Most Popular National Parks in Alaska

11/15/2011 Back To Blog

No tour of Alaska is complete without visiting at least one of its eight stunning national parks. With such a wide variety to choose from, it can be difficult choosing which ones are right for you and your family.
From the staggering heights of Denali in Denali National Park to the sweeping sand dunes of Kobuk Valley National Park, each one is beautiful in its unique way. The best way to choose is to ask yourself what kind of experience you’re looking for.

Would you like your visit to include informative visitor centers, guided tours, and paved hiking trails? Then going to one of the more heavily visited parks is your best option. Or perhaps you’d prefer a trek into pure wilderness, just you and the amazing surroundings with no other humans for miles around.

Whichever you prefer, there’s a national park in Alaska that’s perfect for you. Check out this list of the most popular Alaska national parks in descending order:

Glacier Bay National Park

a rippled glacier cuts through snowy mountains

2010 visitorship: 444,530
Size: 3,283,246 acres
Closest lodge: Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge

Glacier Bay National Park hosts the most visitors of any park in Alaska. Located on the Alaskan panhandle in the southeastern corner of the state, Glacier Bay is home to some of the most beautiful vistas of active glaciers the state has to offer. Sign up for a boat tour and you might get a glimpse of a mammoth section of glacier spectacularly calving into the ocean.

Denali National Park

The peak of Denali juts out from behind the green foothills on a bright summer day

2010 visitorship: 378,855
Size: 6,075,107 acres
Closest lodge: Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge

When your park is home to the tallest mountain on the entire continent, you know you’re going to attract a lot of visitors. Nearly 400,000 people every year visit Denali National Park to get an up close and personal look at the majestic Denali. If you’d like a quick hike the whole family will enjoy, try the Horseshoe Lake trail near the visitor’s center.

Kenai Fjords National Park

a glacier meets the water and creates small speckled icebergs

2010 visitorship: 297,596
Size: 699,983 acres
Nearest lodge: Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge

The word “fjord” is a Norwegian term for a glacier-carved inlet. And while you may not hear it invoked often in the lower 48, Alaska has an abundance of beautiful fjords that enchant visitors every year. Kenai Fjords is an easy trip over from the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

snowy mountains behind fall-colored foliage, rocks and the water

2010 Visitorhip: 73,170
Size: 13,175,901 acres
Nearest Lodge: Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge

Now we’re getting into the parks that are off the beaten path of the Alaskan tourist industry. Wrangell-St. Elias is on the Alaska-Canada border and is the largest national park in the US. It’s also home to the second largest mountain in America, the breathtaking Mt. St. Elias.

Katmai National Park

bear roaming through the river with a mountain peak behind in Katmai National Park

2010 visitorship: 55,172
Size: 4,725,188 acres
Closest lodge: Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge

Katmai National Park is home to Mt. Katmai, an active volcano which blew its top in 1912 in what was the largest volcanic eruption in Alaska’s recorded history. Mt. Katmai now features a beautiful crater lake where its peak once stood. The park is also famous for its abundant brown bear population, with an estimated 2000 making their home within Katmai’s boundaries.

Gates of the Arctic National Park

A windy river running through a forest with mountains and clouds in the background

2010 visitorship: 10,840
Size: 8,472,506
Closest lodge: Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge

Gates of the Arctic National Park is located entirely within the Arctic Circle, meaning round-the-clock sunshine in the summer and perpetual nighttime in the winter. The park received its dramatic name from wilderness explorer John Marshall in 1929, who thought that Boreal Mountain and Frigid Crags which flanked the Koyukuk River resembled imposing “gates to the Arctic.”

Lake Clark National Park

a large lake with rivers running out of it tucked between tall peaks all around

2010 visitorship: 9,931
Size: 4,030,025 acres
Closest lodge: Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge

While Lake Clark National Park isn’t too far from the more populous areas of Alaska, it receives very low annual visitorship due to the fact that no roads exist leading into the park. All visitors must book a float plane to experience its splendor first hand, but those who do are treated to awe-inspiring views of three converging mountain ranges, picturesque lakes, and lush rainforests.

Kobuk Valley National Park

Sand meets the sky with a small strip of trees

2010 visitorship: 3,164
Size: 1,669,813
Closest lodge: Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge

If you really want to escape civilization and trek into the wilderness, then Kobuk Valley National Park is the place for you. Also north of the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley receives under 5000 visitors annually. And while you might not see any other humans during your trip there, you’ll have plenty of Caribou to keep you company. Over 400,000 Caribou are believed to roam the park’s stunning environs.