Alaska. That one state everyone dreams of going to at least once in their life. And if you’re fortunate enough to go there.. you’ll probably fly into Anchorage or Fairbanks, as those are the largest cities in the state. But in my opinion, Alaska isn’t somewhere you should go for city life. You should go there for the wildlife, the landscape, the remote roads, the adventure. This blog will list 10 places you can visit in Alaska, that are still accessible by road. (Because there are sooo MANY beautiful places in Alaska accessible only by boat or plane for those luckily enough to get to them). If you arrive via cruise ship, you will luckily be able to access majority of this list for day trips. If you arrive via private vehicle, take your time and visit them ALL! Here is the list. Scroll down for details of each area.
- Kenai NP
- Denali NP
- Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias NP
Homer- They like to say they are a drinking town with a fishing problem. Which is pretty accurate after visiting there. It is a small town on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula. “The spit” is the most popular area of the town. It juts out into the water and contains many shops, restaurants, bars, and fishing docks. A popular bar to stop in is called The Salty Dawg. We saw bald eagles, seals, and sea otters swimming during our visit to this area. The surrounding landscape in the distance is absolutely beautiful.
Seward- On the other side of the Kenai Peninsula, on the east side, lies Seward Alaska. It is a small town but popular with tourists for it’s glacial access via boat tour or helicopter tour. Seward itself is easily accessible by car, but serves as a place to get to places that aren’t. Boat tours are perhaps one of the most popular things to do here for wildlife viewing opportunities, especially whales. We were fortunate enough to do a helicopter tour from Seward that took us up on top of the mountainous landscape and landed right on a glacier. Then we went dog sledding up there on the glacier! There are a campgrounds right on the water and a just couple small streets with shops and nightlife. 2 local bars that I would recommend in Seward are The Yukon Bar and The Pit.
Kenai Fjords National Park- Kenai National Park is the last area on the Kenai Peninsula on this list. Unlike many US National Parks, it is free to enter. Exit Glacier is an amazing hike accessible via road for people of any ability. For those who only want to walk about 1 mile, you can view the bottom of the glacier from a distance. For those who can hike uphill quite a bit further, you can hike to the top of the glacier for a close-up view. Although is has retreated and shrunk so much throughout the years, it is still a sight to see.
Denali National Park- Formerly known as Mount McKinley, Denali is the highest mountain in the United States.. and it is located here in Denali National Park. The park is one of the most wild, untouched, preserved parks in the US. It is filled with grizzly bears, caribou, bighorn sheep, moose, and an abundance of wildlife.
Despite the large size of the park, there is only ONE road into the park. It is 90 miles long and a dead end. So I have a lot to say about this so you are prepared. Private vehicles may only be driven about 7 miles into the park and then it is REQUIRED that you ride a large green school bus into the park. The only way around taking the bus in is to stay a minimum of 3 nights at one of the campgrounds inside of the park. If you stay a minimum of 3 nights in a park campground, you may drive your RV or car into the park. But please note the campgrounds are very primitive, there is no cell service in the park, and there are no marked hiking trails. You will be camping in wildlife territory and hiking off trails through the bush. Camp responsibly, respectfully, and prepared with bear spray and food storage containers.
The park entrance fee in 2019 was $15/person in addition to the bus costs. The bus cost is not cheap, but depends how far into the park you want to go. Wonder Lake is 85 miles into the park and the last bus stop. It is about 11 hours to Wonder Lake and back on a school bus. There are a few stops before the lake for shorter and cheaper bus options. You can hop on and hop off the bus at the various stops, but there is no guarantee there will be an available seat on the next few buses that stop at where you want to be picked up. You only have a guaranteed seat on the bus you initially started on in the beginning. It’s a tad confusing, a bit cramped, and can be filled with talkative children or tourists that aren’t interested in the wildlife… so I personally wasn’t a fan of Denali’s bus system. HOWEVER, I do understand why they do it. From the bus, we saw almost 20 grizzly bears, so many caribou, sheep, and moose. Less vehicles and disrespectful tourists on the road = preserving the wildlife and the land they live on. 100% respect that. One more thing to note about Denali is that Denali itself is so high with unpredictable weather it is often not visible. If you visit on day that the peak is visible, you are LUCKY! Either way, Denali is a wonderful experience with guaranteed wildlife viewing opportunities.
