Adventure Activities in Alaska’s National Parks: From ATV Riding to Kayaking

Alaska is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. With its vast wilderness, towering mountains, expansive glaciers, and pristine waterways, Alaska’s national parks offer unparalleled opportunities for exploration and adventure. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking for the rush of ATV riding or a nature lover eager to kayak through serene waters, Alaska’s national parks have something for everyone. This guide will take you through some of the most exciting activities you can experience in these stunning natural landscapes, providing tips and insights to make the most of your Alaskan adventure.

ATV Riding in Alaska

One of the most exhilarating ways to explore Alaska’s rugged terrain is through ATV riding. These off-road vehicles allow you to access remote areas that are otherwise difficult to reach, providing a unique perspective of the wilderness.

Hatcher Pass is a sought-after destination for ATV adventures. Located in the Talkeetna Mountains, this area is renowned for its stunning landscapes, historical sites, and challenging trails that cater to riders of all skill levels. ATV tours in Hatcher Pass, Alaska often provide stops at scenic viewpoints, where you can take in breathtaking views of alpine meadows, cascading waterfalls, and remnants of old mining operations.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the United States, also offers fantastic ATV riding opportunities. The park’s remote and rugged terrain is perfect for those looking to venture off the beaten path. Guided ATV tours in Wrangell-St. Elias provide a safe and informative way to explore the park’s dramatic landscapes, including glaciers, mountains, and old mining sites.

For those interested in a guided experience, many tour operators offer ATV rentals and guided tours. These tours often include safety briefings, equipment rentals, and experienced guides who share their knowledge of the local flora, fauna, and history. 

Hiking and Backpacking

Hiking and backpacking are quintessential activities in Alaska’s national parks, offering a closer look at the state’s stunning natural beauty.

Kenai Fjords National Park is renowned for its dramatic coastal landscapes and glaciers. The Harding Icefield Trail is a must-do hike, offering a challenging but rewarding trek with spectacular views of the icefield and surrounding mountains. The trail is approximately 8.2 miles round trip and gains about 1,000 feet in elevation per mile, making it suitable for experienced hikers.

Glacier Bay National Park offers a unique combination of coastal and mountainous terrain. The park’s Bartlett Cove area provides several hiking trails that range from easy walks to more strenuous hikes. The Bartlett River Trail, for instance, takes you through lush temperate rainforest to a scenic river overlook, offering opportunities to spot bears, moose, and a variety of bird species.

For backpackers, Gates of the Arctic National Park presents an unparalleled wilderness experience. With no established trails or facilities, this park is for the truly adventurous. Backpackers can traverse the untouched tundra, navigate river valleys, and climb remote peaks. Due to its remoteness, it is essential to be well-prepared and experienced in backcountry travel. The National Park Service website provides detailed information on planning a trip to Gates of the Arctic.

Kayaking and Canoeing

Alaska’s national parks are home to countless lakes, rivers, and coastal waters, making kayaking and canoeing popular activities. These water-based adventures offer a peaceful way to experience the natural beauty and wildlife of the region.

Kenai Fjords National Park is a kayaker’s paradise. Paddling through the park’s fjords allows you to get up close to glaciers, observe marine wildlife such as sea otters, seals, and whales, and enjoy the tranquility of the pristine waters. Guided kayaking tours are available for those who prefer a structured experience.

Glacier Bay National Park offers unparalleled kayaking opportunities. Paddlers can explore the park’s coves, inlets, and bays, often encountering wildlife like humpback whales, sea lions, and puffins. Kayak rentals and guided tours are available at Bartlett Cove, providing both novice and experienced kayakers with the chance to explore this stunning marine environment.

For a unique freshwater experience, consider paddling in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This park features numerous lakes and rivers that are ideal for canoeing and kayaking. The turquoise waters of Lake Clark itself provide a stunning backdrop for a day of paddling. The park’s remoteness ensures a peaceful and uncrowded experience, perfect for those seeking solitude and immersion in nature.

Wildlife Viewing

Alaska’s national parks are teeming with wildlife, making them prime destinations for wildlife viewing. From the coastal waters teeming with marine life to the expansive tundra where large mammals roam, there’s no shortage of opportunities to see animals in their natural habitats.

Katmai National Park is world-famous for its brown bears. Brooks Camp, located within the park, is one of the best places in the world to observe brown bears fishing for salmon. Viewing platforms at Brooks Falls offer safe and excellent vantage points for watching these majestic creatures. The peak bear viewing season is from late June to September.

Denali National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. The park’s bus tours, which travel along the Denali Park Road, provide excellent opportunities to spot wildlife. Knowledgeable guides share insights about the animals and their behaviors, enhancing the viewing experience.

For bird enthusiasts, Kachemak Bay State Park near Homer offers exceptional bird watching. The park’s coastal and forested areas attract a variety of bird species, including bald eagles, puffins, and sandhill cranes. The park’s trails and coastal areas provide ample opportunities for birdwatching throughout the year.


Fishing is a popular activity in Alaska’s national parks, known for their abundant and diverse fish populations. Whether you’re interested in fly fishing in rivers and streams or casting a line in the ocean, Alaska offers some of the best fishing experiences in the world.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a prime destination for anglers. The park’s rivers and lakes are teeming with salmon, trout, and grayling. The park’s remoteness ensures a pristine and uncrowded fishing experience. Guided fishing trips are available, providing visitors with all the necessary equipment and expertise to make the most of their fishing adventure.

Katmai National Park is renowned for its salmon fishing. The park’s rivers, particularly the Brooks River, are famous for their runs of sockeye salmon. Anglers can enjoy world-class fishing while surrounded by stunning wilderness and abundant wildlife. Fishing guides and lodges in the area offer comprehensive packages for visitors.

For saltwater fishing, Glacier Bay National Park offers excellent opportunities. The park’s coastal waters are rich in halibut, salmon, and rockfish. Charter fishing trips from Gustavus provide visitors with the chance to catch large halibut and other prized fish while enjoying the spectacular coastal scenery.

Alaska’s National Parks

Alaska’s national parks offer a diverse array of adventure activities that cater to all types of outdoor enthusiasts. From the thrill of ATV riding and the serenity of kayaking to the excitement of wildlife viewing and the challenge of hiking, there’s something for everyone in these pristine natural landscapes. Each park has its unique charm and offers a different experience, making Alaska a truly remarkable destination for adventure seekers.

In addition to the outdoor activities, the cultural heritage of Alaska adds another layer of richness to your adventure. The traditional lifestyles and customs of the indigenous peoples, the history of exploration and settlement, and the vibrant local communities all contribute to a deeper understanding and appreciation of this extraordinary region.

As you plan your Alaskan adventure, be sure to research and prepare adequately. Respect the natural environment and follow guidelines to ensure your safety and the preservation of these beautiful parks. For more information and resources on planning your trip, visit the National Park Service website and other reputable sources.

Embark on an adventure that will create lasting memories, and experience the unparalleled beauty and excitement that Alaska’s national parks have to offer. Whether you’re exploring the rugged backcountry, paddling through serene waters, or observing wildlife in their natural habitats, your Alaskan adventure awaits.

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