Dubbed the "Last Frontier," Alaska is a wild and untamed place with plenty to offer adventurous travelers. Whether you're cruising the Inside Passage, skiing Alyeska, or exploring one of the state's eight national parks, you'll find plenty to see and do there. But one of the more rewarding and accessible experiences is taking a tundra tour, which gives visitors a chance to explore some of the vast wilderness that makes up large sections of the state.
To help you find a tour that is right for you, we've compiled a list of five of the very best to help take you into the wild.
The Denali Tundra Tour
Denali National Park is truly one of the crown jewels of the entire U.S. national park system and should be at the top of every travelers "must-see" list when visiting Alaska. But, with only one road in or out, the majority of visitors don't get the chance to see the park in all its glory, let alone its namesake mountain, which is often shrouded by clouds. To truly get off the beaten path, sign up for the Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour, which usually runs about 8 hours in length and takes visitors 60 miles off road. The route wanders into some of the more remote regions of the park where travelers are more likely to spot wildlife and possibly even catch a glimpse of the summit of Denali –– the highest mountain in North America.
A Visit to Barrow
Situated some 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and 1300 miles from the North Pole, Barrow, Alaska is the northernmost city in the U.S. It also happens to be surrounded on three sides by the Arctic Ocean, with vast amounts of tundra stretching away to the south. That makes it a great place to visit if your goal is to explore the remote wilderness that Alaska is so well known for.
There are a variety of day trips that can be taken out of Barrow that allow visitors to spot wildlife and interact with the local Inuit people as well, but without a doubt the best tundra tour takes place at night. That's when the beautiful aurora borealis (aka the Northern Lights) appear overhead, illuminating the landscape with a dazzling array of colors. Here, the night skies are crystal clear and there are almost no lights to interfere with the experience. Add in the fact that the aurora appears most evenings between September and April, and you're almost guaranteed to catch a glimpse of the greatest light show on Earth.
Be sure to dress warmly, however, as Barrow is one of the coldest places in the country as well.
Backpacking Through The Gates of the Arctic
The Gates of the Arctic is one of the least visited national parks in the entire U.S., with only a few thousand travelers making their way across its borders each year. The park has no roads leading in or out, and there are no facilities of any kind to be found in its interior either. In order to get there, travelers must travel by bush plane, which is a common form of transportation in the Alaskan wilderness. But those who are adventurous enough to make the journey are rewarded by a pristine landscape that remains almost completely untouched by man.
Adventure travel company Arctic Wild leads backpacking trips into the Gates of the Arctic each summer, with itineraries that take travelers into the heart of this extraordinary place, crossing a vast section of tundra along the way. Adventure travel just doesn't get any more remote or wild than this.
Take an Arctic Road Trip
Want to experience the wild tundra, but only have one day to spare on your schedule? If so, be sure to check out the Arctic Circle Tour from Alaskan Arctic Turtle Tours in Fairbanks. This excursion will send you off on an epic road trip that will take you well above the Arctic Circle as you cross the fabled Yukon River, pass through large expanses of wilderness, and stop at Finger Mountain to take in the excellent views. Chances are, you'll also spot some of Alaska's famous wildlife along the way too, as bears, moose, and other creatures are common throughout the area. You'll even receive an official certificate proving that you have visited and traveled through the Arctic.
Explore the Alaskan Interior by Train
Because roads are few and far between in the Alaskan interior, one of the best ways to explore that part of the state is by train. You can sit back and watch the world pass you by from the comfort of a train car, enjoying the scenery in much the same way as travelers from a bygone era.
Travel company Alaska Collection offers a 10-day rail adventure that begins and ends in Anchorage and offers access to both Denali and Kenai Fjords National Parks, as well as lodge accommodations in both of those destinations as well. Visitors will also stay in Seward for one night, where they'll take a hike along the Exit Glacier, allowing them to get up close and personal with the massive slab of ice.
There are few better ways to explore a new destination than by train, and that holds true for Alaska as well.