Alaska Bucket List – 13 Destinations You Must Visit (Including a Map)

Share this post -

Mountains, lakes, glaciers, and waterfalls... Alaska is a dream destination for nature lovers.

Our Alaska Bucket List

This is a list of destinations. Not activities and not even necessarily specific places. When two towns or places are very nearby, I lump them together into one item.

That's because once you're "there," you can easily see both places even if it takes you an hour to drive between them. You could stay in one place and "hop over" for a quick "day trip."

Without further ado, here are my top 13 destinations in Alaska. Please scroll down for an interactive map of our Alaska Bucket List destinations.

1. Denali National Park

We absolutely love national parks. National Parks make our visit to a new place so much more special. Plus, it's Denali Mountain, the highest peak in the United States. Visiting Denali National Park is definitely on our Alaska Bucket List!

Alaska Bucket List: Denali National Park

Update: check out our guide for visiting Denali (including how we managed to see 19 Grizzly bears in one day!)

2. Glacier Bay National Park

Watching a majestic glacier create its tidal wave as it calves is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To have a ranger as your guide? Even better! We want to experience that at Glacier National Park.

Alaska Bucket List: Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay, Alaska. Ice calving at Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park

3. Kenai Fjords National Park

Fjords and glaciers, from land and sea. Hiking the Exit Glacier definitely makes it into our Alaska Bucket List! This park is also easy to reach (by Alaskan standards).

Alaska Bucket List: Kenai Fjords National Park
Hiking Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park

Update: The park was amazing, especially on our cruise, where we saw the marine glaciers and whales. You can read our Kenai Fjords Cruise report here, which includes some important tips that can help you plan your cruise.

4. Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park should be on everyone's must-see list. You have to fly into the park and stay at the local lodge, making it quite expensive to visit (especially for a family of four).

I can't leave it out of the list, but whether or not we'll be visiting it during the summer of 2017 remains to be seen. What's in Katmai? In three words: Waterfalls, salmon, bear. Mix these three, pour, and enjoy!

What other national parks can you visit in Alaska? I created a mega post about Alaska's national parks, including which ones you can see and how.

5. Fairbanks

Enough of National Parks. It's time for some Alaskan city experiences. Fairbanks is full of them.

Fairbanks is the most northern city we've been to. Places we visited include the Morris Thompson Visitor Center, the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the Large Animal Research Station, where you can see live muskoxen, and Pioneer Park, with many attractions, including the one where you can experience 40 below zero...

Alaska Bucket List: Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska

Update: Been there, done that! Have the posts to show for that, too:

You should visit LARS and the Georgeson Botanical Garden in Fairbanks. You should also read these two posts: Fun Things to Do in Fairbanks and How to find a relatively cheap hotel in Fairbanks.

6. Chena Hot Springs

North of Fairbanks are these amazing hot springs. We visited there during our Alaska trip, and while we never got into the water, we enjoyed visiting the Ice Museum.

7. Anchorage

Speaking of Alaskan cities, we have to visit the largest one, Anchorage. An itinerary could include the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center or the Alaska Air Museum and possibly Kincaid Park, which is just another big city park. Only with moose.

Alaska Bucket List: Moose at Kincaid Park
Moose at Kincaid Park

Update! Read these posts, which were written following our visit: Fun things to do in Anchorage. Oh, and Kincaid Park itself was a bit disappointing. We didn't see any moose and just wandered around a large and fairly empty city park.

8. The Kenai Peninsula

Technically, it's a second mention on this list. Kenai Fjords National Park is on the Kenai Peninsula. I'm adding it here because there's more to the peninsula than the park itself.

We definitely plan on making a road trip to the western side of the peninsula and visiting the fishing town of Homer as well.

Alaska Bucket List: Homer, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Update: So, we didn't visit Homer, but we had a blast at the Kenai Peninsula. We took a cruise to see the Kenai Fjords and visited some great places in Seward, including the Sealife Center. Here's more about what you can do at Seward, Alaska.

9. Girdwood & Whittier

This small resort town makes it into the Alaska Bucket List for several reasons. The Alyeska Aerial Tram is one; Portage Glacier is another.

I think the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center will be hugely attractive to us as well. Locals say that driving the Whittier tunnel is a must-do, so visiting the town of Whittier also made it to our Alaska Bucket List.

