With an astounding 656,000 square miles to its name, Alaska is the largest and wildest state in the US, and is a regular bucket list feature for nature lovers and those looking for travel experiences that get the heart racing. It’s certainly possible for everyone to find something to love about this iconic destination. Yet, with such a large expanse of largely untouched land, it’s also not unusual to experience a few pre-trip jitters when you’re in the planning stages of an Alaskan escapade.
After all, you can forget many home comforts when you hit the Alaskan road. That’s because this destination can be as severe as it is striking, especially for those who approach unprepared and jump in both feet first. That’s why, for the most part, a successful trip here is reliant on finding the best ways to tame this location towards your trip’s purpose. Of course, this is a goal that’s far easier said than done, but we do have some top tips to at least help you begin taming the wildest destination that the US has to offer.
Step 1: Always research thoroughly
Entering Alaska unprepared is perhaps the most sinister mistake that any traveller here can make, and will inevitably lead to a few unexpected setbacks along the way. As such, the first thing worth remembering during the planning stages is just how important research is to the success of your trip here. For one thing, with 656,000 square miles on offer, you’ll especially want to narrow down on things like routes and destinations of interest before you try to plan a trip that’s all over the map and unlikely to come together. It’s also crucial to take note of things like the reality that only 20% of Alaska can be reached by road or the fact that Alaska is home to 98% of the USbear population. In each instance, these insights can help you to better understand things like what you need to take along for safety, and also which modes of transport would be best for serving your purpose, and ensuring that you don’t miss out on any planned leg of your trip.
As tempting as it might be to take on whatever Alaska has to offer alone, this isn’t an environment in which you’re going to want to get lost at any stage(98% of bears remember!), or in which you’ll want to risk making even a small mistake like forgetting to get fuel. As such, many people find that their trip runs smoother when they opt for some kind of planned tour/excursion which ensures that safety is a given. This is especially important for those who aren’t used to travelling off the beaten track, but most people taking a trip here can benefit from an organised outing. Cruises are especially popular in this sense and are the chosen way to explore Alaska for more than one million visitors. If you really want to get up close with the landscape, something like the Alaskan USA motorcycle tours offered by Magellan can also be a great option, as well as providing the benefit of having a guide along for the ride. In each instance, you’ll certainly be able to rest easy that you’re with someone who knows and understands the area and can remove any uncertainty that your trip might bring otherwise as a result.
Step 3: Don’t be afraid to take Alaska by air
Ideas of a great Alaskan road trip might keep many of us on the ground, but taking Alaska by air can also be a great option for anyone who wants to cover large expanses of this impressively sizeable location in a short amount of time. Alaska’s airports, Ted Stevens Anchorage International and Fairbanks, are certainly buzzing options for travel here and include links to all of the US, and much of the rest of the world, with just short stops along the way. Many tourists especially recommend that there’s no better way to see Alaska in its full scope than from up high. Not to mention that, if you’re planning to get a glimpse of the most remote Alaskan destinations like St. Matthew Island, by air is the only potential way that you’re going to achieve it!
As mentioned, a mere 20% of Alaska is reachable by road, meaning that, while the roads that are in place are in surprisingly good condition, anyone taking this destination on four (or two) wheels will want to think carefully about the routes that will get them where they need to go. For one thing, you need to make sure in advance of your trip that there even is a road where you’re intending to visit and make way for the possibility of alternatives if not. If there is a road route available, note that there are 12 numbered highways that you’re going to want to consider here and that you’ll need to become pretty familiar with them considering that a wrong turn could lead you down an untamed route that you won’t be expecting. Given the sheer scope of the distance between most Alaskan destinations, it’s also crucial that you consider not just road routes generally, but also the distances that you can expect between things like food stores, fuel stops, and so on, thus ensuring that you’re far better prepared for stocking up when you have a chance, and saving yourself the risk of breakdowns or diminishing resources along the way.
Most of us assume that we know a thing or two about Alaska weather – namely that it’ll be cold and extreme, but that’s not the case all year round. In fact, for the most part, Alaskan weather is pretty okay, with trips taken from mid-June to mid-August generally inviting pleasant temperatures of around 27°C. That said, it is also vital to note that evening temperatures here can drop pretty quickly, while winter temperatures from around November to March can reach dangerous levels (at least when you’re out in the wilderness) of around -35°C. In light of this, it’s always worth planning your trip timings carefully, and ensuring that you’re not going to be left out in the cold at any stage during your stay. This is especially vital if you’re planning to get stuck in with Alaskan camping, but with many of the 12 available highways also often taking you off the beaten track, winter may be best avoided even if you’re planning to travel between fixed accommodation.
A final word
While it might not be quite as unruly as many of us have been led to believe, Alaska’s vast expanse of untouched land (without even road access) still makes it one of the last true wildernesses in the world, and certainly one of the most unpredictable landscapes that you can visit during your trip to the USA. Of course, to some extent, that’s why this location and its iconic spots like Denali National Park are worth a visit in the first place. However, to ensure that you don’t end up suffering at any stage of your stay in Alaska, it’s vital to make sure that you can tame this destination with your trip, and these tips in mind. That way, you can enjoy some of the most untouched scenery you’ll ever experience, and still rest easy that your comforts and general needs are well in hand at all times.
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