Home Travel The 23 Best Alaska Tours

The 23 Best Alaska Tours

by Atlanta Business Journal

Note: Some companies on this list may have limited operations due to COVID-19. Check with operators about availability before you book.

From its famous glaciers and northern lights to its abundant wildlife and majestic national parks, Alaska offers so much to see. But navigating its vast landscape can be a challenge without the savvy guidance of a local. After consulting traveler opinion and expert input, U.S. News compiled some of the best Alaska tours to consider when planning your bucket list adventure. Whether you want to try your hand at dog sledding, fly over Denali or observe bears in their natural habitat, there’s a tour for you.

Phillips Cruises – 26 Glacier Cruise

Cruise through Prince William Sound and see more than 26 named glaciers aboard a luxurious catamaran as you enjoy narration from the boat’s captain on this tour. With three decks and room for more than 300 people, the catamaran offers both outdoor and indoor viewing options with large panoramic windows. Cruisers also enjoy a hot meal, as well as coffee, tea and water – all complimentary. (Alcoholic drinks are available for purchase.) Reviewers highly recommend this tour, citing the crew’s knowledge and attentiveness to safety, as well as the delicious food, beautiful scenery and wildlife. Ticket prices start at $159 for adults and $80 for kids ages 2 to 11. Infants younger than 2 ride for free. Tours depart at 12:45 p.m. May through October and last 5 ½ hours. Cruises depart from Whittier, about 60 miles southeast of Anchorage. The company also offers a Glacier Quest Cruise.

Ketchikan Kayak Company – Kayak Eco-Tour

On this small-group kayak tour with just six kayakers, you’ll paddle through Clover Pass in Ketchikan, searching for wildlife like humpback whales, seals, sea lions, bald eagles and more. The four-hour tour includes about 2 1/2 hours on the water. Upon returning to the marina, you’ll enjoy smoked salmon and other snacks. Tourgoers say this is a great trip for families to learn about nature and that they see lots of amazing animals and sea life. Ticket prices start at $139 per person; the tour is only open to participants 6 and older. Tour runs daily May through August at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. Trips depart from Ketchikan Kayak Company’s office in downtown Ketchikan, a city on Revillagigedo Island in southeastern Alaska. This company also runs an e-bike tour.

Alpine Air Alaska – Glacier Landing Tour

Spend 60 minutes in a helicopter seeing some of the most beautiful sights in Alaska on Alpine Air Alaska’s Glacier Landing Tour. Limited to six passengers, the tour takes you over multiple glaciers with the chance to spend about 20 minutes exploring one on foot. The company also has a free shuttle service with pickup and drop-off from Girdwood-area accommodations. (Girdwood is about 40 miles southeast of Anchorage.) Reviewers describe it as the experience of a lifetime and say the scenery is jaw-dropping. Tickets start at $399 per person, though infants who are not yet walking can sit on an adult’s lap for free. Flights depart daily, year-round at multiple times a day. Alpine Air Alaska offers a variety of flights of differing lengths, as well as a dog-sledding tour, a tour of Prince William Sound and more.

Rust’s Flying Service – Discover Denali National Park

Fly from Anchorage with an Alaska bush pilot to see Denali from the skies before landing for a 15- to 20-minute photo-op. On the three-hour flight, you’ll fly over Alaskan wilderness – keeping an eye out for wildlife – to see glaciers, ice falls and lakes. The company also offers a free shuttle to Anchorage-area hotels during the summer months. Tourgoers describe this flight as amazing and highly recommend it, calling it a “must do.” Tickets start at $445 per person, not including transportation fees. Tours depart most days at either 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon or 1:30 p.m. This tour also has an option to land on a glacier; fees start at $525 per person. Rust’s Flying Service also offers tours of Prince William Sound, Anchorage and an Alaska Glacier and Wildlife Tour.

Lazy Otter Charters – Best of Prince William Sound

Hop aboard this boat, limited to just six passengers, to explore the beautiful scenery of Prince William Sound. Thanks to the small group size, the crew can tailor the tour to passenger interests, including glaciers, wildlife or whales. You also have the opportunity to stop on a beach to explore, as well as enjoy an Alaskan-style lunch. Tourgoers highly recommend this excursion, noting the knowledge of the staff and the amazing landscape. Tickets cost about $260 per person, and tours typically depart at 9 a.m. daily May through September. The whole experience lasts eight to nine hours. You may also have the option to ride the company’s larger catamaran, which can accommodate up to 30 passengers. Lazy Otter Charters runs several other custom tours, as well as kayaking adventures in the Prince William Sound.

