At this stage of my life, I am admittedly an “indoor girl”. Most of my family is the same way. I never grew up doing the roadtrip, camping, national park travel thing so I don’t crave it now that I’m an adult. I don’t camp. I am not outdoorsy. I feel uncomfortable when it is too quiet. I mostly stick to city travel.
That’s not to say I don’t occasionally indulge the “call of the wild”. After all, I trekked in the Himalayas, volunteered with an eco-tourism project in Ecuador, and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I am capable of doing outdoorsy things, but I am not an outdoorsy person. I appreciate the beauty of nature and enjoy exploring natural scenery during my travels, even if it is not something I am naturally drawn to when planning a trip.
So it might come as a surprise that one of my family’s lifelong travel aspirations was to visit Alaska, which is quite possibly, the most outdoorsy state in the US. It is a seemingly funny destination for a family of six to choose when they don’t really do the whole “outdoor” travel thing.
In summer 2017, we finally made this travel dream happen and traveled to Alaska! During our nine day visit to Alaska, we managed to do several outdoor adventure activities that were well outside of our comfort zone as non-outdoorsy people. And we loved it! That’s what traveling is all about right? Getting out of your normal routine and experiencing something new!
Here are 8 Adventure Activities to Try in Alaska for Non-Outdoorsy Travelers.
The waters off the shores of Alaska are bustling with marine life and whales are probably the most iconic of all the marine animals. There are a variety of whale species that you can find in Alaska, including orcas, humpbacks, bowheads and more! Whale watching is a must-do activity while traveling in Alaska and is easy to coordinate thanks to daily whale watching tours across the Alaskan coast. If you are traveling in Alaska via cruise, you can even see whales from abroad your ship! When we were staying near Homer, we went out on the water almost every day to see whales with a local fisherman who was experienced in tracking whales. One day, we were lucky enough to find a massive pod of orcas which had nearly 30 whales!
Grizzly Bear Viewing
This was the adventure activity in Alaska that I was most looking forward to but also felt the most nervous about. I mean, these are Grizzly Bears!! I have watched enough Nat Geo to know that those bears can mess you up. But, I powered through my fears because bear viewing is a must-do adventure activity to try while traveling in Alaska. We traveled to Alaska in August which is one of the peak times of the year for bear activity, thanks to the copious amounts of salmon and other fish in the rivers. Grizzly bears need to eat a lot during the summer months to pack on weight in preparation for the winter, so they are actively hunting and foraging most of the day. We went bear viewing in Katmai National Park and almost immediately after a arriving, we spotted our first bear. We stayed for about 4 hours as the tide receded, which traps salmon in small pools. This makes it easy for the bears to catch them and by the time we left, there were nearly 10 bears in the area!
Salmon have been a lifeblood of the Alaskan ecosystem for thousands of years and spawning season in the summer is a popular time to go fishing for salmon in Alaska. I normally think fishing is really, really boring but in Alaska, fishing feels novel and fun to a non-outdoorsy person like me. Plus, you might see whales while waiting to catch something, so count me in! I learned a surprising amount about salmon during our fishing expedition, like the fact that there are 5 types of Alaskan Salmon and that salmon return to within 1 mile of their birthplace to spawn their own offspring, after which they almost immediately die. Watch the video below to see what our experience salmon fishing was like!
Husky Dog Sled Ride
Alaska is home to one of the most famous dog sled races in the world — the Iditarod — so it should come as no surprise that a dog sled adventure is a top adventure activity to try in Alaska! We actually stayed at a wilderness lodge near Denali National Park which is a checkpoint stop during the Iditarod that had its own team of dogs living there. Dog sled rides are totally accessible to non-outdoorsy people because the dogs are well-trained and you will have a guide to teach you how to use the sled. Huskies are the most common dog that you will see pulling dog sleds during the Iditarod, but there are other breeds that may race too. Although this activity would probably be better done in the winter, you can still do it in the summer since many of the glaciers and snowpack areas keep their snow year round.
Low Tide Walk
Probably the easiest of the adventure activities on this list, a low tide walk is a great way to explore the local marine life that lives just beneath the surface along the shores of Alaska. It is almost exactly what it sounds like — you walk on the shore during low tide to see what you find! You might be surprised to see how much life lives right under the surface. We walked along the shore near Kachemak Bay State Park and discovered anemones, oysters, urchins, sea stars and lots more. You can also see bullwhip kelp that washes up on shore. The kelp can get over 100 feet long, so seeing them in person really gives you perspective for how big they are!
This is probably the most adventurous of the activities on this list, but don’t let the glaciers intimidate you — this is a must-do activity while traveling in Alaska! You can hire a guide and gear to guarantee that you can safely trek on glacier and only go out for as long as you are able. Glaciers are melting at a faster pace than ever in Alaska, so this activity is also time-pressing. Accordingly to our glacier trek guide, there is a high likelihood that all the glaciers in Alaska will be gone by the end of this century if current melting rates remain. Most of the glacier in Alaska are pretty remote, so there is a good chance you may have to access this activity using a helicopter!
Ocean kayaking is an approachable outdoor adventure activity because you can go out in calm ocean bays on sturdy kayaks that minimize the possibility for tipping and are easy to maneuver. You can use double or single kayaks, perfect for family activities. It is fun to paddle around and simply be out on the water for a few hours! This was one of my favorite adventure activities in Alaska because… YOU GET TO SEE SEA OTTERS! In the case the all caps didn’t give it away, I really love sea otters. In fact, I am currently reading a book about sea otters, so comment below if you want some fun otter facts. I’ve got lots to share!
White Water Rafting
A common adventure activity in lots of mountainous areas around the US, white water rafting is the final Alaskan adventure activity to try for non-outdoorsy people. I have always loved white water rafting because it makes you feel adventurous even though you are usually just sitting on a raft. I have even gone up to a level IV rapids in the past. What is cool about rafting in Alaska is the remote nature of the rivers and ample opportunity for wildlife viewing! Because Alaska is massive, depending on which river you raft, you might be the only ones out. We accessed our white water rafting spot via helicopter and floated down the river for 4 hours without seeing another person. It was incredible to spot bald eagles diving into the river and see salmon jumping out of the water.