Alaska Adventures: Denali to Juneau, What to Do There

Alaska Adventures fjord
A dramatic Alaska Fjord.

Fun Alaska Adventures: Top Excursions and Parks

By Oscar Davis

The vast wilderness of Alaska provides travelers with all sorts of adventures. Its breathtaking landscapes and wild open spaces offer a wide array of exhilarating adventures for those seeking outdoor thrills and unforgettable experiences.

Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks Alaska.
Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks Alaska.

The 49th state has something for everyone, whether you are primitive camping on the frozen tundra or basking in sophisticated elegance on a luxury cruise to Alaska.

Spring, summer, autumn, or winter, there is no bad time to plan a friends’ getaway to Alaska. You just have to wrap up warm in the colder months! From hiking in Denali National Park to dog sledding in Anchorage, there are so many epic adventures to be had. Here are the top excursions to do with friends in Alaska.

Hiking in Denali National Park

Denali National Park, located in the heart of Alaska, is a hiker’s paradise that offers a truly immersive and awe-inspiring outdoor experience for groups and individuals.

With its towering mountains, expansive tundra, and diverse wildlife, it is the perfect destination for a hiking adventure with friends. Lace up your boots, grab your backpack, and get ready to explore the breathtaking landscapes of Denali National Park.

The park offers a wide range of hiking trails suitable for all levels of experience and fitness. For those seeking a leisurely stroll, there are easy trails that wind through meadows filled with colorful wildflowers, providing stunning views of the surrounding mountains. More experienced hikers can tackle the challenging trails that lead to higher elevations, offering panoramic vistas and the opportunity to spot elusive wildlife.

One of the most popular trails in Denali National Park is the Savage River Loop Trail. Despite its name, this is a moderate hike that takes you along the Savage River, offering picturesque views of the surrounding valleys and mountains, as well as the chance to spot Dall sheep, moose, and other wildlife that call this area home.

For a more challenging and rewarding experience, consider hiking the Mount Healy Overlook Trail. This strenuous hike takes you to an elevation of over 1,700 feet, providing breathtaking views of the park and the chance to see Denali, the tallest peak in North America, on a clear day.

eagles don koston
Three eagles in Tongass National Forest Alaska.

Keeping Safe in Denali

Safety is paramount when hiking in Denali National Park. Remember to pack essential gear such as a map, compass, extra layers of clothing, plenty of water, and snacks. It is also important to be aware of wildlife and follow park regulations to ensure both your safety and the preservation of the park’s ecosystem.

Whale Watching in Juneau

The capital city of Juneau is a delightful place to explore in its own right, a charming combination of vibrant city and beautiful nature, thanks to its picturesque location on the Gastineau Channel. But one experience in Juneau is an absolute must-do – a whale-watching excursion.

The chance to see these magnificent, majestic marine mammals up close and in their natural habitat is truly awe-inspiring. Prepare to be amazed as you witness the incredible sight of humpback whales breaching and feeding in the pristine waters of the Inside Passage, or just playing around just below the surface.

Joining a guided tour allows you to cruise through the stunning fjords, where you’ll have the opportunity to spot these magnificent creatures in the wild. As you navigate through the scenic coastal landscapes, keep your eyes peeled for other marine wildlife such as orcas, sea lions, and porpoises. The thrill of encountering these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat is truly unforgettable. Capture the magical moments as the whales gracefully glide through the water, and listen to their powerful songs that resonate through the air.

Glacier Kayaking in Prince William Sound

Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Alaska’s glaciers by taking to the water and exploring Prince William Sound by kayak. Glacier kayaking is the perfect group adventure, a gentle yet jaw-droppingly beautiful experience as you paddle through pristine waters, surrounded by towering ice formations and majestic snow-capped peaks.

As you glide across the calm surface of the sound, you’ll be taken aback by the peace and stillness of your surroundings. The crisp air, the silence broken only by the occasional cracking of ice, and the shimmering blue hues of the ancient glaciers create an atmosphere of pure tranquility.

Glacier kayaking in Prince William Sound offers a unique perspective on these magnificent natural wonders. You’ll have the opportunity to get up close to the massive icebergs and witness the intricate details of their sculpted forms, with nothing more than the sound of the water lapping against the kayak and the sight of the sunlight reflecting off the glistening ice to distract you.

While navigating through the icy passages, keep an eye out for curious seals basking on floating ice chunks or playful otters diving in and out of the water. Seabirds soaring overhead and the occasional glimpse of a breaching whale add to the sense of wonder and excitement.

Glacier kayaking in Prince William Sound is a truly unforgettable experience. It allows you to witness the raw beauty of Alaska’s glaciers, marvel at their scale, and appreciate their role in shaping the landscape. The sense of adventure, the stunning surroundings, and the bond forged with friends during this shared experience will leave you with cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

Fishing in the Kenai River

Kenai Fjords National Park
Selfie time in a scenic spot on the Kenai River in Alaska. Kurt Jacobson photo.

