Alaska is a vast and remote place with over 57 million acres of wilderness – that’s over 54% of the entire state! Within Alaska’s boundaries lie many National Parks and National Park Units. Today, we’re virtually exploring all of the Alaska National Parks, so let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
- How Many National Parks are in Alaska?
- Which Ones Can You Drive To?
- The Complete List
- Alaska – An Unforgettable Adventure
How Many National Parks are in Alaska?
There are 9 National Parks in Alaska, which is a lot! Alaska has the 2nd most National Parks of any US State, second only to California. Additionally, there are many other National Park Units and National Wildlife Refuges within Alaska’s boundaries.
Which Ones Can You Drive To?
Of the 9 Alaska National Parks, you can only reach 3 by vehicle. All other parks can only be reached by boat, plane, or hiking. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the trip! Each park offers its own list of must-see natural wonders.
The Complete List
We’ve put together a complete list of Alaska’s National Parks along with their key features and what you’ll love.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Location: Between Anchorage and Fairbanks, accessible by Alaska Route 3.
Getting to the Park: Denali National Park is accessible via car on the Parks Highway, Alaska Route 3.
Why You’ll Love It: Denali National Park and Preserve is one of the most popular Alaska National Parks. Denali is home to the highest mountain in the United States: Mount Denali is over 20,000 feet tall!
This park covers over 6 million acres of Alaska’s interior wilderness. The park’s geography includes tundra, glaciers, and spruce forests. And this park is teeming with wildlife. Denali is home to grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolves, and more. Also, Denali is the only National Park that uses sled dogs…and you can visit them!
Things to Do: There are so many things to do in Denali. Visit the sled dogs, take a sightseeing or wildlife seeing bus tour, go whitewater rafting, camping, hiking, visit the visitor centers, and more!
Katmai National Park and Preserve
Location: This National Park is on a peninsula in southern Alaska near King Salmon, AK.
Getting to the Park: Katmai National Park cannot be accessed by vehicle. You can only get to this park by plane or boat.
Why You’ll Love It: If you want to see wild bears up close, Katmai is the place to go. This park is known for its abundance of brown bears, salmon, pristine wilderness, and beautiful, rugged coastline.
Brooks Camp is the most popular area to visit in this National Park. At Brooks Camp, you can view brown bears, go fly-fishing, and it’s also the starting point for many of Katmai’s backcountry hikes.
Tip: Get a sneak peek at this experience by watching Go North Episode 15 where we flew to Katmai in a floatplane and sat yards away from these massive bears catching salmon!
Things to Do: Bear viewing is one of the most popular things to do in Katmai National Park. According to the National Park Service (NPS) website, few places on earth have as many bears as Katmai! Other activities include backcountry hiking and camping, boating, fishing, and flightseeing.
Gates of the Arctic National Park
Location: Near Anktuvuk Pass, straddling the Arctic Divide in the Brooks Mountain Range.
Getting to the Park: This is a wilderness park and is far from any roads. This park is only accessible by hiking or by plane. We drove very close to it when we passed through Coldfoot, Alaska along the Dalton Highway. This is where many adventurers start or end their Gates of the Arctic adventures.
Why You’ll Love It: Gates of the Arctic is Alaska’s least visited and most remote National Park. This park is vast and essentially untouched. There are no roads, no trails, and no established campsites. There are no established services within this park either. Essentially, this park is the definition of wilderness. Gates of the Arctic is one of the last truly wild places on earth.
According to the NPS website: “Visitors to the park should be PROFICIENT in outdoor survival skills, and be prepared to care for their own life and their partner(s) if an emergency arises.”
If you’re not skilled in survival or backcountry skills – there are still ways you can enjoy this beautiful National Park!
Things to Do: Other than hiking and camping, you can experience this park in other ways. You can take a flightseeing trip or take a tour with an outfitter. Some outfitters provide activities like backpacking, camping, rafting, and canoeing.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Location: Glacier Bay lies west of Juneau, Alaska.
Getting to the Park: This park is only accessible by boat or plane. There are cruise lines that offer cruises to this stunning National Park.
Why You’ll Love It: Contrasting the previous parks we talked about, Glacier Bay National Park is the most visited in Alaska. It is a marine park AND a land park with marine waters making up over a 5th of its area. Because of this, it has so much to offer: coastline, glaciers, sea, rainforests, fjords, and mountains.
Glacier Bay National Park is also home to part of one of the largest international protected sites on earth: the 25-million acre World Heritage Site. This park is a wilderness sanctuary, a place full of human culture, history, and so much more.
Things to Do: At Glacier Bay National Park, you can explore Bartlett Cove – the only developed area in the park with a lodge and visitor center. You can take flightseeing tours and boat tours, or go hiking, camping, or rafting.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Location: On the Kenai Peninsula near Seward, Alaska
Getting to the Park: This park is just outside Seward, Alaska, and is accessible by car and boat.
Why You’ll Love It: This park features glaciers, mountains, and sea. Most notably, it has nearly 40 glaciers flowing from the Harding Ice Fields to the sea.
