Category Archives: List

Top 10 Novels Set in Alaska

In our previous list of the Top 10 Non-Fiction Books Set in Alaska, we explained that books about Alaska are so plentiful they have inspired their own genre: Alaskana.  This is our list of our favorite novels set in the state. 

10. Heartbroke Bay by Lynn D’Urso (2010)

Based on a true story, this is an interesting fictional account of a woman living at Lituya Bay before the catastrophic tsunami of 1899.

9. Alaska: A Novel by James A. Michener (1988)

Michener’s epic style meshes well with this gigantic state.

8. A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow (1992)

The first in a series of mysteries set in a fictional rendering of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park with the unforgettable heroine Kate Shugak.

7. Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner (2004)

Kantner grew up in “the bush,” which is where he set this story.

6. Sailor Song by Ken Kesey (1992)

The author of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest set this comedic novel in Southeast Alaska.

5. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (2012)

A supernatural tale of two homesteaders in Alaska who discover a young girl in their yard circa 1920.

4. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (2007)

Read about this alternate reality after you visit Sitka to truly picture the story’s setting.

3. The Sea Runners by Ivan Doig (1982)

Based on a true story of four Scandinavian men who escaped indentured servitude in Russian Alaska in 1853.

2. Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun by Velma Wallis (1996)

A traditional Athabaskan story is retold exceptionally well by the author who also wrote Two Old Women.

1. The End of the Road by Tom Bodett (1989)

Bodett wrote a series of hilarious novels set in Homer in the 1980s that have stood the test of time.

Honorable Mention

To Build a Fire and Other Stories by Jack London (1908)

Many of these classic tales are set in Canada’s Yukon Territory, but they could just as well be in Alaska.

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books Set in Alaska

Books about Alaska are so plentiful they have inspired their own genre: Alaskana.  This is a list of our favorite non-fiction books about Alaska (leaving off the overrated Coming into the Country by John McPhee, who has written many better books).  As a couple we have visited the state many times, including for our honeymoon.  Scott attended grad school in Fairbanks where he took advantage of the entire floor of the university library dedicated to Alaskana.  Two of the very best books (One Man’s Wilderness and A Naturalist in Alaska) wound up on our list of top non-fiction set in a National Park. Our next list will cover Alaskana fiction.

10. The Blue Bear:A True Story of Friendship and Discovery in the Alaskan Wild by Lynn Schooler (2002)

A descriptive account of traveling Southeast Alaska with the renowned photographer Michio Hoshino.

9. Tracks of the Unseen: Meditations on Alaska Wildlife, Landscape, and Photography by Nick Jans (2000)

Jans is a well-known contemporary non-fiction author in the state who writes great short stories.

8. Stalking the Ice Dragon: An Alaskan Journey by Susan Zwinger (1991)

The daughter of famous naturalist Ann Zwinger offers an interesting, but slightly dated view of Alaska.

7. Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska by Rockwell Kent (1920)

Kent was a successful illustrator when he and his son moved to a remote cabin on Resurrection Bay.

6. Alaska Wilderness: Exploring the Central Brooks Range by Robert Marshall (1956)

Marshall’s name is synonymous with wilderness and his descriptions of the Arctic are wonderful.

5. Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie (1962)

The wife of naturalist Olaus Murie eloquently described growing up in Fairbanks and their time together in the Arctic.

4. Not Really an Alaskan Mountain Man by Doug Fine (2004)

A funny book about surviving an Alaskan winter written by an outsider who moved to Homer.

3. Arctic Daughter: A Wilderness Journey by Jean Aspen (1993)

There are many books about homesteading in the wilds of Alaska, but this is our favorite.

2. Looking for Alaska by Peter Jenkins (2001)

A great introduction to the variety of people and landscapes encompassed by this massive state (and not to be confused with the fiction book with the same title).

1. Alaska’s Wolf Man: The 1915-55 Wilderness Adventures of Frank Glaser by Jim Rearden (1998)

An excellent biography of one of the toughest men to ever trod the Alaskan tundra.

Honorable Mentions

Danger Stalks the Land: Alaskan Tales of Death and Survival by Larry Kaniut (1999)

Known better for his collected Bear Tales, this title covers a variety of ways to die in the Far North.

A Long Trek Home: 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft, and Ski by Erin McKittrick (2009)

Worth reading just for the logistics required to get from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands solely by manpower.

