10 Alaska Hidden Adventures for the Brave and Bold

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Alaska is massive, and chances are you've only seen the touristy highlights. But we're going off the beaten path to some unique spots that most travelers never experience.

From an abandoned bus deep in the wilderness to entire valleys that look like the surface of the moon, this list has some wild destinations you'll want to add to your Alaska bucket list.

Get ready to explore hidden gems that will make you feel like you've stumbled upon Alaska's best-kept secrets.

1. The Magic Bus (Bus 142)

While the original "Magic Bus" Christopher McCandless lived in has been moved to the Museum of the North in Fairbanks for safety reasons, the Stampede Trail itself remains a draw for adventurous souls seeking to experience the remote Alaskan wilderness.

This bus became a symbol of adventure and solitude after Chris McCandless's story was popularized in Jon Krakauer's book 'Into the Wild,' chronicling his journey into the Alaskan wilderness.

Hikers interested in tracing the path of McCandless should prepare for challenging conditions, including river crossings and unpredictable weather. The trailhead is located near Healy and is accessible via the Parks Highway.

Due to the bus's removal, visitors now focus on experiencing the trail's natural beauty and the solitude of Alaska's backcountry.

Safety should be a top priority, and the National Park Service provides guidelines for those planning to hike in remote areas.

2. Barrow (Utqiaġvik)

As the northernmost city in the United States, Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow) offers a unique cultural and geographical experience. You can explore the Iñupiat Heritage Center to learn about the local Indigenous culture and history.

Utqiaġvik is steeped in history as a centuries-old Inupiat hunting ground before becoming a critical research and military hub in the 20th century.

Depending on the season, experiencing the midnight sun or polar night is a highlight. Travel to Utqiaġvik is typically by air, with regular flights from Anchorage. Dressing in layers and preparing for cold, even in summer, is essential.

For more information on what to see and do in Utqiaġvik, visit the North Slope Borough's official website.

3. Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve is one of the least visited national parks in the United States, offering a genuine adventure to those who make the journey.

The centerpiece is the Aniakchak Crater, a 6-mile wide caldera formed by a volcanic eruption nearly 3,500 years ago.

The eruption that formed the Aniakchak Crater is one of Alaska's least known but most powerful natural events, creating a landscape that has shaped the region's history and continues to inspire explorers today.

Access to Aniakchak is challenging and usually involves a bush plane trip from King Salmon, Alaska. There are no facilities or trails, so visitors must be entirely self-sufficient and experienced in wilderness survival.

Check the National Park Service's Aniakchak page for information on permits and preparations for your visit.

4. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

The famous Valley of ten thousand smokes in the Katmai National Park in Alaska

Located in Katmai National Park and Preserve, this valley was formed by the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Today, you can see a stark, moon-like landscape of ash and pumice.

The Valley was named by Robert F. Griggs, who led a National Geographic Society expedition to the area in 1916, two years after the Novarupta Volcano's eruption filled the valley with ash.

The valley is accessible via bus tour from Brooks Camp, which also offers world-renowned bear viewing opportunities. Preparing for variable weather and booking accommodations and tours in advance is advised.

Check out our guide, Katmai National Park, which contains what you need to know before planning your visit, and the National Park Service's Katmai page for more information.

5. Kennicott and McCarthy

Kennicott Mine in McCarthy Alaska is an abandoned copper mine and UNESCO world heritage site

Kennicott and McCarthy are twin towns located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. They offer a look at Alaska's mining history from the early 1900s.

Kennicott has a history centered around copper mining and the boom-bust cycles common during that era.

Today, you can take guided tours of the old Kennicott copper mine and mill at the Kennicott Mines National Historic Landmark. The landmark preserves the abandoned mining buildings and equipment from that time.

McCarthy serves as a base for exploring the vast wilderness of the park. The McCarthy Road, leading to the towns, is rough and requires a vehicle with good clearance.

Accommodations range from campsites to lodges, but booking in advance is recommended due to the remote location.

Check out our guide, Discover the Wonders of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and visit the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park website for more information on the tours and activities you can try.

6. The Arctic Circle

arctic circle board on Alaska

Crossing into the Arctic Circle in Alaska presents a rare opportunity to experience one of the planet's most extreme environments. The Dalton Highway provides the most direct land route, starting from Fairbanks.

There are few services on the Dalton Highway, so you should plan for self-sufficiency and carry spare fuel, food, and emergency supplies.

By the way, the Arctic Circle is not an actual place but an imaginary line encircling the Arctic region. The region inside the Arctic Circle experiences extended periods of continuous daylight in summer and continuous darkness in winter.

This unique light cycle significantly impacts the ecosystems and cultures found in the Arctic.

The Dalton Highway journey can take you through stunning, untouched wilderness, offering chances to see the Northern Lights (in winter) or the midnight sun (in summer).

If you are planning to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, we've got just the right guide for you: What’s The Best Time To Travel To Alaska To See The Northern Lights?

7. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Currant Creek flows into Lake Clark in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska

Accessible only by plane or boat, Lake Clark offers a wilderness experience of breathtaking landscapes, including mountains, lakes, and active volcanoes.

It's also one of the best places in Alaska for bear viewing, especially in the coastal areas of Chinitna Bay and Silver Salmon Creek. Visitors can engage in activities such as fishing, kayaking, and hiking.

Prospective visitors should coordinate with air taxi services in Anchorage or Homer and consider hiring local guides to enhance their experience. The National Park Service provides planning resources at the Lake Clark National Park website.

8. Nome

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Unlike the more tourist-focused parts of Alaska, Nome offers a raw slice of Alaskan culture and history, set against the backdrop of the Bering Sea.

Famous for being the end of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Nome is also a hotspot for birdwatching, especially during the spring migration.

Nome's legacy was cemented in the late 19th century during the Alaska gold rush, which saw thousands flock to its beaches, leading to the establishment of the Iditarod Trail to transport supplies.

The region's rich gold rush history can be explored through numerous abandoned dredges and historical sites.

Travel to Nome is primarily by air, and visitors should be prepared for the variable Arctic weather. More information on attractions and accommodations can be found on the Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

9. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

This vast, remote landscape offers insights into the prehistoric land bridge that once connected Asia and North America.

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve features hot springs, dramatic volcanic landscapes, and opportunities to see unique wildlife and learn about Indigenous cultures.

Access is primarily by air from Nome, and like many remote Alaskan destinations, you must be fully self-sufficient and prepared for wilderness conditions.

The National Park Service's Bering Land Bridge National Preserve website provides information on planning your visit.

10. Kobuk Valley National Park

Beautiful aerial landscape of Kobuk Valley National Park in the arctic of Alaska.

Famous for the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, this park is also a haven for half a million migrating caribou each spring and fall. The Kobuk River also offers opportunities for boating and fishing in a pristine Arctic setting.

Access to Kobuk Valley is by air charter from Kotzebue or Bettles, with no roads or trails leading into the park. Visitors are advised to plan meticulously, considering the park's isolation and the extreme conditions.

Visitor information and permits are on the Kobuk Valley National Park page.

Don't Miss Out on Alaska's Best-Kept Secrets

Alaska's off-the-beaten-path gems make it such a fantastic adventure destination.

Just be sure to pack your sense of wonder and maybe an extra warm layer! With the right preparation and mindset, you'll have incredible memories that'll last a lifetime.

What are you waiting for? Start planning that Alaska bucket list today!

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