Time your visit for early winter for peak northern lights viewing.Getty Images

Alaska Wildlife Guide – Arctic Circle & Northern Lights Tour

Along this 14-hour tour, you’ll cross the Arctic Circle, take in Alaskan scenery and wildlife, and possibly see the northern lights as you make your way to and from Fairbanks aboard a 10-passenger van. The tour offers pickup and drop-off from Fairbanks or North Pole accommodations and includes a bag lunch and a “Cross the Circle” certificate. Reviewers describe this tour as amazing and praise their tour guides, describing them as knowledgeable and fun. Tickets start at $225 per person and depart most days (except Sundays) at 2 p.m., returning about 4 a.m. August through mid-April. The company offers a variety of northern lights tours, as well as ice fishing tours, snowmobile excursions and more.

Rod’s Alaskan Guide Service – Fairbanks Snowmobile Tour

Explore Fairbanks’ wilderness via snowmobile on this guided small-group trip. Keep an eye out for wildlife like moose, caribou, lynx and more, which you can best spot in the morning hours. Reviewers say that the snowmobiling is lots of fun and that guides are informative and great. Ticket prices for one-hour tours start at $139 for single riders or $189 for double riders; you can also opt for a two-hour tour (tickets start at $259). You must be at least 5 years old to ride and at least 14 years old to drive. Prices include heated helmets, gloves, gaiters, jackets and boots. Tours run November through mid-April at multiple times through the morning and afternoon. This company also offers guided ice fishing tours and dog sled tours.

1st Alaska Tours – 1-Hour Dog Sledding

On this tour, you’ll see the Alaskan wilderness by dog sled, riding with a musher who competed in the Iditarod. Tourgoers describe the experience as fantastic, and highly praise the guides, who ensure participants feel safe. Reviewers also note that they have time to play and interact with the huskies. Optional round-trip transportation from Fairbanks accommodations is available for a fee. Tickets for tours without transportation start at $125; tours with transportation cost approximately $160. Both tours include a blanket. Tours run several times a day December through early April, though specific times vary depending on the month and season. Short on time? You can also book a 30-minute tour.

SkyFire in Focus Tours – Aurora Photography and Viewing Tour

Learn how to photograph the otherworldly aurora borealis on this tour outside of Fairbanks. No photography experience is required and spectators (participants who just want to view the northern lights with no interest in photography) are welcome to join. Reviewers say the tour guide is excellent and extremely helpful. Tourgoers also report capturing great photos. Tickets start at $249 per person, but those who are not photographing may be eligible for lower rates. You are encouraged to bring your own camera gear, as few sets are available to rent. Hot drinks and round-trip transportation from your Fairbanks hotel are included. Tours run from 9 or 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on varying days from late September through mid-April. The company also offers a Denali Highway photography tour, as well as an Arctic Circle day tour.

Major Marine Tours – 6 Hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise

On Major Marine Tours’ most popular cruise, travelers spend six hours in Kenai Fjords National Park, visiting an active tidewater glacier, whale watching, and spotting wildlife like seals, puffins and sea lions. A sandwich lunch is included on the narrated cruise, along with round-trip transportation from Anchorage by train or coach bus. Tourgoers report spotting lots of wildlife and describe the captain and crew as insightful and helpful. Tickets cost approximately $170 for ages 12 and older, $85 for ages 2 to 11 and are free for children younger than 2. Tours depart at 11:30 a.m. daily May through mid-September. Major Marine Tours also offers a gray whale watching cruise, as well as a shorter cruise of Kenai Fjords.

The Best Alaska Tours

Kenai Fjords National Park has a wide variety of rock formations.Getty Images/EyeEm

Kenai Fjords Tours – Kenai Fjords National Park Tour

Cruise through Alaskan waterways and glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park, spotting wildlife as you go, on this six-hour tour with lunch included. Passengers describe it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and praise the reasonable rates and boat amenities. This is a popular trip, so the company recommends securing your spot well in advance. Tickets cost approximately $170 for participants 12 and older and $85 for children 2 to 11. Tours, which depart from Seward, operate May through early October daily at 8 or 11:30 a.m., depending on the season. The company also offers a northwestern fjord tour and Resurrection Bay tour, among others.

