Is Alaska worth visiting in the summer? Answer is a big YES! After spending 3 weeks in Alaska in late summer I would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoy spectacular nature and wildlife. The Last Frontier is in my opinion one of the most spectacular places on earth. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience Denali, Prince William Sound, Kenai Peninsula and many other locations along the road.

In Alaska it is all about outdoor activities, whether your like hiking, fishing or kayaking or wildlife spotting. Keep on reading to get recommendations (with photos) on 20 fun things to do and places to visit in Alaska in summer.

All photos are personal and taken during the trip.

20 Fun Things To Do and Places To Visit In Alaska (with photos)

1. Visit Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park and Preserve is one of the jewels of Alaska and deserves being the first adventure to be recommended. Tundra, taiga, glacier, permafrost, wildlife, North-America’s tallest mountain – you name it, Denali has it all! During the day trip into the park we witnessed grizzlies, moose and dall sheep. And not to miss, stunning views of surrounding mountain ranges including Denali herself.

Read more about it: Meet the Grizzlies of Denali

2. Talkeetna

Talkeetna is a small, rural community in Alaska with a relaxed atmosphere. It all started with the discovery of gold in the area in 1906. Downtown Talkeetna is designated a National Historic Site and walking down Main Street you can still get a feeling of how this small community of miners and trappers must have been back in 1920’s and 1930’s. Many of the old log buildings are preserved and in use today.

Talkeetna Alaska

Read more about it: Talkeetna – at the base of Mt.McKinley

3. Driving highway 3 – Anchorage to Denali

From rivers and forest to tundra and mountains, Parks Highway from Anchorage to Denali offers beautiful scenery. You’ll pass the starting point for the world longest dog sled race (Iditarod), small trading posts with history back to the 1800’s and rural communities formed by the gold rush – Talkeetna being the largest community along this highway. The drive from Anchorage to Denali is about 240 miles / 4 hours, but you could easily make it a full day trip if you make some of the recommended detours/stops along the way.

Highway 3 Anchorage to Denali

Read more about it: The road to Denali

4. Scenic boat trip to Harriman Fjord and tidewater glaciers

Harriman Fjord is located in Prince William Sound and is a full day boat trip from Whittier. Five magnificent glaciers cascade into this amazing fjord. Getting up close to a tidewater glacier is an experience to remember. The clear blue colors, the enormous size and the sound of ice calving off the glacier. And on the ice flakes under the glacier there is a large colony of harbour seals.

Harriman Fjord and Glaciers Alaska

Read more about it: Harriman Fjord and Glaciers

5. Kayaking under Harvard glacier in Prince William Sound

A kayaking tidewater glacier trip is probably the ultimate Alaska sea kayaking experience. College Fjord is  located in the northern sector of Prince William Sound and offers amazing views of a number of glaciers. Harvard Glacier is the largest of the College Fjord Alaskan glaciers and kayaking close to it with the kayak surrounded by icebergs cannot be described, it must be experienced.

During our kayaking experience we started at Harvard Glacier at the bottom of the fjord and paddle outwards. On our way we passed Smith and Bryn Mawr Glacier before we were picked up again. This is also an area with abundant wildlife, keep your eyes open for humpbacks and porpoise. Bears and mountain goats can also be spotted in the mountain sides.

Kayaking Prince William Sound Alaska

Read more about it: Kayaking in College Fjord

6. Hiking the Chugach National Forest

It is amazing that glaciers and lush forest live hand in hand like in the Chugach National Forest. Approximately 30 percent of the national forest is covered by ice and the rest is lush temperate rainforest.

The Bald Eagle population larger than the lower 48s combined so likelihood of seeing one it very high. If you visit during late summer/early fall like we did you can enjoy blueberries and Alaskan low bush cranberries on the hike.

Most visitors on guided tours only see the forest from the boat. It is a giving experience to be able to hike in this untouched wilderness. There is no evidence of human activity except from maybe a couple of vessels out in the fjord on their way to Whitter.

Hiking Chugach National Forest Alaska

Read more about it: Hiking Chugach National Forest

7. Sea Lion Wildlife Tour from Whitter

They bark, they smell and weight more than 1000 lb (500 kg)… I am off course talking about the Steller sea lions. Getting on a marine tour from Whitter, Seward or Valdez to experience sea lion wildlife is well worth the time. It is such fun observing the interactions of a sea lion colony.

