Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Alaska is super-sized: Mountains are higher, fish bigger and parks larger

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Alaska is a land of superlatives -- the biggest this, highest that and most of these.

Whether it's a world-record 97-pound, 4-ounce king salmon or a massive, 20,320-foot-tall mountain (Mount McKinley), Alaska is all about unique, amazing sights.

The first things most visitors to Alaska notice are the mountains. We've got lots of them. Alaska is home to 39 mountain ranges, and the Chugach, Alaska, Kenai, Talkeetna, Aleutian and Tordrillo ranges are easily visible from spots around Anchorage.

On clear days, Mount McKinley -- aka Denali -- and other mountains of the Alaska Range are visible from downtown Anchorage and several other sites around town. One of the best places to see "the high one" or "great one," as the name Denali translates from an Athabascan language, is from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, including stops at Earthquake Park and Point Woronzof. McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America.

McKinley's closest neighbors in the Alaska Range are Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter.

McKinley isn't the state's only big mountain. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve has nine of the 16 highest peaks in the country within its boundaries. Mount St. Elias, at 18,008 feet, is the nation's second-tallest mountain.

Alaska also is home to other natural wonders. Consider:

Alaska is one-sixth the size of the Lower 48.

With 30,000 miles of coastline, Alaska has more than the rest of the states combined.

Alaska has approximately 100,000 glaciers. More than 600 of them are named. The Malaspina Glacier is larger than Rhode Island and the Nabesna Glacier is more than 75 miles long. Both are in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

The Aleutian Arc contains 80 volcanoes, more than 40 of which are active. Volcanoes close to Anchorage include Augustine, Redoubt, Spurr and Iliamna. Most recently, Redoubt, 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, began erupting in March 2009, with ash dusting Anchorage and beyond. Airline flights were diverted from Anchorage over concerns that ash clouds could damage jet engines. Redoubt continued to rumble, then reverted to a non-eruptive state in the fall. Redoubt had a similar period of activity in 1989 and 1990.

Mount Spurr, 80 miles west of Anchorage, erupted in 1992, covering the city in ash. The 1912 explosion of Novarupta Volcano was the largest in North America, creating the Valley of 10,000 Smokes.

Alaska is home to 17 national park systems. More than 54 million acres -- 13 percent of the state's landmass -- are devoted to national parks. Wrangell-St. Elias is the nation's largest national park, at more than 13.2 million acres. It is twice as big as Denali National Park and six times larger than Yellowstone National Park in the Lower 48.

Chugach State Park (Anchorage's backyard) is one of the largest state parks in the nation, with more than 500,000 acres, but it's less than one-third the size of Wood-Tikchik State Park in Southwest Alaska. At 1.6 million acres, Wood-Tikchik is the nation's largest state park.

At 17 million acres, Tongass National Forest in Southeast is the largest in the country, about three times as big as the second largest, which is Chugach National Forest, at 5.6 million acres. It is roughly the size of Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined.

The 1964 Good Friday earthquake -- magnitude 9.2 -- was the strongest ever recorded in North America. Alaska has more earthquakes than any other state.

And don't forget the world-record fish caught in Alaska waters: Les Anderson's 97-pound, 4-ounce king salmon, caught on the Kenai River in 1985, and Jack Tragis' 459-pound halibut, caught in Unalaska Bay in 1996.

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