Categories: RVing to Alaska

10 Best Small Towns in Alaska You Need to Visit

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A trip to Alaska is a common bucket list item for many people. Its magnificent mountain peaks, abundant wildlife, and isolated beauty draw millions of visitors to this remote state every year. So, while Alaska itself is a common vacation destination, the small towns in Alaska are far from common. We’ve got 10 of the best small towns in Alaska that you need to visit on your next trip there.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Small Towns in Alaska?

Anytime mid-May through mid-September is a fine time to visit Alaska when the days are long and nature is vibrantly alive with beauty and activity. However, if you’re looking for the perfect window, do your best to visit the “Last Frontier” from mid-June to mid-July.

June 21 is the longest day of the year, and in Alaska, that means an average of 20 hours of daylight. Fortunately, this means you’ll have more time to explore the glaciers, volcanoes, lakes, and all the magnificent beauty Alaska is known for.

But any time of year can be a magical experience in Alaska. We wrote an article to help you choose the right time of year to visit based on your interests. You can find that article here.

10 Best Small Towns in Alaska

Choosing the best places to visit in Alaska when you have limited time to visit them poses a difficult choice. How do you decide? We’re here to help! We’re sharing the ten best small towns in Alaska below.

1. Homer

Getting There: Homer is accessible by car, just 200 miles south of Anchorage. But it has been nicknamed the “end of the road” appropriately. There is only one road – the Sterling Highway – leading into Homer, and it’s at the end of this road you will find this quaint Alaskan small town. 

Why You’ll Love It: Known as the halibut fishing capital of the world, Homer will draw you in for the fishing but keep you there for its Alaskan beauty. With art galleries, fine dining, and seaside accommodations, this small Alaskan town has everything you need.  

Homer has easy fly-in access to some of the best bear-viewing in the world in Katmai National Park. If flying isn’t your thing, then you can take a boat ride to the artist colony of Seldovia or paddle around Kachemak Bay.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9.8

Check out the 15 Best Things To Do In Homer, Alaska.

2. Fairbanks

Getting There: With easy access by almost any mode of transportation, you’ll enjoy this Alaskan small town without worrying too much about how to get there. Centrally located on the eastern border, it is the basecamp for Denali National Park.

Why You’ll Love It: Known as the Golden Heart City, Fairbanks is popular for viewing the Northern Lights and getting to know Alaska’s rich artistic culture. The glorious midnight sun allows for an assortment of activities that go well into the night.  

One of those activities includes the Midnight Sun Fun Run, a 10k race that takes advantage of the all-night light and starts in the evening and runs to the early hours of the morning! Also, check out the Alaska Goldpanners’ historic solstice game starting in the summer months at 10 pm. 

Love the snow? During the winter season, experience dog mushing, ice skating, and plenty of other winter activities set amidst this northern Alaskan small town.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9.6

3. Sitka

Getting There: Just south of Juneau, Sitka is located on Baranof Island on Alaska’s Inside Passage. And similar to many other southeast islands, it is only accessible by air or sea.

Why You’ll Love It: Once a ghost town, Sitka has made a remarkable comeback with its rich history, an abundance of artifacts, and museums. Its proximity to the wilderness offers great opportunities for wildlife viewings, including the sought after eagles and bears.

Mother Nature is on your doorstep for your outdoor enjoyment. Hike, bike, kayak, fly, off-road – whatever mode you choose, this Alaskan wilderness will not disappoint your active lifestyle.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9.7

4. Nome

Getting There: Nome is located on the western coast on the southern side of the Seward Peninsula on the Bering Sea Coast. It is accessible by air or sea only.

Why You’ll Love It: This small town in Alaska is known for its gold rush history and Inupiat Eskimo culture. But it is best known today as being the finish line for the 1,049 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. 

Although it is only accessible by air or sea, once there, you can explore the area on Nome’s 350 miles of roads. These roads will take you through tundras, mountains, and coastal plains. More importantly, they will connect you with other communities where you can shop, dine, and explore Mother Nature.

While the people will welcome you, you may be more interested in the wildlife residents. These include reindeer, bears, moose, wolves, and so much more.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9.5

5. Seward

Getting There: Tucked between mountains and ocean, Seward is easily accessible by car from Anchorage. Located on the Gulf of Alaska, this small town of 2,600 year-round residents offers all of Alaska’s charms with ease of accessibility.

Why You’ll Love It: One of Alaska’s oldest communities, you’ll enjoy wandering the historical downtown for arts, dining, and culture. Close to Kenai Fjords National Park, you can also enjoy an almost guaranteed sighting of Alaska’s abundant wildlife. Want to ensure it? Visit the Alaska Sealife Center for an up-close experience with puffins, sea lions, and more.

Seward and the surrounding area offers hiking, kayaking, fishing, ziplining, flightseeing, dog sledding, and many more outdoor adventures. You’ll never get tired of exploring here!

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9.6

6. Juneau

Getting There: This capital city is accessible by air and sea. But if you do find yourself on an epic RV road trip to this small town in Alaska, just hop on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry to get the rest of the way!

Why You’ll Love It: What goes together better than pubs and wildlife? More pubs and more wildlife! Juneau’s pub scene has been around for many years – and Juneau’s wildlife more than that. You’ll see humans, of course, but you’ll also see plenty of whales, orcas, eagles, and bears. From glaciers to fjords to waterfalls, there’s plenty of Mother Nature to explore in and around Juneau.  

