If You’re Interested in Alaska’s National Parks - Visit these State Parks
You likely know the names: Denali, Kenai Fjords, Glacier Bay, Katmai. These iconic and popular national parks in Alaska evoke images of towering mountains, glaciers, vast landscapes, and amazing wildlife. You can also find this in our hidden gems of public lands, our Alaska State Parks.
Often overshadowed by their neighboring national parks, these state parts are not to be underestimated when it comes to scenery and recreation opportunities. Within the Alaska State Parks system are over 120 units, including state marine parks, state recreation sites, and state historical sites. Here are our top picks for Alaska state parks that you should add to your must-see list for your next trip to Alaska:
Denali State Park
If you’re interested in views of “the Great One” and hiking in Denali National Park, Visit: Denali State Park.
Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, towers at 20,310 feet high. While you may assume you need to visit Denali National Park to view the mountain, on clear days you’ll find some of the best views from nearby Denali State Park. This easily accessible state park is situated along the national park’s southeastern border and is about a 2 hour drive south from entrance to Denali National Park.
Denali State Park has the benefit of viewing the mountain from the east, giving you a vantage point that encompasses not only the mountain’s north and south summits, but also the surrounding jagged mountains of the Alaska Range including the Moose’s Tooth and Bear Tooth peaks, the massive winding arm of the Ruth Glacier, and expansive views of the Chulitna River Valley. The park is home to four campgrounds and several trails, including 37 miles of trails in the K’esugi Ridge Trails system – a ridgeline trail that features sweeping views of the area.
Kachemak Bay State Park
If you’re intersted in beautiful coastline and marine wildlife in Kenai Fjords National Park or Glacier Bay National Park, visit: Kachemak Bay State Park
Located across the bay from Homer is the beautiful Kachemak Bay State Park. Getting to this park is part of the fun, requiring a short water taxi that will drop you off at various locations for hiking, camping, and kayaking. One of the most popular drop-offs for a day trip is the start of the Glacier Lake Trail. This easy 3-mile-long (one way) trail travels through lush forest to the edge of Grewingk Glacier Lake, where you’re treated to panoramic views of the Grewingk Glacier at the end of the iceberg-filled lake. After your hike, the water taxi will meet you at a pre-determined pick-up time for a scenic ride back to Homer.
Kayaking is the best way to explore Kachemak Bay’s undulating coastline, protected coves, and diverse marine wildlife species including orca whales, harbor seals, sea otters, and Dall’s porpoises. Kayaks can be rented in Homer and taken over in your water taxi.
Chugach State Park
If you’re interested in hiking and backpacking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, visit: Chugach State Park
The expansive Chugach State Park borders Alaska’s largest city and is the fourth largest state park in the United States. At almost half a million acres, this mountainous park offers endless and easily-accessible recreation opportunities including around 300 miles of hiking trails, camping, backpacking, kayaking and packrafting, wildlife viewing, fishing, biking, and more.
Some of the most popular access points in the park are the Hillside Trail System on the edge of Anchorage, the Eagle River Nature Center, Eklutna Lake, and several hiking trails that start along the scenic Turnagain Arm between Anchorage and Girdwood. You can venture out on your own or join a guided hiking tour from Anchorage to let an experienced local guide lead the way.
Afognak Island & Shuyak Island State Park
If you’re interested in fly-out fishing and wildlife viewing in Lake Clark National Park or Katmai National Park, visit: Afognak Island & Shuyak Island State Parks
These remote state parks off the northern tip of Kodiak Island offer hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing among emerald green hillsides and rugged coastline. Like Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks, these state parks are in Alaska’s Southwest region and are primarily accessible by plane, attracting visitors who like to get off-the-beaten track in search of remote fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities.
A few wilderness lodges on and around Afognak Island offer comfortable accommodations and fishing and wildlife viewing day trips – including chances to see the area’s famed Kodiak brown bear. This unique subspecies of brown bear can only be found on Kodiak Island. They are the largest bears in the world – matched in size only by polar bears – outweighing even the fat bears of Katmai.
Wood-Tikchik State Park
If you’re interested in remote paddling trips in Gates of the Arctic National Park or Kobuk Valley National Park, visit: Wood-Tikchik State Park
Adventurers looking for solitude and backcountry padding experiences are drawn to two of Alaska’s most remote national parks: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Kobuk Valley National Park. At 1.6 million acres, Wood-Tikchik State Park is the largest state park in the United States and is another ideal destination for multi-day paddling trips. The park’s interconnected systems of lakes and rivers offer endless opportunities for wilderness kayaking, rafting, and packrafting trips. Most visitors are flown out to remote lakes from the towns of Dillingham or Aleknagik for 7-14 days of paddling that will bring them back to their starting points.
Alaska State Historical Parks
For even more recreation opportunities set against a backdrop of Alaska’s history and culture, visit one Alaska’s fascinating state historical parks and historical sites. Our top picks are:
- Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, near Kodiak: for World War II history and scenic coastal hiking
- Independence Mine State Historical Park, near Palmer: to explore mining ruins in the stunning Talkeetna Mountains
- Big Delta State Historical Park, near Delta Junction: to visit Rika’s Roadhouse, a historical roadhouse built to support gold seekers during the Fairbanks gold rush
- Totem Bight State Historical Park, near Ketchikan: to be immersed in Tlingit and Haida Alaska Native culture and art
Alaska: AKA Your Next Adventure
Where will your Alaska adventure take you? Order our Official State of Alaska Vacation Planner and plot your course.