thick layers of snow and ice. It might be difficult to actually bring yourself to strip down to enter the water, but when you do you’ll be pleased.

There’s a cabin close to the springs where you can change and store your belongings, and accommodation is available close by.

Spend long days hiking in the peaceful wilderness, looking out for caribou, moose, and bears, and then soothe your muscles in the delightfully warm water.

5. Goose Creek Tower, Willow

Goose Creek Tower

A fanciful home that stands alone in the woods of Willow, the unusual Goose Creek Tower pokes up from the trees, reaching towards the sky in all its obscure glory. A narrow river meanders past the property and there are no other dwellings in the immediate vicinity.

Officially named Goose Creek Tower by its creator, a lawyer called Phillip Weidner, people who know of the tower often refer to it as the Doctor Seuss House.

The 185-foot-tall home is the product of Weidner’s imagination turned into reality. It sure helps that he also has a degree in engineering!

Mr. Weidner apparently planned to construct a basic two-floor log cabin in the woods. Ambition and creativity quickly took over, though, with level upon level added to the growing building. There are several interior and exterior staircases and ladders to climb up through the unique building.

The top of the tower provides sweeping views across the surrounding landscapes and front-row seats for the marvellous natural spectacle of the Northern Lights dancingly illuminating the skies in various colours.

Unfortunately, the tower is not open for visitors so you’ll have to marvel at the curiosity from outside. Do respect the boundaries as you gawk in wonderment and remember that it is on private property.

6. Pasagshak Bay, Kodiak Island

Pasagshak Bay

Kodiak Island is pretty remote in itself, but the scenic Pasagshak Bay brings a new meaning to remoteness.

A hotspot for locals in the know, the area sees few outsiders. It can be reached by road, following a gorgeous stretch of coastline, with the scenic journey being part of the overall experience.

Brave, dedicated, or possibly unhinged, depending on which way you look at it, folk surf in the icy waters, relying on dry suits to protect them from the biting cold. Pasagshak Bay offers plenty of stunning vistas and is a pleasant place for a BBQ and walks along the beach. You may even spot whales swimming through the waves.

Big white buildings loom in the distance; these are part of a commercial rocket launching facility. Detour to Fossil Beach while in the area and see what remnants from the past you can find on the shore. The Fishing Bridge is perfect for keen anglers.

7. Adak National Forest, Aleutian Islands

Adak National Forest

Although not officially recognised by official institutions, locals insist that this area is a national forest. With around just 30 trees, it would be the tiniest national forest in the entire nation. Nonetheless, Aleutians are resolute that Adak National Forest is, indeed, a national forest.

Pine trees were originally planted in the otherwise barren area by the US military. An army base was established at Adak in response to Japan having troops on two of the other Aleutian Islands during the Second World War.

The troops were understandably miserable living in the local conditions. To try and boost morale, an army general decided to plant a few pine trees to spread some Christmas cheer among the soldiers.

One lonely tree survived the harsh conditions. Witty soldiers erected a sign that read, “You are now entering and leaving the Adak National Forest”—even the cold and boredom couldn’t snuff out the sass!

Long after the troops left, around 30 more trees sprung to life, beating the climate against the odds. Locals are fond of the tiny forest and decorate the trees with seasonal gaiety every December.

8. Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound

Harriman Fjord

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Harriman Fjord

Nearby fjords in Prince William Sound may hog most of the attention, but this simply means that those who do visit the stunning Harriman Fjord can have the area almost to themselves.

Spectacular glaciers rise majestically from the waters, including the appropriately named Surprise Glacier and the eight-mile-long Harriman Glacier.

This picturesque jewel was discovered by chance, when an expedition decided to explore a narrow passage. On sailing along the channel they were shocked to find enormous calving glaciers and towering mountains.

The cliffs hide gorgeous waterfalls and you may spot sheep, goats, and bears on the shore. The area is also home to whales, otters, sea lions, and seals, as well as plentiful bird life. Peek down the nearby Ether Passage and you’ll find one of North America’s biggest salmon hatcheries.

Kayaking through the calm waters is possible, with little around you except stunning views and the sounds of nature.