Although Prince William Sound’s Steller sea lions are part of the endangered western population, marine tours regularly see both lone animals and groups hauled out on islets. Our wildlife tour went to a small, remote island in Prince William Sound. It was packed with Steller sea lions and gave us such an intense and exhilarating sea lion viewing. One to remember!


Read more about it: Sea Lion Wildlife Tour in Alaska

You may also be interested in: Dall’s Porpoise

8. Salmon spawning and bear viewing kayaking tour

One of the best ways to see wildlife in Alaska is from a kayak. You can safely get close to the animals without them noticing you. Observing them at their natural behavior, with the sounds and smells of surrounding nature…. I would do it any day.

A great place for wildlife kayaking tours is Prince William Sound. There is such abundant wildlife! Our wildlife tour started in Schoppe Bay in Prince William Sound. We passed through a narrow passage packed with star fish before we arrived at a small protected cove where we landed our kayaks. From the cove we walked up a shallow river with an abundant amounts of spawning salmon.

After our first stop we kayaked south for a while. We observed several bald eagles and harbour seals. As we continued on we realised we were coming up on another small salmon spawning stream. And jackpot – a mother black bear and her two cubs were feeding close to shore. Got a couple of photos before the camera was put away and we just sat quietly in the kayaking and watched the bears feeding. What a moment….

Black bear Chugach National Forest

Read more about it: Salmon spawning and bear viewing kayaking tour

You may also be interested in: Try catch that Salmon with you hands

9. Meares Glacier Excursion

Did you know Meares Glacier is one of the few glaciers in Alaska that is advancing? You’ll even see evidence of the movement—trees knocked over along the sides of the mountain. The glacier was quite active the day we visited and we witness the glacial ice calving into the ocean.

Meares Glacier in located at the end of Unakwik Inlet and can be reached on boat trips from both Whitter and Valdez. Unakwik Inlet is quite narrow compared to some of the other fjords and feels more intimate. It is a sheltered area where harbour seal like to come. We passed plenty of them resting on small ice bergs as we were sailing towards Meares.

Meares Glacier Alaska

Read more about it: Meares Glacier Excursion

10. Sea otter spotting wildlife tour

Alaska is the heartland of the sea otter’s range and a meeting with this playful furry friend is on many visitors wishlist. There are severals ways to meet up with this white faced marine mammals. Many will choose a wildlife maritime tour on boat or with kayak. We did both. On the kayaking adventure there is the chance for a close, more personal encounter with the sea otter. While on a boat wildlife tour you will be able to cover a larger area and therefore have higher chance of find sea otters. Sea otters can also be observed along the shore and in harbors like Whittier, Seward, Valdez etc.

Sea Otter wildlife tour alaska

Read more about it: Sea Otter Spotting Wildlife Tour

11. Hiking to Granite Gold Mine in Alaska

For those fascinated with gold rush stories from Alaska why not experience some true gold mining history by hiking to a gold mine ruin? Granite Gold Mine was back in early 1900s on of the more productive mines in Prince William Sound. The hike starts close to Hobo Bay and there is an old corduroy road leading to the mine. Along the trail you’ll see scattered equipment from the gold mining days.

Granite Gold Mine Alaska

Read more about it: Hiking to the Granite Gold Mine

12. Canoeing Swanson River in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

In the northwestern corner of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge there is a large wetland of lakes and rivers. Motorised vehicles are not allowed so canoe or kayak is your best bet to explore this part of the refuge. The Swan Lake and Swanson River canoe routes is a combined network of more than 100 miles and you can spend days enjoying the wetland.

Canoeing Swanson River Kenai Peninsula

Read more about it: Canoeing Swanson River in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

13. Salmon Fishing in Kenai River 

Kenai River is claimed to be the most popular sport fishing destination in Alaska, famous for its large king salmon. It was however beginning of September when we visited Kenai Peninsula and during that period the silver salmon run was going strong. If you are not planning on bringing any fishing gear and don’t want to spend time figuring out regulations in the river the easiest option is to go with a salmon charter service. There are many companies offering this service in Kenai / Soldotna.

