The thing about Alaska is, it’s crazy special — a truth repeatedly proved by visitors’ reactions and peoples’ responses to wayward Alaskans elsewhere. We march to our own drum and we know it. We also know getting eyeball-deep in the Alaskan outdoors is what keeps our long kindled love affair with the state burning hot. Here’s a mere handful of places that make Alaskans marvel.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
1. Hatcher Pass, Talkeetna Mountains
Hatcher PassPalmer, United StatesThe glory of #alaska is in her #mountains! Such an excellent place to experience it. Big ❤️ for #hatcherpass. Every one should make time to visit here it is so #worthit
Located in the Talkeetna Mountains and named after prospector/miner Robert Hatcher, Hatcher Pass is a year-round favorite. Loved for its excellent views, hiking, camping, berry picking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, sledding, skiing, snow machining, etc… Hatcher Pass is worth braving the unpaved road for. Hatcher Pass is extremely popular with families and anyone looking to spend a couple of hours or more enjoying the Alaskan outdoors. With multiple hiking trail options, two camping areas, a couple of waterways and several huts, there’s more than enough options for one to get their Alaska on. Visiting in winter, while breathtaking, can pose driving and avalanche hazards. When going to Hatcher Pass, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast in advance and come prepared. If there is only one place you have time for outside of visiting Anchorage, Hatcher Pass is it.
2. Homer, Alaska
Kachemak BayHomer, United StatesThere’s nothing like Homer. Seriously, nothing! Such an awesome spot for accessing and discovering the South Central #alaska life. Best #halibut fishing ever. #camping #beachcombing #sealife #goodvibes #kachemakbay #kenaipeninsula
Homer, also known as the ‘halibut fishing capital of the world,’ is a favorite spot for chartering fishing boats. It’s an Alaskan fishing town with a long thin strip of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay. ‘The Spit,’ as locals call it, is good for viewing marine life. Homer has a fun boardwalk making for a fantastic summertime stroll. Ditching the car at the train depot and making a day or long weekend of it by riding the train down to Seward and then renting a car or taking a shuttle is one way to get there if you’re up for the extended scenic route. However, most prefer loading their campers up to the gills and making the drive themselves. Whether camping on the beach or reserving a B&B, spending time in Homer and dining on the freshest Alaskan seafood is a treat for the senses.
3. Seldovia, Alaska
If you fancy an Alaskan destination accessible only by plane or boat, Seldovia is a good pick. Located in the Kachemak Bay, their motto is, ‘Alaska’s Best Kept Secret’.
Seldovia, popular with locals for tide pooling, boardwalk strolls, is a seaside community. Built up on the water, it’s a cocktail of wild, secluded, and quaint. Catching good views of volcanos Illiamna and Redoubt is a given and it’s exciting to watch when they let off steam. Seldovia’s equally fantastic for families or solo travelers in summer — there’s lots of opportunity to catch Dolly Varden, Outside Beach is the picnic hot spot, and traversing the Otterbahn trail to get there is a must.
4. Alaska State Fair, Palmer
Alaska State FairPalmer, United StatesBiggest #summer #festival in #alaska! Gotta ❤️ it! Polish style reindeer sausage, the AK oysters and elephant ear funnel cakes are #goodeats and #delicious #open-late #history #familyfriendly
Alaska’s largest summer festival in the Mat-su Valley area lasts approximately two weeks. Providing the perfect bookend to summer and simultaneously kicking off autumn, the fair draws Alaskans statewide. Locals particularly relish the feasting and lines can get long at booths offering Prince William Sound oysters, beer battered halibut, and spicy reindeer Polish dogs. Visiting coffee stands, roasted flavored nuts, and Alaska Elephant Ears, are favorites for when late afternoon peckishness sets in. Fred Scheer’s Lumber Jack show is filled with corny comedy that never gets old and watching the Alaska Native Dancers helps one get in touch with the Alaskan spirit. Doing the state fair in true Alaskan style means buying sets of tickets in advance and visiting more than once and really taking your time to see everything.
5. Russian River, Kenai Peninsula
Known locally as ‘The Russian’, Alaskans love this river for the options. There’s great salmon fishing if your timing is right. If not, there are still incredible hiking and wildlife viewing options.
The Russian River is a 13-mile-long (21km) river that flows into the larger Kenai River. Hike upstream and you can see salmon jumping at the falls and enjoy lunch at the lake. Hike down stream and you can see combat fishing Alaskan style where the river merges into the Kenai River’s teal blue glacial waters. The campground and day-pass parking areas are well planned and maintained making for great memories and experiences all around.
6. Deep Creek State Recreation Area, Ninilchick
This is the place to be when king salmon come home. It’s also a clam diggers’ paradise. A well-loved, seaside recreational area, this is where Alaskans get busy going after the big stuff. King salmon fishing at Deep Creek and gigantic razor clams in Clam Gulch are what draws many out to brave the elements. Deep Creek Beach’s camping and day use area is spacious and includes a boat launch for halibut fishing hopefuls. The saltwater beaches are good fun for ATVers as well as bald eagle and whale/seal spotting.
