A Few Suggestions for Your Trip to Alaska

Alaska is home to 17 of the highest peaks in North America, as well as nearly a hundred thousand glaciers, the only temperate rainforest in the United States, and seemingly endless acres of shoreline. Alaska's massive size (it's bigger than Texas, California, and Montana put together) makes it the perfect destination for land-based exploration and coastal travel. There's a good reason why Alaska is on so many people's bucket lists, but organizing a trip to the largest state in the country can be intimidating. To help you get started, we've compiled some of the best travel advice for this state.

Is a passport required for entry into Alaska?
I was wondering, which month is ideal for a trip to Alaska.
How long will I want to spend in Alaska?
For a trip to Alaska, what should I bring?
What's the price range for Alaska?
How do I get to the best bear viewing areas in Alaska?
Can those with mobility issues get around in Alaska?
I was wondering if booking a trip to Alaska required much work.
Does Alaska permit the use of marijuana?
Can you tell me the number of time zones that Alaska has?
So, I'm wondering, what kind of stuff is available in Alaska?
Do mosquitoes bite in Alaska?
Where should I go and what should I see in Alaska?
Iditarod Trail National Historic Trail — where is it?
Where in Alaska would you say is the most breathtaking?

Is a passport required for entry into Alaska?

Travel to Alaska does not require a passport for U.S. citizens. On May 7, 2025, the United States S Domestic air passengers aged 18 and up will need a form of identification that complies with the Real ID Act (REAL ID) to pass through security. State-issued REAL IDs, U.S. Passports, and Military IDs are all examples of acceptable forms of identification that conform to REAL ID requirements. S Valid identification such as a passport, military ID, or other acceptable ID You can get a REAL ID driver's license from your state DMV; these licenses are distinguished by a star on the top right corner of the card.

Alaska Airlines flight at sunset Image courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

In what month would you recommend visiting Alaska?

Travelers should visit Alaska at any time of the year. Each month brings its own special opportunities. Dogsled races and winter festivals are fun to go to in February and March, while whales and other migrating marine wildlife begin appearing in Alaskan waters in April and May. Due to the extended daylight hours, higher average temperatures, and prime wildlife viewing conditions, the months of June through August are the most sought after by tourists interested in visiting Alaska. Tundra and tree foliage turn a gorgeous red, yellow, and orange in the late summer and early fall (late August in the far north, and mid- to late September in the south), but only for a short time.

The northern lights are most visible from late August through April, when the days are shorter. From September/October to April/May, the Southcentral, Interior, and Arctic regions can receive significant snowfall, making for ideal conditions for a wide variety of winter activities like skiing, dog sledding, and winter sightseeing. Experience Alaska like a local at a fraction of the cost by visiting in the spring or fall, when prices tend to drop for tours and lodging.

A skier in Alaska's Denali Area in winter Photo by Matt Hage/ATIA.

Where should I stay in Alaska? How long do I need to spend there?

Visit Alaska for a thrilling and unforgettable experience on a long weekend or a full week. You can modify almost any plan to fit the time you have available. Your ideal vacation can be easily planned because of the extensive selection of excursions and pursuits. Here are some trip ideas to consider whether you have 7 days or 17 days to explore:

7 days:

  • Cost-effectively visit Alaska for a full trip and spend your time sight-seeing on your own.
  • Stick to one region of the state and explore it thoroughly via a series of day trips.
  • Find out more about Alaska's diverse roadside communities by renting a car or RV and exploring the state. You'll have the opportunity to interact with warm locals, observe fascinating wildlife, and take in breathtaking scenery. You may pause wherever you like, for as long as you like.

From 7 to 14 days:

At least 14 days:

A motorhome drives along the road and mountains in Alaska Image by Michael DeYoung/ATIA

Specifically, what should I bring with me to Alaska?

Travelers to Alaska should layer their clothing to prepare for the cold weather. Extreme regional and seasonal climatic differences are possible. Summer in Alaska lasts from May until the end of September. Outside of the Inside Passage's temperate rainforest, May is the driest month across the state. In the month of July, daytime highs in the Interior typically hover around 70 degrees F, though they can soar into the 90s on occasion. At higher altitudes and closer to the coast, temperatures rarely rise above 65 degrees.

