We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Alaska is a very unforgiving state. From vivacious seas, steep mountain terrain, undeveloped yet well-traveled road systems, sprawling back-country, unpredictable wildlife and an abundance of summertime visitors, Alaska can be a very precarious place. Check out the 10 most dangerous, deadly places in Alaska.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Bering Sea
The Bering Sea is one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. It is also home to a little TV show called The Deadliest Catch (maybe you’ve heard of it?) Commercial crab fishing is a huge industry in this area, however it has been dubbed as one of the most dangerous jobs in the entire world. With high and shifty seas, rogue waves and often times freezing temperatures that can cause boats to capsize – this is not the place to go if you don’t have extremely thick skin.
You should also enjoy a good adrenaline rush, because you are guaranteed to get one. Many lives have been lost to this powerful and sporadic sea. The sea actually includes waters in Alaska and Russia with international waterways in the middle (known as the donut hole). In addition, 12 islands can be found throughout the Bering Sea area.
2. Dalton Highway
The 414-mile-long Dalton Highway is said to be one of the most dangerous highways in all of America and stretches from Fairbanks to the North Slope in Alaska. The road winds through the Brooks Range with huge mountain peaks in the distance, steep drop offs and wildlife roaming free in their natural habitat. Although beautiful to explore the scenery, this road is not for the faint of hearts. Temperatures have dropped as low as -80 degrees Fahrenheit, high wind tunnels occur and white-out conditions are not uncommon.
With much of the road still remaining unpaved it is otherwise known as the “haul road” it allows oil and gas companies transport large loads to supply businesses on the slope. Because of the vast remote stretch of area, there are actually helicopters that fly the road on a daily basis to scan for any accidents or signs of trouble as cell phone service is not active on much of the road. Many summer visitors to Alaska that want to check this road out are usually not allowed to drive rental cars on this road as those businesses prohibit it due to the rough conditions.
3. Mt. Denali
As the highest peak in all of North America at 20,320 feet, climbing Mt. Denali is often times underestimated by veteran climbers who have bagged plenty of peaks close to (or even higher) than this elevation. Some refer to Denali as a man-eater because of all the people that have attempted to summit and have lost their lives along the way, even with veteran guides by their side.
So what makes this mountain so dangerous? Some of it is the 18,000-foot vertical rise from its base which makes for a treacherous three week excursion. Avalanches are not uncommon on Denali and when they hit, there is not coming out alive. The high latitude and complex weather patterns on Denali also add to the dangerous, deadliness of it all. Many lives have been lost on this mountain yet every year more people sign up to attempt a summit. If you are going to attempt this monstrosity of a mountain, familiarizing yourself with Alaska’s backcountry and seeking out a reputable guide company is certainly the smartest route.
4. Admiralty Island
Located in southeast Alaska, Admiralty Island doesn't necessarily have a lot of deaths on record, but it is very dangerous. And why you ask? Well, because you're outnumbered. Like, by a lot. Admiralty is home to the highest population density of brown bears in all of North America. It is estimated that there are over 1,600 brown bears on this beautiful island that is lush dense backcountry and incredible fishing spots. In fact, the brown bears are said to outnumber actual humans nearly three to one. It is however a gorgeous island to explore so if you go, just be sure that you are fully prepared for your furry friends that aren’t really interested in mingling.
5. Lost Lake - Turnagain Pass
Lost Lake in the summertime is one of the most beautiful sights that your eyes will ever behold. It is surrounded by two stunning glaciers and a plethora of wildflowers overlooking the beautiful Resurrection Bay. But this is really more of a wintertime destination on the Kenai Peninsula for snow machine riders that enjoy traversing steep mountain terrain. The only problem is, it’s very dangerous and very deadly.
With how quickly the weather can change in Alaska, it doesn’t take much for adventurers to get sopped in by white-out snow conditions. With how vast this land is and all throughout the Turnagain Pass, it’s very easy to get turned around and lost. And if you aren’t properly prepared, you might not ever be found. Or you’ll run out of food or freeze to death waiting to a possible rescuer. With steep peaks, high and varying elevations, high wind tunnels and drastic temperature swings, this is prime avalanche country. Only experienced and highly prepared explorers are recommended to go into this area. And even then, there is no guaranteeing that you will come out alive.
