When it comes to finding wild adventures in the USA, look north to Alaska. With more than 570,000 square miles and an entire population of nearly 742,000 people, Alaska is the largest state in America, yet ranks 47th in regards to people, which means there are plenty of open, unpopulated spaces ripe for discovery, exploration and adventures. To experience the different sides of The Last Frontier, my dad and I recently joined the John Hall’s Alaska team for a father-daughter untamed inland and coastal adventure through the south-central part of the state. Afterwards, we developed our own highlights (in no particular order!) to inspire you to take on untamed Alaska for yourself.
Untamed Roadways: After riding the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to the small town of Talkeetna, we departed for the backcountry of Denali National Park. Our final destination? Denali Backcountry Lodge at the very end of the (unpaved) Denali Park Road, the only road in the park – 92.5 miles long and the closest point to Mount Denali, about 25 miles from the end of the road.
What’s special about going to the end of the road is that just the first 15 miles into the park can be driven by private vehicle; otherwise, park shuttle and tour buses, as well as park-approved lodge buses, are the only way to get to mile marker 92.5.
When we arrived at the lodge, my dad remarked that he couldn’t recall the last time he had been on a 90-plus-mile stretch of roadway without seeing any signs or billboards. That was until we drove the (mostly un-paved)135-mile Denali Highway two days later, from the park en route to Valdez. Again, nothing but captivating landscapes, soaring mountains and golden meadows to catch our eyes.
Untamed Wildlife: One of the main draws of visiting Alaska is spotting all of the wildlife that makes itself right at home on land and in its waters. During our visit, we spotted 13 grizzly bears, more than a dozen caribou, numerous Dall’s sheep, bald eagles, willow ptarmigan (the Alaskan state bird) and even a beaver dragging a tree across a pond to add to his lodge – and that was just on the ride to the end of the road in Denali National Park.
Cruising Prince William Sound from Valdez was when Alaskan marine life came into the spotlight – humpback and orca…