Alaska Off the Beaten Path: 4 Scenic Havens

Jocelyn Murray May 1, 2015 No Comments

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Denali National Park & Preserve

Mount McKinley at Sunrise in Denali National Park & Preserve
photo by NPS Photo / Tim Rains

Denali National Park & Preserve is easily Alaska’s best-known attraction, and one of the country’s most glorious parks. Denali means “the high one” in the Native American language of Athabascan. This is where North America’s highest mountain peak, Mount McKinley (Denali), soars over 20,000 feet into the cloud-wreathed sky. Shuttle bus is the best way to see this magnificent park with its tundra wildflowers and stunning landscapes that are home to moose, sheep, bears, wolves and a wide variety of bird species.

 

Misty Fiords National Monument

Misty Fiords National Monument
photo by Zarxos / CC BY-SA 2.5

Ice Age glaciers carved narrow ocean inlets forming the fiords at Misty Fiords National Monument. It is a nature lover’s paradise – secluded and breathtakingly beautiful – with towering granite cliffs flanking the shores of its lakes that are home to salmon, porpoises, sea lions and whales. An abundance of precipitation drenches the evergreen rainforest that is thriving with hemlock, spruce, cedar and fir trees, among which wildlife like bears, mountain goats and bald eagles may be seen. But it’s the soaring mist-ringed peaks and waterfalls that captivate the imagination in this place where time seems to stand still. Visitors can get here by boat or floatplane from Ketchikan, as there are no roads. Hiking trails cut through the wilderness terrain, and there are some campgrounds and rustic cabins for rent.

 

Kenai Fjords National Park

Bear Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park
photo by National Park Service

Kenai Fjords National Park is another spectacular venue for viewing glaciers, ice fields, lakes, mountains, and pristine coastline which are accessible on boat from the nearby town of Seward. This popular destination for kayakers has amazing scenic views, from the deep, narrow fjords and chiseled landscapes, to the tranquil bays. It is a refuge for countless seabirds including puffins, oystercatchers, kittiwakes and gulls. Sea lions, harbor seals, porpoises, sea otters and whales are often seen here as well.

 

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Low tide in Bartlett Cove at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
photo by NPS / Kyle Pinjuv

A stunning collection of tidewater glaciers can be seen at Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve. It is a great place to observe the rocky ice cliffs calve and plunge into the inlets. This primitive wilderness is home to sea lions, sea otters, salmon, porpoises, whales. Land dwelling animals include bears, moose, wolves, mountain goats, and more than 200 species of birds. It is accessible by a short flight from Juneau or Haines, followed by a 10-minute drive to the park headquarters at Bartlett Cove. There are also trails through the lush rain forest that lead to rocky beaches with tide pools that are alive with sea urchins, starfish and shellfish. Outdoors enthusiasts will be delighted. Daily boat cruises and air-taxis offer fantastic sightseeing tours.

 

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Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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