The state's average temperatures begin to drop in the latter half of August and early September. Temperatures and daylight hours in Alaska's winter vary by region, but the season generally runs from about October to March. Temperatures inland rarely drop below 20 degrees, but along the coast they often do. It's not the same to spend the winter in the Arctic or Interior. Snowfall in the Interior could begin as early as October, and winter lows could reach 20 degrees below zero. See our regional climate and packing guide for additional details.

Two hikers on a sunny day on Alaska's Portage Pass trail. Photographer: Michael DeYoung of ATIA

Can one afford to live in Alaska?

Despite Alaska's higher-than-average cost of living, the state is still cheaper than many well-known travel destinations in the United States. Consumer Price Index data shows that a trip to Alaska is less expensive than visiting New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, or Honolulu.

The average price of a hotel room during high season is $200 per night, and the average price of a meal is $30 per person. Most Alaskan restaurants are priced similarly to, or slightly higher than, those in other major U. S cities Using those figures as a benchmark, you can begin creating a workable budget. However, you should think about your own personal situation and whether or not meals are included in the tour package.

The expense of getting to and from your vacation spot can quickly add up. The price of a trip to Alaska can vary greatly from one mode of transportation to another. For instance, if you book your flight in advance and find a cheap one online, you can save a lot of money on transportation. The cost of a cruise or tour package usually includes all of your lodging, meals, and transportation costs, which could add up to a significant savings.

The Upshot: If you've taken cross-country vacations in the past, you can expect to spend roughly the same amount of money as before. You can have a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Alaska without breaking the bank.

Financial Cost-Cutting Measures

  • Look into discounts and special offers for your next trip.
  • Generally, lodging costs are lower in the off-peak months of May and September, or during the dormant winter season.
  • Use the months of January and February to your advantage by taking advantage of early booking discounts.
  • To save the most money on your hotel stay, make your reservation as far in advance as possible.
  • Focusing your travels on a single area will help you save money on transportation.
  • To save money on your trip, make sure to inquire about senior and kid-friendly discounts.

A rustic wilderness lodge in Alaska This image was created by ATIA.

Where in Alaska should one go if they want to see bears?

Alaska's Big Five wildlife viewing experiences include seeing a bear. There are a number of fairly reliable bear viewing locations across the state because bears tend to return to the same places year after year in search of seasonal foods.  

Black bears at Anan Creek, Inside Passage
July and August
Salmon populations, and the bears that rely on them for food, thrive in Alaska's Tongass National Forest's creeks and estuaries. The Tlingit people of the Wrangell region have a long history of setting up a summer fish camp on Anan Creek. A trail through the tropical forest today ends at an observation deck next to a gushing waterfall. Bears line the creek bank in anticipation of a salmon feast as the fish congregate in the pool below the falls to regain their strength before making the dangerous leap upstream. Day trips to Anan Creek are the best way to see bears in their natural habitat.

Brown bears at Pack Creek in the Inside Passage
Summer (June - September)
Juneau and Pack Creek on Admiralty Island are the island's two most populous settlements. About 1,600 brown bears make their home on the island's forested island, also known as the Fortress of the Bears (Kootznoowoo in the local Tlingit language). There have been consistent bear sightings at Pack Creek since the 1930s. Bears gather on the mudflats at the creek's outflow and along the steep creek banks during the peak salmon runs in July and August. Pack Creek wilderness is inaccessible by car and only reachable by boat or floatplane. Taking a day trip is the best bet for seeing bears in Pack Creek.

