Wildlife is one of Alaska’s major attractions. Alaska is home to brown and black bears, moose, caribou, wolves, sheep, eagles, whales and more. Alaska is also the largest state in the United States so the wildlife has room to spread out. This is great for the wildlife but can make it hard for the tourists to find the wildlife! While wildlife viewing is rarely guaranteed, below I will recommend where to travel in South-central and Interior Alaska to have the best opportunity to view Alaska’s wildlife.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park covers six million acres and many wild animals live within the parks’ boundaries. The Denali Park Road is the only road in the park and travels 90 miles deep into the heart of Denali National Park. Travel along this road offers the best opportunity to view Alaska’s Big Five – bear, moose, caribou, wolves and sheep. Only the first 15 miles of the Park Road are accessible by private vehicle and your chances of seeing wild life increases greatly the farther into the park you travel. We recommend the Kantishna Wilderness Trails tour which travels the full length of the road. The ride is long but the more time you spend on the Park Road the greater your chance of seeing wildlife. It also helps that there are many sets of eyes searching for the animals. The drivers of the tour bus have a lot of experience in Denali National Park and they will stop whenever possible to watch the wildlife.
While most tourists think of bear and moose as the animals associated with a visit to Alaska, don’t forget about the abundant marine wildlife in our state. A Seward day cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park will impress you with massive glaciers and offers the chance to see whales, Stellar sea lions, sea otters, Dall’s porpoise and harbor seals. The cruise also offers the opportunity to view a variety of sea birds including puffins, gulls and cormorants. You may even see Bald eagles soaring above the water or nesting in the Spruce trees along the shore. Day cruises in Prince William Sound out of the port towns of Whittier and Valdez also offer the chance to view marine wildlife however these cruises focus more on the spectacular glaciers in the area.
Bear viewing is a popular but pricey adventure. Bear viewing trips take you by float plane to remote areas where you have the best opportunity to view a large collection of bears. The tours focus on popular bear feeding areas – usually at rivers filled with salmon. From Anchorage, flights travel to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and then go by boat to search for the bears. This tour offers a unique flightseeing experience, a float plane landing in the remote Alaskan wilderness, and spectacular scenery in addition to the chance to view bears in their natural habitat!
Guaranteed Wildlife Sightings
When you are in Alaska and searching for wildlife you need to keep in mind the “wild” part of the word “wildlife”. The animals are wild and we can never guarantee that you will see them as the areas they live are very spread out. Every effort is made for you to see Alaskan wildlife in their natural environment but the only guaranteed wildlife sightings are at the Alaska Zoo, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and the Alaska SeaLife Center!
The Alaska Zoo is located on 20 acres of wooded hillside in Anchorage. The zoo is home to over 75 species of animals and birds native to Alaska including polar bears, brown and black bears, sheep, wolves, moose, caribou, owls and eagles. The zoo also is home to some animals not native to our state such as a Bactrian camel and Tibetan yak. A walking tour of the Alaska Zoo takes about an hour and a half.
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is located about 50 miles south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway. The center offers unique and up-close wildlife viewing opportunities. The Center is home to moose, brown bear, black bear, caribou, Muskox, porcupine and is operating a wood bison restoration program.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a marine wildlife research and rehabilitation facility located in Seward, Alaska. It is Alaska’s only public aquarium. The underwater viewing area for the massive Stellar sea lion is amazing! The SeaLife Center also includes a touch tank with sea star and anemones, a sea bird exhibit, a harbor seal habitat and beautiful views of Resurrection Bay. It takes 1-2 hours to tour the SeaLife center.
I know the goal of visitors to Alaska is not to see wildlife in the zoo but in their natural environment and very few will leave Alaska disappointed. As you travel throughout Alaska always be on the lookout for wildlife. Whether you are traveling by road or by rail you will be traveling through wildlife habitat!