Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Experience the Creation of Geological History

State of Alaska/ Brian Adams

Skiers in Alaska await the heli-ski
Skiers in Alaska await the heli-ski

Skiers in Alaska await the heli-ski

Group heli skiing helicopter taking off Alaska. 960 1280

Gabe Rogel/Getty Images/Aurora Creative  

Snowboarder jumps in the air

Snowboarder jumps in the air

Professional snowboarders flock to the Valdez region for the purest powder. But this adrenaline rush is suitable only for expert snowboarders or skiers: There are no ski lifts or training sessions in these mountains. 960 1280

Whit Richardson/Getty Images/Aurora Open  

A raft goes by large glaciers in the river

A raft goes by large glaciers in the river

A must-see when in Alaska: glaciers! There are a handful of expeditions offered by different tour companies throughout Alaska, including a 1-day rafting trip down the Matanuska River that lets riders disembark for a half-day or full-day trek on the Matanuska Glacier. 960 1280

Steve Faber/Getty Images/iStockphoto  

Raft alongside a river bank

Raft alongside a river bank

White-water rafters get their kicks on the Hulahula River, from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has information on camping, rafting and backpacking tours. 960 1280

bpfriel/a different perspective  

Camp site and the Northern Lights

Camp site and the Northern Lights

Alaska's northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, are spectacular to view in the colder months of winter, although they’re still visible — and beautiful — in spring. Grab the camping gear, pitch a tent and experience aurora borealis outside the city limits, away from artificial light. 960 1280

Steve Mcsweeny/Getty Images/iStockphoto  

A person wades in the hot springs

A person wades in the hot springs

Located outside Fairbanks, AK, Chena Hot Springs has been a must-see destination for more than 100 years because of its "healing" mineral-water hot springs. Another crowd favorite on the property is the Aurora Ice Bar at the Aurora Ice Museum, where visitors can stay in 1 of 4 rooms made of ice! 960 1280

Walter Bibikow/Getty Images  

Riverboat Discovery

Riverboat Discovery

Get an authentic taste of Alaska with Riverboat Discovery, a 3-hour tour on and off a traditional steamboat that travels down the "backwoods" of Alaska. Stops along the way include a Chena Indian village walking tour, a bush pilot demonstration and storytelling about the important role that bush pilots play in Alaska, along with a visit to a 4-time Iditarod champion's home and kennels. Tours are offered May through September. 960 1280

Yves Marcoux/Getty Images/First Light  

Tanana Valley Railroad

Tanana Valley Railroad

Craving a bit of that old gold rush history? Visit Fairbanks, AK, for a 2-hour tour of the El Dorado Gold Mine. Get a brief history about the mine on board the Tanana Valley Railroad stream train as it winds its way through the country’s valley and hills. When it reaches the mine, you’ll have an opportunity to pan for gold. 960 1280

LightRocket via Getty Images  

View along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

View along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Take in the beautiful views of Anchorage, AK, along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. The trail is roughly 11 miles long. Start in the city of Anchorage, at West Second Avenue, near the railroad station, and head south until the trail ends at Kincaid Park. It’s open year-round. 960 1280

Brian Dearth  

Bearing Sea crab fisherman's boat the Aleutian Ballad

Bearing Sea crab fisherman's boat the Aleutian Ballad

Thanks to the hit TV show Deadliest Catch, the fishermen of the Bering Sea are practically celebrities. For 3 hours, get a small taste of what life is like on the Bering Sea — minus the danger. See king crabs up-close, spot whales and more. From Anchorage, fly 4 hours south to Ketchikan, or choose the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour as your next Alaskan cruise excursion. 960 1280

Courtesy Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour  

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

Visit Katmai National Park and Preserve, located in King Salmon, AK, to see one of the highest concentrations of brown bears in North America. There are a handful of bear-viewing tour companies, including Natural Habit Adventures, that offer service to Katmai, which is accessible by plane or boat.  960 1280

David Rasmus/Getty Images/iStockphoto  

Cruise passes a glacier

Cruise passes a glacier

Take a cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage region, reaching as far south as Ketchikan and heading north past Sitka and Juneau. Then, before reaching the quaint town of Skagway, you can visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and see the immense Mendenhall Glacier nearby. 960 1280

Kent Weakley/Getty Images/iStockphoto  

Alaska Backcountry
Alaska Backcountry

Alaska Backcountry

An Alaska Backcountry Adventure ATV tour group crosses a stream on the trail to Knik Glacier. 960 1280

  

Crew Members

Crew Members

Crew members make their way up to a new position on Matanuska Glacier with the aid of the MICA guide. 960 1280

  

Snowcapped Mountain

Snowcapped Mountain

A view of a snow-capped mountain in Girdwood, AK. 960 1280

  

