Activities, sports and recreation Alaska

Activities, sports and recreation Alaska

Alaska's unspoiled vastness attracts many lovers of the great outdoors. Exploring them is even one of the primary motivations of the trip. Those who don't fish, hike, kayak or raft will miss the soul of Alaska and even some of its most beautiful scenery.
Leaving the roads and plunging into the bush takes sweat, organization, time. But the reward is in the effort made. All around you is nature in its purest form. Hiking (and kayaking) are the cheapest ways to explore the area.

The parks

There are an incredible number of protected areas in Alaska. There are, first, the National Parks (national parks) - starting with the most famous, Denali, dominated by the White Cathedral of Mount McKinley. It is the most accessible. The beautiful Kenai Fjords and Wrangell-St Elias parks are also linked by road - not to be missed.
More expensive to access, Glacier Bay Park, near Juneau (15 min by plane), is a must on a trip to the southeast of the state, with its 16 glaciers, whales, orcas and his otters. The other national parks are isolated, without any services, and can only be reached by bush plane. Very few people venture there.

- state parks (state parks), very numerous, vary widely in size. Some only form small enclaves along the road with a nice campsite, others occupy large areas, such as Denali State Park (adjacent to the national park) or Wood-Tikchik State Park (6 km²!), where we meet a lot of moose, caribou, marmots and salmon.

Add to this the zones depending on the Fish & Wildlife Service, including the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the only one accessible by road.
THEUS Forest Service also manages the Tongass and Chugach forests, which cover most of Southeast Alaska and the central coast.

Hiking and trekking

While almost anyone can hike for a few hours, treks are generally reserved for experienced walkers. Rain is frequent and drizzle can last for days on end, even in midsummer. Storms sometimes bring summer flakes and fog can delay a date with a boat or plane.
In short, you have to be prepared to face sometimes (very) difficult conditions and be completely self-sufficient, with a margin of several days of additional food. Add to that the guaranteed cold at certain times, the encounters with bears, the inability to be rescued ... and you will have an idea of ​​what awaits you.

Unlike what is done elsewhere, in Alaska, you will not be asked to stay on the trails ... On the contrary! Since arctic environments are extremely fragile, hikers are encouraged not to walk in line, which will kill most plants, but to disperse. Moreover, most of the time, there is no no trail - even in Denali, the most visited of the parks, you only hike through the bush.

At the radius of savoir-vivre, take away all your garbage (burn the used toilet paper), do not cut wood to make fires and leave the animals alone. Purify or boil (10 min) the water and remember to protect yourself from the myriads of swarming insects. Preferably pitch the tent on sandbanks along rivers or (well) above the tide line, which will allow your tent not to quickly turn into a sponge ... Otherwise, don't count too much find equipment on site. Come prepared.

The options are endless. Choose the area you prefer to explore: fjords and forests of the Southeast or the Center-South, heart of the mountains, taiga, tundra, arctic shores, etc. To put it simply, the further south-east you go, the wetter you will be, but the less cold you will be.

Among the most popular treks, we can mention the famous Chilkoot Trail (56 km), which takes the path of the artisanal miners who came to feel the Klondike veins in 1898. Arduous! We also recommend the Resurrection Pass Trail (62 km), also traced by gold diggers, which connects Hope (on the Turnagain Arm, near Anchorage) to the Kenai River. Easier, do not miss the splendid coastal path along the coast south of Seward (7,3 km each way), on the Kenai Peninsula, with a section on the beach, passable at low tide only.

Denali National Park

The image of Mount McKinley, erected like a gigantic white cake touching the clouds, reflected in Wonder Lake, has toured the world. Yes, but ... Mount McKinley cannot be seen from the entrance to Denali Park, more than 100 km away. A road heads towards it, but passenger cars can only travel 15 miles. There, between two slopes, a small piece of McKinley sticks out and that's it.

To go further, you have to take one of the bus of the park. It is necessary book (possible online) and pay. In summer 2014, it costs $ 35 per person for the 8-hour round trip from the Eielson Visitor Center (free for children up to 15 years old), $ 48 for the trip to Wonder Lake. Some book well in advance as a precaution.

Buses descend along the only track who enters the park, stopping (longer or shorter depending on the driver's mood) each time animals show the tip of their noses. In short, it is very random and the outward and return journey is frankly tiring for a walk during the day (8h round trip to the Visitor Center, 11h to the lake).

In conclusion: plan to camp inside the park (and not just at the entrance) and stay there for several days. Campers and hikers also benefit from special buses.

Water sports

Lovers of sea ​​kayak will get off the ground, provided you prepare well. Three parks are ideal for exploring over several days (or even weeks):

  • the Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan, at the Homeric Cliffs;
  • Glacier Bay National Park, with its waters strewn with icebergs; 
  • and Kenai Fjords National Park, where the Harding Ice Cap glaciers flow into the sea.

Those who have a preference for the canoe will be interested in the Cross Admiralty Canoe Route, near Juneau, or the Swan Lake Canoe Route, in the Kenai Peninsula (among others). In all cases, it will be necessary to deal with the mist, the rain, the cold and the strong amplitude of the tides (essential tide table). Long canoe routes often include portages, sometimes short, sometimes not ... Given the conditions, guided excursions may seem preferable.

In the interior, many rivers lend themselves to Rafting, starting with the Nenana, at the gates of Denali. On the program: class I to IV rapids.

Winter sports

Despite the efforts of the Alaska Tourist Board, few people still visit the region in the winter. Those who venture there can treat themselves to a dog sled ride, a snowshoe or snowmobile trip, a ski descent (Alyeska, in Girdwood, is only 45 minutes from Anchorage), a cross-country skiing, or even skijoring : a skier is pulled by one or two sled dogs!

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