9. Tiny Church, Soldotna

Tiny Church Soldotna

Soldotna is a small Alaskan community on the Kenai Peninsula with around 4,000 people. Fishing is the main source of income for local families.

God-fearing residents can always get closer to the Lord with the village’s Tiny Church. Although the village has a larger and grander church, the adjacent domed Trinity Christian Centre, the bigger building is only open during certain hours of the day. In contrast, people seeking spiritual comfort can access the Tiny Church at any hour of the day or night.

Open around the clock, the Tiny Church provides a peaceful place for prayer and respite from everyday life. Those seeking solitude and tranquility will certainly find it here within the sacred stone walls. A cross stands on top of a small bell tower.

The neighbouring church is also well worth a peek, if open. Even if closed, the half-golf-ball-like design makes for some interesting exterior shots.

10. Igloo City, Cantwell

Igloo City Hotel

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Igloo City Hotel

A strange and somewhat sorrowful sight in the middle of nowhere, Igloo City is a sad shell in one of Alaska’s remotest areas.

Building of Igloo City commenced in the 1970s, with the intention of creating a nice hotel in the area. The project was never finished, though, due to difficulties in complying with stringent building regulations.

The idea was abandoned, along with the unfinished building, leaving the never-completed hotel to fall to rack and ruin. The years have seen much degeneration, deterioration, and decay.

Though several hopefuls have tried to rejuvenate the site and bring the hotel to life, none have been successful. It still sands forlornly empty, the insides never finished and the rooms having never housed a single guest.

The large four-storey building is now something of an eyesore in the area. Intrepid fans of abandoned premises and urban decay may, however, find something strangely interesting about the never-quite-born Igloo City. Do take care if you sneak a peek inside; you never know which parts are going to break or fall next.

Check out the recommended hotels in Alaska (AK)

11. Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage & Bald Eagle Preserve Visitor Center, Klukwan

Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage Center

Klukwan is located a short distance from Alaska’s adventure capital of Haines. The settlement started as a Chilkat Tlingit village alongside a relatively busy trading route. It is the only Chilkat village to remain in the area. The name was derived from a Tlingit phrase that means the Eternal Village.

Klukwan is a great place to see traditional indigenous ways of life in southeastern Alaska. Locals still rely on traditional methods to exist, and the long cultural history is kept alive. The Tlingit language is still spoken here, and rich oral traditions are handed down through the generations. While people swapped communal living for single-family homes, there are a couple of, now-empty, clan houses in the village.

Established in 2016, Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage & Bald Eagle Preserve Visitor Center seeks to conserve and protect the local heritage and significant artefacts. It’s a fantastic place to learn more about local life and traditions and interact with people who have called the area home for many years.

While still a relatively new site we guess that, as word spreads, this will become a popular attraction on the tourist trail. Visit soon before it’s no longer a hidden gem.

12. Kennicott Ghost Town, McCarthy

Kennicott Ghost Town

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Kennicott Ghost Town

Maintained and protected by the National Park Service, Kennicott is an old and abandoned mining town. Sometimes also spelt as Kennecott, it was once a hive of activity with a thriving copper mining industry.

The area drew interest in the year 1900, and within just a few years mines had opened and a town had sprung up. When resources had been depleted and there was no more mining to be done, the mines were closed and the people left. By November 1938, Kennicott had become a ghost town.

Pay a visit today and you’ll find an eerie and deserted area that looks like human life should be present—but it isn’t. You’d be forgiven for expecting to hear the raucous chatter of miners or to see a face appear at a window.

Step into the now-empty miners’ cottages and see where the workmen once lived. Tour the gigantic mill and power station, see the bunkhouses, and visit the now-silent train depot. The red buildings stand in beautiful contrast to the soaring mountains and glaciers in the distance.

If you’re feeling active you can follow one of the area’s hiking trails. Stop by the tiny village of McCarthy, previously a place for fun and hedonism for the miners, and what were once busy hotels, brothels, saloons, restaurants, and snooker halls.

McCarthy is also home to the McCarthy-Kennecott Historical Museum, where you can take a step back in time and learn more about the area’s past.