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Kevin O'Grattan, Kristine Janda, and Ellie Southworth (left to right) take in the spectacular view while climbing Matanuska Glacier. 960 1280

  

Knik Glacier

Knik Glacier

The cameraman films the guide driving his ATV next to Knik Glacier. 960 1280

  

Backcountry Adventures

Backcountry Adventures

The Alaska Backcountry Adventures tour group enjoys a hot lunch next to Knik Glacier. 960 1280

  

Camera and Sound

Camera and Sound

Camera and soundmen are rigged to film ice climbers on Matanuska Glacier. 960 1280

  

Machine Guns

Machine Guns

A Browning 50-caliber machine gun is loaded and ready to be fired at a shooting event held by the Alaska Machine Gun Assoc. at the Birchwood Recreation and Shooting Park in Chugiak, AK. 960 1280

  

Talkeetna River

Talkeetna River

Jetboat driver, Isreal Mahay, steers his way through Class VI rapids in Devil's Canyon on the Talkeetna River. 960 1280

  

Floatplane flying

Floatplane flying

A floatplane flies over Knik Glacier. 960 1280

  

Shooting Event

Shooting Event

Multiple bullet cases fly as a competitor fires at various targets during the shooting event. 960 1280

  

Mahay's Jetboat Adventures

Mahay's Jetboat Adventures

A view of the Class VI rapids in Devil's Canyon from the bow of one of Mahay's Jetboat Adventures tours. 960 1280

  

Panning for Gold

Panning for Gold

Crew members pan for gold at Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood, AK. 960 1280

  

ATV Tours

ATV Tours

Alaska Backcountry Adventures guide, Kevin Kidder, leads an ATV tour to Knik Glacier. 960 1280

  

A Beautiful View

A Beautiful View

A beautiful view of Knik Glacier. 960 1280

  

A Gold Nugget

A Gold Nugget

A crew member shows off a gold nugget he found at Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood, AK. 960 1280

  

Alaska Unleashed  16 Photos

Denali National Park
Denali National Park

Denali National Park

Take a scenic road trip through Denali National Park. Denali is home to a variety of animals, including grizzly bears, caribou, snowshoe hares, wolverines, tundra swans and Arctic warblers. The National Park and Reserve is located in the center of Alaska and includes Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. And in case you didn’t know, it is also the site of the longest glacier -- the Kalhiltna glacier. 960 1280

Nic McPhee, Flickr  

Brown Bears

Brown Bears

Alaska’s brown bear resembles its close relative the black bear, but it is usually larger and has longer, straighter claws. Mature males weigh between 500 and 900 pounds. So stir clear of these furry beasts. If you’re into nature watching from afar, head to McNeil River Falls -- it’s the perfect place to spot the largest concentration of brown bears hunting for salmon swimming upstream. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Killer Whales

Killer Whales

Go on a boat tour to see killer whales in Alaska’s Glacier Bay. Orcas are not really whales, but they are the largest, fastest and most powerful hunters in the dolphin family. Killer whales can grow up to 30-feet long and weigh up to 20,000 pounds. 960 1280

Christopher, Flickr  

Gray Wolves

Gray Wolves

Alaska is home one the largest remaining population of gray wolves in the US. Wolves in the state’s southeast region are usually darker and smaller than those in the northern region. Gray wolves live on the Alaska’s mainland, but they also can be found on Unimak Island and on most major islands in the southeast. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Lynx

Lynx

This furry creature is the only cat native to Alaska. Lynx inhabit most of Alaska’s forested terrain, including on the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak archipelago, the islands in the Bering Sea and Southeast Alaska. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Porcupines

Porcupines

Porcupines are one of the largest rodents in North America. The highlighted quills detach easily and the barbs make them difficult to remove once lodged in an attacker. These prickly creatures contain an antibiotic in their skin just in case they get stuck with their own quills. Porcupines fall out of trees fairly often because they are tempted by the tender buds and twigs at the ends of tree branches. 960 1280

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Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

The national bird of the US is no stranger to Alaska. In fact, Haines, AK, is host to an annual Alaska Bold Eagle Festival, where up to 4,000 eagles can be found in the preserve feeding on a late run of salmon in November. The bald eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird -- up to 4 meters deep, 2.5 meters wide and 1 metric ton in weight. 960 1280

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Red Fox

Red Fox

The red fox -- native to Kodiak Island -- is also found in other areas, including the Taku and Stikin river valleys and on Douglass Island near Juneau. The sly creature is present in tundra regions, which it shares with the Artic fox. Where the 2 species overlap, the red fox is dominant, and known to dig white (Arctic) foxes form their dens and kill them. 960 1280

