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People holding hands in Talkeenta, Alaska
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7 Things To Do In Talkeetna

7 Things to Do in Talkeetna

Set in the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Valley with a backdrop of massive Denali, the quirky town of Talkeetna is filled with whimsy and charm. Make it your Alaska vacation basecamp for an experience filled with outdoor adventure, delicious food, and welcoming hospitality. 

1. Take a Flightseeing Tour

Start to understand just how vast Alaska’s wilderness is with stunning aerial views from a narrated flightseeing tour. Soaring over the rugged backcountry landscape, veteran pilots take visitors to the summit of Denali, North America’s tallest peak, and through the surrounding Alaska Range. A bird’s-eye view of Denali National Park and Preserve provides a unique perspective of the snowy peaks, icefalls, and glaciers that aren’t visible from the ground. Keep an eye out for climbers and wildlife like moose and bears on this breathtaking journey. 

Add to the adventure by combining the flightseeing tour with a glacier landing or heli-hiking excursion. No two glaciers are alike and the constantly changing weather makes each trip a different experience. Enjoy a stroll along the surface of the glacier, exploring crevasses and other glacial features. Or go hiking along nearby peaks and stop for a private picnic with an awe-inspiring backdrop.

2. Go Camping

Get outdoors and soak up Alaska’s natural beauty on guided camping excursions from Talkeetna. Customized itineraries take you deep into the wilderness of Denali State Park or the Mat-Su Valley. Choose an overnight destination along the Kesugi Ridge or set up camp near the Susitna River and fall asleep to the sound of rushing water. Local guides can provide your gear and homemade meals while sharing their stories and secret hideaways along the trails. 

To venture even deeper into Talkeetna’s backcountry, embark on a heli-hiking tour that soars over the alpine tundra for unparalleled views of mountains and wildlife. Scan the lowlands for bears, caribou, and moose before hiking through unspoiled valleys and riverbeds. On guided photo safaris, capture picturesque views of Byers Lake, hidden ravines, and towering canyons. For breathtaking views with the comfort of modern amenities, choose from the many cabins and campsites located just outside of downtown Talkeetna.

3. Sample Artisanal Alaska Delicacies

Talkeetna may be a small town, but its foodie culture is as abundant as the state’s natural beauty. With regionally inspired dishes, Talkeetna offers fresh Alaska seafood and other delicacies served in charming cabins and scenic restaurants. Sample ice cream made with milk from local dairy farmers or enjoy fine dining with a view of Denali. Beer aficionados will delight in local craft brews from Denali Brewing Company’s tasting room and its nearby brew pub with a full food menu. 

From the purple-walled Mountain High Pizza Pie to West Rib Pub & Grill—whose most famous former patron was the town’s honorary feline mayor—Talkeetna’s restaurants have as much character as its residents. Start your day off right with a delicious coffee and wide array of freshly made baked goods and artisan bread at Flying Squirrel Bakery. To learn about harvesting in Alaska, visit the Wild Harvest Alaska Birch Syrup shop. Finish off your culinary journey with a slice of pie from the famous Talkeetna Roadhouse, where you can also spend the night.

4. Stroll Down Main Street

With only about 1,200 full-time residents, Talkeetna is exactly what many people envision a picturesque small-town Alaska community to be. Packed with charm and seasoned with history, a hand-hewn sign reading "Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna” greets visitors on Main Street. Although the entire downtown is only two square blocks, between chatting with the locals and visiting adorable mom-and-pop shops, it’s easy to lose track of time on Main Street. 

Many residents still live in log cabins, and the entire city only has one parking meter. Wander the gift shops and peruse art, jewelry, and other locally made treasures. Experience Talkeetna’s rustic charm at Nagley’s General Store. Founded in 1912, its slogan is “Established Before Most of You Were Born.” The shop has welcomed fur trappers and gold miners for more than a century and has been home to many cats as well. Talk to the store clerks to learn about how Stubbs the ginger cat became Talkeetna’s longest serving mayor. (Yes, this is the same mayor that frequented West Rib Pub & Grill.)

5. Get Out on the River

Surrounded by the Alaska Range and Talkeetna Mountains, the Susitna River boasts some of the best views of Denali. Travel along the swift waters on guided rafting excursions while soaking in the beauty and scanning for wildlife like bears and moose. Local guides provide all the gear and rentals, so your only concern is packing a camera to capture the memories. Listen to the sounds of nature on a guided kayaking tour down the calm Talkeetna River or wilder Chulitna River. 

Suitable for all activity levels, jet-boat tours take passengers deep into Alaska’s wilderness to scenic Devil’s Gorge. Along the way, visit Dena’ina Athabascan settlements and authentic trappers’ cabins to learn about early life in the area. For easy access to tucked-away fishing holes, book a chartered fishing excursion. Water taxis and jet boats take anglers on guided half-day or multi-day trips to river runs packed with all five species of Pacific salmon.

6. Experience Talkeetna’s History

Initially developed as a gold mining center in the early 20th century, today downtown Talkeetna is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Talkeetna Historical Society maintains a museum in the original location of the Alaska Talkeetna School building that opened in 1936. The museum’s artifacts depict early life in Alaska as well as the lives of the Alaska Natives, gold miners, settlers, and trappers who influenced the community. The museum is open year-round, and the passionate staff tells the stories of Talkeetna’s past. Go next door to the Ole Dahl Cabin, an original trapper cabin that is filled with antiques dating back to 1916.

A short walk from downtown Talkeetna is the Talkeetna Cemetery, offering a glimpse into Talkeetna’s history. The cemetery is home to a memorial dedicated to all of the climbers who have lost their lives climbing Alaska’s tallest peak. The most prominent grave belongs to Don Sheldon, the famed bush pilot that rescued many climbers from the mountain. 

7. Zip Line Through the Mountains

Glide through the forest canopy while oohing at astounding views of Denali and the surrounding Alaska Range on a zip lining tour. Exhilarating and serene at the same time, zip lining tours pass between trees and soar over rivers in the Mat-Su Valley. 

On a three-hour tour, revel in nature’s beauty with multiple zip lines, numerous suspension bridges, and features like spiral staircases. Along the way, learn about Talkeetna’s rich history and natural landscape from local tour guides who share their stories about life in Alaska. Stop and soak in the views from the woodland aerial bridges that towers over the lush, green forests. Route speed and duration varies, with some tracks geared toward scenery and others designed for an adrenaline rush. Be sure to bring a camera or GoPro to capture the adventure. 

Learn more about Talkeetna >>

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