When winter descends on our beautiful state, many don’t think to visit one of our eight Alaska’s National Parks. But there are so many fun and exhilarating ways to experience these areas, even in the depths of an Alaskan winter. Whether you’re hopping on the back of a dogsled, or viewing familiar sights covered in snow and hoarfrost from atop your skis, there are fabulous activities to do in each park during every season.
1. Denali National Park and Preserve
Many people think that the home of North America's largest mountain is closed off in the winter, but it's not the case! Although temperatures can plunge to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, there are still plenty of things to do in the area. The Denali Park Road closes at mile 3, but park the car and strap on your skis or snowshoes to explore these stunning 6 million acres of wilderness. The Murie Science and Learning Center acts as the winter visitor center, and its open for visitors seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. through 5:00 p.m.
2. Kenai Fjords National Park
Accessing Kenai Fjords National Park in the winter is an exhilarating adventure. The road to Exit Glacier is closed to vehicles during the winter, and once you get a good snowfall, haul out your fat bike, dog sled, or skis to get close to this famous glacier. In fact, winter in this area is the best season to see a moose! Or call up Seward Ocean Excursions, one of the only businesses to take you out on the water all winter long. Winter tours are shorter at only 3.5 hours length, but its plenty of time to soak in the magical winter ocean scenes all around you. You may even spot a whale or two!
3. Katmai National Park and Preserve
Katmai is famous for bear watching, and for good reason! The Brooks River is teeming with grizzly bears all summer long, but many people wonder what there is to do in the winter. You can backcountry hike and winter camp all season long. Wherever you head, remember that it's remote, and you must practice excellent safety practices while in the backcountry. In King Salmon, Alaska, the King Salmon Visitor Center is open three days a week during the winter months except for December and January, when they close.
4. Gates of The Arctic National Park and Preserve
You can't drive to this remote national park. You must fly in, but it is definitely worth it. This area above the Arctic Circle is filled with stunning winter landscapes, and offers a beauty unlike anywhere else on this Earth. While it may be hard to find someone to fly in to this national park during the winter season, you can visit Wiseman and Coldfoot, both located on the Dalton Highway and right outside the park. Both small towns offer winter adventuring, including backcountry skiing, dog sledding, and aurora borealis watching.
5. Kobuk Valley National Park
Another national park located in the interior of Alaska, this beautiful park is in the central Brooks Range and right outside Kotzebue. There are plenty of ways to explore these 1.8 million acres of wilderness in the winter, especially if you have solid winter backcountry survival skills. Go dog sledding, snow machining, or aurora watching in this beautiful park north of the Arctic Circle.
6. Sitka National Historical Park
Sitka National Historical Park is located in Alaska's mild winter climate area, Southeast Alaska. Sitka offers beautiful hiking and exploring, even in the winter months. Explore the intertidal zone, and check out the Tlingit and Haida totem poles along the coast. This is a beautiful and quiet spot to drop in on during the winter!
7. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
This beautiful national preserve is located about an hour's flight outside of Kotzebue, or a snow machine out from Nome. The most visited part of this park is Serpentine Hot Springs, a natural hot spring reported to have healing properties from the mineral waters. This bathhouse is open and available all year long to visitors. The surrounding landscape, including the nearby granite tors, is beautiful to gaze at during your visit.
8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Visiting the nation's largest national park in the winter can be done. With 13.2 million acres of diverse land, there is much to do and see in the park in every season. Winter hike, cross country ski, or snow shoe on any of the trails in the park. Or you can explore by snow machine on any of the public lands inside of Wrangell-St. Elias. You must be self sufficient in this land, as temperatures can routinely drop to -30 degrees Fahrenheit and colder. The ranger stations are closed for the winter, but that shouldn't stop your exploration of this beautiful land!
Have you visited Alaska’s National Parks during the winter? What did you do? Did you love it? Let us know in the comments below!