Outdoorsmen looking to road-trip around the 49th state know that Southcentral Alaska is the place to do it. That’s because, unlike in other regions of the Last Frontier, here the natural attractions are all relatively close and accessible by well-maintained modern roads. Echoing inlets, towering crags, vast ice fields, dusky rainforests: each year a steady stream of cars, 4x4s, and rented RVs flows out to the area’s scenic destinations, which are a microcosm of the state as a whole.
Particularly arresting are the cliffs and neon-blue ice of Kenai Fjords National Park, in luminous Kenai Peninsula. Accessible via the town of Seward, the park allows you to hike the colossal Harding Icefield, which covers 700 square miles and flows out into 30 different glaciers, including the highly active Exit Glacier. Sea-lovers can kayak past the park’s coastal fjords, or hire a launch to explore the marine wildlife, which includes otters, sea lions, porpoises, orcas, and humpback whales.
No less spectacular is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which, at six times the size of Yellowstone, rises through several eco-zones and boasts some of the loftiest peaks on the continent. This is nature on a sublime scale, a virgin wilderness that attracts hikers and mountain-climbers worldwide. Glaciers, braided rivers, four major mountain ranges, historic mining camps: the opportunities for nature lovers are infinite.
Southcentral Alaska isn’t all forest primeval. Anchorage, the state’s largest city, is also here, with its abundance of dining and lodging options, and other areas are dotted with quaint villages and coastal hamlets. Talkeetna, a former gold-prospecting town, affords views of Mt. Denali, North America’s highest peak, while picturesque Homer, at the tail end of Highway 1, is an artist’s colony with a penchant for fishing.
It’s unsurprising Southcentral Alaska tops many visitors’ destination lists. Affording easy access to diverse attractions, it stands as a perfect precis of the region’s northern wonders.