Nome, Alaska

Nome, Alaska
Location: Nome, Alaska
Length of visit: half day to multiple days
Major draws: Bering Sea, muskoxen, gold!
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Only accessible by air or water
Description: The Seward Peninsula sticks out into the Bering Sea only 55 miles from Russia. The NPS manages a wild portion as the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve with its headquarters in Nome. We happened to be there during the Berry Festival when one of only 4 summer cruise ships was visiting.

Flattop Mountain

Flattop Mountain—Chugach State Park
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Length of visit: 3 hours
Major draws: Scenic views of Anchorage, wildlife, rock scrambling
Strenuosity: 7 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 per vehicle per day
Additional considerations: Some rock scrambling is required to reach the top
Description: A 3.5-mile roundtrip hike sounds easy, but the route to the top of Flattop Mountain requires over 1,000 feet of elevation gain and the use of your hands at the end. The superb views of the mountains surrounding Turnagain Arm make it worth the effort.

Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Length of visit: 2 hours to multiple days
Major draws: Restaurants, souvenirs, Fred Meyer
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Over 300,000 people call Los Anchorage home
Description: The only “city” in Alaska is a great place to stock up for your adventures in the wild portions of the state. We always stop at the Alaska Geographic store downtown where this time we met a great gray owl.

Independence Mine State Historical Park

Independence Mine State Historical Park
Location: Palmer, Alaska
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, historic buildings
Strenuosity: 2 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 per vehicle day use (additional cost for tour)
Additional considerations: Steep road to Hatcher Pass, most buildings inaccessible without paid tour
Description: This self-guided tour of the gold mining facilities is well-signed and offers great photography opportunities in this scenic ghost town north of Anchorage.

Worthington Glacier

Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site
Location: north of Valdez, Alaska
Length of visit: 1 hour
Major draws: Scenic views, a glacier you can touch
Strenuosity: 3 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: There is not a maintained trail to the edge of the glacier
Description: Since 2004, Scott has returned three times to Worthington Glacier to witness its recession higher up the mountain. It is located near Thompson Pass, one of the snowiest spots in Alaska.

Valdez, Alaska

Valdez, Alaska
Location: Valdez, Alaska
Length of visit: half day to multiple days
Major draws: Scenic views, wildlife, spawning salmon
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: All those fish attract black bears
Description: Pink salmon return in the millions to the hatchery in scenic Valdez near the terminus of the 800-mile long Alyeska Oil Pipeline.

Root Glacier

Root Glacier—Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Location: Kennecott, Alaska
Length of visit: full day
Major draws: Ice formations, off-trail glacier exploration, crystal clear drinking water
Strenuosity: 5 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $110 per person for 9-hour guided tour
Additional considerations: Moulins can be hundreds of feet deep, crampons required for walking, katabatic winds are cold
Description: Learning the basics of glacier route-finding was worth every penny we paid on this sunny day in Kennecott. Our excellent guide Ethan took us to waterfalls, slot canyons, kames, blue pools, and moraines, while keeping us from getting too close to dangerous moulins.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Kennecott Mine—Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Location: eastern Alaska
Length of visit: full day
Major draws: Historic structures, scenic views, museums
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Can only enter most buildings on private guided tour
Description: The discovery of the richest copper ore in the world led to the building of the Kennecott mining town and railroads to transport its products across the Copper River in the early 1900s. The town is partially owned privately and publicly by the National Park Service, and it is continually undergoing renovations.

Denali Highway

Denali Highway
Location: between Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks
Length of visit: 6 hours
Major draws: Scenic views of mountain glaciers, wildlife, dispersed camping
Strenuosity: 0 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Over 100 miles of unpaved road with potholes, no services
Description: We got a flat tire soon after starting down this 135-mile long road, but had no other issues as we enjoyed the mountain scenery on this path that has been used by humans for at least 10,000 years.