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Jonathan Stull | 04.11.2017

“There are things greater than our wisdom, beyond our justice,” wrote Jack London, and one can only presume that he writes of the vast expanse of the Alaskan wilderness. The largest state in the union by land area, its third-least populous, and least densely populated, Alaska remains one of the few truly wild places in the United States. “The Last Frontier” and its 663,268 square miles are home to the largest wildlife preserve in the world, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the nation’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias, not to mention North America’s tallest peak, Denali. Incidentally, it remains the only state in the union where you could dodge state income and sales taxes and a speeding ticket at the same time—beyond our justice, indeed, Mr. Jack.

Tax advantages notwithstanding, the Land of the Midnight Sun offers incomparable challenges to the avid outdoor adventurer. Anecdotal reports have informed us that the state is full of bears—consider yourself duly warned. In all seriousness, however, the Alaskan wilderness is a harsh, unrelenting, Homeric siren of temptation replete with 20,000-foot peaks, sky-blue glaciers, and rivers unchecked by human progress. In the spring, the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world descends on the Sticking River near Wrangell, Alaska. The summer is long, but not so long as to run out of mountain summits or dusty trails, and not all require a map and compass.

Some ideas, for you, to get you started. You came for exploration, and you’ll leave with a racing heart.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

The state and nation’s largest park is a rugged alpine wilderness, as remote as it is checkered by historic mines. Located in the southeastern part of the state, and sharing preserve lands in Canada adjacent, it is far enough south to enjoy access to the Alaska highway system, which is a limited commodity in the state.

  • Kennecott Copper Mines National Historic Landmark: By 1938, the copper prospecting boom had abated, leaving this historic mine to the land and the elements, though the park service is restoring some for safe access.
  • Kennicott Glacier Lodge: A rustic, historic getaway in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias. Comfort offered, but there are no electronic amenities, which leaves you to enjoy the expansive vistas without distraction.
  • Root Glacier Trail: Hike down the main road in Kennicott, and it’ll turn into an easy 4-mile jaunt to the Root Glacier.


  • Prince William Sound: The Prince William Sound is home to 150 glaciers, abundant wildlife, and a convenient tour to help you see the best of them.

Chugach State Park

  • Williwaw Lakes + Mount Elliot: Close to Anchorage, the valley of the Williwaw Lakes offers a multitude of alpine lakes and a choose-your-own-scramble up Mount Elliot.
  • Flattop Mountain: A short, intense 3.4-mile quad-burner, one of Anchorage’s most popular day hikes.
  • Crow Pass Trail: A 23-mile thru-hike close to Anchorage that is ideal for a weekend backpacking trip. Part of the storied Iditarod Trail!

Nancy Lake State Recreation Area

Nancy Lake Canoe Trail: An established canoe trail with canoe rentals—a perfect day trip for canoeing beginners.

Hatcher Pass

  • Reed Lakes Trail: Great for day trips or multi-day backpacking trips a short trip from Anchorage, great for kids, and featuring a historic mine.
  • Independence Mine State Historic Site: Alaska’s largest historic mining town features 13 mining buildings and trails that are available for winter or summer adventures. Tours available!


  • Northern K’esugi Ridge: The ancient ridge offers gentle inclines and broad views of Denali and the surrounding foothills.

Gates of the Arctic National Park

Isolated in the northern reaches of Alaska, the Gates of the Arctic is the wild Alaskan preserve created with the backcountry explorer in mind. There are no trails here, and the park service requires that you carry a rifle while traveling within the park. But the natural beauty of the area is unparalleled. Hike above the Alatna River Valley and its serpentine oxbows, and wander the rugged slopes of the alpine tundra. This trip is ideal for hardened outdoor adventurers who want a tour of the Northern Lights in a remote and secluded wilderness.


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