Southwestern Alaska's Katmai National Park is home to brown bears.
Dates: July & September
Katmai National Park and Preserve is home to over 2,000 brown bears, and the popular Brooks Falls is a great spot to see them. In the spring and fall, salmon migrate upriver to spawn, attracting bears from Katmai to the waterfalls. The bears' main concern right now is getting fat in preparation for hibernation over the winter. Track their progress during Katmai's "Fat Bear Week" and cast your vote for your favorite competitor; then, watch these magnificent bears hunt for salmon all summer on the Katmai bear cam. Whoever has the heaviest bear should win. Day tours and overnight packages are the best options for seeing bears in Katmai National Park.

South-Western Alaska's Lake Clark National Park, home to brown bears
When: June–September
Coastal brown bears have access to a plethora of food sources along the miles of coastline that make up Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Bears gather on the tidal mudflats in the spring and summer to eat beach grasses and dig for clams with their long claws. After the summer and before the winter, bears swim up and down Lake Clark's many creeks in search of salmon that have made their way upstream. The National Park Service regularly maintains gravel viewing platforms where visitors can observe bears. This makes for fantastic chances to see bears in their native environment. Day tours and overnight package tours of Lake Clark National Park are the best ways to see bears in the park.

Brown bears in Kodiak Island's southwestern region
Period: June–September
There is a unique subspecies of brown bear found only in the Kodiak Archipelago, and it goes by the scientific name Ursus arctos middendorfii. About 3,500 of these large bears are found on the islands of Kodiak. Coastal brown bears are bigger than their "grizzly" relatives inland. These bears are able to bulk up thanks to their abundant food supply, which includes an abundance of salmon. Historically, the largest Kodiak bear was over 1,600 pounds. One of the highest concentrations of brown bears is found in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in the region around Karluk Lake. Day tours and overnight package tours are the best ways to see bears on Kodiak Island.

Interior of Denali National Park, where brown bears can be seen
When: June–September
Visit Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska to spot the "Big 5"—wolves, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, and bears. The brown bears of interior Alaska are always on the prowl for food. In search of food, they rummage through holes in the ground for worms and ground squirrels, pick berries carefully with their long claws, and clamber up and down steep hillsides. Keep your eyes peeled as you make your way along the park road A grizzly bear, either alone or with her cubs, can be seen ambling along a riverbank or high in the mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for movement all day long, as these bears are active for most of the day. About three-hundred brown bears, according to the National Park Service, call this northern part of the Alaska Range home. Day tours and overnight package tours are the best ways to see bears in Denali National Park and Preserve.

Polar Bears in Kaktovik, Arctic
The Months of September and October
There are three types of bears in North America, and all three can be found in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, the polar bear reigns supreme. Even though they eat mostly seals and other marine mammals, polar bears are technically classified as marine mammals despite being the largest land carnivore in the world. Approximately 900 polar bears call the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge home. Fairbanks and Kaktovik, a small Inupiat community within the refuge, are the starting points for authorized polar bear tours. Day tours and overnight packages offer the best opportunities to see bears in Kaktovik.

A brown bear fishes in a river in Alaska. Images by ATIA's Chris McClennan

Can people with disabilities travel to Alaska?

There is a wide range of easily accessible, all-year-round vacation options, whether you prefer guided tour packages or independent adventures. Lift-equipped motor coaches and rail cars are available for use on shore excursions at the most visited ports of call for cruise passengers. Take a wheelchair-accessible helicopter ride over a glacier, or go whale watching from a boat. Some cruise lines have developed sensory-friendly itineraries, menus, and private activities for guests with sensory processing disorders.

National parks have brochures available in braille and large print for visually impaired visitors (call ahead to ensure availability), and service animals are welcome in all public buildings. Requests for ASL interpretation of ranger talks can be made at most national parks with advance notice. Denali National Park and Preserve is a very popular tourist destination, so the park's tour buses have wheelchair lifts. Be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to all trails in national parks.

Southcentral Alaska's Challenge Alaska and Southeast Alaska's Independent Living are two of the many groups in the state that provide adaptive equipment for skiing and other sports. Accessible camping options can be found at both public and private campgrounds, and some tour companies may even have special equipment available for use during activities like kayaking if you ask. Accessible facilities in Alaska state parks are described in greater detail >>.

