Alaska’s 7 Most Underrated Natural Attractions

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You've probably heard about Alaska's famous attractions like Denali and glaciers. But this state has plenty of underrated natural wonders that most tourists miss.

From twisted forests to sculpture trails honoring Native cultures, Alaska is packed with off-the-beaten-path gems. We've rounded up 7 of the most unique sights that regular visitors often overlook.

Get ready to go beyond the typical Alaska experience with these hidden treasures. You'll want to add them to your travel bucket list ASAP.

1. The Whispering Giants of Peter Toth, Valdez

Trail of the Whispering Giants totem pole statue in Valdez Alaska, by artist Peter Wolf

In the scenic town of Valdez, you can find one of Peter Toth's iconic Whispering Giants — which are more than just statues.

Sculptor Toth's "Whispering Giants," including this one carved from Sitka spruce, stand as towering tributes to the Native American people and their heritage.

For over 50 years, Toth has dedicated himself to creating these sculptures to honor those who have faced injustice. You can find at least one of these giants in each of the 50 states.

This specific giant, overlooking the mountains, offers a glimpse into the indigenous peoples' rich cultural heritage and presents a unique photo opportunity against the backdrop of Valdez's stunning natural beauty.

And while you're in Valdez, why not try our other recommended activities? Check out our guide: 6 Awesome Things To Do In Valdez, Alaska (Including Photos)

2. The Drunken Forest, Fairbanks

Located near Fairbanks, the Drunken Forest is a testament to the power of nature and the effects of climate change.

The sight of trees leaning and twisting as if inebriated, caused by the thawing permafrost beneath them, provides a unique landscape for visitors. It's a reminder of the fragile ecosystem in the Arctic.

And in case you're planning to stay a while in Fairbanks, here's our guide on booking some of the best budget-friendly places: How To Find A (Relatively) Cheap Hotel In Fairbanks, AK

3. Lost Lake

Lost Lake mountain biking near Seward, Alaska

Lost Lake, a hidden gem near Seward, offers tranquility away from the usual tourist trails. Surrounded by dense forests and majestic peaks, it's perfect for hiking, picnicking, and photography.

The trail to Lost Lake is known for its beauty and moderate challenge, making it a fulfilling day trip for those looking to immerse themselves in Alaska's wilderness.

Make sure to check out the Chugach National Forest website before hiking for safety and trail information.

Luckily, no permit is required upon entry. But if you want to secure a cabin along the Lost Lake Trail, reservations are required through the Forest Service.

You can book your stay online up to 180 days in advance.

4. The Magic Bus, Stampede Trail

Although the actual bus from "Into the Wild" has been removed for safety, the Stampede Trail itself continues to attract adventurers drawn to the story of Chris McCandless.

Quick segue: Chris McCandless was a young adventurer who sought solitude and a return to nature in the Alaskan wilderness, ultimately perishing from starvation near the Stampede Trail, as famously chronicled in Jon Krakauer's book "Into the Wild."

The trail offers a rugged, remote Alaskan experience, but be well-prepared for backcountry conditions.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources provides guidelines and updates for travelers planning to explore the Stampede Trail, emphasizing the importance of preparation and respect for the wilderness.

5. Jensen-Olson Arboretum

About 23 miles north of downtown Juneau, the Jensen-Olson Arboretum is a serene haven for plant lovers and those seeking tranquility amidst nature — with free admission!

Located right on the water's edge, the arboretum offers a lovely collection of plants both native to the area and from around the world, with an impressive variety of primroses.

Its status as an accredited arboretum reflects its commitment to botanical conservation, education, and the enjoyment of future generations. The beautifully landscaped gardens are a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

While you're in Juneau, you should make the most of your stay by trying some of these activities in our checklist: 22 Amazing Things To Do In Juneau, Alaska

6. Alaska Powder Descents

filming with a steady cam mounted on the front of a helicopter of a snowboarder jumping, heli skiing

For adventure seekers, Alaska Powder Descents presents an unforgettable heli-skiing experience in the pristine wilderness of Southeast Alaska.

Catering to intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders, this service provides access to untouched powder across vast alpine terrains, steep chutes, and open bowls, all set against the breathtaking backdrop of the coastal mountains near Juneau.

While there's no permit required to enter Alaska Powder Descents, heli-skiing itself requires a booking.

7. Perseverance National Recreation Trail

A historic gem in the heart of Alaska's capital, the Perseverance Trail offers hikers a glimpse into Juneau's gold mining era alongside stunning natural scenery.

As one of the area's most popular trails, it winds through dense forests, past cascading waterfalls, and alongside the ruins of old mines, reflecting Juneau's rich history and rugged landscape.

Suitable for various fitness levels, this trail provides an accessible outdoor adventure with the chance to spot local wildlife, including bald eagles and black bears, amid the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Final Tips for Exploring Alaska's Hidden Gems

As you've discovered, Alaska's natural wonders extend far beyond the famous attractions.

A few final tips: check local visitor centers for updated trail and safety info. Consider guided tours led by experts who can provide deeper historical and environmental context.

And most importantly, leave these treasures untouched for future admirers by packing out everything you bring in.

What are you waiting for? Grab your sense of adventure and start exploring!

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