Talkeetna- A small town that is in between Anchorage and Denali. It is a quaint little place to stop on your way to Denali National Park with small local shops, restaurants and a couple of local bars. There are a lot of tour companies located in this town as well.. such as helicopter tours that fly around the Denali Peak, ATV rentals, etc.
Valdez- Valdez was very quiet and very local when we went there. It is located on the water and has a port for cargo boats. We spotted many bald eagles and ate delicious food. Our favorite part of Valdez though was just outside the town, at Iceberg Lake. It’s name describes it perfectly. A lake with a bunch of icebergs floating in it. You are allowed to Kayak around the icebergs and right up to the glaciers that surround it in the mountains. We boondocked for free right on the lake and enjoyed the beautiful landscape that surrounded us.
Kluane NP/Wrangell St.Elias National Parks- These 2 national parks are located next to each other on the southeast coast of Alaska. They are left extremely wild and have very little road access.. but access nonetheless. Wrangell St. Elias can be accessed on your way to Valdez (pictured above this). There are only 2 roads into it and neither one of them is paved.. one is 42 miles long and the other is 59 miles long. The point of these parks, like much of Alaska, is to preserve the landscape and wildlife. Because of this, they are FILLED with glaciers and animals. Kluane has one of the highest thriving grizzly bear populations in the world. If you are adventurous and have the opportunity, don’t pass up the experience to explore Alaska’s remote wilderness.
Chicken- Definitely the smallest town on this list, but probably the most unique. It is located in a very remote area by nothing else. No cell service. And it has about 5 small shops in it total, all connected to one another. This would be for those with extra time and a private vehicle. If you are driving on the Top of the World Highway (highly recommend), Chicken is worth a stop to say you were there. A tiny bar, a tiny restaurant, and a tiny mercantile shop. What more could a town need?!
Skagway- A popular town for tourists as it is a big cruise ship hub. However, it is filled with history and located across the water (via ferries) from places like Haines and Juneau. It is located in the coastal Fjords with a lot of sealife such as harbor seals. The town itself offers a lot of jewelry sales and whale watching boat tours. We went to an old cemetery which was relatively interesting. The best part about Skagway to me though, was the road in/out of it. Took about 2 hours to drive one way, but very mountainous and a beautiful scenic drive if you are able to do it!
Haines- saved my favorite for last. My favorite area I went to in Alaska for sure. Haines is located in southeast Alaska on the coast, across from Skagway. The Haines Highway was probably my favorite road we drove on in all of Alaska. It is the only road in/out of Haines. It begins at the Haines Junction and ends in Haines and took about 3 hours to drive. Perhaps it is because we drove it in the evening around dinner time, but we only saw ONE other car on the road while we drove on it. There are soo many mountains, valleys, lakes, and glaciers along the way to look at.
Once in Haines, there are 2 different parks on either side of the town for outdoor adventures: Chilkat and Chilkoot. Chilkoot Lake is a lake that salmon swim upstream to spawn in each year. It is a popular spot for both fishermen AND grizzly bears. It is almost guaranteed you can see grizzly bears wading in the water or eating salmon in Chilkoot. Sockeye salmon are especially abundant in late August. Bald eagles are also very common here.. and there is a bald eagle migration through Haines in the late fall. Chilkat Park was a quiet park. We sat on the shore and admired the mountain range and glaciers that sat across from us. You can boondock many places for free in Haines, or stay at primitive campgrounds in the parks for about $15. Haines has a ferry port to access many other places such as Skagway and Juneau, if you aren’t driving in on the Haines Highway. Ferry costs depend on size and type of your vehicle. Foot passengers also welcome.
That’s it! 10 beautiful places in Alaska that are accessible via road! ENJOY EVERY MINUTE OF IT! There’s very few places in the world like Alaska.