Things to Do: At Kenai Fjords, you can explore Exit Glacier, which is the only part of the park accessible by car. Exit Glacier has a nature center, viewpoints, and short trails. Other activities include boat tours, hiking, kayaking, camping, and more.
We highly recommend taking one of the many boat tours to get out on the beautiful water around Seward and see the jagged fjords plunging into the sea. You’ll be amazed at the tens of thousands of seabirds that call this area home. Look for the adorable puffins and kittiwakes that dominate the cliffsides, and if you’re lucky you’ll even see harbor seals and sea lions!
Tip: Visit the Alaska Sea Life Center in downtown Seward prior to your boat tour so you can recognize the variety of wildlife you’ll witness!
Sitka National Historic Park
Location: Sitka, Alaska
Getting to the Park: Sitka National Park is located on an island, accessible via plane, ferry, or cruise ship.
Why You’ll Love It: Sitka is Alaska’s oldest National Park. This is a small park at only 113 acres, but it is full of history. Sitka National Park preserves the site of a battle between Russian traders and indigenous Kiks.ádi Tlingit. This park’s main attractions are its totem poles and coastal rainforest.
Things to Do: This park is full of the rich history of the Tlingits and the Russian’s history in America. You can learn about Tlingit culture and art, learn about Russian Americans, explore the rainforest, watch for wildlife, and so much more. The outer portions of the park can be accessed by boat or plane.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Location: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is located near Copper Center, Alaska.
Getting to the Park: This National Park in Alaska is accessible by car on Highway 4, a paved road that runs through Copper Center.
It is also accessible via Nabesna Road, which is a 42-mile dirt road that goes to the north edge of the park. This road was built to access the Nabesna Road Gold Mine that closed in 1945. It provides access to some interior components of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, a ranger station, and minimal services. There is no fuel and limited cell coverage. We recommend studying the Nabesna Road Guide provided by the National Park Service.
Finally, you can access Wrangell-St. Elias by the McCarthy Road, a narrow, 60-mile gravel road that runs out to McCarthy, Alaska and the Kennecott Mine.
You can also access the park by plane.
Why You’ll Love It: This massive park is America’s largest National Park – it’s 6 times bigger than Yellowstone! Wrangell-St. Elias has four mountain ranges and thousands of miles of glaciers. It’s also home to the largest icefield in North America.
This park rises from the ocean to over 18,000 feet. Wrangell-St. Elias is also home to some of the largest volcanoes in North America. In addition, this park houses some of the oldest mines in America.
Things to Do: Hiking, backpacking, camping, and wildlife viewing are some of the most popular activities in this National Park. You can also learn about the park’s history in Copper Center or drive the McCarthy road. Many visitors also enjoy touring the historic Kennecott Copper Mine.
Kobuk Valley National Park
Location: Kobuk Valley is located in the arctic region of northwest Alaska.
Getting to the Park: This park is so remote there are no roads. You can access Kobuk Valley by plane. In the summer, this park is also accessible by boat or foot.
Why You’ll Love It: This park has caribou, sand dunes, and so much more. Kobuk Valley sits entirely in the arctic circle and is one of the least-visited National Parks in the US. The sand dunes in Kobuk Valley are the largest active sand dunes in the Arctic. Who knew?! Some dunes can reach over 100 feet.
Things to Do: There are no facilities or developed areas in this natural park. You can experience the park through backcountry hiking, river rafting, and camping. You can also explore this park through flightseeing.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Location: Lake Clark is located in Port Alsworth, AK about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Getting to the Park: There are no road systems into this national park. Small, fixed-wing aircrafts can take you into the park and are permitted to land on lakes, rivers, beaches, gravel bars, or any open ground unless the area is closed or restricted. Or, you can get there by boat.
Why You’ll Love It: This park, home to the Dena’ina people, covers over 4 million acres of wilderness and waterways, including its namesake Lake Clark. It has volcanoes, glaciers, and miles of lakeshore waiting to be hiked. It’s also home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. Because Lake Clark is not accessible by car, it is one of the least visited national parks. If you’re wanting to experience Alaska without having to rub elbows with other tourists, Lake Clark is the park for you!
Things to Do: There are so many great activities waiting for you inside this park. Bear viewing and bird watching are popular, and, of course, salmon fishing is too! Water sports are also popular here. Whether you enjoy rafting, kayaking, canoeing, or simply boating around a lake, this park has you covered. You can even charter a boat for a tour around Lake Clark. And no trip to this park would be complete without a hike through the wilderness.
Alaska – An Unforgettable Adventure
Alaska is a truly wild place, and it’s National Parks are proof of that. Visiting any of Alaska’s National Parks is a truly unforgettable experience – one that you can’t find anywhere else in the United States. Add one (or all 8!) of these parks to your Alaska Roadtrip Itinerary – you won’t be disappointed!
Looking to visit some of Alaska’s State Parks while you’re traveling? There are over 150 to choose from! Check out our list of The 7 Best Alaska State Parks for Camping.
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