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Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Visit the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. The terrain consists of wetlands (pictured), alpine areas and taiga forest. The refuge, created in 1941, was created to protect thousands of birds and several large mammals, including black bears, dall sheep, moose and caribou. It’s also a popular destination for fishing for salmon and trout. 960 1280

USFWSAlaska, Flickr  

Caribou

Caribou

In Alaska, caribou prefer treeless tundra and mountains during all seasons, but many herds spend winter in the boreal forest. Adult bulls average 350 to 400 pounds; whereas mature females average about 175 to 225 pounds. Caribou in northern and southwestern Alaska are generally smaller than caribou in the interior and in southern region of the state. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Bearded Seal

Bearded Seal

This cute, brown-eyed animal is 1 of 4 arctic seal species that rely on sea ice for feeding, resting and pupping. Bearded seals are the largest of all arctic seals and are found in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska. 960 1280

Gonzalo Malpartida, Flickr  

Halibut Cove

Halibut Cove

Halibut Cove, once a fishing village, is now home to several artists and businesses. The popular tourist destination has several lodges and cabins for those who enjoy communing in the wild with nature. You won’t have to worry about traffic congestion here. The only way to get around the cove is by boat. 960 1280

Ed Yourdon, Flickr  

Wild Alaska  12 Photos

For those who have only dreamed of watching geological history being created before their very eyes, a visit to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve will make even the wildest of imaginings come true. A mere 200 years ago, this area was capped by a 4,000-foot-thick glacier, which has since retreated at an unsurpassed speed, leaving in its wake a 65-mile-long wilderness of newborn fjords and shores surrounding what has become Glacier Bay. With each passing day, the park's landscape changes, often in ways invisible to onlookers. Yet the sudden, thundering crash as chunks of calving glaciers tumble into the ocean will demonstrate to visitors the awesome, earth-shaping forces of nature that are at work before their very eyes.

Snowcapped mountains rising to 15,000 feet, deep fjords, hidden coves, 10 tidewater glaciers, lakes and beaches mark the pristine wilderness of Glacier Bay. Traveling from the inner sanctions of the bay toward its mouth, and noting the diminishing signs of life as the edge of the receding glacier approaches, will introduce visitors to a newly developing landscape. As the glacier's retreat exposed new shores, a variety of ecosystems emerged including wet tundra (muskeg), coastal western hemlock/Sitka spruce forest, alpine tundra, early postglacial meadows and thickets, and glaciers and ice fields.

Casual visitors to the park are rare. A trip to Glacier Bay involves careful planning and either the physical endurance required to meet the challenges of the wintry landscape, or the money needed to partake in one of the many sanctioned wilderness tours of the region. Once the logistics of the trip, transportation to the park and itinerary are complete, the trouble is more than worthwhile. In the realm of national parks, Glacier Bay is astonishing. The glaciers, whales and mountain ranges encountered here promise an unequaled, and often unseen, exploration of Alaskan wilderness at its finest.

Geological History
The Glacier Bay region once lay entirely under a 4,000-foot-thick glacier, which developed from snowfalls during the ice age. Partially under the glacier were landmasses formed by the pressure of collisions from the North American and Pacific tectonic plates. Eventually, the glacier began to melt and retreat, leaving in its wake rounded hills, and deep, U-shaped fjords surrounded by the jagged peaks of mountains that had been taller than the glacier's depth. Much of the region's development occurred within the last 200 years, as the retreating ice exposed most of the current shorelines, valleys, fjords and estuaries.

Park Activities
Hikers will find themselves in a wonderland of wilderness adventures, following trails along rivers, estuaries and even glacial riverbeds. A camper drop-off service can transport kayakers and campers to various points in the backcountry region of the bay area. Sport-fishing and game-hunting opportunities in the midst of the park's wilderness will dazzle enthusiasts. Numerous wilderness adventure concessioners service guests to the park with opportunities to camp, raft, mountaineer, whale watch, fish, kayak and hike.

Where to Stay
Glacier Bay Country Inn stands out as a luxurious retreat on the outskirts of the park. The lodge features well-appointed rooms, including five guest rooms and five cabins, all with views of the property's verdant woods or grassy glen. The four-star kitchen, featured in Bon Apetit and Food and Wine, will satiate guests with Dungeness crab and halibut entrees. With fly-fishing, whale watching and kayaking at your fingertips, and a staff to guest ratio of 1-to-2, the inn exceeds even the highest standards of hospitality.

Side Trips
To experience the majestic heart of Glacier Bay (and if money is no object), consider Alaska Discovery which offers novice explorers a five-day kayaking, camping and hiking venture through the east arm of the bay. Dropped off near the middle of the bay by floatplane, guests then kayak, hike and camp alongside the glaciers and pristine shorelines.

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