There is much in Alaska's state park system that will blow children's minds. Be it America's highest peak or native Alaskan totem poles, these parks have many treasures in store:
Orcas, bewhiskered otters, bears, and mountain goats inhabit the swathe of rugged coastline that graduates into snow-capped peaks across 607,000 acres. The Kenai Peninsula is crowned by Harding Icefield, the largest to sit within the American border. This ancient landscape has been shaped by a gamut of natural phenomena including glaciers, storms, and earthquakes, and it is as mercurial today, supplying scientists and visitors with endless fascination.
The Aurora Borealis flows mysteriously over this landscape of duned islands and bubbling volcanoes, filled with vestiges of historic wars and arctic seabirds. The park provides a habitat for 80% of Alaska's seabirds and more than half of those in America. Kids will be blown away by its spectacular sights.
Alaska's oldest park is home to Tlingit Fort and battlefield, the site of the 1804 Battle of Sitka between Europeans and Alaskan natives. Children will be enthralled by the vaunting totem poles, Russian colonial architecture, and loop trails through temperate rainforests.
Alaska's untrammelled wildernesses often stretch beyond human habitation. Hiking in its vast state parks is more than just physical exercise, it's an exercise in breaking the bounds of thought. Here are some highlights:
Walk in the footsteps of mankind's earliest ancestors along the gargantuan stretch of land that some scientists speculate formed the Bering Land Bridge between Asia and the Americas. Back some 12,000 years ago this may have facilitated the migration of humans. Today it's populated with wildlife. See Moose, brown bear, and wolverine, and stop off at any of 24,000 lakes to fish for sheefish, whitefish, and Arctic grayling.
There's nowhere wilder-feeling than Innoko. Explore nearly four million acres of landscape, dominated by marshland and meadows of sedge and horsetail, and ribboned by the Innoko and Yetna Rivers. 130 species of bird populate the park, along with moose, lynx, and caribou. There's never a dull day hiking in this stupendously beautiful setting.
Hike through muskeg marshland, alpine meadows, and thick forests; and iscover world-class cave systems along the way. Visit glaciers and watch eagles, bears, and whales in their natural habitat. Kayak or canoe through dramatic saltwater fjords, and fish for herring, trout, and halibut. There's so much to see on hikes through Tongrass's emerald Eden.
Venture out into the Alaskan playground for watersports on Indian rivers, stunning fishing spots, and swimming with porpoises and whales. Here's where to find the state's top hiking experiences:
Long distance swimmers plunge into the cool, gin-clear waters of Glacier Bay in the summer. They are joined by humpback whales and sea otters, while coyote, moose, and bears roam the banks. Long before the National Park was established, the area was inhabited by the native Huna Tlingit people, whose influence can still be seen in bark-stripped trees.
Few spots on earth are more beautiful for fishing in than this one. Tuxedni Bay off Cook Inlet is a home to soaring bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Cliffs plunge 400 feet at the northern end while sandy beaches lie opposite, and spruce forest hugs the landscape inland. Pink, muscular salmon is often hooked in these crystalline waters.
Tanaina Indian for 'the high one,' Denali refers to Mt. McKinley; North America's tallest mountain. Its massive presence dominates the horizon over Denali National Park, and much of the state. Hiking the park, you will meet the maze-like Tokositna River, which winds through alpine tundra. Here, lynx, coyote, snowshoe hare, and wolverine dart. The park boasts a rich array of landscapes, ribboned by the glittering river.