7. Wood-Tikchik State Park, Dillingham
For self-sufficient fishing and boating hounds who would rather be off grid than on it, this one’s for you. Air taxi from Dillingham or charter boat via Aleknagik Village is the price of admission for roughing it in one of the 1.6 million acres that form America’s largest state park. Among all five Pacific salmon varieties, anglers can also expect rainbow trout, arctic char, and Dolly Varden. The park is especially popular with kayakers, canoers, rafters and pretty much anyone with a thing for floating boats. Awesome wildlife viewing is a given when surrounded by this much untamed Alaskan wilderness, though, there’s no telling what kind or around which corner. Wood-Tikchik State Park is best left for the experienced outdoors person or with a knowledgeable guide.
8. Eklutna Lake, Chugach State Park
Eklutna LakeAnchorage, United StatesThe perfect #alaska grown ‘great outdoors’ playground. Love, love this place! ❤️♀️⛷ Bring binoculars to check the mountain for dall sheep and bears. #hiking #camping #snow #activekids #familyfriendly
An all-season favourite, Eklutna Lake is where local area residents often get their ‘wild Alaska’ nature fixes. Between the lakeside camping area and the usual list of Alaska outdoors activities, this is a photographer’s playground. Eklutna Lake area has well-worn trail used by ATVers, cross country skiers/runners, bikers, and horseback riders. The campground allows up to 15 consecutive nights and also features a picnic area. The relatively flat trails and accessibility of the general facilities make this a great place to spend time enjoying the Alaskan outdoors for the older crowd, those with young ones, and anyone with interests other than competing for the best fishing hole.
9. Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, Juneau
With hiking trails that take trekkers on 20-minute to 5-hour journeys, there’s a little something for everyone. There’s also a lake, a waterfall, a campground, several scenic viewing points of the glacier and a visitor’s center with information about the 1,500-square-mile, 38-glacier Juneau Icefield. The area offers a lot in the way of wildlife viewing with mountain goats, bears, beavers and spawning salmon. This is a good way to spend an afternoon with friends and family or plan a multi-day adventure traipsing about one of Alaska’s better-known ice fields. Considering glaciers are so significant to Alaska’s landscape and ecology, a visit to Mendenhall is a given — especially for earth science lovers or anyone who’s wondered what it’s like to experience a glacier up close and personal.
10. Flattop Mountain, Anchorage
Heralded ‘Alaska’s most visited peak’, Flat Top in the Glen Alps is one of the first vertical expeditions many kick off the summer hiking season with. Short in distance at 1.5 miles, it makes for an hour-long workout. For the ambitious, continuing on to Williwaw Lakes or Wolverine Peak can put a ‘10+ miles round trip’ notch in one’s belt. Those less inclined can enjoy great views at the overlook area which is a short distance from the parking lot. Panoramic-photo geeks will appreciate the dawn/dusk views from every vantage point — especially when Denali is out. Families with older children, couples, and friends can kill two birds with one stone at Flat Top as the trek is an extremely affordable and good healthy lifestyle/quality time activity.
11. Arctic Road Runner, Anchorage
The Arctic Road Runner, an Alaskan burger and sandwich shop through and through, is like stepping back in time several decades. It’s a classic. Around since the 1960’s with an Alaskan-themed menu, Arctic Road Runner does burgers right. Their condiments bar with pickles and sauces is a happy discovery for first-timers and a favorite value-added feature for regulars. They’re voted ‘best burger in Anchorage’ quite regularly for those who need proof it’s worth visiting. Word of warning: bring cash. Arctic Road Runner is about doing burgers, business, and decor old school including handling the green stuff.
12. Eureka Lodge, Glennallen
A popular launch point for adventures into the interior, Eureka Lodge (also called Eureka Roadhouse) is known for its views, homemade pies, 25-cent coffee, and Alaskan essentials services. The hunting and snow-machining crews and those traveling between Fairbanks and Anchorage often stop for some home-style cooking between outings. Extremely popular with the winter-loving crew, Eureka Lodge hosts the Sheep Mountain 150 dogsled race and is extremely popular with the snow-machine loving gang. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, have hotel-style rooms, private cabin rentals and electrical RV hook-ups. This is great for pit stops and those who need a basecamp set up so they can come and go from the backcountry as quickly and fuss-free as possible.
13. Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria, Anchorage
Always crowded and insanely popular, this is the highest grossing independent pizzeria in America. Everything is delicious and it’s impossible to place a bad order. With unassuming signage and a nice but low-key building, looks at first glance are quite deceiving. Whether trying a sampler of their newest brews or a tried-and-tested menu staple, the Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria is worth waiting 45 minutes per table. Good for anyone, anytime, Moose’s Tooth is a non-negotiable for anyone in Anchorage be they residents or simply passing through. For those who have a thing for dinner and a movie, Bear Tooth Grill & Theatre Pub is located a stone’s throw away.