The Alaska Travel Guide
Last updated August 2022 | Originally written August 2022
What I never realized when I started travel writing was how many people would land on my website because of my knowledge of everything Alaska travel, having been born and raised here. So, thanks for ending up here and trusting what I have to say as you plan what is likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Alaska.
Alaska is as big as it is wild and diverse with hundreds of thousands of glaciers, abundant wildlife, countless adventures, tasty food, and an array of activities and attractions. All of which can make planning your travel to Alaska a bit daunting.
So where to start in terms of your Alaska travel plans? Not to worry!
In this Alaska travel guide, you’ll find plenty of helpful info to assist you in whittling down what to include on your very own Alaskan adventure.
Don’t want to plan it on your own? No problem! Get in touch for a quote for having us create a custom itinerary just for you.
The Best Time to Travel in Alaska
Being as far north as Alaska is we have unique seasons, which can differ from region to region as well given the massive size of the state. That being said, the best time to visit Alaska will largely be dependent on which activities you’d like to take part in.
Below you’ll find a bit about each of our seasons and their corresponding months.
Summer: June, July, August
Ah, peak season in Alaska: summer. Days are long, nights almost non-existent thanks to the midnight sun, and adventure abound. Summer is the most popular, and therefore, most expensive season to visit Alaska.
Those wanting to explore the wild outdoors, go camping, and try their hand at fishing will likely be most attracted to visiting Alaska in the summer months.
Fall: September, October
Fall is a sweet shoulder season in Alaska that many travelers overlook, especially in the month of September. Colors are changing, temperatures are dropping, the northern lights come out to play again… it’s a lovely time of year in the last frontier.
Things that are prime in Alaska’s fall are chasing the northern lights, hiking, camping, and road tripping.
But I wouldn’t recommend pushing your visit out too late into the fall. A lot of Alaska’s luster wears off in October as we approach winter (think bare trees, grey and brown scenes, and temps that start to plummet a bit too low for comfortable camping.
Winter: November, December, January, February, March
If it’s winter weather you’re after this is the time of year to visit Alaska. This is a popular time to visit for those wanting to see the northern lights.
For those looking to hit the slopes in Alaska, then January, February, and March will be your prime months for hitting the ski hills at Alyeska.
Spring: April, May
Another shoulder season, though May would be the more optimal of the two as May tends to have better weather much of the time and starts to feel like the state is waking back up out of hibernation again.
Spring can be a great time in Alaska to do some early-season camping and road trips around the state.
Worst Months to Visit Alaska: October, November, April
Hear me out here: I’ve lived in Alaska my entire life and these are the three worst months (though this is solely my opinion) to visit Alaska.
Why October and November suck: They’re just plain ugly in terms of scenery. The leaves usually are gone by early to mid-October leaving bare trees. There’s not much snow yet, so it can feel dark and gloomy. And many of our tourism-related services are shut for winter.
I’d also put December in a close 4th place along with October and November.
Why April sucks: While April can have some nice and warm sunny weather if you’re looking to get out and do some hiking in Alaska plan for it to be a wet and muddly soupy mess out there as the snow melts up high.
Transport & Traveling Around Alaska
This is where independent travel usually rises to the top in Alaska. We just don’t have an array of options for transport in Alaska if you’re looking to get around utilizing public transport.
The best option is to rent a car and take on the 49th state on your own as it gives you the most flexibility and freedom. That said, if you’re looking to get off the well-trodden tourist trail in Alaska, you may need to make use of air taxis and chartered flights.
The Alaska Railroad connects Anchorage with Denali and Fairbanks to the north and Seward to the south, making it a good option for those wanting to skip the self-driving to enjoy the scenery as it passes by– just know that it’s not the cheapest way to get around either.
What to Pack for Your Alaska Travels
What you pack for your trip to Alaska will be largely dependent on the activities you plan to partake in and the months you plan to visit in.
You can check out my different packing lists for ideas on what to bring with you when you travel to Alaska.
Where to Travel in Alaska by Region
Alaska is comprised of many regions, all offering different adventures, and attractions. Find out a little about each of them below.
Anchorage + Around
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and a common jumping-off point for many travelers to Alaska. Anchorage also boasts Alaska’s widest array of dining and accommodation options, so it can serve as a comfortable start.
The areas within an hour’s drive to the north and the south of Anchorage will bring you to several great places to explore if not wanting to trail too far from the big city, including Girdwood, Eagle River, Chugiak, Eklutna, and Chugach State Park
Just south of Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula boasts some of Alaska’s best fishing spots as well as beautiful seaside towns, great hiking, wildlife spotting, and roadside glaciers.
Also called the Matsu, or just “the valley” as most locals refer to it, is about a one-hour drive north of Anchorage. A true highlight of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley is exploring the beautiful Hatcher Pass area high up in the Talkeetna Mountains.
From the Inside Passage to the seaside towns of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Skagway, and beyond, Southeastern Alaska is arguably one of the state’s most beautiful regions shrouded in lofty rainforests.
Due to not having a continuous road connecting the region, most visitors to Alaska would travel to the Southeast by cruise ship, or the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system.
This is Alaska’s heartland, home to the nation’s highest peak of Denali, nestled in the Alaska Range. Alaska’s golden heart city of Fairbanks is home to the largest population in the region as well as an international airport, making it a possible start or end to your Alaskan journey.
Welcome to Alaska’s extreme north. This region doesn’t get a lot of visitors but offers some of the state’s most unique and diverse sceneries. From the undulating peaks of the Brooks Range that form the backbone of the unique Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and Gates of the Arctic National Park, the region rolls off into the tundra as it leads to the Arctic Ocean coast.
Much like the Arctic, Western Alaska gets few visitors but does offer some unique adventures. The famed Katmai National Park sits out here on the Alaska Peninsula, home to the gorgeous Brooks Falls known for its postcard-perfect views of grizzlies catching salmon right out of the river. Not far off are similar scenes in Lake Clark National Park.
The Aleutian Islands
Few get out to the Aleutians but it can reap huge rewards for those looking to reach some of Alaska’s most remote and extreme points.
Budgeting for Your Alaska Travels
I’m going to be completely honest with you, Alaska is not a cheap destination. That said, there are ways to cut corners and reduce costs to make for a more budget-friendly visit to Alaska.
Using some of my budget tips and tricks found in the following articles you can find a way to make an Alaskan vacation fit your needs.