Few places in America are as rich in natural beauty as Alaska. The Last Frontier has more national parks than any other state except California. And each one offers the solitude and beautiful scenery that will help you get back in touch with yourself as well as nature.
Here are some exciting things to do and see in each of Alaska's eight national parks.
The centerpiece of Denali is the mountain that gave the site its name. Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) is the highest mountain peak in North America. at 20, 310 feet tall. But the park -- which spans six million acres of wild land -- is also home to grizzly bears, caribou, gray wolves, moose and other Alaskan wildlife that you can see by driving down the site's 92 mile road or going for a hike. And in the winter, the park is open for cross-country skiing, dogsledding, snowmachining or camping out for a chance to see the northern lights.
2. Gates of the Arctic
Hikers looking to go off the beaten path should check out the Gates of the Arctic in northern Alaska. There are no roads or established trails in the nearly 8.5 million hectares of land in the park. So you get to make your own way while exploring a site that has been home to wolverines, musk ox, bears, caribou and nomadic peoples for thousands of years.
3. Glacier Bay
Don't get fooled by the name of Glacier Bay. This coastal park in Southeastern Alaska isn't as cold as it sounds. But it is home of 15 glaciers that offer a portal to the last Ice Age. There are no roads or trails through the park, but if you're not up for bushwhacking, there are many ways to explore the marine park by boat.
If you want to add a little danger to your next hiking trip, head to Katmai, which is on the Alaska Peninsula in the state's southwest region. The park was a settlement until its volcanic namesake erupted in 1912, forcing residents to flee the area that was dubbed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes when explores re-entered the volcanic wasteland years later. The event was the biggest volcanic eruption of the 20th century and one of the biggest in recorded history.
Nowadays, there is still volcanic activity in the area, but nature has reclaimed the land. In fact, it's now home to over 2,200 grizzly bears. And you can catch them out and about if you take a bear-watching excursion in the park.
5. Kenai Fjords
If Katmai's bear-and-lava national park is too intense for you, check out the Kenai Fjords in the Kenai Peninsula of Southcentral Alaska. The coastal park is a popular spot for fishing, kayaking and hiking -- if you're up for an 8.2 mile trek through the Harding Icefield Trail, where the elevation goes up 1,000 feet every mile. But the view at the top of the field is worth it.
6. Kobuk Valley
Would you believe there are deserts in Alaska? If not, head to Kobuk Valley in the state's northwest and see for yourself. The national park features 30 square miles of sand dunes that look like part of the Sahara Desert broke off from Africa and washed up on the shores of the Last Frontier. Which is probably one of the few places in the world where you'll find moose, caribou, wolf and bear tracks in the sand.
7. Lake Clark
Lake Clark offers a little bit of everything that Alaska is famous for: mountain ranges, glaciers, tundra, bears, hiking trails and plenty of water for salmon fishing, kayaking and other outdoor adventures. And it's located only 100 miles outside of Anchorage, so if you just want a taste of Alaskan wildlife, you can take a day trip and return to the comforts of your hotel room that night.
8. Wragell-St. Elias
Wragell-St. Elias is not only the largest national park in America. It's the largest stretch of untouched wilderness in the whole country. The site covers over 13 million hectares of land in Southeastern Alaska, including the mountain ranges that gave the park its name. And the diversity of the land means that you can go mountain climbing, boating, off-roading, hunting and fishing. Or you can travel to the center of the park and check out the ghost town of Kennecott -- a mining settlement that was abandoned over 75 years ago.