Alaska Bucket List: Portage Glacier
Portage Glacier near Girdwood and Whittier

Update following our visit

So, Whittier was a no-go. We got to Portage Glacier and really enjoyed their visitor center, but the weather outside was abysmal (in August!).

The rain and wind were so bad we barely managed to hop out of the car and get to the visitor center and back. We were told that Whittier had the same weather that day, so we chose to drive to Anchorage rather than cross the tunnel.

The Portage glacier area looked spectacular, as far as we could tell through the rain. We'll definitely be back someday.

As for Girdwood, we spent a few hours in the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and had a great time. It was a lovely visit, even in somewhat gloomy weather. If you go, I recommend wearing hiking boots because it can get muddy.

10. Valdez

If the name sounds familiar, it could be because of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill or possibly even the earthquake of 1964. The Valdez Museum tells the story of both of these catastrophes as well as other local historical events.

However, Keystone Canyon and the Worthington Glacier are the places that earned Valdez its spot on the list.

Alaska Bucket List: Valdez

Update: Loved Valdez! I saw all of the places I mentioned above, as well as the Salomon Hatchery, where we saw sea lions, seals, a bear, and an unbelievable number of salmon fish - just about everywhere, including on the road!

You can read more about them in our post about the best things to do in Valdez, AK.

11. Juneau

Getting into the Inside Passage could take you to Juneau, the capital of Alaska. The wet and relatively warm climate makes Juneau an ideal area for hiking the cold rainforests and visiting local gardens.

Mendenhall Glacier alone is an Alaska Bucket List item in its own right. There are no roads connecting Juneau to the rest of Alaska, so whether or not it'll make it into our road trip itinerary is still a mystery.

Alaska Bucket List: Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau

12. Sitka

If you do visit the Inside Passage, then Sitka is another Bucket List item. With a combination of native and Russian history, Sitka is home to the Sikta Historic National Park.

The town and its surroundings combine a myriad of natural and cultural attractions.

Alaska Bucket List: Sitka

13. Skagway & Haines

Skagway -  which can actually be reached via a land road - offers travelers a taste of the historic Gold Rush. You can visit the Klondike Historical National Park or ride the famous White Pass & Yukon train.

Haines, on the other side of the Chilkoot inlet, can be reached via a short ferry ride and offers a more relaxed Alaskan experience.

Alaska Bucket List: Skagway
Cruise ship docked in Skagway.

Update: Haines was awesome. We got to see a Grizzly bear from just yards away. You can see the video of that encounter and find the list of things to do in Haines in this post.

Is that it?

Well, of course not! There are tons more to do and see in Alaska, I'm sure. While researching for the trip, I found other places I knew we'd enjoy visiting.

Tremendously! I think these 13 places are a great start, though. That's why it's an "Alaska Bucket List" - it includes the places I feel are an absolute "must-see" in the state.

Many others fall into the "you really should see if you can" category as well (that's not a bad category at all!).

Creating an itinerary for the Alaska Bucket List

This post also allows me to share the way I plan our trips. The first stage is listing all the places we want to visit in a country or region. 

Next, I placed the places on a map to see where everything was. Sharing this map here as well. It's an interactive Google Map, so you can enlarge it, zoom in and out, and generally play around.

If you click on the icon at the top-left corner, it will open up a menu with the names of the places. Click any of them to see where it is on the map and get more info about it.

alaska bucket list

Seeing the destinations on a map like this helps me start to plan our itinerary. Now I can tell which places are close to one another and what would make a sensible route.

So, what do you think? Did I forget something really important? Have you visited any of these destinations, or are you going to? Let me know in the comments!

Share this post -


  1. Hi Ann,
    We will be spending 10 days in Alaska this summer . Should we just focus on South central Alaska or take time out to fly to Juneau.
    Did you find Valdez more scenic than Juneau?

    • Hi Tony,
      We never visited Juneau so I can’t compare the two locations. We were road-tripping ad preferred to cost of a ferry for the vehicle. We found plenty to do in Alaska for 3 weeks without the inner passage (Juneau). Fairbanks, Denali, the Kenai Peninsula, and Valdez kept us busy at a nice slow pace. I think 10 days could work, but 14 might be better, depending on your specific itinerary.

