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5 Spellbinding Alaskan National Parks That Truly Define ‘The Last Frontier’

By: Cityseeker
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Alaska has always attracted wilderness explorers and its never-ending, pristine expanse is covered in most of the national parks in the state. From towering, snowcapped mountains, lush forests, ethereal glaciers and crystal clear lakes, to a rich and almost unbelievably diverse history, the national parks of this frozen wonderland encapsulate raw beauty.


Denali National Park and Preserve

Extending across 7382 square miles (19119 square kilometres), Denali National Park offers the best in Alaskan natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Surrounding Denali, North America’s highest peak, the park is riddled with snow-clad mountains, Taiga and Tundra forests, reflective lakes and grasslands. It is home to animal species like grizzly bear, arctic warbler, dall sheep, waxwing, lynx and wolverine. These lakes and their shores harbor a melange of fascinating marine creatures like wood frogs, Arctic graylings and trouts, among others. Miles of trails meander through the snowy mountains and dense forests, unraveling nature's extreme and intense silhouettes. Winter sports are extremely popular here, including cross-country skiing and dog-sledding, and so are an array of adventurous activities like cycling trips, backpacking, photographic tours, fishing and hunting. One magnificent landscape gives way to another at this park which is a stirring canvas of unabashed wilderness.

Healy, AK, United States
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Katmai National Park and Preserve

The expansive Katmai National Park and Preserve is regarded for its distinct Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, grizzly bears and a dramatic volcanic landscape. Burrowed in Southern Alaska, the park was designated a National Monument in 1918. Salmon swim through meandering streams and brown bears sleepily voyage through the park's undulating terrains. A site favored by intrepid adventurers, this park is fringed by a tapestry of mighty mountains and hosts myriad activities like hiking, backpacking, back-country skiing and fishing, kayaking and boat tours. Among the large spectrum of wildlife residing here, gray wolves, weavers, porcupines, sea lions and sea otters also inhabit the park's diverse environments. With abundant natural features, this entrancing park is also home to a treasury of crater lakes and lava domes. The Katmai National Park is a historical and geological marvel par excellence.

King Salmon, AK, United States
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Kenai Fjords National Park

Established in 1980, the Kenai Fjords National Park protects 669,984 acres (271,133 hectares) of the coast of the Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska. The remote and largely inaccessible wilderness preserves one of Alaska's most spectacular swathes of land, where snow-capped mountains descend into lush forests teeming with wildlife. Over 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, one of the United States' largest, carving the coast into a rippling series of fjords; jagged slivers of the azure water framed by sheer cliffs and speckled with icebergs in myriad shades of green and blue. Bears, coyotes and mountain goats roam the land, while the skies are the domain of over 191 species of birds. Its waters too host a vast variety of marine life, including sea lions, otters and whales. The Exit Glacier is the only one of the park's many that is accessible by road, while more seasoned hikers can venture onto the ice-field with an experienced guide. Most visitors, however, choose to explore the coast aboard a tour boat or fishing charter.

Seward, AK, United States
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Sitka National Historical Park

The Sitka National Historic Park in Sitka portrays the history of Russian explorers who inhabited this land centuries ago. The park carries remains of the 1804 Battle of Sitka, where the European settlement had clashed against the indigenous tribes. Today, the park is governed by the National Park Service, and is regarded to be one of the oldest surviving National Monuments in the state, especially the totem poles and the Bishop's House, adding rich cultural heritage to the natural scenery. Â Â

Sitka, AK, United States
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Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

With a stretch of millions of acres of land featuring the tallest of peaks and the deepest of oceanic waters, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve bears an astounding landscape quintessential to south-central Alaska. Summers seemingly go by in the blink of an eye, while winters make themselves at home at this park, the result of which is a frigid topography paving the way for an albescent wilderness. Cradling under the shadows of the snow-sheathed Wrangell Range, the sweeping terrains of the park are dissected by meandering, glacial rivers. Stippled across the park's expanse is an arsenal of rustic cabins, while a range of glaciers only adds to its frosty appeal. The park's pristine white expanse is enlivened by bursts of mosses and blueberries which lovingly co-exist with swathes of aspen, alder, willows, and spruce. The park's wintry terrains are traversed by a string of mammals including Arctic graylings, caribous, coyotes, beavers, Alaskan moose and wolves among others.

Copper Center, AK, United States
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Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve protects a remnant of the Bering Land Bridge, which connected Asia with North America during the Pleistocene Ice Age nearly 13000 years ago. The preserve is one of the most remote national park areas in the United States, and includes various archaeological sites, lava flows and volcanic fields, geological curiosities like the Serpentine Tors, and natural hot springs popular with hikers. Inupiaq communities around the Seward Peninsula still practice traditional subsistence hunting and gathering.

Nome, AK, United States
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Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

A mere 200 years ago Glacier Bay was a desolate wilderness dominated by a massive sheet of glacial ice that has since receded, leaving behind a pristine bay sprinkled with icebergs like floating jewels and frosted hunks of glass that glide across the steely water. The Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve lies along the southeastern coast of Alaska, wedged between Canada and the frigid waters of the Gulf of Alaska. Calving tidal glaciers give way to a landscape that is on the brink of bloom, seamlessly transitioning from the barren mounts and mossy stretch of the more recently unveiled swathes of land to the spruce-hemlock forests where the earth was uncovered over two centuries ago. Wolves, bears and mountain goats roam the shores and slopes, while humpback whales populate the bay itself. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, U.S. National Park and National Monument, the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a scene of spectacular contrasts between ice, water and forests; a dramatic vista that speaks of new beginnings and the never-ending circle of life.

Gustavus, AK, United States
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Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

While Alaska's natural beauty is incomparable, the trip to the state is incomplete without witnessing the glorious history of the Klondike Gold Rush, an event which shaped the country's history in many ways. At the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, learn all about the almost overnight mass migration through museums, visitors centers and a collection of old saloons and historic buildings. Also, follow the footsteps of the immigrants centuries ago through the Chilkoot Trail, a 33 mile (53km) hike through the best wilderness and historic relics of the region.

Skagway, AK, United States
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Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Cradled on the country's extreme northern frontiers, this national park features some of the most alluring silhouettes of nature. Tinged by the magnificence of the Brooks Range Mountains, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is spread over a land of 8,472,506 acres (3428701.53 hectares). Lying above the Arctic Circle, the park comprises a sweeping topography which is punctuated with astounding, panoramic views. Inaccessible by road, it can be reached by air or by trails winding through the park's dense wilderness. Perhaps it is this almost-formidable, breathtaking tenor of the park that makes it all the more alluring. The park is dotted with stunning flora that is a feast for the eyes. It is also home to bears, moose, and wolves among other wild animals. With interweaving trails and a smattering of campsites, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve embodies nature at its rawest and wildest.

Bettles, AK, United States
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