Why you should travel to Alaska now

Mar 5, 2020

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Travelers head to Alaska to climb glacier-capped mountains, chase the northern lights, cruise the iceberg-fringed shores and see wildlife they can’t view elsewhere. Visit TPG’s Alaska destination hub to find out what you need to know to plan an incredible trip to The Last Frontier.

Alaska is hands down the most beautiful place I’ve visited to date. Yes, the Swiss Alps are stunning and the architecture of cities such as Paris and Madrid breathtaking, but nothing compares to the views you’ll encounter driving along Highway 1 and the Turnagain Arm.

You think you’ve seen the most picturesque scenery and then you round a bend and start all over. It’s physically challenging NOT to keep taking photo after photo in an attempt to capture the moment before you. My advice is to stop and give yourself time to take it all in through your own eyes if you can.

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The footpath to the stunning Kennicott Glacier with the Wrangell Mountains towering in the background.

 

Many people have this idea that Alaska is a place to wait and visit when they get older — whether that’s because many associate Alaska with cruising or because it is not necessarily a flashy destination. Don’t be fooled. I was fortunate enough to have a family wedding draw me out of the Lower 48 and up into the folds of the Chugach State Park well before retirement age and I’ve been grateful ever since. Now two trips in, I’m already planning my third.

As an Alaska loyalist, I can’t help but campaign for my favorite state to each and every person I meet. Go now. Go later. And go wild. Here are just a few reasons you don’t want to wait to explore this magical place.

Kenai Lake or heaven? Unclear.

Alaska is melting

July 2019 was the hottest month on record for the state of Alaska, with temperatures reaching into the 90s. This has resulted in rampant wildfires, water shortages and — you guessed it — melting glaciers.

Driving into Exit Glacier, posts mark the glacier’s melt starting at the entrance to the park. Obviously, this kind of melt hasn’t happened overnight — since 1815 to be exact — but the melt rate is speeding up, to 300 feet per year.

If you’ve never stood on a glacier, touched it with your own hands and examined the rock underneath, it’s like touching some mythical beast or set of dinosaur bones. It’s one of the earth’s greatest treasures and worth making a trip to see up close and personal.

There’s an entire world hiding between the earth and a glacier.

Getting physical is half the fun — if not more

Speaking of glaciers, seeing a beautiful ice formation is one thing but climbing it is quite another. Some of the best activities Alaska has to offer should be taken advantage of while you have your body on your side. Whether you want to challenge yourself to compete in the town of Seward’s Fourth of July Mount Marathon Race, which involves a 1.5-mile climb up and subsequent stumble down, ice climbing or a vigorous hike, the truth is none of us know what our bodies or health have in store for us.

Take advantage of whatever stage of mobility you’re at and make the most of your time. The good news is there’s something for everyone — no matter your fitness level or ability — but if you’re lucky (crazy?) enough to be able to scramble down the side of a mountain, do it now.

You’ll want to go back

I’ve done my fair share of traveling and still have that age-old debate with myself about returning to a place I love, or forging ahead with visiting new places. And while that’s a personal decision for any traveler, I could not silence the call of Alaska’s wild. Not even after the second trip. And maybe not even after the third, but only time will tell.

Alaska is — obviously — massive, and chances are slim you’ll be able to cover everything in one visit. And I wouldn’t suggest trying to either. Spreading yourself too thin often means not giving yourself enough time at each destination. Not to mention getting from place to place in Alaska takes time. For example, the journey from Seward (south and central) to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park on the eastern side of the state to visit an old copper mine that’s now a lodge, meant boats, planes and automobiles and a full day’s travel.

In the middle of nowhere is one of the coolest sights I’ve ever seen — the old Kennicott copper mine.

Taking a few days to recharge in the lodge, walk to the ghost town of McCarthy and take in the old copper mines (and mammoth bones!) is not a two-day affair.

Not an A380.

Bottom line

If I haven’t sold you on Alaska yet, I’ve failed at the task at hand. We may not know each other very well but trust me on this one. Often overlooked for its fellow non-48er, Hawaii, or maybe some of the easier-to-reach national parks, Alaska should be a priority on every traveler’s list. It is truly a special place that makes me thankful to live in this beautiful country and have had the opportunity to visit and make such lasting memories.

All photos by the author.

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