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Big, beautiful and wildly bountiful. Far away, rurally isolated and very expensive. Alaska is a traveler’s dilemma. There are few places in the world with the grandeur and breathtaking beauty of Alaska. Not only is Mt McKinley the highest peak in North America, it’s also a stunning sight when you catch its alpenglow in Wonder Lake at Denali National Park. A 900lb brown bear catching a leaping salmon in its jaws is not something seen in Iowa, but a common apparition on Kodiak and Admiralty Island and in the scenic Katmai National Park, a hop-skip-jump from King Salmon or Homer. A 5-mile-wide glacier shedding chunks of ice the size of small cars is another unique Alaskan sight; for this quiet thrill, venture down to Juneau, gateway to Glacier Bay National Park, or to Prince William Sound, boasting the largest collection of tidewater glaciers.
For adventurous types with a little extra time and a love for life on a grand scale – whether it’s kayaking through a sea of icebergs and seals around the coast of Kenai Fjords National Park or witnessing a 40-ton humpback whale breaching in Southeast Alaska – this state is a hard place to pass up.
Alaska is also an out-of-the-way and costly destination for anybody tripping through the rest of the country. It takes a week on the road to reach the 49th state, two to three days on a ferry or, from any region outside the Northwest, a $600-to-$800 airline ticket. Once there you’ll find accommodations expensive, bus and train options meager and much of the state roadless and inaccessible. But once there, even on a short side trip, you’ll marvel at this amazing land and begin plotting your return.