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.
Courtesy of Brandon Pool/Ouzel Expeditions Rafting with Ouzel Expeditions
| Credit: Courtesy of Brandon Pool/Ouzel Expeditions

1 Road

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).

2 Rail

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.

3 Sea

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.

4 River

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.

5 Air

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.