Attempting to aid you is what we do best. Get in touch with your tour operators, hotel providers, and other destination establishments ahead of time to make arrangements for wheelchair accessible transportation, rooms, and other amenities.

A cruise ship near Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska's Inside Passage. Photographer: ATIA/Brian Adams

I was wondering if booking a flight or hotel in Alaska was a breeze.

If you're planning a trip to Alaska, you should do as much planning as possible before you get there. If you procrastinate, lodgings and rental cars may be more costly and unavailable. Because of this, those should be the first you book. Denali National Park and Preserve is a popular tourist destination, so lodgings in the area near the park and preserve tend to book up early.

Please use sound judgment when planning tours. Tours with limited availability require advance booking. Bookings for activities that run multiple times per day can be made closer to the trip's departure. When inquiring about the tour company's reservation policies, be sure to check with them directly.

Glacier trekkers hike on a glacier tour outside of Juneau Alaska. Photograph by Mark Kelly/ATIA.

Does Alaska have a legal marijuana industry?

Marijuana use and possession by those over the age of 21 is legal in Alaska, provided it is obtained from one of the state's licensed dispensaries. This is the breakdown:

  • If you are over 21, you can legally possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. People under the age of 21 are not legally allowed to
  • Recreational users of legal age can purchase limited quantities of marijuana from licensed retailers.
  • As little as 1 ounce is legal to possess. use, outside the house, of marijuana
  • Bringing marijuana on a plane is against the law. You can't bring it on a plane, ship, or cruise with you. It's illegal to bring it into or take it out of the state.
  • To use marijuana in public places such as parks, beaches, cruise ships, or hotel lobbies is against the law. For more information on whether or not smoking marijuana is permitted in your lodgings or on your tours, we recommend that you contact the respective establishments directly.
  • Marijuana-impaired driving is against the law. Please use caution when consuming.
  • Norms vary from one neighborhood to the next. To learn more about the laws in your area, visit commerce.alaska.gov.

Views of mountains and a lake in the Arctic region of Alaska. Credit for the Image: ATIA/Michael DeYoung

Just how many time zones does Alaska have?

Both Alaska Time and Hawaii–Aleutian Time exist in the state of Alaska. The majority of Alaska operates on Alaska Time, four hours later than our East Coast neighbors. It's thus 8 a.m. in London when it's noon in New York. m in Alaska Alaska is one hour behind Pacific Standard Time, so if you're coming from the West Coast, like Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, etc., you'll need to add an extra hour to your trip. When heading west of Dutch Harbor, you will enter this time zone. We also change our clocks ahead an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall in observance of Daylight Savings Time.

Located in the Inside Passage, the town of Hyder uses two different time zones. In a U-shaped split S Near the U.S./Canadian border, locals have adopted an unofficial Pacific Time zone. S Deliveries to the Post Office As a U S Since it is a government building, the post office observes Alaska Time.

Views of the town of Unalaska / Port of Dutch Harbor in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Image courtesy of ATIA

In Alaska, what kinds of things can I buy?

Crafts and souvenirs that are truly one-of-a-kind to the state of Alaska can be found all over the state. Gallery and shop purchases of authentic Alaska Native artwork are excellent souvenirs and thoughtful presents. Alaska is known for its unique handicrafts, such as:

  • Treasures crafted from precious materials like gold nuggets, ivory, and jade
  • Things to wear and play with that were made by hand
  • Collectibles crafted from animal parts such as skin, fur, and bone
  • Woven receptacles crafted from beach grass, bark, or baleen
  • Alaskan specialties like canned and smoked salmon, wild-berry products, and reindeer sausage
  • Candles made from seal oil, beaded gloves, fur mukluks, and tiny hand-carved totem poles are just some of the traditional Alaska Native crafts that can be found in any gift shop.

You can tell that a product was actually made in Alaska if it bears the Made in Alaska logo. The silver "hand" logo is a hallmark of authentic Alaska Native handicrafts.

