If there’s one thing that’s true about Alaska, it’s that there are countless natural wonders to explore. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of all of our favorite
Alaskan natural wonders to help you make your visit to Alaska filled with awe-inspiring beauty so you know exactly what to expect when you visit Alaska.
Best Gorges & Canyons In Alaska
In a state as naturally beautiful as Alaska, you can bet there will be some legendary gorges and canyons to admire. These two natural wonders are certainly worth a stop while you traverse The Last Frontier.
1. Keystone Canyon
Keystone Canyon, Valdez, AK 99686, USA
Location: Near Valdez Wow Factor: You can get a mighty good view from your windshield as you drive along the Richardson Highway. Cost: Free
Often called the Grand Canyon of Alaska,
is a bucket list destination for many. As you drive into Valdez on the Richardson Highway you’ll pass through this awe-inspiring area. The 3.5-mile-long canyon boasts 600-foot tall rock walls, majestic waterfalls, and some of the most breathtaking views you’ve ever seen. And there’s plenty to see and do, too. White water rafting is a popular activity in the summer. In the spring, the area turns into “The Land of the Waterfalls,” and the
Keystone Canyon waterfalls
are a must-see. We’ll talk more about these waterfalls in the waterfall section of this article.
2. Winner Creek Gorge
Winner Creek Gorge Trail Head (Lower Winner Creek Trail), 601 Crow Creek Rd, Girdwood, AK 99587, USA
Location: Girdwood Wow Factor: The trail to get to it is relatively easy and even kid-friendly. Cost: Free
Winner Creek Gorge Trail
is one of the best trails in Alaska. The trail clocks in at about three miles, and is full of breathtaking views every step of the way. As you meander through the northernmost rainforest in North America you’ll marvel at Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and mountain hemlock among other towering trees all the while having majestic mountain views through the treeline.
Best Caves In Alaska
Alaska is unique in many ways, but one of them is that there are two different types of caves in Alaska. Alaska has both traditional rock caves like many other states, but we also have our fair share of ice caves, too. The time of year you visit will determine which caves are accessible, and you’ll need a guide and the proper safety equipment to explore the ice caves. Here are some of the
best caves in Alaska to check out: 3. El Capitan Cave
El Cap Cave Interpretive Site, Naukati, AK 99901, USA
Location: Prince of Wales Island Wow Factor: It’s the longest mapped cave in Alaska Cost: Free
Located on the Alaska Panhandle, Prince of Wales Island has roughly 600 caves but there’s one that stands out among the rest: El Capitan. Not only is the
El Capitan Cave
one of the most popular caves in Alaska, but it’s also the longest cave in Alaska. Because this cave is very fragile (and over 10,000 years old) you’ll need a tour guide with you to explore. Three free tours are offered daily, but you do need to reserve a spot ahead of time with the
Thorne Bay Ranger District 4. Mendenhall Ice Caves
Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
Location: Near Juneau Wow Factor: It’s one of the most popular ice caves in Alaska, though entry is never guaranteed since it’s a naturally formed ice cave and it’s constantly shifting. Cost: $200+ for a tour
If you thought traditional caves were cool, just wait until you step inside of an ice cave. The
Mendenhall Ice Caves
are located just 12 miles outside of Juneau. For summer travelers, the only way to access the caves is via a kayak or the West Glacier Trail. In the winter, you’ll need to cross the frozen Lake Mendenhall. No matter what season you visit, you’ll be met with stunning shades of blue when you enter the caves. Because the ice caves are naturally formed and constantly changing, we’d recommend taking a
guided tour of Mendenhall Glacier. Best Waterfalls In Alaska
There are 43 waterfalls in Alaska, and those are just the officially named ones. When you start to cover all of the random falls that occur every spring, that number escalates greatly. Every one of Alaska’s official 43 waterfalls is worthy of a visit, but if we had to narrow it down to the best
waterfalls in Alaska, here’s what we’d pick: 5. Thunderbird Falls
Thunderbird Falls, 25321 Old Glenn Hwy, Chugiak, AK 99567, USA
Location: Eklutna/Chugach State Park Wow Factor: It’s one of the easiest, kid-friendly waterfall hikes in Alaska and the views are stunning! Cost: Free
You’ll find this beautiful Alaskan waterfall near Anchorage in Chugach State Park. The best part about this waterfall is that the hike is quick and easy (under two miles) and very kid-friendly. When you reach the end of the trail, you’ll have a fantastic view of the 200-foot waterfall and the surrounding mountains. Because
is so easily accessible, it’s a no-brainer for those visiting Anchorage.
6. Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls, Valdez, AK 99686, USA
Location: Valdez/Skagway Wow Factor: This waterfall has been on many top 10 lists, including CNN! Cost: Free
While you’re admiring Keystone Canyon, be sure to check out
Bridal Veil Falls.
This beauty cascades for 600 feet and it’s called the Crown Jewel of Keystone Canyon for a reason! In the winter, this waterfall is famous for ice climbing, but don’t worry, if that’s not your idea of a good time you can always admire them from the viewpoint....which is right on the road!
7. Nugget Falls
Nugget Falls, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
Location: Juneau Wow Factor: Also called "Nugget Creek Falls," or "Mendenhall Glacier Falls.," this two-tiered waterfall has it all, including glacier views! Cost: Free Nugget Falls
is fed by Nugget Creek, which is a runoff from the Nugget Glacier. The waterfall cascades down into Mendenhall Lake, which is a freshwater lake fed from Mendenhall Glacier, so this epic waterfall is bookended by two glaciers! Nugget Falls clocks in at an impressive 377 feet, and you’ll have a lovely view of Mendenhall Glacier from the viewpoint. It’s a two-tier waterfall, and the first tier is 99 feet with the second tier dropping 278 feet. The hike to Nugget Falls is about two miles, and fairly easy as far as Alaskan trails go.
8. Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls, Valdez, AK 99686, USA
Location: Valdez Wow Factor: You can practically drive right up to this impressive waterfall Cost: Free
is fed exclusively by snowmelt, this is one waterfall that’s best for a springtime adventure. Horsetail Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Keystone Canyon (Bridal Veils is the other). Seeing this 330-foot-tall waterfall in person will be sure to leave you inspired to chase all of Alaska’s waterfalls!
Best Overlooks & Scenic Vistas In Alaska
There’s nothing better than a good view, and Alaska has plenty of them. Luckily, many of the
best views in Alaska don’t require a strenuous hike. From windshield wonders to summit scenic vistas, here are some of the best views in Alaska: 9. Windy Creek Overlook Location: Katmai National Park and Preserve Wow Factor: The trail to get to the overlook is about four miles, with only 800 feet of elevation gain. Cost: Free
If you’ve got a couple of hours to kill, this adventurous hike will pay off with incredible views. As you explore the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, you’ll have the opportunity to see tons of wildlife. Because of the abundance of wildlife in the area, dogs are not permitted, so be sure to leave the pup at home. The views from the
Windy Creek Overlook
will leave you speechless! If you do plan on hiking any trails in Alaska, an
is always a good idea.
10. Mount Healy Overlook
Mount Healy Overlook Trailhead, Healy, AK 99743, USA
Location: Denali National Park Wow Factor: It’s one of the more strenuous hikes in the park, but well-worth the extra effort. Cost: Free
Mount Healy Overlook Trail
is about 2.5 miles each way, and even though it’s one of the more strenuous hikes in the park, it’s well-maintained and still rated as moderate. The trail is accessible for most of the year, but it really shines in the warmer months when there are an abundance of wildflowers to add a splash of color to your hike. The views from the top are just mesmerizing, but be warned that it can be pretty windy at the summit!
11. Ester Dome
Ester Dome, Ester, AK 99709, USA
Location: Fairbanks Wow Factor: This is an excellent spot to see the aurora borealis if you’re visiting during the winter! Cost: Free
You’ve got a couple of different options when hiking to this scenic overlook. The
Ester Dome Trail
has both inner and outer loops, with the option to combine the two trails to make one big loop. This is an especially great area if you’re hoping to catch the Northern Lights while you’re visiting Alaska. The Aurora Borealis season is from late August through April, though remember that this natural phenomenon is never guaranteed!
Best Rock Formations in Alaska
Alaska is just one incredible natural wonder after another, isn’t it? If you’re in the Fairbanks area, be sure to check out this awesome collection of ancient rock formations.
