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Top 20 Alaska Summer Bucket List

Alaska – the Last Frontier, our 49th state, Land of the Midnight Sun, whatever you may call Alaska, it is a magical place. It is full of wonder and exploration for all ages, the adventurous and non-adventurous and all in between. Driven by your personal interests, here are the top 20 things that should be on everyone’s Alaska summer bucket list.

1. Ride The Alaskan Rails

The Coastal Classic has been named one of the most beautiful train rides in America. Between wildlife, magical mountain views, breathtaking glaciers, The Coastal Classic leaves you in awe. If you can’t ride the Coastal Classic from Anchorage to Seward, just take a ride on the Alaska Railroad for the opportunity to see areas not otherwise seen by humans. Be sure to stand in an open car and feel the air blow in your face, catch a picture of the train in a bend and watch as it enters a tunnel.

Train on track going around a bend in the track
View from The Coastal Classic

2. See Alaska by air, boat, and train

Experiencing Alaska from all different views is a must. Spoken by someone from Alaska, “you must see it by air, boat and train.” For plane, take a flightseeing tour, ride a helicopter to the top of a glacier, or sea plane to Katmai or Kodiak Island. A sight of a glacial lake on top of a mountain can only be seen one way! Train provides the opportunity to see wildlife and scenery not otherwise seen by someone. A day cruise is a must for seeing whales, puffins, sea lions basking in the sun or a calving glacier. Either way, experiencing Alaska’s different viewpoints is a must.

view of glacial pool from the air
Glacier lake
glacier with mountains around it
Views from The Coastal Class
sea lions basking in the sun on ice in front of a glacier
Tracy Arm cruise

3. Touch a glacier

There are seven glaciers you can walk on in Alaska – Matanuska, Exit, Mendenhall, Portage, Root, Byron, and Spencer. Stepping into a moulin, ice cave or standing on the top of a crevasse with crystal blue water is sure to touch anyone’s soul.

9 people standing on a glacier at the top of a crevasse
Standing above crevasse on Mendenhall Glacier – Photo courtesy of Stacy Falls

4. Eat Alaskan King Crab

There is a foodie in all of us. No trip to Alaska is complete with putting on a bib and getting your hands dirty cracking open Alaskan King Crab.

female holding king crab legs
Tracy’s King Crab in Juneau, Alaska

5. Watch bears salmon fish @ Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park

Most of us have seen the iconic picture of the bears fishing at Brooks Falls. What you don’t see in the picture is experiencing the Ranger-led bear etiquette talk, seeing the bears on the trails walking out to Brooks Falls or even the bald eagles flying overhead. The sea plane ride to the island is an adventure itself but seeing the bears patience for the right salmon is a life changing experience.

Want to read more about Katmai National Park? Check out my article on The Wildlife Diaries.

Grizzly bears fishing for salmon in a river at a small water fall
Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park

6. Go ATVing @ Denali National Park

Take a ride on an ATV to experience Alaska on the wild side. A three to four-hour tour is perfect for most people.

People riding on ATVs
Let’s go play in the dirt – Photo courtesy of Julie Anderson

7. Go mushing with real Iditarod dogs

Hearing the dogs’ excitement as they are hooked to the sled stirs the animal lover in all of us. But, feeling 10 dogs pull you around a glacier at speeds of 30 mph is something even for the non-animal lover.

dogs running in slow tied to a sled

8. Eat @ Chinook’s in Seward and soak in the view

Located on the water in Seward within walking distance of the train station is a perfect spot for lunch or dinner after coming off the train or headed to a boat excursion. The food is great, but the view is even better. Save the view for dessert if you aren’t lucky enough to sit with a view.

many boats at a dock with snow capped mountains in the background
View from Chinook’s

