With its enormous land area and small population, Alaska is a paradise for adventurers. Whether you want to have the mountains to yourself or enjoy a local-favorite lake near the big city, the perfect hidden gem is never too far away. As for accommodations, stay at one of many cozy Alaska vacation rentals. That said, here are the state’s most fantastic secret spots.
1. Eklutna Lake, Anchorage
Eklutna Lake provides the opportunity to get out into the Alaskan wilderness, less than an hour from your vacation rentals in Anchorage. Tucked into a forested valley and surrounded by peaks, this glacial lake is a spectacular sight. Kayak and swim with views of snow-capped mountains during the summer, or pack your snowshoes for a scenic winter trek. For an easy hike, try the Eklutna Lakeside Trail.
2. Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure, Juneau
Juneau is a popular vacation destination, but many travelers pass right by the stunning Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure. Here, more than 50 acres of lush greenery spread through the Tongass National Forest, creating a truly unique setting. The highlight of the gardens are the unusual Flower Towers, which are made from fallen trees that have been flipped upside down – the owners use the trees’ massive roots as planters for brilliantly colored flowers. The best time to visit is during the summer, when the flowers are blooming; be sure to book vacation rentals in Juneau well in advance.
3. Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm, Palmer
Check out Alaska’s remarkable agricultural region at Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm in the Mat-Su Valley. Here, the long, sunny days create unusually large vegetables – in the late season, it’s not uncommon to see 100-pound cabbages. Stay in Palmer during the spring and summer and make the 15-minute drive to pick your own vegetables and watch the family work the land, all with mind-boggling mountain views. If you’re in town in the fall, don’t miss the Fall Harvest Festival.
4. Petroglyph Beach, Wrangell
Check out ancient works of art at Petroglyph Beach. This rocky stretch of shoreline features a variety of petroglyphs that date back more than 8,000 years. The origin of the drawings is a mystery, but experts believe they were made to mark important locations for the Tlingit people. Visit the beach any time of year, and look for vacation rentals in Wrangell.
5. Treadwell Ghost Town, Juneau
Explore a historic gold mining town any time of year at Treadwell, a set of ruins outside of Juneau. Hike through abandoned buildings that are slowly being overcome by the forest. A series of trails and interpretive signs runs through the site, helping you identify different spots and imagine what the town looked like during its early 1900s heydey. Stay in Juneau, and be sure to bring rain gear.
6. Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks
Go farther than most Alaskan visitors at Chena Hot Springs, a spectacular natural spring near vacation rentals in Fairbanks. Choose from a variety of indoor and outdoor pools in varying temperatures; for families, the outdoor Rock Lake is a popular option. The springs are open year round, but the best time to visit is from September to March – during these cold winter months, you can sit in a steaming outdoor pool while the Northern Lights dance above your head.
7. Adak Island
Experience the beauty of the Aleutian Islands on Adak Island, a curious spot that was once occupied by a military post. Far from the mainland and accessible only by plane, this lovely island offers windswept scenery and the chance to visit both the southernmost town in the state and the smallest “national forest.” This tiny clump of trees, though not an official national forest, is a popular local attraction solely because of its charming size – less than 40 trees. Stay in Adak year-round, and plan to rent a car in town to explore the island.
8. Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory, Wrangell
Watch brown bears and black bears in the wild at the Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory, which is a short drive from vacation rentals in Wrangell. The observatory sits on Anan Creek, which is known for its pink salmon run. During July and August, you can watch bears as they feed on fish directly from the water. To get to the viewing platform, expect a half-mile hike through the forest; apply for a permit in advance, as they are limited during the peak season to reduce impact.
9. Harding Icefield Trail, Seward
Enjoy one of the most spectacular sights in Alaska on the Harding Icefield Trail. This well-maintained path, which is best attempted from late July through early September, takes you up 4,000 feet to the Harding Icefield. Here, you can enjoy a remarkable view of the Exit Glacier. Pack plenty of warm layers and allow between six and eight hours for this challenging hike. Book vacation rentals in Seward; if you’re nervous about the hike, plan to join a ranger-led trek from the Exit Glacier Nature Center.
10. Dalton Highway, Livengood
If you’re in the mood for a road trip, it’s hard to beat the spectacular Dalton Highway. One of the coldest and most remote roads in the world, this beautiful stretch of highway extends more than 400 miles from Livengood to Deadhorse on Prudhoe Bay. For most visitors, the road is best traveled during the summer; fill your tank in Fairbanks, and drive a few hours before turning around. You can refuel at Coldfoot, 175 miles down the road. The best local vacation rentals are available in Fairbanks.
Ready to go? Check out these amazing Alaska vacation rentals on Tripping.com.