Anyone trying to convey the grandeur of an Alaska wilderness adventure knows how difficult it is to articulate the majesty of the place. With 17 of the 20 highest peaks in North America, 100,000 glaciers, more than 12,000 rivers and three million lakes, Alaska supports a vast wilderness. It’s home to moose, caribou, Dall sheep, whales, puffins, bald eagles, sea lions, sea otters and 30,000 brown bears.
Although the state is gorgeous everywhere you turn, not all Alaska tours offer the same wow factor. At Nat Hab, we veer from the standard tourism routes to explore this pristine region from as many perspectives as possible.
Whether flying to the flank of Denali to land on a glacier, a private cruise in Kenai Fjords to photograph marine life up close, walking to platforms to safely observe brown bears fishing for salmon in Katmai National Park, or crossing the Kenai Mountains by rail in a dome car offering panoramic views, our naturalist guides can’t wait to share lesser-known Alaska with you.
Below, find five of our favorite ways to explore Alaska by land, air and sea!
1. Ride the Historic Alaska Railroad Through the Kenai Mountains to Seward
You’ll feel like a pioneer who has traveled back in time when you board an Alaska Railroad dome car for a train journey through the rugged Chugach and Kenai ranges, keeping your eyes peeled for moose, mountain goats and possibly black bear. The Alaska Railroad, built in the early 20th century, offers one of the world’s most spectacular rail routes, connecting Fairbanks in the north with Seward in the south, with stops along the way in Denali National Park, Talkeetna and Anchorage. We board the train near Girdwood on Turnagain Arm, traveling the Coastal Classic Route through lush temperate rain forest and into the backcountry wilderness of the Kenai Mountains before crossing Moose Pass to reach Seward on Resurrection Bay.
The Alaska Railroad is a modern railroad with track stretching 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks, with stops in places like Anchorage, Talkeetna and Denali National Park. Our preferred rail route ascends above the birch and spruce forest tree line over Broad Pass, then descends to the village of Talkeetna, which sits at the confluence of three rivers (including Susitna River) in view of Denali. You might even recognize this quirky hamlet, as it served as inspiration for the beloved TV show Northern Exposure.
2. Go Flightseeing to Denali and Land on a Glacier
Travelers to Alaska are often in awe of the sheer scale of the state’s landscape. But unless you’re a climber, sometimes it’s difficult to even begin to grasp the size of the biggest mountains. On a flightseeing tour from Talkeetna by fixed-wing bush plane, we plan to make a dramatic glacier landing right on Denali’s flank.
From this privileged bird’s-eye view passing granite cliffs and hanging glaciers, we can see the Kahiltna Base Camp, Ruth Glacier and the major sister peaks of Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter on our circuit to the Great One and back. Take in a dynamic and complex landscape carved and painted by rivers, ridgelines and peaks. Depending on weather and conditions, we might even be able to descend into a massive, ice-filled canyon thought to be the deepest in the world.
3. Explore Kenai Fjords to See Marine Life Up Close
Alaska is already remote, but we take you to the next level of remote! From our secluded base on private Fox Island, discover the prolific marine life of Kenai Fjords by chartered boat and kayak. We make an all-day cruise deep into the national park for excellent chances to see humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles and seabirds, including puffins. There’s also an opportunity to get an eye-level view on marine life on a kayaking excursion from the island dock. Just imagine how powerful and intimate a whale encounter would be from the surface level of the water!
Encounters with sea otters, seabirds and spawning salmon are common here. Humpbacks and orcas are the most commonly seen whale species in Kenai Fjords National Park, while gray whales are found here only in the spring. Just imagine how powerful and intimate a whale encounter would be from the surface level of the water!
4. View Giant Alaskan Brown Bears in Their Natural Habitat
Land by floatplane in Katmai National Park with its world-renowned Brooks Falls, one of the best places on earth to observe Alaskan brown bears just doing their thing in their natural habitat. Katmai has the world’s biggest population of these massive coastal bears, with more than 2,200 individuals calling Katmai’s 4 million acres of wilderness home.
Within Katmai’s protected bounds, the bears live undisturbed. From the safety of platforms built over Brooks Falls, you can have the privilege of witnessing, at close range, bears stand in the rushing whitewater, jaws wide open, focused on trying to catch the delicious salmon that leap up the falls.
5. Watch Tidewater Glaciers Calve from a Private Boat Cruise
From our private chartered boat, discover where the mountains meet the sea as we cruise deep into Kenai Fjords National Park to come directly in front of a massive tidewater glacier. Winding down to the water from the Harding Ice Field above, glaciers spawn icebergs into the frigid saltwater, and we stop and float for a while, waiting in hopes of watching the glacier calve one with a thunderous crash. With a cozy blanket wrapped around your shoulders, there’s nothing like being on deck to witness this stunning phenomenon…and your crew may even dip a net to collect ice bits to drop into your drink!
It’s one thing to explore the fjords by kayak, but a whole different experience altogether taking the sights in from our private chartered boat, cozy blanket wrapped around your shoulders and a glass of wine in hand.