  2. Hi Anne,
    Thank you for sharing your Alaska trip! It’s been really useful! My husband and I are planning a trip up there in June/July next year for 16 days, and here’s a rough itinerary I put together- Anchorage > Denali NP > Fairbanks > Valdez > Kenai Fjords NP > Seward > Anchorage. I’m just not sure if we should do it the other way around? Does it make a difference do you think? Do you think we would have time to add Portage Glacier/Whitter? Thank you!

    • Hi Mayra,
      I don’t see why you can’t do it the other way around. I think it works the same way in both directions. As for Portage and Whittier, Portage Glacier is on your way to and from Seward, so it’s an easy stop to make for a few hours. Whittier is a longer operation. Remember that the weather can be tricky, and may cause you to change your plans, so I would just leave that section of the trip under “optional” and stay flexible. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Hi Anne. We are going to do a Princess cruisetour (8 days on land, 7 at sea) in 2020. I broke down the cost for each separately and the land portion was over 10K. My thought is we can do our own land portion for under 10K. Thoughts. The Princess price doesn’t include meals nor excursions (I believe) Also, two days of nine hour drives to get to next place.

    • Hi Chris,
      I’m not familiar with that particular tour but IMHO, organized tours are always more expensive than going on your own. Personally, I prefer to plan our trips myself, as that’s cheaper and better customized for our preferences.
      Alaska is fairly easy to travel in once you’re there. I suggest you check our posts about Alaska travel here to see if this could be a good option for you. Enjoy your trip!

  4. What fabulous information. Thank you. We leave on our Alaska cruise tour in 2 days an have used your posts to plan. Thank you. We are still trying to figure out how to save money in food for the land portion in Anchorage, Denali & Fairbanks. Any suggestions?

  5. We are looking for a 2 week (including air travel time from Ohio) vacation to Alaska. Our first dilemma is do we do a cruise that has 3-4 days of land time before or just fly in, rent a car and go for it on our own. We love scenery and wildlife. We are older and not into a lot of hiking. Alaska has always been a dream vacation and this will probably be our only time visiting. Just starting to look. We are wanting 2019 but don’t have a time of the year picked out or any type of details at all.

    Your suggestion for us?

    • Hi Niki,
      Let me start by saying that I think it would be hard to go wrong with pretty much any itinerary in Alaska! The cruise lines usually include places such as Juneau and other places that can’t be reached by road so it’s a good option in its own right. The cruise would also give you an opportunity to see some of the coastline glaciers etc. It really depends on the cruise itself. You can then add a 10-day long road trip taking in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Seward etc. Or you could do three weeks on land, including Valdez, and then take a single-day cruise out of Seward and maybe another one from Valdez.
      As I said, there are no bad choices here!
      As for dates, anytime between mid-June and mid-September should be ok. Won’t be too cold and everything should be open. You may also want to check out my other posts about Alaska here. There are more tips and advice based on our own road trip there in 2017.

  6. Hi There, This is such an informative blog on Alaska. We are planning our visit (a family of 4) in June/July 2019. Just one question- How did you reach to each and every destination- Flight; Land; Water. For example- I am looking to go to Denali NP from Anchorage and google maps is saying “Sorry, your search appears to be outside our current coverage area for driving” Please help with your method of commute and where did you start it from and what was your last destination there in Alaska….I am commuting from DFW??

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Ruchi! Good point on adding the means of transportation – I’m going to update the post with that information. To give you a quick answer regarding Denali – you can absolutely drive to the park’s visitors center from Anchorage (or from Fairbanks). What you cannot do is drive with your car on the road that goes into the park itself. The only way to visit inside the park is by using the shuttle. Here’s the search in Google Maps. You can read my post about visiting Denali for more information on how to do that. Enjoy your trip!

      • Thanks soo much Anne for getting back. Please let me know how did you commute from one place to another…I am very much interested in Galcier Bay too….Is that drivable??? Or how did you commute. I really appreciate all your help.

  7. Hello – my husband and I would like to plan a trip to Alaska in the summer of 2019. We will have at least 3 weeks. For one week, we would like to do a very small cruise. The other two weeks via land. Not sure where to start so looking for help in planning an itinerary. We love nature – viewing, moderate hikes, animal sightings. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Eileen,
      There aren’t too many roads in Alaska, so a basic land itinerary is actually surprisingly simple. I should probably write an entire post on that sometime. Essentially, if you start in Anchorage, you should spend 3-4 days in the Kenai Peninsula (Seward) and then drive the circle that goes like this: Anchorage – Valdez detour – Tok Junction – FairbanksDenali – Anchorage.
      Just how to divide your days depends on your budget and preferences – there’s plenty to do in each destination! You can click the links I added for my posts about these destinations. Enjoy your trip!

