Tag Archives: Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve


Gustavus, Alaska (population 400) is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and can be accessed by air or ferry from Juneau.  Some large cruise ships include the bay on their Inside Passage itinerary, but to get closer and really hear the thunder of cracking Margerie Glacier it is better to take a daytrip aboard a smaller catamaran from the docks at Glacier Bay Lodge.  Guided multi-day kayaking trips are one way to have a wild experience more similar to John Muir’s 1879 exploration detailed in his book Travels in Alaska.  Learn more in our guidebook to the 62 National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).


Sitakaday Narrows, Bartlett River Trail, Margerie Glacier, wildlife

Must-Do Activity

Vacation packages including boat tickets, meals, and a private cabin at the lodge are reasonably priced through the National Park Service (NPS) concessionaire.  Shortly after departing on your all-day boat tour you will see humpback whales in the Sitakaday Narrows, then up the bay are Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and a variety of seabirds.  By scanning the cliffs you might also spot mountain goats and brown bears.  The boat turns around at Margerie Glacier, a great place to witness the thunderous calving of a tidewater glacier, an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. 

Best Trail

On the days you are not on the boat, there are several trails around Glacier Bay Lodge or you can explore the shoreline at low tide to see an assortment of marine life. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Lamplugh Glacier is not as active as Margerie Glacier, but may be more photogenic, which is why we chose to depict it in our logo for this National Park (see below).

Peak Season





None for the park, but this is not a cheap place to visit.

Road Conditions

There are no roads to Gustavus, Alaska, which is only accessible by airplane or boat.  The NPS always sends a bus from Glacier Bay Lodge to pick up arrivals at the airport and ferry terminal.


There is a free NPS campground near Glacier Bay Lodge if you bring your own supplies. 

Related Sites

Sitka National Historical Park (Alaska)

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

Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

This design we created to celebrate Glacier Bay National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Glacier Bay was named a National Monument in 1925 and was expanded to become the largest NPS site (at the time) in 1939, but when was it finally designated a National Park?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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.

Denali National Park and Preserve


At 20,320 feet above-sea-level, Denali is the highest point in North America.  It is also the tallest mountain on Earth measured from base to summit.  Mt. Everest starts from a 13,000-foot plateau, while Denali’s base is only 700 feet.  The park is also home to an incredibly diverse array of wildlife, including our favorite, the hoary marmot.


Denali peak, Sled Dog Demonstration, Mt. Healy Overlook Trail, wildlife

Must-Do Activity

The summit of Denali is only visible 10% of the summer, so flightseeing is the most successful option to the see the peak.  While in the park, it is better to focus on the wildlife, so bring a good camera with a zoom lens for moose, caribou, Dall sheep, gray wolves, and brown bears.  Your best chance to see wildlife is to buy a shuttle bus ticket online or at the Wilderness Access Center.  We recommend you only take the eight hour roundtrip to Eielson Visitor Center (Mile 66) and spend some time hiking the tundra, instead of going all the way to Wonder Lake (Mile 85).

Best Trail

Most of the park is managed as wilderness so there are no trails, but around the park entrance there are a few.  We recommend climbing as high on the steep trail up Mt. Healy as you can for unsurpassed views of the mountainous area.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Even if the summit of Denali is hidden, the tundra scenery here is incredibly colorful, especially around the bus stop for Polychrome Overlook (Mile 47).

Peak Season





There is no admission fee; however, visitors can only get past Mile 15 of the Park Road on a tour bus or with campground or backcountry reservations.

Road Conditions

The Park Road is paved to the Mile 15 Savage River Check Station, past which personal vehicles are not allowed.  The dirt road is groomed, but it can get bumpy in the back of the bus.


Riley Creek Campground is open year round, a rarity in Alaska.  A reservation at Teklanika River Campground allows you to drive your own vehicle to Mile 29 partway into the park.  

This design we created to celebrate Denali National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How many earthquakes are recorded annually in Denali National Park and Preserve?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Sitka National Historical Park


Sitka National Historical Park offers a good introduction to the Russian and native influences on this region, as well as a forested trail past beautifully carved totem poles.  Created in 1910, it was the first National Park Service (NPS) site in Alaska, nearly 50 years before statehood.


1843 Russian Bishop’s House, Russian Orthodox cathedral, totem poles

Must-Do Activity

Two miles of trails wind through the spruce forest passing more than a dozen totem poles and the site of Kiks.ádi Fort where the 1804 battle took place between Russian fur traders and the native Tlingit community.  To further experience the Tlingit culture, attend a traditional dance at Shee’tka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House. 

Best Trail

The adventurous can summit 3,354 foot Mount Verstovia for unsurpassed views of the harbor and the mountainous heart of Baranof Island.  This steep route takes all day, starting with numerous switchbacks before the trail disappears and scrambling over rocks to the top.  Also scenic, Indian River Trail is a flatter alternative.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Jagged peaks and tiny forested islands make Sitka the most beautiful spot in Southeast Alaska.  Bald eagles abound in trees around the town’s quiet boat docks, while the volcanic cone of Mount Edgecumbe sits zen-like off to the west. 

Peak Season






Road Conditions

There are no roads to Sitka, so you have to take an airplane, cruise ship, or ferry.  The main road on Baranof Island is paved and it is less than a mile walk to access the NPS visitor center from downtown.


Campsites are available at Blue Lake down a dirt road east of town in Tongass National Forest or at Old Sitka State Historic Park near the ferry terminal.

Explore More – When did the official transfer of Alaska from Russia to the U.S.A. take place on Castle Hill in Sitka (then known as New Archangel)?