13. Bear Lake, Seward

Bear Lake Seward

A popular swimming destination for locals but little visited by tourists, Bear Lake is the place to go if you want to feel like a true Alaskan. Take a deep breath and jump into the chilly waters for a refreshing summertime dip. Alternatively, try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding.

Don’t fret, though, if you don’t want to get wet; activities like kayaking and canoeing are also a pleasant way to enjoy the shimmering lake without needing to dry off afterwards. Unless, of course, you fall in!

Look out for salmon swimming through the clear waters, sometimes attracting bears who want to fish for their supper. Eagles often soar overhead too, eager to swoop and catch something tasty.

Bear Lake is equally as alluring in the winter months, with ice skating a cool way to glide across the frozen surface. If there’s snow you can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoe hiking in the winter wonderland around the edges of the frozen lake.

The lake stretches for two miles. Just a short drive from Seward, it’s easily accessible.

14. Shrine of St. Therese, Juneau

Shrine of St. Therese Juneau

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Shrine Of St. Therese Juneau

Situated around 20 miles from the heart of Alaska’s capital of Juneau, the Shrine of St. Therese is on a small tidal island. It is connected by a causeway, though, allowing visitors to get to the shrine easily.

The sacred spot honours the state’s patron saint. Born in a small town in the north of France in the early 1870s, the Carmelite nun died at the young age of 24. Her life may have been short but her impact on Catholics was profound.

In the 1930s it was decided to build a shrine to revere the saint near to Juneau. Hard-working and devoted volunteers collected thousands upon thousands of stones to build the chapel and other structures.

With an external appearance of a structure that could have been lifted right out of rural France, the chapel’s interiors are rather plain. Devotional pictures hang from the white walls and a small cross, flanked by ceremonial candles, sits on the simple wooden altar.

The original Way of the Cross stone structures were built in the 1940s, though newer sculptures were added in the late 1980s. Devout Catholics can work their way around the stations, remembering Christ’s last mortal day.

Follow the Good Shepherd Rosary Trail and admire the replica of The Pieta by Michelangelo. Stroll through the serene gardens and soak up the sweeping views. See the 2001 Merciful Love Labyrinth. Pick up religious gifts and souvenirs from the small shop.

15. Golden Eagle Saloon, Ester

The Golden Eagle Saloon

A rustic and friendly spot in Ester, the Golden Eagle Saloon is relaxed and atmospheric. The establishment also extends a warm welcome to your canine buddies that want to step inside out of the cold. Spruce trees surround the inviting bar.

Some locals look upon the Golden Eagle Saloon as a home from home, though for most outsiders it’s a cool little bar that’s away from the beaten track.

While you shouldn’t expect fancy fare, the eatery is great for affordable, filling, and tasty food. Ramp up the novelty factor and grill your own burger just the way you like it. The indoor grill and stove help to create a rather nostalgic air.

The fire keeps things nice and toasty in the chillier months, and donations for firewood are gratefully appreciated.

You can call in for just a drink too; the saloon has a wide selection of bottled beers as well as draught IPAs, wines, spirits, and soft drinks. How about a game of pool with a friend, old or new?

16. Xaasaa Cheege Ts’eniin

Upward Sun River Site

Quite a morbid hidden attraction in Alaska, Xaasaa Cheege Ts’eniin is both the name of the site and the name given to the remains of an Ice Age child found at the site. The name translates literally into Upward Sun River Mouth Child.

The skeletal remains date back some 11,500 years and are the oldest human remains to have been found in all of North America. They were discovered in 2011 in what was once an ancient fire pit!

Experts say that the skeleton is that of a girl of around three years of age. Examinations of the skeleton’s teeth indicated a link between the child and both Native Americans and Northeast Asians.

The fire pit where the girl was found was within one of the first permanent dwellings from prehistory to have been uncovered in North America. The presence of animal remains suggests that the pit was used for cooking meals before being used to cremate the child and becoming her gravesite.

There are some people that believe that the fire pit never stopped being used as a hearth, and that the little girl was actually cooked to be eaten! Although this theory isn’t commonly accepted, the fire pit and its remains do give great insights into how early humans survived in this part of the world.