Silver Salmon Fishing Kenai River

Read more about it: Silver Salmon Fishing

14. Visit scenic and historical town Seward

Due to its ice free port Seward has been a natural tourist destination for hundreds of years. It started with the natives using the area as a crossroad, later the Russians took refuge here and during the gold rush this was a natural landing point for gold diggers headed north to the Hope-Sunrise area.

Many of the buildings have been here since establishment of the city in the early 1900’s. One example is the Brown and Hawkins colonial which is the oldest continually operated business in Seward.

The town of Seward has about residents, but during summer this number increases significantly as the city is a final port for many of the cruise ships going north to Alaska. The village is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. One of the things I found charming was the numerous murals on buildings downtown Seward. Seward was officially designated “Mural Capital of Alaska” in 2008 at the completion of the town’s 12th mural.

Seward Alaska

Read more about it: Visit scenic Seward

15. Hiking Harding Icefield

The Harding Icefield hike is one of my most memorable experiences from Alaska. The hike starts from the foot of Exit Glacier just outside Seward and takes you to the top of the enormous Harding Icefield. Throughout the entire hike you have splendid views of Exit Glacier to your left. This hike left me amazed and full of gratitude. If you want to complete trail all the way to the end it will be a full day hike (14-15 km), but if you are short on time only hiking the first half is also worth it.

Hiking Harding Icefield

Read more about it: Hiking Harding Icefield

16. Scenic and wildlife tour of Kenai Fjords National Park

From Seward many operators offers boat trips into the Kenai Fjords National Park. You will be amazed by a beautiful, lush green coastline featuring tidewater glaciers. More than likely you will also meet some of the locals, like killer whales, humpbacks, puffins, sea otters and other marine life.

Whale Seward Alaska

Read more about it: Kenai Fjords National Park

17. Visit friendly and artsy costal town Homer

Homer is located far south-east on the Kenai Peninsula in Kachemak Bay. A natural spot for sports fishing! And the picturesque Homer Spit also attracts its fair share of tourists. The view of Homer Spit with the glacier-studded mountains in the background welcomes visitors.

The spit is tourist attraction number one in Homer and is dotted with artsy businesses, some have more charm that others. The Salty Dawg Saloon is one of the buildings with a history to it. It was originally one of the first cabins built in Homer in 1897.

The surrounding area has lots to offer – everything from flying into the wilderness to see grizzlies up close to taking a ride across the bay to visit Halibut Cove.

Homer Alaska

Read more about it: Visit friendly and artsy costal town Homer

18. Experience Russian influence in Alaska Native Village Ninilchik

Ninilchik is a community with strong Russian influence that will charm any visitor with its colourful boats randomly beached around the old village. Ninilchik is recognised as a Alaska Native Village. The community is located on the east side of Sterling Highway, but tourist usually head for Old Ninilchik Village which is beautifully located where Ninilchik River blends into Cook Inlet. Don’t miss the iconic Russian Orthodox Church of Transfiguration from 1901.

Russian Orthodox Church of Transfiguration

Read more about it: Old boats in Ninilchik

19. Hiking in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

If you want to get an overview of Kenai Peninsula and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge you should try the Skyline trail. In a short 3.5 kilometres (2.1 miles) you ascend 820 meters (2690 feet). This is a workout – easy on the eyes, hard on the thighs. The views over Kenai Peninsula is spectacular – on a clear day you might see Mt. Redoubt, which is an active volcano, to the west across Cook Inlet.

Hiking Skyline Trail Kenai Alaska

Read more about it: Hiking the Skyline Trail

20. Visit earlier gold mining village Hope

If you want to get off Seward Highway to an off-the-beaten-track destination you should take a side trip to the small village of Hope. Hope was a mining camp for Resurrection Creek and was established in 1896. In the 1890s, Resurrection Creek was the site of Alaska’s first gold rush, even before the Klondike gold rush. Many of the buildings from the days of the gold rush is still standing – earning Hope a spot in the National Register of Historical Places.

Hope Kenai Peninsula

Read more about it: Visit earlier gold mining village Hope

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