  8. We only have 9 days and are planning on a trip to Alaska this August. We love to be active, be outdoors and see lots of parks and glaciers. How do you suggest we plan for this trip? Thanks.

    • Sorry about the delay here, Ashley. I had some server issues and had to deal with that first.
      I assume your starting and ending point would be Anchorage? If so, I would do the following – Drive up to Denali for 3-4 days and go into the park twice to include some hiking in the visit. You can read about our Denali visit here. We only went in once but we didn’t hike at all. I think it’s a great park for hiking so you may want to spend a couple of days there. I would then go south to the Kenai peninsula and spend the remaining days there. Take at least one glacier cruise (we took this one), hike Kenai Fjords National Park and drive out to Homer. There are tons of activities to do in the area, depending on what you like and your budget. Here’s the list I put together when researching Seward. Don’t forget to get a day to visit Portage Glacier and that area, possibly even crossing over to Whittier. We tried to do that but the weather was terrible on that day so there wasn’t much point in getting to Whittier. We did visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation park and liked it very much. If you still have time on your hands, you can take a day trip from Anchorage to see the Matanuska Glacier on the Glenn Highway. There’s a viewing point with a nice trail about 2 hours away from Anchorage but to be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the view from the road. I think the glacier must be receding so it seems quite distant. You could look into doing some activity there, like snow hiking with a local guide. I’m sure you’ll have tons of fun whatever you do, Alaska is pretty awesome!

  9. Hi Anne thank you for this bucket list, we are planning a trip to Alaska next summer June – July 2018.
    Wonder how long does it takes to complete the places you mention above ?
    We are from Singapore in S.E. Asia, we seldom do road trip, is it safe to drive in Alaska ?


    • Hi Julie, I would say about 3-4 weeks. We just returned from our own visit to Alaska. We visited Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Seward, Valdez and Haines in approx. 3 weeks but took our time in some of the places. We didn’t visit Katmai National Park because it was too expensive for our budget and we didn’t visit anywhere along the inner passage (Sitka, Juneau etc) that we couldn’t reach with our car (so, basically we limited our inner passage experience to Haines). I think the inner passage would be at least another week of travel and Katmai another 3 days. The rest could probably be done in 2-2.5 weeks if you’re fast travelers. 3 if you want a more leisurely experience.
      I hope this helps! Keep following my blog as I’m working on our Alaska posts (the first one has already been published and I hope to publish the one about Denali today!)

      • Hi Ann,
        Alaska as a whole is pretty overwhelming and costly 😉 I definitely don’t think anyone needs to cover all of the items in this Bucket List in a single visit. We certainly haven’t seen many of thse during our first (and so far only) visit to Alaska. I hope we’ll get to see them someday though!

  10. You’re going to have a blast in Alaska! We’ve lived all over the USA, but Alaska is now our home. There is nothing like waking up and seeing mountains out of every window or seeing a moose munching on your tree!

    • Thanks for the comment, Becky! Only 4 more months before we fly out to the US and begin our road trip! I love your blog and plan on spending some time there today – thanks for stopping by!

      • Hi Ann, and family. We will be heading to Alaska in early June and want to spend 2 or 3 months. We will be in a truck camper (4wd) and would like some help planning our trip. We prefer the non touristy more remote places but are game for all adventures.

        Our primary focus will be for 10 days in July. Our daughter, boyfriend and grandson will be joining us. They will fly in and out of Anchorage. Their arrival is July 10 and fly out on the 21st. We are all very active ( our grandson is 10) and we would like to experience as much as possible in those 10 days.

        Please let me know if you can give us a hand with our planning.


        • Hi Allen,
          Sounds like such a fantastic trip! One day, we’ll be doing that too – getting an RV and heading up north to spend an entire summer in Alaska. So far, we’ve only spent three weeks in the state last summer (and three weeks each way from LA to Alaska and back). I’d love to help out with any questions. I’m just a fellow traveler and my experience in Alaska is limited to what I just described but I can be good with brainstorming, so let me know what questions you have about planning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *