National Parks Near Anchorage
National Parks near Anchorage. There’s so much more to the great state of Alaska than caribou and grizzlies.
In this article, More Than Just Parks will familiarize you with the incredible national parks that are near Anchorage.
So let’s go ahead with 5 reasons why you’ll want to travel from Anchorage to one of these truly amazing places.
1. Denali National Park
Distance From Anchorage: Four hours four minutes (237 miles) via AK-3 N.
Alaska’s flagship national park named for its tallest mountain which happens to be the highest peak in North America, Denali is on every park-goers bucket list. The breadth of this mountain is hard to appreciate and so is the size of the park itself at 6.1 million acres.
Denali also happens to be one of the most accessible Alaskan national parks with limited driving access, bus access that gets you further, visitor center, campgrounds, and the famous car lottery.
The best season to visit Denali National Park is in the summer when days are longer and weather is more cooperative. Summer sees more sunny days in the park which is great for those of us keen on seeing that massive mountain’s peak.
So, what can you do when you get there? Well, how about the following:
- Bus Tour – Take the bus deep into the park and experience America’s greatest frontier up close and personal.
- Bike Tour – Rent a bike and take it past where the private cars can go experiencing all of the park’s greatest wonders in the open air.
- Hike the Savage Alpine Trail – If you’re feeling adventurous then we highly recommend you hike the Savage Alpine Trail (8miles RT / 1500ft elevation gain). This hike is widely considered one of the best hikes in the park and is accessible via the Savage River area.
- Wildlife – Denali is home to a wide array of apex predators and unbelievable wildlife including grizzly bears, bald eagles, caribou, porcupines, and more.
- Camping – Take the bus to a campsite and spend the night in Alaska’s flagship national park on a bucket list experience.
2. Katmai National Park | National Parks Near Anchorage
Distance From Anchorage: Katmai National Park and Preserve is approximately 260 miles southwest of Anchorage and is a true wilderness destination.
Accessing Katmai National Park is expensive. There are no roads that lead into the park which means getting to Katmai requires a flight (and not on a commercial flight). You cannot drive there by car. The park is extremely remote located in King Salmon.
The best time to visit Katmai National Park is during Summer months. We recommend July & August for the best chance of catching some days without rain. Do expect and plan for rain regardless of the forecast as the overwhelming odds are that you will see rain during your trip and plenty of it.
Highlights – Best Things to Do Katmai National Park
Brooks Falls Bear Watching – The world famous Katmai National Park bear camera resides at Brooks Falls. Getting to Brooks Falls is not cheap requiring yet another non-commercial flight. From King Salmon it the cost to Brooks Falls is around $300. Once here, behold the best bear viewing on the planet via a safe viewing platform.
Fishing – There is a reason the bears congregate in such numbers at Brooks Falls – world class salmon runs down the Brooks River. This makes for world class fishing opportunities.
See the Valley of 10,000 Smokes – Katmai National Park is home to some epic volcanic landscapes, perhaps none as famous or breathtaking as the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. From Brooks Camp, bus tours are available to this spectacular valley. The tour costs about $100 round trip with lunch included.
Flight-Seeing Katmai National Park – The best way to get a grasp of the scale and scope of Katmai National Park’s epic volcanic landscape is via the air. Flight-seeing tours from Brooks run just over $200 per person for an hour of flight time.
3. Kenai Fjords National Park
Distance From Anchorage: Two hours 23 minutes (125 miles) via AK-1 S & State Hwy 9.
If you’re planning to drive, it’s possible to drive up to where Exit Glacier is; that’s the only part of the park accessible by car. The only way to explore the rest of Kenai Fjords is by boat and the Aialik Glacier is a popular destination.
There’s also regular boat tours out of Seward that take visitors by many of the most breathtaking areas and sites. Couple that with it’s close proximity to the major city of Anchorage with regular commercial flights and we’ve got ourselves a real winner.
