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Alaska's many famous rivers, lakes and protected coastal waters offer adventures that range from whitewater raft-ing mild to wild , kayaking through fields of icebergs and glacier-carved fjords or snorkeling the near-coast waters. Alaska's raw, beautiful and unrelenting terrain teems with opportunities for backcountry experiences unlike anything else in the world—and there's a trip to suit every ability level.
Global warming might be altering the 49th state, but not to worry, there's still plenty of ice. Prince William Sound alone boasts glaciers. Dozens of them go all the way to tidewater.
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Most of them are, however, retreating. As they retreat, huge blocks of ice calve off their faces and fall into the ocean. The crack, the boom, and the splash of these events is dramatic. The ice that a small-boat skipper can gather from the resulting icebergs to chill a pre-dinner cocktail is a special treat. How often do you lift a toast with centuries-old ice? Discovery Voyages offers 5- to 7-day itineraries on board a person yacht with expert guides and gourmet meals.
And don't let the icy environment fool you. Despite the chilly waters, the Sound supports a rich marine ecosystem where you are almost certain to encounter whales, sea otters, Dall porpoise, seals, and other wildlife and fish. You might well find yourself paddling a kayak across crystal clear waters filled with milling schools of salmon happy to have made it home from the sea.
On shore, expect to explore pristine beaches and hike through moss-draped rainforests on the way to wildflower-filled meadows. The misty waters of Southeast Alaska exude an otherworldly vibe, especially when you explore their straits and sounds by small cruise ship.
Lose yourself in the beauty and mystery of this glacial domain on an 8-day excursion with UnCruise Adventures. Spend a day discovering remote waterways by kayak or paddleboard, and then journey on toward one of the most stunning national parks: Your ultimate destination is on the Gulf of Alaska coast: Sitka, a quaint and historic city of 9,, has Native Tlingit and Russian roots and was where the transfer from Russian to U.
Watch for puffins, eagles, whales, sea lions, harbor seals, otters, and bear along the shore throughout the cruise. Hang out in secluded coves, explore intertidal zones from your skiff or kayak, and hike in the Tongass National Forest. When is a lodge more than a lodge? When it sits in a Native Alaskan wildlife sanctuary in the heart of a national park with full-on views of a gorgeous glacier. Here, the 16 cabins of the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge make up one of the best-situated wilderness eco-lodges in the country.
Newly built, this lodge was sited with one prevailing thought in mind: And it would be hard to find one better than this. Getting here is another treat. Transportation from Seward at the head of Resurrection Bay comes via a narrated Kenai Fjords glacier and wildlife cruise. There's usually plenty of wildlife to see, from mountain goats to black bears to killer whales, porpoises, sea otters, puffins and more.
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Once at the lodge, you can hike and kayak to get even closer to seals, otters, bears, and bald eagles, which are about as common here as geese on golf courses in the Lower Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge. Alaska in winter is synonymous with snow, dogs, and the flickering Aurora Borealis. Think author Jack London or poet Robert Service, the bard of the north: Think of yourself on the runner of that sled sliding across a vast wilderness.
No, you can't run the Iditarod this year—that takes some training. The plane ride, an adventure in itself, ends with a landing on skis, near your home for the days to follow. The dogs are waiting to tow you through snow-covered forest, tundra, ponds, or rivers. In fact, you can drive the dogs and run your own team.
You pull the hook, unleash the team, and hear nothing but the slide of the runners and the panting of dog breath. If you want, you can take a break to cross-country skis or snowshoe. Or simply relax at the rustic but modern lodge at the edge of a 5-mile-long lake. It's a great place to view the northern skies on those nights when the aurora shows up to dance in multi-colored waves across the heavens.
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When these displays are at their max, they pack so much power you can hear them. Skilled boatmen, they challenged big seas in tiny kayaks. An inexperienced paddler would be crazy to take on Gulf waters, but you can get a taste of kayak travel in sheltered Aialik Bay in Kenai Fjords National Park. Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking organizes trips for paddlers of all sorts here from Seward. You'll spend your days slipping silently across blue-green, glacier-fed waters and your nights camping on secluded beaches.
The guides are trained naturalists who keep an eye on you and a companion in your two-person kayak, while explaining the ecosystem that supported the Alutiiq for thousands of years. They'll take you in close, but not too close, to calving glaciers; help you fish chunks of ancient ice out of the bay; and point out the wildlife that will make this 3- to 5-day wilderness adventure a trip you'll never forget.
Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking. If you've already got some backpacking chops, and if you're not rattled by steep terrain, the "Goat Trail'' is a classic Alaskan hike. Elias mountains from the copper-mining town of McCarthy to the gold-mining town of Chisana. An air taxi dropoff at Skolai Lake high in the mountains makes it easier than it was in the old days. From there, you climb for about five miles to Chitistone Pass to start the descent through a world of rock and ice, down along the Chitistone River, past Chitistone Falls and the Chitistone Gorge to Glacier Creek.
Outdoor writer Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan was once moved to observe that "these 10 miles of pure Alaska experience are among the best miles of trail in the whole national park system. The hiking distance from the drop-off to the pickup is about 25 miles. It's considered moderate to strenuous, depending on how fit and experienced the hiker is and how much is being carried. The trip can easily be done in five days, but eight isn't too many.
Bring a big memory card for your camera. The scenery—a cross between the Grand Canyon and the green Canadian Rockies—is the reason Kwak-Hefferan raved about this self-supported, on-your-own Alaskan adventure. The Kesugi Ridge Trail stretches for 36 miles along a ridgetop between the Chulitna and Susitna rivers and takes you through spectacular scenery and prime wildlife habitat. But the real prize is to hike it on a clear day.
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Upon reaching tree line at just 2, ft. On cloudy days, the scenery is still spectacular, but route-finding can be tricky along the more remote sections of the trail. Here in the state park you also have the option of going guided to get the most out of your trip—guides help you stay warm, dry, fed, and safe, but are also full of fascinating insights about the area and its wildlife. Nearly every visitor to the Denali area passes through Denali State Park and right by these trailheads, but almost all will pass right on by and miss it.
Hiking up to tree line is usually possible by June 1, but snowfields along the ridgetop persist until about June Visitors might find themselves a little startled when a sow with young engages in the phenomenon of "cub parking,'' or leaving the young'uns close to people for protection from marauding male bears while mom wanders off to take a break. Next on the itinerary, small bush planes fly you northwest, where the seldom-visited Mulchatna Caribou Herd passes over the lichen-rich area.
You spend some time spotting caribou from the air and the ground before traveling by boat and floatplane to see glacial lakes, massive waterfalls, and the tops of volcanoes.