Hello friends! Back at you with another round of expert trip recommendations and this week’s destination is [drum roll please] Alaska! I’ve asked Brandon Gray, Alaska resident and long time traveler to give us everything we need to know for planning a trip to Alaska.
In this post, Brandon and I will give you some quick tips to get you on the right path to planning a trip to Alaska, with links to resources you can use to fill in the blanks. We’ll be addressing questions like the best time to travel to Alaska, where to go in Alaska and and most importantly, tips for how best to visit Denali National Park.
So without further ado, here is your guide to planning a trip to Alaska!
First off, who is Brandon Gray and who is he to be telling you where to go and what to do? Well, Brandon has been living in Fairbanks, Alaska since 2010 years, and as you can see from his Instagram, he is no stranger to the beautiful wilderness that is Alaska and Denali National Park.
When is the best time to visit Alaska?
I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but whenever I Google “best time to visit X”, I always get sites saying “there is no best time to visit, every time is great!” And while I’m sure this is often the case, it doesn’t at all help me decide when I should plan my trip. So while Alaska probably is an amazing place to visit 365 days of the year, but I wasn’t going to let Brandon off the hook that easily.
So according to Brandon “the best time of year to visit Alaska for exploring the outdoors, in my opinion, is the first of August through September. The fall colours are magnificent and it makes for great photography.” At this time, all of the tourism services will still be running, you’ll get slightly fewer people as the summer winds down and you’ll still get plenty of daylight.
Where to go in Alaska?
Obviously, Alaska is huge and it’d be difficult (nay, impossible) to see it all on a single trip. So how do you decide where to go?
First off, let’s get to know the state a little. The largest community in Alaska is Anchorage, where about 220,000 people (~40% of the state’s population) live. The next largest towns are Fairbanks and Juneau, which each have about 30,000 people. Fairbanks is further north and closer to the center of the state, and Juneau is located in the south, in the Inside Passage (where the Alaska cruise ships are).
According to Brandon, for your first visit to Alaska, “I would recommend [flying into] Anchorage. It’s a great location to get anywhere from.”
Next, Brandon recommends renting a car and visiting some of the surrounding areas. Denali National Park (see below), is of course a must see, but Brandon also says “Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is amazing. I would definitely recommend the Kanai Peninsula as well.”
Wrangell-St. Elias is actually the largest national park in the US (it’s 6 times larger than Yellowstone!) and offers some fantastic hiking opportunities. You can even join a guided 4 day paddle down the Chitina River. The Kanai Peninsula is home to Kenai Fjords National Park and offers hiking, sea kayaking and rafting, plus plenty of photography opportunities!
Visiting Denali National Park
No trip to Alaska would be complete without visiting Denali National Park and laying your eyes on the tallest peak in North America, Denali herself. Narrowing down what to do and where to go in Denali can be a little overwhelming, so Brandon has some tips to get your planning started.
Best hike in Denali? “I would say one of my favourite hikes in the park is the Savage River hike for its location.”
Accommodation in Denali? “Denali National Park has some great camping spots. I always prefer camping when I go there.” Here’s the link to the park website you can use to book camp sites.
How long in Denali? “I would recommend staying four days minimum.”
How to avoid crowds? Brandon recommends taking advantage of the sunrise and getting up early. “Get to your destination early in the day to beat the crowds. We’ve got plenty of daylight in the summer so getting there early is what I have found to work the best for me.”
Any other tips? “Have your camera batteries charged when visiting this amazing place! A good tip would be to bring bear spray There are lots of them.”
Hopefully this quick guide will get you going on the right path to planning a trip to Alaska. As always, please comment or get in touch with myself or Brandon if you have any questions!