Juneau Tours – Juneau Whale Watch Tour

Spend two hours in the water in search of whales, both humpback and orca, in Auke Bay. The tour, which runs for a total of 3 1/2 hours, also includes transportation from Juneau (at the Mount Roberts Tramway) to the harbor. Boats are limited to either 24 or 49 people and feature heated cabins with large windows and open decks. Reviewers say they appreciate being in a small boat, love seeing the whales and give the staff high praise. Tickets start at $145 for ages 13 and older, $130 for ages 2 to 12 and are free for infants younger than 2. Tours run several days a week from May through September at 9:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. The company has many tours, including an Ales and Whales tour and a trip that combines a tour of Juneau with a trip to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery.

Above & Beyond Alaska – Mendenhall Glacier Trek

Avid hikers may want to consider this eight-hour tour with Above & Beyond Alaska, which passes through Tongass National Forest to the Mendenhall Glacier. The company warns that this is a strenuous 8-mile hike with steep, uneven terrain. The tour includes round-trip transportation from Juneau as well as all gear, such as trekking poles. Reviewers praise the tour and appreciate the amount of time they get to spend on the glacier. Tickets cost approximately $240 per person; participants must be at least 10 years old. Tours depart on various days of the week from May through mid-September at 7:30 a.m. This company also offers a Glacier Paddle Canoe and Trek tour, as well as animal-themed tours.

Seavey’s Ididaride Sled Dog Tours – Wilderness Dog Sled Ride and Tour

Explore the Seward wilderness by dog sled on this 1 1/2-hour tour across 2 miles of rainforest. Afterward, spend some time in the dog kennels, playing with husky puppies and learning how this family trains its dogs. Tourgoers highly praise this excursion, calling guides experienced and the puppies adorable. They also point out there are many great photo-ops. Tickets start at $74 for ages 13 and older and $37 for ages 2 to 12; children younger than 2 ride for free. Tours run mid-May through mid-September daily at 9 and 11:45 a.m. and at 1:30, 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. (though times may vary by month). The company also offers a Glacier Heli-Mushing Tour and a day tour of Alaska.

Alaska Railroad – Coastal Classic

Traveling what is oft considered the most beautiful section of the Alaska Railroad, the Coastal Classic train departs from Anchorage, making its way to Seward, passing through the wilderness of the Kenai Peninsula and along Resurrection Bay. With a seven-hour layover in Seward, passengers can spend the time exploring the bay or Kenai Fjords National Park. Reviewers highly recommend the experience, praising the gorgeous scenery and the tasty onboard meal. The train runs late May through early September with fares starting at $86 for adults and $43 for children ages 2 to 11, depending on the route. Children younger than 2 travel free when sitting on an adult’s lap. Alaska Railroad has five different trains, operating routes between Seward and Fairbanks.

The Best Alaska Tours

With the right guide and proper precautions, bear viewing in Alaska is a safe activity.Getty Images

Alaska Bear Adventures – Classic Day Trip

Did you know that 95% of brown bears in the United States live in Alaska? If getting close to bears and observing them in their natural habitat is a dream, consider this tour with Alaska Bear Adventures. The Classic Day Trip departs from Homer Airport with a 45- to 90-minute flight over the Alaskan wilderness before landing on the coast of Katmai and Lake Clark national parks. You then hike to a viewing point and spend up to three hours viewing the bears in the wild. Trips last up to six hours. Tour-takers say both the flight and the bear viewing is amazing and absolutely worth the cost. They also highly praise their guides. Ticket prices start at $725 per person; there are a maximum of 10 people per tour. Participants must be at least 10 years old. Tours are offered daily from the end of May through early September typically in the early morning and afternoon based on tides. Alaska Bear Adventures runs other tours, including multiday tours.

On this one-hour trolley tour of Anchorage, guides will share information about the city while taking you by some of the top attractions – like the Alaska Railroad, Earthquake Park and Westchester Lagoon – and most scenic views. They’ll also help you keep an eye out for moose. Riders say the tour is a great way to learn about the top sights and the history of the city. Tickets cost approximately $20 for ages 12 and older, $10 for ages 3 to 11 and are free for children younger than 3. Tours run hourly from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from early May through approximately the third week of September. This company also offers a Great Alaskan Earthquake and Trolley tour that runs from June to September.