9. Have breakfast or lunch @ Two Sisters Bakery in Homer followed by a walk on Bishop’s Beach

Crossaints, quiche, muffins! Whatever is your favorite baked good, you are sure to find something on the menu. Top it off with coffee or chai tea. If the weather is nice, sit outside on the patio. Just a short walk from the beach, take a stroll on Bishop’s Beach to see the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Outside of restaurant reading Two Sisters
Two Sisters Bakery in Homer, Alaska

10. Visit the Ranger station in Talkeetna to hear the Ranger talk on hiking Denali

As you enter the Ranger station in Talkeetna, you see how many hikers are registered, currently on the mountain, total done for the season and the number who have summitted. Be sure to stamp your National Passport book with the station’s special stamp. There is also a short video about hiking Denali if time permits.

Sign at Ranger Station with details of hikers on Denali and Foraker
Be envious of the hikers who are on the mountain!

11. Watch the “sunset”

If you are visiting Alaska during the summer, you probably know it doesn’t get completely dark during this time of year. However, watching the sun cross the horizon provides colorful “sunsets”.

Sunset in Juneau, Alaska

12. Buy all the Marathon bars @ Sea Bean in Seward and try mimicking the recipe at home

If you haven’t been to the Sea Bean in Seward, you probably haven’t heard of Marathon bars. Named after Mt Marathon right in the heart of Seward, these bars melt in your mouth and leave you wanting more. Like a Rice Krispy treat, but with more nuts and fruits. Do yourself a favor and stop in for at least one or all they have available. Trying the recipe at home as not shown to be easy!

Big mountain with greenery at the bottom and rock at the top
Mt Marathon, Home of the annual July 4th 5K – Photo courtesy of Julie Anderson

13. Watch a tidewater glacier calving

Watching a tidewater glacier calving is a life changing experience. First you hear the “thunder”, then the falling ice and lastly, the crash into the water. Something which can only be seen from the water and one of the reasons to see Alaska by boat.

Glacier with water in the foreground
Aialik Glacier

14. See a whale – if you are lucky, see it breach

Seeing whale in the wild should be on everyone’s bucket list. Seeing this magnificent creature come out of the water, even if it’s a glimpse of the tail only is a thrill for all.

Ocean with whale tale coming out of the water
Kenai Fjords National Park – Photo courtesy of Jen Wieland

15. Stroll through the shops in Talkeetna

Talkeetna is a small town on the south side of Denali where hikers register for their mountain trek. It is also home of unique shops and excellent restaurants. You are bound to find one of a kind items and if nothing else, find it entertaining.

Sign reading Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna
Welcome to Talkeetna!

16. Try salmon even if you don’t like salmon

Have you ever eaten something you don’t like typically and found it tasted different due to the freshness? Trying salmon and/or halibut in Alaska is a must because it is fresh out of the water. Give it a try, you never know, you may like it!

Baked salmon on a plate
Photo courtesy of Jen Wieland

17. Go halibut or salmon fishing

Of course this will be much more fun if you catch something, so choose your outfitter carefully. Feeling the tug of a salmon or halibut on the end of your line will send a chill through you. Please read reviews on your outfitter to be sure they are adhering to all regulated fishing schedules and licensing requirements.

Man and lady standing in a shallow river holding a fish

18. See the midnight sun

There aren’t many places on earth you can actually see the sun at midnight. Alaska is The Land of the Midnight Sun – so pick a clear night and stay awake long enough to say you have seen it.

sunset over Denali
Denali under the midnight sun

19. Catch a glimpse of the highest peak in North America

View across trees with Denal in the far background
Seeing Denali for yourself is the only way to understand or feel it

20. Go on a hike

Get outside, smell the flowers and experience the beauty of Alaska by foot.

Husband and wife walking along a trail
On the trail

24 thoughts on “Top 20 Alaska Summer Bucket List”

  1. This is definitely the ultimate summer bucket list for Alaska! I visited a few summers ago over fourth of July when my brother was playing baseball in the Alaska League – we went salmon fishing but unfortunately did not catch anything. I enjoyed riding the Alaska rails and visiting glaciers. Seeing bears salmon fishing and mushing with real Iditarod dogs would be next on the top of my list for a return trip!

    1. The bears and dogs were two of my more memorable excursions. I love animals, so it was easy placing them on this list.

  2. I’m sure it was incredibly hard picking just 20 things for the Alaska summer bucket list! I spent a summer north of Anchorage in college, and can not wait to go back and show my kids. So very many amazing things to see. Thanks for bringing back some memories!

  3. SO hoping to get to Alaska some day, and this makes me want to go more! The fishing looks like an iconic experience and I’d so love to try that. You bring up a good point about food tasting more fresh when it’s from the source. Halibut and salmon can be enjoyed in most places, but I’ll bet anything it tastes the best in Alaska! Speaking of food, I live in NY and Alaskan King Crab Legs are $$$$. Would they be cheaper in Alaska since they’re not being exported?? Probably one of my top favorite five foods, how can I not go there and try it? This was a comprehensive and easy to follow list, and the photos make me all the more eager to go!

    1. Thank you! While I’m sure crab legs in Alaska are cheaper compared to NY, I was surprised they were still in my “pricey” range. I think I paid $70 for my basket. But, it was worth every penny!

  4. This is so lovely! Alaska seems like such an adventure – It’s definitely on my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to see the sun never set on June 21 above the Arctic Circle!

    1. Thank you!
      I was there on June 30 and just missed it! But, it was very cool seeing the sun at midnight. You should definitely go!

  5. So many great suggestions for activities while in Alaska, and all of them look like a lot of fun. If you were planning a trip about how many days would you set aside to tackle 5 or 6 of the activities on this list.

    1. This list was compiled over 2 weeks in multiple cities. Depending on which ones you picked and they are geographically close, you could do them in a week. There is so much to see and do, I wouldn’t spend less than a week. Also, some of these are food related (I love food), which can easily be combined with some of the activities! I would love to help you plan when you are ready!

  6. Man, Alaska is so beautiful. I would love to sink my teeth into a fresh king crab from there. You have provided an awesome list that I would love to do one day!

  7. Alaska is such a dream! It’s pure adventure! There are so many incredible things to do, but my favorite would be watching the bears salmon fishing and exploring a ranger station! How many days should I need to consider for a good trip there?

    1. I would suggest a minimum of 7 days. If you go for 7 days, I would recommend staying in one area. You don’t realize how big Alaska is until you start planning at trip. If you wanted to plan one around Katmai (to see the bears), go for a week. Start in Anchorage and take The Coastal Classic down to Seward. Spend minimum 2-3 days there and then over to Homer where you can take a flight out to Katmai. I highly recommend Stellar Air. I have another blog post about the entire trip if you want to read more about Seward and Homer (Days 2-6).

  8. I’m planning an Alaskan cruise next summer. Won’t get to do all of the above – but hopefully some! If I care about anything, it’s the potential wildlife sightings.

  9. Oh love the look of Alaska. Your photos make me want to get a plane and explore. I’d love to do a nice long train trip and see the dogsledding. So stereotypical touristy things to do but I’m willing to try it out.

  10. Wow, what a great list! I’ve been itching to get up to Alaska, and all these tips are really making me want to go! Saving this for when I plan a trip there someday (hopefully soon!).

  11. I’m from British Columbia so for a long time I felt like there was nothing Alaska could offer that I didn’t already have at my fingertips, but I’ve realized that Alaska is EVEN MORE beautiful, rugged and alluring! I can’t wait to visit someday. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I must admit, I’ve never much considered traveling to Alaska. But you’ve made it seem like an incredible place in my eyes just now!

    Laura // afinnontheloose.com

    1. Nancy Williams

      Thank you! It is an amazing place. If you ever decide to go, let me know and I’ll help you plan it.

  13. Pingback: Best train trips in the world for an amazing experience - My Simple Sojourn

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Nancy Williams

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