Once you get there, I recommend the following activities:
Hike The Harding Ice Field Trail – This is the most popular hike in Kenai Fjords National Park. The entire hike is 8 miles round trip and is considered strenuous as there is over 4000ft of elevation gain.
See Exit Glacier – Alternatively you can do the shorter route up to exit glacier which is an easy hike that gives hikers great, up close views of a live glacier!
Go on a scenic ferry tour – Take a day to tour the park the best way, via ferry! This is the best way to see the park as you cover a lot of ground and see some incredible wildlife and scenery up close.
Go Kayaking – Kayaking is available in Resurrection Bay via water taxis (for a backcountry trip) or via a guided tour from Seward.
4. Lake Clark National Park | National Parks Near Anchorage
Distance From Anchorage: 159 miles, but there’s no way into the park by road.
Lake Clark is home to some of the most extraordinary landscape scenery on the planet. This Alaska National Park is another one sculpted by glaciers and volcanic activity. Add in the vast array of wildlife present in the park and you’ve got a real home run.
The only problem, as is the case with most of the Alaska parks, is getting there. Getting to Lake Clark, while not quite as difficult as Gates of the Arctic or Kobuk Valley, is still pretty darn tough. Visitors must take a small plane to reach jumping off points into the park.
There are a few options, all of which require a flight on a small plane. The gateway town to the park is Port Alsworth which can be reached from Anchorage or another one of the small, nearby coastal towns like King Salmon, Homer, or Kodiak.
What To Do Once You’re There
Proenneke’s Cabin – Visit this historic cabin featured in a PBS documentary set in the stunning wilderness of Lake Clark National Park.
Wildlife Viewing – Lake Clark National Park is one of the brown bear viewing capitols of the world not to mention moose, eagles, and all sorts of other spectacular wildlife.
Canoeing & Kayaking – Lake Clark National Park is home to some of the most breath-taking water activities on the planet. Take a canoe or kayak out onto Lake Clark itself and experience it for yourself.
Fishing – Wild salmon and beautiful trout are the name of the game in this world-class fishing.
Day Hikes – Take a scenic hike through beautiful Alaskan scenery from Port Alsworth.
5. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Distance From Anchorage: Four hours 33 minutes (248 miles) via AK-1.
Can you travel there by car? Yes. There are two roads that enter the park: The Nabesna Road and the McCarthy Road. Both are gravel roads that are owned and maintained by the state of Alaska and not the National Park Service. Both roads are usually passable to all vehicles during the summer months.
As one of three Alaska National Parks that visitors can drive to, Wrangell ranks among the most accessible. With that being said, there are three main ways to access the park – car, shuttle, and plane.
Wrangell St. Elias National Park is the largest in the U.S. at over 13 million acres. The park features 9 of the 16 tallest mountain peaks in the country. If Wrangell were a state, it would be larger than Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
Best Things To Do in Wrangell St. Elias Park
Explore the Historic Kennecot Mine – Many (if not most) of the photos you’ll see of Wrangell St. Elias National Park feature the beautiful and historic Kennecot Mine. Take the shuttle to the mine and soak it in!
Hike the Root Glacier Trail – Just past the Kennecot Mine is the incredible (and massive) Root Glacier. The trail up to and out on the Glacier is incredibly scenic and not to be missed!
Drive the McCarthy Road or Nabesna Road – If you’ve got the right (4WD) vehicle we highly recommend a drive down one or both of the park’s roads. Wildlife, camping, scenery, and hiking abound with few other folks.
Take a Scenic Flight – The absolute best way to make the most of your time and see the park’s grandeur is by air. If you’ve got the budget, flight-seeing in Wrangell is nothing short of epic.
Map Of National Parks Near Anchorage
List Of National Parks Near Anchorage
- Denali National Park
- Katmai National Park
- Kenai Fjords National Park
- Lake Clark National Park
- Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
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