Alaska is renowned for its world-class fishing, and the Kenai River is one of the finest angling destinations on the planet. With its crystal clear waters teeming with an impressive variety of fish species, it is a paradise for enthusiasts and newbies alike.

The river is particularly famous for its salmon runs, including Chinook (king), sockeye (red), coho (silver), and pink salmon.

Anglers from around the world flock to the Kenai River to test their skills and try their luck at landing these prized fish.

The Kenai River offers a diverse range of exhilarating fishing opportunities.

Whether you choose to fish from the bank, wade in the current, or on board a guided fishing trip, nothing beats the anticipation as you wait for a bite, followed by the thrill of reeling in a big salmon or the tug of a feisty trout.

Beyond the excitement of hooking a fish, the Kenai River offers a truly scenic backdrop. Surrounded by stunning landscapes, you’ll find yourself in the heart of Alaska’s natural beauty. The tranquil sounds of the flowing river, the majestic mountains in the distance, and the pristine wilderness all contribute to an unforgettable fishing experience.

After a successful day on the water, you can savor the satisfaction of your fishing achievements. Cooking up a delicious meal with your fresh catch is a rewarding way to end the day and a key part of being a mindful and sustainable angler.

Stop by the charming town of Homer and stroll along the beach, known as the “Spit,” where you can watch fishing boats and catch stunning sunsets.

Visit the town of Seward and hike the breathtaking Harding Icefield Trail, offering panoramic views of glaciers and mountains.

Mendenhall Glacier, in Juneau Alaska.
Mendenhall Glacier, in Juneau Alaska.

Ice Climbing on Mendenhall Glacier

If you and your friends live for adrenaline and extreme sports, then you might want to consider challenging yourselves with an ice-climbing expedition on the magnificent Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau. This is an experience that will push your limits and leave you with unforgettable memories, as you conquer the icy walls of one of Alaska’s most stunning natural wonders.

Ice climbing in Alaska.
Ice climbing in Alaska.

Equipped with the necessary gear, including crampons and ice axes, and under the guidance of experienced climbers, you’ll learn the techniques needed to ascend the towering ice formations. As you make your way up the glacier, you’ll be mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the surroundings.

The sparkling blue hues of the ice, the intricate patterns formed by the frozen water, and the surreal landscape create a truly awe-inspiring atmosphere.

Ice climbing is not for the faint of heart. It requires physical strength, mental resilience, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. However, the sense of accomplishment and the adrenaline rush you’ll experience when conquering the challenging ice walls is truly unmatched.

Safety is paramount during ice climbing, and experienced guides will ensure that you have the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate the glacier safely. They will provide instruction on proper climbing techniques, assist you in using the equipment, and offer guidance throughout the entire experience. Their expertise and local knowledge will help make your ice-climbing adventure both thrilling and secure.

Dogsledding is an unforgettable outing in Alaska.
Dogsledding is an unforgettable outing in Alaska.

Ice climbing is an adventure that will strengthen the bonds of friendship as you and your friends face challenges together and cheer each other on. The shared sense of accomplishment and the camaraderie forged during this extraordinary experience will create lasting memories that you’ll cherish for years to come.

Dog Sledding in Anchorage

For a true bucket list experience (and one overflowing with cuteness), it is hard to beat a dog sledding trip. This time-honored tradition comes with a rich history in indigenous Alaskan culture, and is a thrilling adventure as well! Gliding across the snowy landscape with a team of dogs, surrounded by your friends, is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

Alaskan sled dog excursions start with an introduction to the mushers who will be your guides on the trip. They have a deep bond with their dogs and will provide you with fascinating insights into the world of dog sledding, before introducing you to their canine companions.

Once you’ve settled on the sled, harnessed to the team of eager dogs, you’ll feel a surge of anticipation as they eagerly await the command to take off. As the musher gives the signal, the dogs spring into action, their paws digging into the snow as they propel the sled forward. The sense of speed and power as you glide through the winter wonderland is exhilarating.

A View of the spectacular Portage Glacier, near Anchorage, Alaska.
A View of the spectacular Portage Glacier, near Anchorage, Alaska.

Dog sledding is not just about the thrill of the ride; it’s also an opportunity to connect with these incredible canine athletes. These dogs are bred and trained for their endurance, strength, and teamwork. Their enthusiasm and passion for running are palpable, and you’ll witness their sheer joy as they dash through the snow. You may even have the chance to interact with the dogs, petting and cuddling them, and learning about their individual personalities.

Beyond the excitement and natural beauty, dog sledding in Anchorage offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Alaska. Historically, dog sledding played a vital role in transportation and survival in harsh winter conditions. It is deeply ingrained in the history and culture of the region, and through this experience, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the close bond between humans and dogs that has endured for centuries.

Oscar Davis


Oscar Davis is a freelance writer from Leeds, UK. 

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