Are you looking for picturesque and stunning towns in Alaska to visit? Well, you have come to the right place because I absolutely love Alaska, have been there several times and have compiled a list of 13 picturesque and charming towns in Alaska for you to visit while you are there.
Picturesque and historic Skagway, Alaska
13 Most Picturesque Towns In Alaska
The Native American Totem Poles In Ketchikan Will Thrill You
One of the lovely towns of Alaska is Ketchikan. It sits facing the world-famous Inside Passage. It is a very popular cruise stop and one worth exploring. If you are cruising it is the first major city you will see heading north into Alaska. We visited Ketchikan a few years ago while RVing through Alaska, via the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. You do not have to be on a cruise ship to have access to Ketchikan. The scenery around Ketchikan is so jaw-dropping majestic we have never forgotten it.
Ketchikan is surrounded by forested slopes behind her and in front of her lies the Tongass Narrows the very busy and picturesque waterway that brings visitors to Ketchikan.
Ketchikan is known for a lively downtown area and the legendary Native American totem poles. This is one of the most picturesque towns in Alaska you should consider exploring.
Visit Anchorage For Stunning Big City Wilderness
Nestled between the mountains and the sea Anchorage is one of the most striking towns in Alaska. It is the largest of towns in Alaska with lots of big-city amenities. If you are road tripping or backpacking through Alaska, Anchorage is a great place to stop. You can stock up on your amenities because all the popular “big box” stores are located there.
However, Anchorage is no stranger to the wilderness and it is not unusual seeing a moose walking through town. There is a vast array of birdlife you can witness as well if you slow down a little.
One of the things that makes Anchorage one of the most visually charming towns in Alaska is her mountainous backdrops. They are often so spectacular you may wonder if they are painted and not real.
The eleven mile paved Tony Knowles Coastal Trail runs along Cook Inlet and provides stunning views. You will learn a little history along the way running or riding past Earthquake Park of the 1964 earthquake that rocked all the towns in Alaska. (I have not been back to Alaska since the November 2018 earthquake.)
Anchorage is one of the towns in Alaska that offers so many options of things to do, both urban and wilderness, and so worthy of you visiting.
Gorgeous view of Anchorage with her mountainous background.
Girdwood Is A Cute And Thriving Resort Town
Girdwood lies 36 miles south of Anchorage on Cook Inlet and accessed from the Seward Highway. It is stunningly scenic as it is nestled in a lush forest and surrounded by the Chugach Mountain Range and its magnificent glaciers spilling out from their icefields.
Girdwood was a sleepy little neighborhood until the building of the Alyeska Ski Resort which became an international destination, bringing large numbers of visitors to the once sleepy town.
But do not fear if you wish to visit Girdwood in the summer. There is still much to see in this picturesque towns in Alaska. During a summer visit, my family and I went to the Alyeska Ski Resort and hiked to the top of Alyeska Mountain. Along the way, the views were epic and seemed to go on forever. Views from the top did not disappoint either. The Chugach mountains were stunning and you could see Cook Inlet and out farther to the ocean.
We rode the gondola back to the bottom for one last look at the magnificent vistas at Alyeska of Girdwood.
While snow and Aleyaka dominate Girdwood, summer activities like glacier jet skiing, hiking, and wildlife adventures are just as important to Girdwood and her visitors. I think Girdwood is one of the most beautiful towns in Alaska.
The lush forests and snow-capped mountains make Girdwood one of the most scenic towns in Alaska
Jaw-dropping views such as this one await you at the top of Aleyska Mountain in Girdwood.
Seward Is Where The Ocean Meets The Mountains
Located just 120 miles south of Anchorage, you will be in for an unforgettable experience as you drive down to Seward on the Seward Highway. Designated as being a National Scenic Byway, as well as an All American Road, you will definitely want to take your time, and even allow extra time to explore all that is ahead of you along the Seward Highway to one of the most scenic towns in Alaska. This scenic drive, where the mountains and ocean greet each other, is literally one of my favorite things to do when I am in Alaska.
As if the Seward Highway is not stunning enough, prepare for jaw-dropping unforgettable vistas once you arrive at the port town of Seward, Alaska. It is considered the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. Here you will witness where the Harding Icefield glaciers spill out into coastal fjords and into Resurrection Bay. And imagine that all of this spectacular beauty is embraced by snow-capped mountains.