Alaska Tales – Mendenhall Glacier Tours & Whale Watching

This 4 1/2-hour tour starts with a trip from Juneau to Mendenhall Glacier, where you have 45 minutes to explore the area, possibly taking a hike, visiting Mendenhall Lake or seeing a waterfall. Afterward, you’ll spend two hours whale watching with a naturalist who will explain whale behaviors and answer questions. Reviewers say the tour is amazing, with plenty of time to see everything. Plus, participants describe guides as excellent. Tickets cost around $150 for ages 12 and older and $130 for ages 2 to 11; tickets are free for children younger than 2. Tours, which include complimentary snacks and drinks, run May through September, with both a morning and afternoon tour daily. If you’re short on time, you can also just book a whale watching tour.

K2 Aviation – The Denali Experience

On this hourlong flight through Denali National Park, tourgoers fly past the summit of Denali (depending on weather conditions), see multiple glaciers, icefalls and other Alaskan scenery. Keep in mind: The plane is small, with seating for 10 or fewer passengers. Reviewers highly praise the staff at K2 Aviation and say the plane ride is smooth with beautiful scenery. The flight costs approximately $230 per person ages 13 and older, $180 for ages 3 to 12 and is free for children younger than 12. Tours run daily May through October at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., as well as 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. K2 Aviation also offers this flight with a landing on Denali, as well as other routes through the park, including the Denali Flyer and Denali Grand tours.

The Best Alaska Tours

Resurrection Bay is known for its beautiful colors.Getty Images

Sunny Cove – Resurrection Bay Kayaking

This four-hour trip includes 2 1/2 hours of paddling through the turquoise waters of Resurrection Bay, with an opportunity to see otters, harbor seals, eagles and salmon. To spot spawning salmon, book a trip between mid-July and mid-September. Reviewers recommend this trip, assuring it’s suitable for novice kayakers. They also describe the scenery as fantastic and say guides are intelligent. Tickets cost approximately $100 per person. Participants must be at least 8 years old. Tours run May through mid-September at 7:30 and 11:30 a.m. daily. Sunny Cove offers many kayaking tours, which include a Resurrection Bay Kayak and Craft Beer Tour and a Caines Head Kayak and Hike, among others.

Denali Raft Adventures – Canyon Whitewater Run

Raft down 11 miles of the Nenana River, tackling Class III and IV rapids (moderate and difficult) on this approximately three-hour tour. If you’re a first-timer, consider an oar raft, meaning you can sit, hold on and enjoy the view while the guide paddles. If you’d rather be a more active participant, choose the paddle raft, which means you’ll have to follow the guide’s instructions on when and how to paddle. Tourgoers say this is one of their favorite whitewater trips and note that the company emphasizes safety. They also say guides are fun and adept at navigating the rapids. Tickets cost approximately $100 per person and include pickup from select Denali accommodations. Participants must be at least 12 years old. Tours run daily from mid-May through early September several times a day. Denali Raft Adventures also operates daylong rafting tours and trips that combine rafting with all-terrain vehicle rides.

Denali Backcountry Adventure

Take a guided bus tour of Denali National Park on the Denali Backcountry Adventure, a 13-hour trip to see some of the park’s best scenery and wildlife. The tour includes lunch at Miner’s Day Lodge and an opportunity to try gold panning, take a botany walk or enjoy a history tour. Reviewers report this is a great way to visit lesser-seen areas of Denali National Park, praise their drivers and say the views are fantastic. Ticket prices start at $199 per person, not including the $15 park fee. Children ages 2 to 11 can join for free, but because this is a 13-hour trip, it may not be suitable for all kids. Tours run daily early June through mid-September and depart between 6 and 6:30 a.m. from area accommodations. The parent company, Pursuit, offers a variety of experiences throughout Alaska.

Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour

Learn about crab fishing in Alaska from a crew who appeared on “Deadliest Catch” on this three-hour tour. Aboard the Aleutian Ballad, you will get to watch the crew pull in crabs, get a glimpse of the sea creatures that they release back to the ocean and spot wildlife on nearby land. You can even purchase red king crab on board. Tourgoers say this experience is lots of fun and worth the price. Tickets cost approximately $200 for ages 13 and older and $120 for ages 5 to 12 and includes complimentary beverages. Travelers must be at least 5 years old to participate. Tours are available most days May through September at varying times in the morning and afternoon. Trips depart from Ketchikan. The Aleutian Ballad is docked at the same pier as the cruise ships, meaning additional transportation isn’t necessary.

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