Alaska is by far the largest state in the American union, and it is also the least densely populated. Herds of caribou, an endangered species, outnumber people here 2 to 1. We're taking you to 2 of the most beautiful parks Alaska has to offer, filled with terrestrial wildlife, marine animals, glaciers and spectacular views.
Wrangell St. Elias National Park
Nestled in Alaska's southeastern corner, Wrangell St. Elias National Park is the country's largest national park. Located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, it's home to one of Alaska's great volcanic mountain ranges, the Wrangell Mountains -- an area covering 4,000 square miles. That's roughly the size of Connecticut.
-- For those who want spectacular views without lacing up their hiking boots, take the Edgerton Highway to the Liberty Falls Trail, and enjoy a panorama of the park's high peaks.
-- Wrangell offers experienced outdoor enthusiasts unparalleled opportunities for exploration. Hiking is a serious game on the park's namesake, Mt. Elias, which stands 18,008 feet above sea level, making it the second-highest peak in the United States (second only to Alaska's Mt. McKinley). Visitors to the park are let loose among this wild. Park Rangers at the visitors' center will give you maps, terrain knowledge, safety tips and then you're on your own.
-- At Wrangell, most of the park is inaccessible unless you have a plane. Unlike other national parks, there aren't multiple access roads or campgrounds leading into Wrangell. The terrain is rugged -- so to see the best of the park, we recommend seeing it by one of the park's many air taxis.
-- During the summer months, park rangers offer guided tours. The park has more hiking and backpacking, mountain biking, fishing and river trips than Alaska has winter days. Since more than 25% of the park is covered in glaciers, make sure to take in the majesty of Nabesna Glacier, Bagley Icefield, Malaspina Glacier or Hubbard Glacier.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park is 3.3 million acres of coastal rain forests and mountains surrounding a huge pristine bay. In addition to providing stunning landscapes, this park is a maritime sanctuary, therefore, the best way to experience Glacier Bay is not by plane, it's by boat.
-- There are several ways to explore this park by boat: cruise ships and tour vessels being the most common. If you're not on a cruise ship, the tour vessels hold up to 400 passengers and are guided by a National Park Service Naturalist. On your tour, make sure you see the Margerie Glacier. When rivers of ice descend from the mountains above, you will see this glacier "calving" -- growing, at the rate of up to 10 feet a day.
-- At Bartlett Cove the animals, plants and landscape are continuously changing. That's because just 200 years ago it was home to the snout of a 100-mile long glacier. You can hike the cove on your own, with a small group or as part of a guided hike.
-- For the ultimate outdoorsmen, Glacier Bay offers wilderness adventures. Camping, hiking, backpacking and kayaking are just a few of the activities offered.