Seward is one of the towns in Alaska that is blessed with temperate and mild temperatures. I like this about Seward. My favorite things to do when I visit is taking a glacier and wildlife cruise, and visiting Exit Glacier. The Resurrection Bay is home to much exotic sea life like puffins, otters and of course whales! And do not forget about the epicness of the calving glaciers. You will probably never, ever forget that experience. You can set sail right out of downtown Seward for a day of exploring.
Exit Glacier is just eight miles north of Seward and is a very popular tourist destination. It is one of the most easily accessible glaciers in all of Alaska, and as you make your way towards it, you will notice stakes in the ground marking past years and the receeding of the glacier. I really suggest you take a look at it up close and personal yourself.
Seward, where the mountains meet the sea, is one of the most unforgettably scenic towns in Alaska.
Seward is one of the most picturesque towns in Alaska. Here is her historic downtown.
Seward’s boat marina, where the mountains meet the sea!
Homer Has Its Own Eclectic Charm
Of all the many times I have been to Alaska, Homer is by far my favorite of the many towns in Alaska. It is simply one of the coolest and most picturesque places to visit.
Located two hundred miles south of Anchorage, on the Sterling Highway, Homer is referred to as “The End of the Road,” because it is literally located at the end of the Sterling Highway. Situated on Kachemak Bay at the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula, Homer boasts epic vistas of mountains and the sea.
Homer owns a very eclectic and casual vibe and you will feel it as soon as you arrive.
I always stay at the world famous Homer “Spit” when I visit my beloved Homer. It literally juts out into Kachemak Bay and offers unparalleled and breathtaking views.
I like to buy “local” when I travel and I wait until I visit Homer to buy my souvenirs and mementos for those back home. Homer boasts a huge artisan community offering hand-made items that are very beautiful ranging anywhere from glassware to metal.
There are restaurants and art galleries galore in Homer and on the “Spit” and of all the towns in Alaska, this is one I suggest you do not miss!
The popular Homer Spit makes Homer one of the most unique towns in Alaska.
Whales inhabit the chilly waters of Kachemak Bay, surrounded by the Kenai Mountain Range.
Valdez Is Home To Breathtaking Waterfalls
Valdez, located on Alaska’s south coast, approximately 297 miles south of Anchorage, is worth any effort to get to. It is one of the towns in Alaska with arresting raw and wild outdoorsy beauty.
Valdez gets over twenty-seven feet of snow every winter. When the spring weather warms the temperatures a bit, the snowcaps of the surrounding Chugach Mountains melt and cascade down, creating unbelievably stunning views of waterfalls around Valdez.
I have visited Valdez in the summer and I can definitely concur the waterfalls of Valdez are indeed gloriously picturesque.
Sitting on the shores of Prince William Sound, Valdez is where the Chugach Mountains literally kiss the waters of Prince William Sound. You can take wildlife boat tours to see the wild animals that call Prince William Sound home, look at marvelous glaciers and remote waterfalls that will take your breath away.
If you can, take the trip to Worthington Glacier, just outside of Valdez. You can walk right up to the glacier and touch its blue ice. Wouldn’t that make an outstanding picture to show your family and friends?
Valdez’s raw and unspoiled beauty make it one of the most beautiful towns in Alaska.
Downtown Valdez’s boat harbor earns Valdez one of the most stunning towns in Alaska.
Imagine yourself kayaking Prince William Sound in Valdez.
Talkeetna Is The Staging Area For Denali
Talkeetna is situated 120 miles north of Anchorage and is considered the “staging area” for those intrepid mountain men and women attempting to ascend Denali. But there are lots more things to do and see in Talkeetna than mountain climbing.
Talkeetna has a definite relaxed and hippie vibe you will feel as soon as you arrive. There is only one main street in downtown Talkeetna, but that’s where the action happens. Here you will find local artisans selling their hand-crafted wares and local restaurants.
Here too is where you might charter a sightseeing flight to get up close and personal with Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley) or stroll over to Riverfront Park to witness the confluence of three Alaskan rivers: the Chulitna, Talkeetna and Susitna rivers. I will admit, it is quite an unforgettable sight to see.