The site isn’t generally open to the public so if you are absolutely dying to visit you should arrange prior permission.

17. Anchorage Memorial Park, Anchorage

Anchorage Memorial Park

Although not secret in the sense of nobody knowing about it, Anchorage Memorial Park is a hidden gem due to the few tourists who visit the cemetery and the nuggets of history buried—literally!—in the graveyard.

Also referred to as Anchorage Cemetery, the huge burial ground is spread across 22 acres. Established in 1915, it is the city’s oldest cemetery.

So, what’s so appealing about visiting a cemetery while on vacation? Well, this is the final resting place of some of the city’s earliest residents, the people who founded what is now Alaska’s largest city.

Not only a burial ground, though, the cemetery is also a memorial to honour Alaskans who have helped the state to develop and raised awareness of the wilderness throughout the world.

Graves include those of Asa and Alice Martin, early settlers who lived in a tent before acquiring land, constructing a house, and operating a dairy. Their son was responsible for beginning the city’s first clinic. Johnny Jones also lies in the cemetery, a lonely man who failed to achieve his goals of riches.

A fairly new addition to the historic cemetery is the Columbarium Wall. Instead of being buried here, people can also have their cremated remains put into one of the small niches in the attractive wall.

18. The Lady of the Lake, Fairbanks

Lady Of The Lake

Eerie, ghostly, and altogether quite unworldly, the Lady of the Lake is an old aircraft that lies half submerged in an Alaskan Lake.

Located within Fairbanks; Eielson Air Force Base, this is one unusual secret gem that may well have to remain hidden; people cannot access the military base without either a visitor’s pass or a military ID card.

If you are lucky enough to be able to enter the base and see the Lady of the Lake you’ll find a retired plane, which was once used to check the weather conditions around the North Pole, in the lake. For aviation buffs, it’s a WB-29 Superfortress.

So, how did the lady end up in the lake in the first place? After being taken out of service in the 1950s, the plane had all her insides and major parts stripped away to leave just a shell. She was then partially submerged in the lake to be used for training purposes.

It’s now too dangerous to use the plane for training so she just stays in the lake, a shadow of her former grand self.

19. Babbling Book, Haines

Babbling Book Haines

Calling all bookworms! Don’t miss the cool Babbling Book if passing through Haines. The cute little bookshop has a wide assortment of books, along with stationery supplies, diaries, calendars, cards, maps, small toys, puzzles, posters, gifts, and trinkets.

The store sells a mixture of fiction and non-fiction books. Diverse genres of fiction can be found on the shelves, with romance novels, psychological thrillers, pages filled with horror and gore, action stories, fantasy realms, sci-fi wonders, and more.

When it comes to non-fiction, whether you’re looking for an interesting biography, an educational textbook, a new cookery book, DIY tips, gardening advice, or something else entirely, you’re sure to find something suitable here.

There’s also a good choice of books for kids—it’s never too early to appreciate a good read!

The store has cool seasonal decorations and window displays at some special times of the year too.

20. Orca Island Cabins, Seward

Orca Island Cabins Seward

Sitting on a private island and operated by long-term Alaskan residents, Orca Island Cabins are a great place to retreat from the rest of the world, at least for a few blissful and idyllic days.

Get your glamping game on with a stay in a cosy yurt on the island. Each beautiful yurt offers stylish comfort nestled in nature. All are spacious, light, and airy. With a queen-sized bed and a double futon, the yurts are ideal for a romantic retreat, a family getaway, or a fun weekend with friends. Guests also have a private bathroom, a deck with a BBQ, an indoor seating area, and a well-equipped kitchen.

Do not forget that you’ll need to take your own food with you. Drinking water is, however, provided. Yurts come with firewood. You can borrow fishing equipment, paddleboards, kayaks, and small rowing boats to make the most of your outdoor experience.

Your break can be as active or as chilled out as you want it to be. Activities include hiking, whale watching, beach combing, and wildlife spotting.

21. Hammer Museum, Haines

Hammer Museum Haines

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Hammer Museum Haines

Whether you’re a keen DIY-er, a pro builder, a hammer enthusiast (it could be possible!), or a fan of quirky collections, the Hammer Museums in Haines is an unusual attraction.

