The Best Scenic Routes for Unforgettable Views in Alaska

Alaska, often referred to as the ‘Last Frontier’, is a haven for adventurers and nature lovers alike. With its expansive landscapes, towering mountains, and pristine wilderness, it offers some of the most breathtaking scenic drives in the world. Each route provides a unique glimpse into the wild beauty and diverse ecosystems of the state, from coastal vistas to alpine tundra. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a curious explorer, these drives promise unforgettable views and a true taste of Alaskan wilderness.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore diverse landscapes from mountains to coastal views across various scenic routes.
  • Capture the majestic beauty of Alaska‚Äôs wilderness through your camera lens as each drive offers unique photographic opportunities.
  • Experience local wildlife and natural phenomena, enhancing your journey with unforgettable encounters.
  • Take your time to soak in the views and enjoy the journey without rushing through these scenic routes.
  • Each drive offers access to historic Alaskan towns and recreational spots, perfect for learning and leisure.

1. Turnagain Arm Drive

Turnagain Arm Drive offers an unparalleled scenic experience as you travel south from Anchorage. This route is renowned for its dramatic landscapes, where every turn presents a new vista. On one side, the imposing peaks of Chugach State Park rise dramatically, reaching up to 3,000 feet. On the other, the expansive flats of Turnagain Arm stretch out, offering views across Cook Inlet to towering mountains beyond. This drive is not just about the views; it’s a journey through some of Alaska’s most stunning natural wonders.

  • Scenic Highlights:
    • Chugach State Park’s towering mountains
    • Expansive views of Turnagain Arm
    • Diverse wildlife sightings along the route

This route is a favorite for both locals and tourists, providing a perfect blend of natural beauty and accessible adventure.

2. Matanuska Glacier Scenic Drive

Embark on a journey along the Matanuska Glacier Scenic Drive, a route that promises breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences. This drive is a part of the Glenn Highway, renowned for its scenic beauty that stretches through the Mat-Su Valley. It’s a 2-hour scenic drive from Anchorage, or about 1 hr and 15 minutes from Palmer, making it an accessible yet profoundly transformative escape into nature.

The drive offers a variety of attractions from glacier trekking to wildlife watching, ensuring that every moment is packed with adventure and scenic beauty.

Here are some activities you can enjoy along the drive:

  • Glacier trekking at Matanuska Glacier
  • Exploring the Matanuska Lakes State Recreation Area
  • Visiting the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site
  • Enjoying the panoramic views and wildlife along the designated scenic byway

This drive is not just a route but a gateway to some of Alaska’s most majestic landscapes and thrilling outdoor activities.

3. Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive

Nestled in the Talkeetna Mountains between Palmer and Willow, the Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive offers a breathtaking journey through Alaska’s rugged wilderness. This route is particularly famous for its historical significance and the stunning Independence Mine State Historical Park. Visitors can explore the remnants of the gold mining era and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Key Attractions

  • Independence Mine State Historical Park
  • Summit Lake State Recreation Site
  • Gold Cord Lake Trail

Activities

  • Hiking and nature walks
  • Photography and sightseeing
  • Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding

The drive through Hatcher Pass is not just a journey through nature, but a passage through time, reflecting Alaska’s rich mining history and the enduring beauty of its landscapes.

4. Glenn Highway

The Glenn Highway, a 179-mile stretch connecting Anchorage to Glennallen, is a treasure trove of natural beauty and historical significance. This highway is not just a route but a journey through some of Alaska’s most stunning landscapes, including access to the Matanuska Glacier and scenic overlooks that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding terrain.

The Glenn Highway is an essential part of any Alaska road trip, providing opportunities for glacier trekking, fossil hunting, and wildlife watching. The highway’s route through the Mat-Su Valley is particularly notable for its dramatic vistas and the chance to explore charming towns like Talkeetna and Nenana.

  • Key Attractions:
    • Matanuska Glacier
    • Scenic overlooks
    • Historic sites like Eklutna Village

This drive is a photographer’s dream, capturing the essence of Alaska’s rugged beauty.

5. Eklutna Lake Area Guide & Scenic Drive

Nestled in the heart of Alaska’s wilderness, the Eklutna Lake Area offers a scenic drive that is both captivating and serene. This drive is a perfect blend of natural beauty and accessible adventure, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring Alaska. The area is renowned for the Eklutna Lakeside Trail, a moderately challenging route that stretches over 25.7 miles and provides breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

The drive to Eklutna Lake is not just about the destination but the journey itself, which is filled with panoramic views and opportunities to spot local wildlife.

Here are some key points to consider when planning your trip:

  • Prepare for varying weather conditions as the area can experience sudden changes.
  • The trail is ideal for hiking, biking, and in winter, cross-country skiing.
  • There are facilities available for picnicking and overnight camping, making it a great spot for an extended stay.

6. Arctic Valley Road Scenic Drive

Embark on the Arctic Valley Road Scenic Drive for an unforgettable journey through Alaska’s rugged landscapes. This route offers a unique blend of accessibility and remote wilderness, making it a favorite among both locals and tourists. Experience the pristine beauty of the area as you drive through breathtaking mountain scenery and lush valleys.

