True North: Active Safaris across Alaska

Gorp.com

Alaska's big-game safari unfolds in a less traditional landscape: snow-capped mountains, massive glaciers, and iceberg-cluttered waterways, which are populated with grizzlies, sea otters, whales, walruses, puffins, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, polar bears, and more than 420 bird species. The 49th state's vast size offers unmatched opportunities to see wildlife, whether you head for the grizzly-viewing platforms overlooking Brooks River, fly into one of Denali's remote wilderness lodges, or take to the backcountry of Wrangell-St. Elias.
When traveling to Alaska, the first thing to consider is how long you have to spend in this wildlife wonderland. For those with less time, head for Denali and Kenai Fjords National Parks. Denali sees about 350,000 visitors a year, but escape the bottlenecked entrance with foot or pedal power to explore backcountry that features moose, caribou, bears, and Dall sheep. Kenai Fjords is Denali's aquatic twin, though it receives considerably less tourist traffic. Tour the Ice Age scenery by kayak or charter boat for a glimpse of seals, sea lions, and whales—humpback, gray, and minke—breaching the water's surface. The four fly-in, public-use cabins on Exit Glacier will set you down in the wilderness, though the mountain goats, marmots, and weasels should prove amiable company. Those with bears on their mind, meanwhile, should head directly to the Kenai Peninsula, where you can observe grizzlies wade through Brooks River in search of king salmon.
The 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska is the destination for those with time and money to burn. Getting into this isolated environment is a struggle, but the abundance of wildlife makes all hassles worth enduring. In fact, you'll be spoilt for wildlife viewing choices. Owls, falcons, swans, geese, and eagles dot the skies, some of the 180 bird species seen in the refuge. One of the world's largest herds of porcupine caribou, some 130,000 strong, migrates annually around the refuge's Brooks Mountain Range. Polar and grizzly bears, coyotes, arctic foxes, snowshoe hares, wolverines, moose, musk oxen, wolves, Dall sheep, and lynx all call the refuge home. Be cautious, however: conditions here are raw and unpredictable. Local outfitters offer single- and multi-day hiking, climbing, paddling, and cycling trips. Stick with an experienced guide and you're guaranteed an unforgettable northern safari in America's last untapped wilderness.

Published: 31 Jul 2002 | Last Updated: 3 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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