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Top 10 Blog Posts from Our First 100

To celebrate reaching the milestone of our first 100 blog posts, we are linking to our top 10 posts based on number of page views and personal favorites.  Thank you to our readers for continuing to inspire us to visit new National Park Service (NPS) units and share the wonders with you all.  We are heading to the U.S. Virgin Islands in less than two weeks and we will visit all 5 NPS sites there.

Our first hardcopy guidebook to the National Parks will be released in June 2019!

10. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

9. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

8. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

7. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

6. Grand Portage National Monument

5. Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

4. City of Rocks National Reserve

3. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

2. Appalachian National Scenic Trail

…and finally the #1 most popular blog post from our first 100:

1. Capitol Reef National Park

Honorable Mention

Indiana Dunes National Park (renamed February 15, 2019)

Top 10 Primitive Campgrounds

We previously ranked our 10 favorite campgrounds with running water, so these are the best of the “dry” campsites with vault toilets, four of which are free when you pay the park entrance fee.

10. Haleakala National Park

You might think Maui is going to be hot, but the free campground in the Hosmer Grove sits at 7,000 feet in elevation.

9. Channel Islands National Park

You will never forget a night spent on East Anacapa Island and not solely because the foghorn sounds 4 times per minute.

8. Joshua Tree National Park

This park in the Mojave Desert has several campgrounds with running water and reservations, but rock climbers love Hidden Valley for its first-come, first-served sites surrounded by boulders.

7. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Kulanaokuaiki Campground only has 8 free walk-in campsites, but at night you can see the glow of molten lava from Kīlauea Caldera.

6. Denali National Park and Preserve

Reservations (minimum 3 nights) at Teklanika River allow you to drive your own vehicle (or RV) to Mile 29 on the park road and pick up the shuttle bus there.

5. Canyonlands National Park

Willow Flat is in the Island in the Sky District west of Moab, Utah way up at 6,000 feet in elevation; a great place to stay if you want to photograph sunrise at Mesa Arch.

4. Yellowstone National Park

Slough Creek is a small campground in the northeast corner of the park and its first-come, first-served sites are hard to come by.

3. Badlands National Park

Often jam-packed in the summer, the free Sage Creek Primitive Campground is frequented by bison and coyotes (Note: beware the sticky clay after a rainstorm).

2. Grand Canyon National Park

If you drive the 61 miles of dirt road to beautiful Hovenweap Overlook on the north rim of the canyon, you deserve to spend the night for free.

…and finally our #1 primitive campground in a National Park!

1. Dry Tortugas National Park

Bring your own water and your snorkeling gear aboard the ferry to Fort Jefferson, 70 miles west of Key West, Florida.

Honorable Mentions

Devils Postpile National Monument

Technically this riverside campground is in the adjacent Inyo National Forest, but staying here is one of the few ways you are allowed to drive your own vehicle into the monument.

City of Rocks National Reserve

Designated sites are spread throughout this reserve in southern Idaho and are popular with rock climbers; try to get one near photogenic Window Arch.



Top 10 National Parks for Dispersed Backcountry Camping

These National Park Service units do not require you to camp in a designated site, so much the better for privacy and quiet.  These are our 10 favorite spots to go backpacking and commune with nature in the backcountry.  Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles.

10. Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Georgia to Maine)

With the exception of some National and State Parks, camping is dispersed along the A.T.

9. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Most parks in Alaska offer dispersed camping and this is the largest of all National Parks.

8. Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

While floating downstream, you can pull your boat to the shore and set up wherever you like.

7. Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)

Bison will be your only companions on the prairies and forests above the caverns.

6. Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

This park has designated sites along its trails, but you can also get an off-trail permit by zone.

5. Sequoia National Park (California)

Much of this park has designated campsites, but the Mineral King section does not.

4. Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

Incredible views can be found in Conata Basin and other free backcountry areas.

3. Death Valley National Park (California)

It is a hike to the Panamint Dunes, but you will likely have the place to yourself.

2. Cape Lookout National Seashore (North Carolina)

Take a ferry to these barrier islands and set up on the beautiful sandy beaches.

…and finally our #1 National Park for dispersed backcountry camping!

1. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

A free permit allows you to set up camp anywhere in the dune field not visible from the road.

Honorable Mention

Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Missouri)

Find the perfect spot along the shores of the Jack’s Fork or Current Rivers