6. Mount Marathon - Seward
Every year on the fourth of July, nearly 1000 people travel to the town of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula to compete in the now infamous Mount Marathon foot race. The race itself is a three mile round-trip dash up the 3022 feet climb of Mount Marathon. The race itself as well as the Independence Day events throughout the town attract tens of thousands of people to town to enjoy the festivities. Although this event is fun and lively, the actual traverse of the mountain can be very dangerous and even deadly.
There have been people that have lost their lives on the mountain by getting lost, hurt or even falling. Although it’s not incredibly common, it does happen. Wildlife is also a factor and they roam in Alaska’s backcountry and can present some large and challenging obstacles if accidentally approached. The dangerous involved are important to talk about so that those who attempt to run the race are reminded to use proper precaution. Alaska is a very vast and unforgiving place.
7. Rovers Run - Far North Bicentennial Park, Anchorage
Rovers Run is a trail located in Far North Bicentennial Park in Alaska’s largest city of Anchorage. Although many say the dangerous stigma of this trail is a bit of an urban legend, the truth is that anywhere in remote Alaska can be very dangerous, even if that’s just a remote trail located in the middle of an action packed city.
In the case of the Rovers Run trail, there have been numerous reports of bear maulings on the trail over the years. In the dense forest with the skinny winding trail, it is not difficult for a bear to be roaming in the nearby area without a person noticing that they are even there. The trail becomes even more dangerous with a heightened sense of vulnerability for those enjoying outdoor recreation when a brown bear has cubs nearby and is in all out protection mode. Even if you don’t stumble upon the cubs, your scent alone can trigger the sow to get agitated and defensive which increases the chance of attack. Anchorage is a beautiful city filled with amazing trails for residents and visitors alike to enjoy, but if you are going to venture into the woods just be sure to be prepared for anything that can happen.
8. Seward Highway
The Seward Highway which connects from Anchorage down to the town of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula is hands down one of the most dangerous roads in all of Alaska. The awe-inspiring scenery alone on this 127-mile stretch is literally enough to distract drivers into on oncoming lane or off of the road. Large amounts of wildlife also play a factor in the dangerousness of this highway. Whether the wildlife is crossing the road or there is a multiple-vehicle pileup on the side of the road stopping abruptly to take photos of the animals, there is always something to be on the alert about while driving this highway.
The highway starts at sea level, ascends 1,000 feet up into the mountain pass before coming back down to sea level again. Steep mountain terrain and high winds tunnels are very common. As a scenic byway, hundreds of thousands of travelers drive this highway every year with number increasing substantially in the summertime. Increased travel as well as some of the other factors listed above unfortunately result in many accidents and fatalities nearly every year on this highway.
9. Frozen Lakes - All Over The State
Flickr - Dan Logan
There are far too many remote places throughout Alaska to name one specific place, but snow-machine accidents happen in Alaska at a per capita rate at least five times higher than any other state. Whether proper precaution is not used or it is a drug or alcohol induced accident, the amount of deaths per year due to snow-machine accidents is a sad reality in Alaska. Lots of accidents occur due to a traverse on a lake that isn’t frozen solid where a rider goes in and can’t get out. Other times it might be an avalanche that takes place, weather that changes quickly or getting lost in the vigorous and unforgiving backcountry and not having enough gear to survive until you can find your way out (or get rescued).
10. Small Planes - All Over The State
This is another one of those very dangerous, deadly locations that doesn’t exactly have just one specific area of danger. In Alaska the road system is still very limited and there are so many beautiful areas that are only accessible by plane or boat. Heck, even the state’s capital of Juneau isn’t even accessible by roadway. And let’s be honest, flying is a lot quicker than taking a boat. In Alaska it is estimated that 1 out of every 61 people own a plane. The US average is 1 in every 400 people. So knowing that statistic alone, one can start to see how it would be possible that Alaska would have more plane small plane crashes than other places in the world. Mix that in with oftentimes terrible weather and wicked terrain and it becomes even more alarmingly obvious.
Although dangerous, the last frontier is still the most beautiful state in all of the nation. But if you are going to venture off the beaten path, be sure to use caution and be prepared for anything. Whether that be wicked winter weather, sporadic wildlife or being stuck in the remote back-country. A rule of thumb in Alaska is that “one can never be too prepared or too over-prepared.” Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Can you think of any other dangerous, deadly places to add to the list?