  • Mountain Views: The drive showcases expansive views of the Chugach Mountains, providing numerous opportunities for photography and wildlife spotting.
  • Hiking Opportunities: Several trails along the route offer chances to explore on foot, including the popular Arctic Valley Ski Area during the summer.
  • Wildlife Sightings: Keep an eye out for moose, bears, and an array of bird species that inhabit this region.

This scenic drive is not just a route but a gateway to experiencing the raw beauty of Alaska. It’s perfect for those who seek adventure and tranquility alike.

7. Valdez to Glennallen

The drive from Valdez to Glennallen along the Richardson Highway is a breathtaking journey through some of Alaska’s most stunning landscapes. This 128-mile stretch not only offers great shots of Alaskan wildlife, but also passes by the enormous Worthington Glacier and travels along the Copper River. The route provides spectacular views of the Wrangell St. Elias Mountains, where four mountain ranges converge, showcasing North America’s largest assemblage of glaciers and the greatest collection of peaks above 16,000 feet.

This scenic drive is a must for anyone looking to experience the raw beauty and majestic landscapes of Alaska.

Here are some key stops along the way:

  • Trans-Alaska Pipeline viewpoint
  • Worthington Glacier
  • Roadside waterfalls

This route is particularly stunning during the Alaskan summer, making it a perfect addition to any Alaskan summer getaway itinerary.

8. Knik-Goose Bay Road Scenic Drive

Embark on a half-day journey along the Knik-Goose Bay Road Scenic Drive, where the blend of natural beauty and local culture creates a memorable Alaskan experience. This route offers a unique opportunity to visit the Iditarod Headquarters, where you can learn about Alaska’s famous sled dog races. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy midnight sun tee times, making the most of Alaska’s endless summer days. Additionally, the area is renowned for its fishing opportunities in abundant natural waterways, where you might catch a glimpse of wild Alaska salmon.

This scenic drive encapsulates the essence of Alaska’s adventurous spirit and natural splendor, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring the state.

  • Visit Iditarod Headquarters: Learn about the history and challenges of the famous Iditarod sled dog races.
  • Golf under the midnight sun: Experience unique tee times in the stunning Alaskan landscape.
  • Fish in natural waterways: Try your luck at catching some of the local wild Alaska salmon.

9. Old Glenn Highway Scenic Loop

The Old Glenn Highway Scenic Loop offers a unique and intimate glimpse into Alaska’s past and present landscapes. This 5-mile loop, nestled along the braided Matanuska River, is a journey through time, showcasing original colony log barns that stand as silent witnesses to the area’s rich history. The drive is a photographer’s dream, capturing the essence of Alaska’s rugged beauty.

  • Wildlife watching: The area is known for its diverse wildlife, making it a perfect spot for nature enthusiasts.
  • Historic sites: Explore the original colony log barns and other historical landmarks.
  • Scenic views: Enjoy breathtaking views of the Matanuska River and surrounding farmlands.

This scenic loop is not just a drive but an experience, enveloping visitors in the natural and historical tapestry of Alaska.

10. Petersville Road Scenic Drive

The Petersville Road Scenic Drive offers a unique journey to the less traveled paths leading to Denali National Park. This route meanders through the rugged mining backcountry, showcasing remnants of abandoned mining communities that whisper tales of Alaska’s gold rush era. Watch for wildlife along the way and enjoy phenomenal views of the Alaska Range and Denali, making every turn a picturesque moment.

The drive not only promises adventure but also a deep dive into the natural and historical tapestry of Alaska.

This scenic drive is perfect for those who seek solitude away from the more frequented tourist paths and wish to experience a raw and unfiltered Alaska. Here are some highlights you can expect on the Petersville Road Scenic Drive:

  • Abandoned mining communities
  • Frequent wildlife sightings
  • Unmatched views of the Alaska Range and Denali
  • A sense of adventure as you explore the rugged terrain

Conclusion

Exploring Alaska through its scenic routes offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and unique culture of the ‘Last Frontier’. From the majestic mountain drives near major city centers to the tranquil coastal byways, each route presents a new perspective on Alaska’s diverse landscapes. Whether you’re driving through the historic towns, stopping for wildlife sightings, or simply enjoying the vast, open roads, these journeys promise unforgettable views and experiences. Remember to take your time, soak in every moment, and keep your camera ready for those breathtaking scenes. Alaska’s scenic drives are not just routes; they are gateways to adventure and awe-inspiring discoveries.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to take scenic drives in Alaska?

The best time for scenic drives in Alaska is during the summer months from May through September when the weather is milder and the days are longer, providing ample daylight for exploring.

What wildlife might I see along these scenic routes?

You may encounter a variety of wildlife including moose, bears, eagles, and caribou. Always keep a safe distance and follow local guidelines for wildlife viewing.

Are there any specific scenic drives recommended for first-time visitors?

Yes, the Turnagain Arm Drive is highly recommended for first-time visitors as it offers stunning views and is conveniently located near Anchorage.

Can these scenic drives be accessed by RV or larger vehicles?

Yes, most of the scenic drives in Alaska are accessible by RVs and larger vehicles, making it a perfect destination for a road trip.

What are some must-see stops along these routes?

Must-see stops include the Matanuska Glacier, Independence Mine State Historical Park at Hatcher Pass, and the Wrangell St. Elias National Park on the drive from Valdez to Glennallen.

Are there guided tours available for these scenic drives?

Yes, guided tours are available for those who prefer not to drive themselves. These tours often include additional insights and stops at key attractions.

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