12. Granite Tors
Granite Tors, Alaska 99712, USA
Location: Near Fairbanks Wow Factor: It’s a chance to see lava rock formations that are millions of years old! The area itself is in a protected area, with plenty of beautiful views and natural surroundings to enjoy. Cost: Free
just outside of Fairbanks. These are lava formations that were formed 70-90 million years ago when molten lava pushed up through the earth’s crust. The hike to view them is located within the Chena River State Recreation Area, but strap in for a long hike (15 miles). This hike is perfect for Midnight Sun adventures when you don’t have to worry about daylight. You can also pitch a tent and spend a night sleeping in the area.
Unique Natural Wonders in Alaska
We’ve covered rock formations, canyons, gorges, caves, and waterfalls, but there are so many natural wonders in Alaska that just don’t fit nicely into one of these buckets. From the Chugach mountains to These are some of our favorite natural wonders in Alaska that just never stop being amazing:
13. Denali Location: Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska Wow Factor: It’s the highest mountain peak in North America Cost: $15+
While you can see Denali (formally known as Mount McKinley) from Kings Highway, it’s worth your while to spend some time exploring
Denali National Park and Preserve.
While you’re hitting the trails and admiring this majestic mountain, keep an eye out for moose, caribou, rabbits, bald eagles, and countless other wildlife that call the area home.
14. Tongass National Forest
Tongass National Forest, Alaska 99833, USA
Location: Juneau Wow Factor: Clocking in at 16.7 million acres, the Tongass National Forest is the largest National Forest in the United States! Cost: Free
Southeast Alaska has a lot of natural wonders, and the
Tongass National Forest
is just one of them. This old-growth forest is home to trees that are well over 1,000 years old, including Sitka spruce, yellow and red cedar, and western hemlock. Western hemlock can reach heights of 170 feet, which will make you feel super small as you explore this enchanted forest. From eagles to bears and spawning salmon, tons of wildlife thrive in this old-growth forest and you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to see some Alaska’s wildlife here.
15. Northern Lights Location: Anywhere in Alaska (kind of) Wow Factor: Seeing the northern lights is a bucket list item for many! Cost: Free
season runs from late August until April, but to give yourself the best chance at seeing them, I’d head to Fairbanks. It’s not unheard of to see them as far south as Talkeetna, Anchorage, or Girdwood, but you’ll want to get away from city lights as much as possible. Clear skies are important, and we all know the weather in Alaska can change quickly. The Northern Lights are one of the best natural wonders of Alaska, and though seeing them is never guaranteed, it’s one of the most incredible moments you’ll ever have on this earth.
16. Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska, USA
Location: Southeast Alaska Wow Factor: From rugged coastlines to wildlife viewing, you’ll never run out of things to do in this 3.3-million-acre National Park. Cost: Free
If you want to experience heaven on earth, make your way over to
Glacier Bay National Park.
Picture it: tidewater glaciers, snow-covered mountain peaks, bluebird skies, and countless wildlife all in one place. Viewing this park from the water is highly recommended, so you can spend your days whale-watching, seal-watching, and kayaking to view this treasure from a completely different perspective. Orca and humpback whales are frequently sighted living their best lives in these waters, making this national park a must-visit for animal lovers.
17. Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, USA
Location: Seward Wow Factor: Featuring glorious fjords, plenty of glaciers, and tons of wildlife, Kenai Fjords National Park is an otherworldly experience. Cost: Free
Fewer places in the U.S.A. are as incredible as
Kenai Fjords National Park.
The park is located on the Kenai Peninsula and clocks in at a staggering 669,984 acres. From the Harding Icefield to its coastal fjords and islands, Kenai Fjords National Park is a true treasure. Roughly 40 glaciers come from the Harding Icefield, with Exit Glacier being one of the most popular. You can reach this glacier after a short and sweet hike, and it’s actually one of the few areas in the park that’s accessible year-round.
Feeling inspired? Check out even more of our favorite ways to explore
nature in Alaska. If you are inspired to hike any of Alaska’s trails, be sure to get yourself an AllTrails + account. You’ll have premium features that will come in handy when you’re exploring these remote areas!
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