Made in Alaska Logo           Silver Hand Logo

Walrus ivory and other byproducts of subsistence hunting are used to create one-of-a-kind works of art by Alaska Native artisans, who in turn benefit from the sale of these valuable items. However, you should exercise caution Permits are required for the importation of some wildlife products through customs. To avoid any potential issues at customs, tourists are urged to have these mementos mailed back to them.

Athabascan beadwork. A picture taken by the Ahtna Native Corporation.

How about mosquitos? Do you have those in Alaska?

Like the rest of the United States, Alaska's wilderness areas are home to their fair share of annoying bugs. In Alaska, mosquitoes are among the most common and persistent pests. From spring to fall, they populate the state's countless miles of wetland tundra and lakes.

In areas where there is stagnant water and little to no breeze, mosquitoes tend to be most active early in the morning and late in the evening. The mosquito is a nuisance that will ruin your summer getaway, but it can be easily avoided. You can find insect repellent at any drugstore, grocery store, or outdoor gear store, so it's important to always have some on hand.

A woman in a canoe off of the Denali Highway in Alaska. Photographer: Michael DeYoung of ATIA

What must-see locations should I prioritize during my time in Alaska?

It's difficult to narrow Alaska's attractions down to just one or two. Most visitors to Alaska want to see the state's beautiful landscapes. Denali, North America's tallest mountain, and its ice-blue glaciers, bears, and other wildlife, and ancient temperate rainforests are all part of this. Off-the-beaten-path excursions, such as strolls through old gold-rush towns or day cruises to secluded fjords, are also highly recommended. Learn more about the art and history of Alaska by experiencing the culture of the indigenous peoples of the state through visits to museums. From Anchorage, you can take a scenic train ride or a road trip in a rented car to the south to Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward, or to the north to Denali National Park and Preserve and Fairbanks, both of which are located along some of the most beautiful scenic byways in the United States.

Seeking Fresh Ideas Explore the exciting destinations on our itineraries.

Kayakers float in front of a glacier in Alaska's Prince William Sound. Source of Image: ATIA/Michael DeYoung

Where can you find the Iditarod Trail?

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, held every March, is the longest and most grueling test of a professional musher's endurance and the official sport of Alaska. You don't need your own sled to follow in the footsteps of the mushers and their teams of dogs along the Iditarod National Historic Trail. The Iditarod Trail Headquarters can be found down Joe Reddington Road in Wasilla. Numerous tour agencies offer excursions along the well-known path both in the summer and the winter.

Visitors enjoy a dog sled ride in winter in Alaska. Photograph by Matt Hage/ATIA.

Can you recommend a stunning location in Alaska?

It's difficult to narrow Alaska's incredible landscapes down to a single "must-see" destination because there are so many incredible places to see and ways to experience them. Whenever you turn a corner, you'll see a mind-blowing sight.  

Just picture it...

  • Witnessing the spring migration of thousands of shorebirds along the tidelands of Southcentral Alaska
  • Imagine yourself in the Tongass National Forest, surrounded by towering, centuries-old trees, and looking up into the canopy.
  • Seeing a humpback whale, weighing in at an estimated 66,000 pounds, breach the sheltered waters of a fjord carved by glaciers in Glacier Bay.
  • Taking in the sights of the Arctic beyond Utqiagvik, where clear skies meet placid waters.
  • Watching the low angle of the setting sun paint pink alpenglow onto the peaks of snow-covered mountains is a sight to behold.
  • To be out in the tundra, walking on its vast, plush carpet of reds, whites, and greens.
  • Taking in the awesome strength of Alaskan brown bears as they race up and down rivers full of silver, pink, and red spawning salmon
  • The rumbling boom of glacial calving from sapphire-blue ice sheets
  • Enjoying the northern lights' dancing display of greens and reds above your head.
  • Attending a performance by Alaska Native dancers, learning about and participating in centuries-old rituals
  • Seeing the vastness of Alaska from above, passing through narrow mountain passes
  • Kayaking along secluded coastlines

Alaska is a state where you can go anywhere and do anything and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The northern lights dance over a cabin in Arctic Alaska. Picture by ATIA's Matt Hage

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