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7 Wildlife Experiences In Alaska To Add To Your Bucket List

If you’re like us, spending time watching wildlife isn’t just a hobby; it’s a passion. And where better to indulge this passion than in Alaska, a place so rich in animals it’s like stepping into a live documentary, minus the voiceover.

And yes, Alaska has been on our must-visit list longer than we’d like to admit. We’re aiming for the summer of 2025, and trust us, we’ve been doing our homework to make every second count.

So, for travelers wading through the sea of possibilities when it comes to seeing wildlife, unsure where to cast your anchor during a visit, we’re here to guide you. Having sifted through endless options, we’re bringing you a list of wildlife experiences in Alaska that promise to be nothing short of epic (and are certainly on our bucket list for next year).

1. Bear Watching In Katmai National Park

a brown bear stands at the top of the falls in katmai national park fishing for salmon
© Depositphotos

Here’s the thing about Katmai National Park – it’s basically a giant, all-you-can-see bear buffet. Not for you, of course, unless you’re into eating salmon with your bare hands alongside grizzlies.

This place is crawling (well, technically speaking, walking) with over 2,200 brown bears who apparently didn’t get the memo about personal space when it comes to fish. Picture this: you, standing safely (emphasis on safely) on a viewing platform while these magnificent beasts engage in what can only be described as an all-out salmon-catching marathon.

And get this: Katmai spans over 4 million acres, which is like saying you’ve got enough room to host a bear party without worrying about the noise complaints from your neighbors.  It’s not just about watching bears, though; it’s about witnessing one of nature’s most incredible spectacles in a park that’s more remote than your chances of getting a decent internet connection out there.

  • Best Time To Visit: Summer (particularly July and September)

2. Puffin Spotting In Kenai Fjords National Park

a close up of a puffin face with its beak filled with multiple small fish
© Depositphotos

Now, if you thought bears had the monopoly on Alaskan wildlife charm, hold onto your binoculars because puffins are about to steal the show.

Puffins, with their distinctive colorful beaks (which look like they’ve raided a clown’s makeup box) and their somewhat bewildered expression, are basically the supermodels of the avian world. Spotting one in the wild? It’s like catching a glimpse of avian royalty. The Kenai Fjords are their runway, where they gather in colonies on the rugged cliff faces.

Did you know that these birds are excellent swimmers, using their wings to “fly” underwater in search of fish? And here’s something that might surprise you – puffins can carry several fish in their beaks at once, thanks to their unique hinging mechanism. It’s like they’re equipped with nature’s own multi-tool.

  • Best Time To Visit: Late Spring to Early Fall (May to September)

3. Wildlife Encounters In Denali National Park

a male moose with large antlers stands in denali national park
© Depositphotos

Denali National Park is like Las Vegas in terms of wildlife, except what happens in Denali definitely doesn’t stay in Denali because you’ll want to tell everyone about it. 

This pristine wilderness is your all-access pass to some of the most jaw-dropping animal sightings on the continent. We’re talking grizzlies, moose, caribou, and wolves doing their thing in their natural habitat, which, by the way, spans over 6 million acres.

Denali also houses North America’s tallest peak, creating a perfect backdrop for your wildlife selfies. Here’s a nugget that might win you a trivia night – Denali has only one road, which means traffic jams here are caused by caribou crossings and not your usual rush hour suspects. And you can’t even drive the whole thing yourself; you have to take a park bus most of the way.

  • Best Time To Visit: Summer (particularly May and June)

4. Eagle Watching At The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

an eagle swoops down and appears to be running along the snow with wings spread
© Depositphotos

Imagine a place so teeming with bald eagles that it makes America’s national emblem seem like pigeons in a city park. That’s the Chilkat Preserve for you, a spot where these majestic birds congregate in numbers so large that it’s as if they’re hosting their own eagle convention.

Up to 3,000 bald eagles have been known to gather here in the fall, attracted by the late run of salmon. It’s the final hoorah of salmon season, and the eagles are definitely not missing out.

And in winter, the Chilkat River has special waters that remain unfrozen, providing a perfect fishing ground for eagles when other rivers have turned into ice rinks. Just think, you could be standing there amidst the crisp Alaskan air as eagles soar overhead and do acrobatic flips through the air, all with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

  • Best Time To Visit: Late Fall and Winter (October to February)
  • Discover More: For those who find the majesty of eagles and other raptors mesmerizing, our list of birds from Kruger National Park highlights a variety of species native to South Africa, drawing parallels to the wildlife you admire here in the U.S.

5. Dog Sledding In Mat-Su Valley

a man stands on the back of a dog sled being pulled by several dogs in the snow along a snowy path
© Depositphotos

Stepping into Mat-Su Valley for some dog sledding is like deciding you’ve had enough of the typical tourist treadmill, and you’re now aspiring to be an honorary musher.

You thought Alaska was just about oversized bears and eagle conventions? Think again. Here, dogs reign supreme, and sledding isn’t just a mode of transport; it’s the Alaskan version of a sports car experience.

But these dogs aren’t your average household pets; they’re elite athletes of the canine world, capable of covering distances you probably wouldn’t even want to drive. And while the temperatures in Mat-Su might make you think your face has permanently frozen into an expression of awe, these pups thrive in the cold, their enthusiasm unaffected by the chill.

Plus, Mat-Su Valley is stunningly scenic, offering views that’ll have your camera working overtime, trying to capture the magic of racing through a winter wonderland led by your new four-legged best friends. This isn’t just an activity; it’s an immersive experience into the heart of Alaskan culture, where you will learn the true meaning of “mush” and gain a whole new respect for the power of teamwork.

  • Best Time To Visit: Winter (December to March)

6. Bird Watching At Potter Marsh

three trumpeter swans sit in a the water at potter marsh in alaska
© Depositphotos

Potter Marsh might just be the star of the Alaskan avian world, tucked away in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. It’s where birds of all feathers flock together, making it a paradise for bird watchers who prefer their nature experiences to be as diverse as a New York City subway car.

This place is a prime spot for catching sight of pintail ducks, red-necked phalaropes, northern harriers, and the occasional majestic trumpeter swan. Potter Marsh boasts a boardwalk extending over 1,550 feet, offering unhindered views of feathered performers without getting your feet wet.

But it’s not just the birds that call this marsh home. Be prepared to spot moose meandering through the refuge, adding a touch of Alaskan wilderness to the serene birdwatching scene.

  • Best Time To Visit: Summer (May to August)

7. Glacier Bay Marine Wildlife Cruise

a humpback whale breaches from the blue waters of glacier bay with snowy mountains as the backdrop
© Depositphotos

Heading into Glacier Bay on a marine wildlife cruise is essentially hitting the jackpot for anyone who appreciates Mother Nature’s more dramatic moments – minus the drama of reality TV. Here, you’ll glide past towering glaciers that dwarf even the most inflated egos, witnessing chunks of ice calving into the steel-blue waters below.

But it’s not just about ice; the bay is a bustling metropolis for sea creatures. You’re likely to spot humpback whales doing their version of morning stretches with fluke-up dives and breeches that put Olympic divers to shame, as this area serves as a crucial feeding ground for these giants.

Other possibilities include sea otters, seals and sea lions, orcas, and dolphins. Expect to see various seabirds during your cruise as well.

  • Best Time To Visit: Summer (May To September)

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