Top Ten Offbeat Summer Parks

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Pod of Orcas in Glacier Bay, Alaska
Pod of Orcas in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (NPS)

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

3.3 million acres (2.7 million acres designated wilderness)

408,000 annual visits

Attractions: One word: Glaciers. The park includes some 16 tidewater glaciers, the largest concentration in the world, and the spectacle of these icy monoliths calving into remote backwaters is itself justification for the long trip to Glacier Bay.

Grand Pacific Glacier is the largest in the park, Johns Hopkins is the most active as far as volume of ice it calves (it is seldom possible to get closer than about two miles). Snowcapped Fairweather Range supplies ice to all the glaciers in the region, and Mount Fairweather, the range's tallest peak, stands at 15,320 feet. Humpback whales are a regular sight around Glacier Bay, as are orcas, bears, eagles, tufted puffins and Stellar sea lions.

Activities: Sea kayaking is the preferred mode of travel in Glacier Bay—a diligent paddler could spend weeks poking around the numerous island, inlets and bays that comprise the park. Those who set off from Bartlett Cove Visitors Center can wind their way north through the Beardslee Islands into the east arm of Glacier Bay. Paddlers who choose to go further afield can shuttle to three different locations on the park concession boat.

Finding Solitude: Of the 320,000 visitors each year, over 80 percent witness these sights from the deck of a cruise ship. Leave behind of the Love Boats and you're bound to find ample seclusion and plenty of opportunities to appreciate glaciers, icebergs and abundant Alaskan wildlife.


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