Love the city life? Try the museums, plentiful restaurants, shops, and historical attractions. Juneau, the third-largest city in Alaska, still only has around 30,000 people, but plenty to experience.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9.1

7. Ketchikan

Getting There: Ketchikan is located at the southernmost entrance to the Inside Passage. Only a 90-minute flight from Seattle or a cruise ship ride away, Ketchikan is accessible by sea or air only. However you get there, you’ll find it was worth the trip!

Why You’ll Love It: When people think of Alaska, they think wild and remote. This small town in Alaska is definitely both of those things but also quite civilized. Ketchikan is well known for its salmon, scenery, and culture. So grab your fishing pole, camera, and hiking boots; it’s time to find out what Alaska is really about!

Whether you love shopping, traditional cultural experiences, or outdoor activities, Ketchikan has all the above and so much more. This town will make you feel like you really got to see Alaska.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9.5

8. Valdez

Getting There: Just east of Anchorage, Valdez is located in Prince William Sound near a deep fjord. You can get there by land, sea, or car. But driving to Valdez on the Adventure Corridor, known as one of America’s most scenic roads, might be the best way to make an entrance into this small Alaskan town.

Why You’ll Love It: Similar to other small towns in Alaska, the abundance of beauty in Valdez is second to none. Here, you can experience the excitement all year round with tidewater glaciers, lush rainforests, and majestic mountains. Your camera will be chock-full of images from the wildlife on both land and sea.

Enjoy fishing, ice-climbing, hiking, biking, glacier and wildlife tours, history and culture, dining, and more. Do you want it? It’s here in Valdez.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9.9

9. Wrangell

Getting There: Wrangell is located in the heart of the Inside Passage and is one of the oldest towns in Alaska. It is easily accessible by air or car. For your epic road trip to Wrangell, hop on the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Why You’ll Love It: There are more than a dozen totems displayed throughout Wrangell, making for a unique tour of this small Alaskan town. Eagles are abundant here, and the Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park is nearby. Catch glimpses of the past with its 1,000-year-old primitive rock carvings. 

Additionally, take a day trip to Anan Wildlife Observatory for your chance to capture an iconic photo of a bear catching salmon, along with sightings of seals, bald eagles, and more.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 8.7

10. Skagway

Getting There: Easily accessible via the South Klondike Highway, it’s no wonder around one million visitors find themselves in this Alaska town. Located just north of Juneau, Skagway is considered one of the most visited towns in Alaska.

Why You’ll Love It: This small Alaskan town belongs in the history books with its authentic wooden boardwalks and restored old buildings. Looking as though it did during its gold rush days, you can explore the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park or hike the Chilkoot Trail. With the Harding Glacier right in its backyard, you can even embark upon an adventurous glacier hike.

While you’re visiting, be sure to capture a photo of the most photographed building in Alaska, The Arctic Brotherhood Hall. It actually has over 8,000 driftwood sticks nailed to it.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 8.9

There are No Wrong Choices with These Small Towns in Alaska

There really is no wrong choice when it comes to choosing between any of these Alaskan towns. Every single one of them offers a truly unique Alaskan experience, from the glaciers and fjords that so clearly define the landscape to the wildlife that excites us to the core. 

These small towns in Alaska will reward you with their idyllic scenery, their welcoming communities, and nature like you’ve never experienced before. The only wrong choice would be not to go at all.

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Mortons on the Move

We are Tom & Caitlin Morton. We gave up the stationary life for one where we are constantly on the move. We live in a fifth wheel RV and travel with our two pups, Mocha and Bella. We enjoy hiking, biking, boondocking, videography, and upgrading our RV to suit our off-grid mobile lifestyle. Our goal is to share educational, entertaining, and inspiring content with our readers and viewers.

View Comments

  • Tom and Cait,
    We really enjoyed your Alaska YouTube show and now your online blog. We are also now enjoying the SW in our rv. I talked to a guy with a truck camper who had a methanol powered fuel cell to charge his batteries. I haven't found much info about it online and think this might be a great item for your blog.
    George

    • Thank you, George. We're glad to hear you enjoyed our Go North series. And the methanol powered fuel cell does sound interesting!

  • Tom and Caitlin,
    As a long-ago resident of Alaska (Eagle River/Anchorage) I think your documented Go North expedition is the best, most educationally accurate ever produced. It is must-see for RV-era planning or dreaming the trip, and adventurers, alike. The work you put into the planning and production has resulted in an invaluable archive of Al-Can travel.
    When living there, I didn’t have any opportunity to catalog the best campgrounds and so, didn’t know of many beyond those available at Denali. Even though you predominantly boondocked throughout the expedition, it would be interesting to get your take on the best available campgrounds.

  • If I may add #11 & 12 to your list of small Alaska towns we really enjoyed.
    #11 - McCarthy: The Kennicott mine and glacier are definitely worth the 60 miles of gravel road you have to drive to get there. McCarthy is an old cool little town that has a lot of history available.
    #12 - Hyder: Or maybe I should say Stewart/Hyder. Hyder Alaska has more personality than just about any other town in Alaska. The bear watching in July thru September is worth the drive in itself. Throw in the Salmon Glacier and Hyder becomes a stop that should not be missed.

    • Absolutely! McCarthy and Hyder are definitely worth a visit. In fact, we visited both in our Go North series. Thanks for the suggestions. :)

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