As the name suggests, the museum is entirely dedicated to hammers. Big hammers, small hammers, and hammers in almost any conceivable colour are displayed with pride.

The museum is one of the world’s only museums to focus entirely on hammers. We suppose that’s not really all that surprising.

Even if you don’t plan on spending long browsing the collection the museum is still worth a visit to see the gigantic hammer statue that stands in front of the 100-year-old building.

Inside, you’ll find historic hammers that were used by the ancient Romans through to modern-day tools. And, if you thought that hammers were only used for knocking in nails and building stuff, you’d be mistaken. The museum details the many uses of hammers, including by auctioneers, lawyers, doctors, musicians, bankers, and more.

The museum was founded by a man called Dave Pahl. Originally from the state of Ohio, he moved to Alaska for greater self-sufficiency. He learnt the trade of a blacksmith and began to collect tools. He also enjoys restoring old tools and has become something of an expert in hammers.

22. Diamond Creek Trail, Homer

Diamond Creek Trail Homer

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Diamond Creek Trail Homer

Located around four miles outside of Homer, the two-mile-long Diamond Creek Trail is a real local gem. You could call it a diamond of a place.

You can either choose to begin your walk from the start of the tree-lined trailhead, adding approximately an extra mile to your trek, or from the beach for a shorter walk.

Sitting on the pretty Kachemak Bay, look out for local wildlife swimming through the waters and diverse bird life soaring through the skies. Otters, ducks, eagles, crabs, and anemones are likely spots and, if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a whale.

The start of the trail leads along a fairly substantial surface, though do watch out for sticky and slippery clay mud. The latter part of the walk is quite a steep descent.

Including beach, tide pools (at low tide), wildlife, and forest, it’s a delightful trail for any active nature lover.

23. Mukluk Land, Tok

Mukluk Land Tok

Mukluk Land is so quintessentially and stereotypically Alaskan that it’s often said to be the most Alaskan place in the whole state! A kind of whimsical attraction park, Mukluk Land is just outside a small town called Tok, itself often said to be the Gateway to Alaska.

If you’re expecting to see an elegantly arranged collection of mukluks—traditional Alaskan boots made from seal or reindeer skin—you’ll probably be disappointed. There is, however, one saving grace; you’ll find one cool mukluk in the grounds, and it’s the biggest in the world.

Constructed from salvaged items and scrap materials, Mukluk Land contains an assortment of obscure things that would usually have gone straight to the dump or recycling centre. Essentially, it’s a large junkyard that has been given a semi-makeover to become an attraction.

The eclectic items on display include broken snow machines, fire engines that no longer work, a collection of out buildings, and a rather morose mausoleum for departed dolls.

It’s not all doom, gloom, and decay though; cotton candy machines, a trampoline igloo, mini golf, and a whack-a-mole game help to add to the fun factor.

Get into the festive spirit at any time of year when you see the obscure Santa Claus rocket ship.

24. Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, Fairbanks

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Found within the grounds of the Wedgewood Resort in Fairbanks, people not staying here would probably never come to know of this quirky museum’s existence.

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum takes visitors on a fun journey through Alaska’s modernisation process in relation to the automotive industry and general developments. It’s a must for any car lovers, history buffs, and fans of vintage vehicles.

You’ll find several old cars throughout the grounds that are from before WWII. There are plenty of classic cars to admire too. The collection is rotated regularly meaning that there’s always something new to look at.

Old photos and videos show Alaska life at the turn of the 20th century, with locals struggling to move with the times and facing many challenges with modern (for the day) contraptions. Not to be defeated, however, the way in which Alaskans attempted to adapt vehicles to make them snow-friendly or driveable on rail tracks is both inspiring and entertaining.

See how fashion has changed over the years as you examine vintage clothes from yesteryear. We bet you never even considered the impact the growing automotive industry had on fashion choices before.

25. Ukivok Abandoned Village, King Island

Ukivok Abandoned Village King Island

Ukivok was previously used as a winter base for locals who spent their summers at sea or on the mainland.

