Alaska has the highest mountain (Mt. McKinley), the longest coastline, eight national parks, ten national preserves, four national monuments, sixteen national wildlife refuges, twenty-six national wild and scenic rivers, and two national forests. Nearly 16% of the state is designated as wilderness, compared to only 2.5% in the contiguous United States. And, although a bit cooler, it is an eco-destination for all seasons as it offers a special connection to nature, protected lands, native culture and wildlife.
Approximately eight years ago, my husband and I had a wonderful trip to Alaska. We went on ice trekking on Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, kayaked and saw the most spectacular sight of bald eagles diving for salmon near Sitka, and went for a long bike ride and hike around Ketchikan.
The main eco-destination areas are the Seal Life Center in Seward for marine conservation and education, Denali National Park for wildlife viewing and hiking, Glacier Bay for impressive tidewater glacier discovery, and Anan Wildlife Observatory for some bear watching. The main family ecotourism activities include rafting, fishing, and skiing.
In one of the most sweeping pieces of conservation legislation in U.S. history, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 created 105 million acres of new protected areas. Perhaps, as a result, ecotourism has been supported in Alaska due to the effect of climate change on its land including melting polar ice, the retreat of glaciers, increasing storm intensity, wildfires, coastal flooding, droughts, crop failures and loss of habitat for plant and animal species. Recently, the state even developed an Adventure Green Alaska tourism certification program to highlight those companies that meet the tourism standards of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Paradoxically, the state is also home to one of the largest oil fields in the United States resulting in a contentious environmental debate about offshore drilling that has lasted for decades. Nonetheless, new conservation efforts that have been tied to ecotourism efforts have begun to improve environmental prospects for the state.
View Alaska Cruise & National Park Trips