Alaska in Summer

One million people are not going to Alaska this summer — at least until August. Don’t join them. Go now!

Alaska’s big-ship cruise industry has struggled due to COVID and the closing of Canada’s borders. Former cruise regulations required all Alaskan cruises to stop in a Canadian port along the way.

Because of that obscure provision in an old US law, Congress had to create a temporary exemption that allows major cruise lines to bypass Canada and sail their ships to the Great Land.

In May, U.S. President Joe Biden officially signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act into law, paving the way for cruises to restart to the Last Frontier directly from Seattle. Soon they will be able to sail directly to Alaska from Seattle without the need to stop in a Canadian port of call.

But the cruise ships won’t arrive until August — and this is an amazing opportunity for independent travelers who have long dreamed of visiting one of Earth’s most-sought destinations.

Seeing—and photographing—wild bears is a key attraction for visitors to Alaska in summer
Seeing—and photographing—wild bears is a key attraction for visitors to Alaska in summer. Photo by Eric Lucas

Why Visit Alaska This Summer?

The ships won’t start sailing north until late July; the ordinary annual influx of 1.2 million cruise passengers will be a fraction of the usual. Meanwhile, the biggest state is wide open and crowd-free.

And one of the state’s best-kept secrets is that Alaska offers the finest weather in summer, especially in the early summer months. May and June are the driest and warmest months in Juneau; mid-August is when fall rains start to arrive in the Interior.

So, really, go now! Man, is it worthwhile.

Summer in Alaska is beautiful & this year there will be far fewer people until the cruise ships start again. Now's the time to go to Alaska!

Stunning Scenery & Wonderful Wildlife

Alaska’s scenery is among nature’s finest works of art—rendered even more splendid by the fact that billboards are illegal in the Great Land. And this year, all that magnificence will have far fewer people crowding it.

Get lucky, weather-wise, and pose for a selfie with the north side of Denali behind you at Wonder Lake.

Wildlife is everywhere. Totally, literally, everywhere. Moose roam Anchorage. Eagles fly in every sky. Ravens argue, caribou graze, seals bark, bears flock to salmon runs, whales throng to nearshore waters.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center south of Anchorage is an amazing open-range zoo. They do a lot of good work in their namesake topic while enabling visitors to see and learn about these charismatic creatures.

Wild muskox are easily viewed on day tours from Nome Alaska in summer
Wild muskox are easily viewed on day tours from Nome. Photo by Eric Lucas

Fresh & Delicious Food

America’s best natural food is a daily staple in Alaska. There are five different kinds of wild salmon to savor. (Sockeye is the best.) No farm-raised salmon sodden with chemicals here: fish farming is illegal.

Dungeness crab, black cod, halibut, rockfish, lingcod, spot prawns, calamari—come hungry.

Blueberries big as marbles are ripe for the picking along interior roads. Reindeer sausage comes from animals that have never seen a pile of cornflakes or a jar of antibiotics—although, full disclosure, most versions are larded up a bit with pork.

You can even stop for lunch in Delta Junction, southeast of Fairbanks, and have a free-range yak-burger for lunch. Yes, really.

Alaska Silver Salmon such as these from the Susitna River, lure anglers to Alaska in summer
Alaska Silver Salmon, such as these from the Susitna River, lure anglers to Alaska in August. Photo by Eric Lucas

Ride the Scenic Alaska Railroad

The finest scenic train ride in the US, the Alaska Railroad, winds its way through the mountains and tundra from Seward to Fairbanks… traversing a landscape that is otherwise accessible only to hard-core wilderness trekkers.

Every seat is a scenic vantage; every ride is a wildland adventure.

When you are ready to do some wilderness trekking, check out Sierra Trading Post for everything you need on your outdoor adventure. Whether that be hiking boots, camping gear or protective clothes for the kids, you can find it all here.

Fireweed and mountain peaks, the quintessential Interior Alaska in summer scene—in this case, on the Denali Highway.
Fireweed and mountain peaks, the quintessential Interior Alaska scene—in this case, on the Denali Highway. Photo by Eric Lucas

Get to Know Alaska’s Indigenous People

Alaska’s indigenous peoples are among Earth’s most resilient, inventive and artistic. Their traditions imbue a dozen museums and attractions that ordinarily are crowded with visitors.

The Museum of the North in Fairbanks has a world-class object, the Okvik Madonna. It’s one of humanity’s most precious works of art, a 2,000-year-old ivory carving of a pregnant woman.

The totem trail at Sitka National Historical Park is an unsurpassed collection of a distinctive art form. It’s so unique and powerful that European “collectors” blithely stole thousands of pieces in the 18th century to fill palaces and museums in the Old World.

Learn more on the indigenous culture and connection of art to the land in Alaska in Alaska Native Art: Tradition, Innovation, Continuity. Available on Amazon here.

Blue Pool on Root Glacier Wrangell-St Elias Park. Cold! But invigorating
Blue Pool on Root Glacier Wrangell-St Elias Park. Cold! But invigorating. Photo by Amy Geiger

Alaska in Summer is Ripe With Outdoor Activities

Alaska’s recreation possibilities are far more diverse than visitors think. You can play golf at what is probably the northernmost course in the world, North Star near Fairbanks, just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle. Tee off at midnight—it’s a midsummer tradition. If your ball falls in a moose track, you get relief.

Also, near Fairbanks, you can go for a swim at Chena Lakes or Tanana Lakes. The water’s pleasant, and the weather is way warmer than visitors expect; past 80 is not unusual in July.

And if you’re a hardy soul, you can ask your glacier-hike guide to bring you by a “blue pool” for a memorable plunge. The water’s 33 degrees, and no, you won’t die. In and out, quickly.

Pan for gold, hike through wildflower meadows, kayak in peaceful coves, ride bikes on quiet trails, soak in sub-Arctic hot springs, wrestle with silver salmon at the end of your line. With all this to do, it’s fortunate the days are 20 hours long.

The Alaska menu is as limitless as the landscape—and right now, as exclusive as a semi-private resort. Don’t wait.

Book This Trip

Beat the crowds and plan an adventure to see the majesty of Alaska during the summer today! Be prepared with knowledge on hotel or VRBO options, the most breath-taking hikes, favorite local restaurants and more through Travelocity and TripAdvisor. When you’re ready to go, find all your transportation needs, from the best airline deals to renting a car anywhere in Alaska, through Kiwi.

Don’t forget to book a few tours while you travel Alaska. Check out GetYourGuide for activities like the Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise or Anchorage Glacier and Wildlife Tour. Book here and cancel anytime up to 24-hours before for a full refund so you can plan stress-free!

Author Bio: Eric Lucas is the author of the Michelin guide to Alaska and former associate editor at Alaska Airlines Magazine. He lives on a small farm on San Juan Island, where he grows organic garlic, beans, apples and hay.

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