Built by the Aseuluk people, an Inupiat group that once called the area home at least for part of the year, the small village was ingeniously constructed on stilts on the steep island slopes. When the snowy and icy conditions made fishing and whaling impossible, they would retreat to their winter homes on the tiny island.

During the colder months they relied mainly on seal hunting and crabbing to survive, activities that were a lot easier from an island base.

Sadly, the group was forced to leave the village when the local school was closed down. With the youngsters on the mainland all throughout the year, the adults had little choice but to live on the mainland too.

A fascinating and rather daunting site, the stilt homes still cling precariously to the perilous cliffs, though there is no longer any sign of human inhabitation.

26. Dockside Galley, Ketchikan

Dockside Galley Ketchikan

A fabulous eatery in Ketchikan, Dockside Galley is secluded away in Knudson Cove Marina. The building may look a little ramshackle from the outside but don’t be fooled; the menu is extensive (though fare is rather basic), the food is delicious, the portions are big, the service is good, and the atmosphere is convivial. A real local hotspot, few tourists find this out-of-the-way establishment.

The restaurant is seasonal, so don’t make your way there on a weekday in the winter months hoping for a feed or you’ll be sorely out of luck.

Burgers and sandwiches are the main meals dished up here. There are heaps to choose from, though, ranging from the classic hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger, and veggie burger to a salmon burger, halibut burger, rodeo burger, and jalapeno swiss burger. All come with fries or deep fried shredded potato pieces.

Other dishes include baskets of fried chicken or clam strips, hot dogs, corn dogs, and fish and chips. There’s an extensive assortment of sides to tempt you even more, including onion rings, mozzarella sticks, egg rolls, beer battered mushrooms, fried okra, and fried zucchini. If you’ve still got room left afterwards, why not treat yourself to a sweet dessert too?

27. Buckner Building, Whittier

A crumbling relic that’s shrouded in mystery, secrets, urban legends, and conspiracy theories galore, the Buckner Building was a top secret military base. Unlike regular army bases, though, the entire base was contained inside one gigantic building.

Constructed in the late 1940s, it was referred to as the “City Under One Roof”. Military personnel on this particular base led a self-contained life, holed away from the rest of the world.

In addition to living quarters for soldiers and their families, the base-cum-city had almost everything you would expect to find in a regular small city or army facility.

In common with almost every army base, there was a shooting range, an officers’ lounge, a photo laboratory, and a radio station. Law breakers could potentially find themselves thrown into the small jail.

Leisure facilities weren’t lacking either, with a movie theatre, a small bowling alley, a library, and a large café. Religious members of the secret community could attend mass and worship at the church. When it came to shopping, there was a general store and a bakery. The facility even had a small hospital.

Destroyed by a big earthquake in 1964, it has already been long abandoned, with the military no longer having a meaningful purpose for it.

Today, the Buckner Building is gradually receding back into the mountains, slowly degenerating and failing to withstand the tests of time. Broken, vandalized, and rotting, stagnant water now covers the floors and the walls are coated with mold.

People aren’t really permitted inside, but that hasn’t stopped many a curious soul from taking a peek.

28. Old Japanese Army Base, Kiska Island

Old Japanese Army Base Kiska Island

Another offbeat military-related place of interest, the old Japanese army base of Kiska Island has some sorrowful stories to tell.

Kiska Island was captured by the Japanese in 1942, during the Second World War. It was one of just a few US areas to be occupied by the Japanese during the war. Japanese troops occupied the island for more than a year, eventually leaving quietly without the resistance troops knowing of their departure.

In 1943, US and Canadian forces attempted to take back the island. The Japanese had already left. Thick fog led to much confusion and disorientation, resulting in the soldiers actually opening fire on each other. Further names were added to the death list when people were caught by deathly traps left behind by the Japanese.

Remote and rarely visited, the island can only be reached by boat. It is strewn with deadly reminders of its tragic past, including guns that no longer work, bullet casings, and Japanese ship wrecks.

Add some of these hidden gems in Alaska to your travel wish list when exploring the USA’s great wilderness and do something a little, or a lot, different to the norm.

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Alaska (AK)
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