With over 650,000 square miles of mountains, rivers, and glaciers, the 49th state is a vast playground for the intrepid. These five smart strategies will help you explore.
Alaska is all about freedom, so why not call the shots yourself?A big loop around Highways 1, 2, and 3 takes you through the heart of Alaska, an 879-mile smorgasbord of taiga, tundra, and whitecapped mountain ranges. Several companies in Anchorage rent RV’s, including Great Alaskan Holidays (888/2252752; GreatAlaskanHolidays.com; from $72.95 per day).
The Alaskan Railroad stretches 470 miles from the coast to the interior. The 10-day package Alaska by Daylight (907/2652494;akrr.com ; from $2,645 per person, double) includes passage along the entire track system, luxury hotel stays along the way, and side trips—such as a glacier cruise and a dogsled ride. Views from the doubledecker observation cars are spectacular.
Small passenger vessels can nose around coves too narrow for cruise ships and dock at native settlements without causing too much disruption. The cooperative Alaska Adventure Cruises (206/3102309;Alaska-Adventure-Cruises.com; $3,500 per person per week) runs eight compact ships carrying 4 to 12 passengers each: think floating B&B’s with no fixed itinerary—you will be setting the course.
The quietest way to see Alaska’s remote reaches, and one that leaves a smaller carbon footprint, is to raft through it. Ouzel Expeditions (800/8258196;Ouzel.com; eight days from $3,790 per person) runs paddling excursions down the Aniakchak River, which spills out from an active volcano crater.
Without bush planes, it would be impossible to reach the remote backcountry—where you’ll find some surprisingly luxurious lodges. Winterlake Lodge (907/2742710;WithinTheWild.com; doubles from $2,070, allinclusive), deep in the Alaska Range, keeps a helicopter on hand to whisk guests away for hiking and glacier trekking.