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When it comes to planning a trip to the 49th state, knowing where to start can be the hardest part. Alaska is beyond vast, so logistics and the nitty gritty of getting around — especially if there might be bad weather — need to be considered carefully. Of course, there’s also just so much to see; with such a wealth of striking scenic beauty, it can be hard not to feel pressured into checking absolutely everything off your list.
To ease the stress of trip planning, plenty of authors have written incredible guides to help you figure out your itinerary, work within your budget, and make sure that you see the most important sights. From guides for RVers to travel books for cruisers, we’ve rounded up the best Alaska travel guides out there.
Our Top Picks
If you’re looking for an all-purpose comprehensive guide to Alaska, Lisa Maloney’s contribution to the Moon travel series is among the best. Maloney has extensive knowledge of the state — she’s lived there since the late 1980s — and is particularly well-versed in hiking trails in Anchorage and south-central Alaska, though you’ll find much more in her book.
Though it’s geared slightly more to those who aren’t cruisers, the book’s 450 pages contain plenty of information that’s useful for anyone heading to the far northern state. Readers love the maps that are included in the book — the better for visualizing your trip — and all the historical context which helps ground and shape your itinerary. For ultimate flexibility, it also comes in an eBook format so you can download it onto your phone or tablet to keep all the information you need easily at hand — without any extra weight in your suitcase.
Fodor’s The Complete Guide to Alaska Cruises
This updated-for-2019 guide is both comprehensive and packed full of pertinent information for cruisers making their way to Alaska. The book’s 352 pages cover all the basics and then some, from the very first stages of planning to what you excursions you can do in each port. Those who have used past editions (we highly suggest getting the latest one) have said that it’s absolutely invaluable for planning a cruise, with gorgeous pictures and information about what exactly you can expect from your first vacation by water. If you want to dive into more about what each specific city can offer, however, it might be better to look for a state or regional guide — this is very much geared toward cruisers.
Guide to the Alaska Highway: Your Complete Driving Guide
A driving vacation through Alaska is pretty much the ultimate road trip — and it’s a great way to not just see the top sights, but off-the-beaten-track spots as well. A car, after all, gives you ultimate freedom — and what’s better than that in this rugged, majestic state? If you need help deciding where to start/finish, or figuring out what to stop for along the way (and what's worth a detour), this guide will be incredibly helpful. It focuses in on the Alaska Highway — a 1,500-mile stretch that goes from Dawson Creek in British Columbia to Delta Junction — and helps you tailor your trip to get the most out of every mile. There are also pointers about how to spot wildlife and where to find the best fishing. Be sure — this goes for all the guides on our list — to get the latest version.
55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska
If you — or your Alaska travel partner — are more of a rugged backcountry adventurer than a tour-the-ports type, then this is an excellent point from which to start. 55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska offers suggestions for more than 135 different activities to do, including plenty of woodland and tundra hiking, so you can really dive into the state's wild wilderness.
Other ways to get into the region’s incredible backcountry include float trips, historic trails, and low-key beach walks. There’s also great practical information about finding public transit, historical information about some of the routes, and a genius table that lets you compare potential routes — including difficulty and mileage — at a glance. Author Helen Nienhueser’s suggestions cover the entire calendar year, so no matter what season your vacation falls in, you’ll find the right trip for you. Tellingly, it’s just as popular with locals as it is with vacationers, so rest assured you’re in good hands with this guide.
Frommer's EasyGuide to Alaskan Cruises and Ports of Call
Planning out the logistics of a cruise, all the excursions, and the travel required to get there can be complicated. That's why Frommer’s EasyGuide breaks down all the critical information into digestible bits. The guide focuses more on the breadth of cruise ships than, say, specific ports of call, so it is most useful for those who have yet to book their vacation. But that said, it does also delve into which excursions you can book at each pier vs. having to shell out for them via the ship's providers. Overall, cruisers find it most useful in narrowing down which line, ship, and route are best suited to their style and budget. As always, just be sure to get the most recent version for the most accurate pricing information.
The MILEPOST 2018: Alaska Travel Planner
The 700-page Milepost is one of the most comprehensive guides to Alaska out there, and it’s been an invaluable resource for visitors to the great state for more than 70 years now. Those planning to drive their way through the state will appreciate that the guide covers more than 15,000 miles of road in Alaska, as well as some nearby detours to the Northwest Territories, Yukon, British Columbia, and Alberta. There are plenty of recommendations as far as itineraries go, but appreciate the practical advice (ferry systems, crossing the U.S.-Canada border) and the more than 100 city and road maps. Best of all, if you don’t want to lug the heavy tome in your carry on, the book’s purchase comes with a free digital edition.
Traveler's Guide to Alaskan Camping: Alaskan and Yukon Camping with RV or Tent
If you’re hitting the highway in an RV or combining a road trip with tent camping, this less-than-$10 guide is a fantastic resource. It maps out some of the most well-traveled routes running through the state, including the Alaska Highway, the Klondike Loop, and the Alaskan Marine Highway. Of course, there’s also plenty of RV-specific information as well, like instructions on how to rent a vehicle in the U.S. and Canada, and a rundown of campsites along each suggested route.
Moon Anchorage, Denali & the Kenai Peninsula
Moon’s guides are some of the best in the industry, and this deep dive into Anchorage, Denali, and the Kenai Peninsula is a wonderful resource. Author Don Pitcher — a photographer and writer who’s lived in Alaska for most of his adulthood — offers great itineraries, whether you’re patching together a bunch of short trips into a larger one or looking for an all-in-one, two-week journey through each of the state’s distinct areas. There’s also plenty of full-color photos, maps, activity suggestions, and scenic stop-offs.