You will also be graced with epic views of the Alaska Mountain Range, and Denali. That is if Mother Nature herself cooperates with clear weather. I have visited Talkeetna twice and unfortunately have not been able to see Denali. Hopefully, if you visit Talkeetna, Denali will be clearly visible for you.
There is a lot of outdoor rustic charm associated with Talkeetna. You may choose to hike, run or even camp in the outdoors. Walking is a great adventure to look for wild animals in Talkeetna which makes it one of the most pictorial towns in Alaska.
One of the most eclectic towns in Alaska, Talkeetna has a cool hippie vibe.
Denali National Park And Preserve Is Home To Wild Animals
Ok, I know Denali National Park and Preserve is not a town. I also know you probably do not want to travel all the way to Alaska and miss it.
Located 238 miles north of Anchorage, the hardest decisions you will have to make when visiting Denali is how long you want to stay, and what you want to do. Native Alaskans and tourists alike visit Denali for two main reasons: seeing Denali, and seeing the wild animals that call Denali home.
To keep Denali’s environment rustic and untamed, the park does not permit vehicles (other than those of the park employees) beyond the first fifteen miles. You can elect to go on a bus tour into the guts of the park. A park ranger will be onboard to narrate during the tour. You will need to select the specific bus tour that works for your family as there are numerous to choose from.
My family and I have visited Denali Park and Preserve numerous times. Several times we spent the majority of our visit driving the fifteen-mile public road. There are glacial fed rivers to see, river beds to explore, glacier-capped mountains to view and wildlife to search for. Those first fifteen miles are epic, so do not worry if you do not have the finances or the time to take a multi-hour bus tour.
While Denali National Park and Preserve is not a “town” I consider it one of the top towns in Alaska that you want to visit.
One of the two main reasons tourists and locals visit Denali National Park and Preserve is to catch a glimpse of the mighty Denali.
Fairbanks Is The Gateway To Alaska’s Epic Interior
Fairbanks, located 358 miles north of Anchorage is Alaska’s second most populous city, right behind Anchorage. It is only a few hours’ ride from Denali National Park and Preserve and boasts a wide variety of arresting things to do and see.
If you visit Fairbanks in the summer, you will most certainly be charmed by Alaska’s famous midnight sun. We were fortunate to be in Fairbanks in the summer and experience the midnight sun (when the sun barely sets.) You can get some very special pictures at midnight when the sun is still shining brightly.
Alternatively, if you find yourself in Fairbanks in the dead of winter, you have a great chance of viewing the northern lights. I was exceptionally fortunate to view the Aurora on my last trip to Alaska, and I admit, it was super spectacular. It was a truly memorable experience.
If you are adventurous or simply looking for the unusual, perhaps a trip to the Arctic Circle is an option for you when you visit Fairbanks. While a few attempt the drive themselves, you would probably consider joining a tour. At 196 miles north of Fairbanks you will cross the invisible line designating Latitude 66* north and you will officially have made it to the Arctic Circle.
I have visited Fairbanks twice and never made it farther north to cross the Arctic Circle. I definitely regret it. So do not make the same mistake as me. If you do happen to make the trip, let me know how it was!
Epic northern lights exhibition in Fairbanks in the winter makes Fairbanks one of the most incomparable towns in Alaska.
It Is Merry Christmas All Year At North Pole Alaska
North Pole, Alaska celebrates Christmas every day of the year. Located about 14 miles from Fairbanks, it is one of the most novel and picturesque towns in Alaska.
We visited North Pole when we were RVing through Alaska when our children were young. Santa Clause was not in residence during our visit. He was on vacation in Florida. Our two were mighty disappointed. But for you “big kids,” stopping at North Pole, Alaska is worth it.
The town displays their holiday decorations year round. The street lights have candy cane stripes on them and there is a Christmas store to browse in. There is a huge statue of the town’s most famous resident, Santa Claus himself.
North Pole, Alaska is definitely worth a stop and one of the cutest towns in Alaska.
Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. How cute is this?
Juneau Is Alaska’s Gleaming Capital City
Lots of people assume that Anchorage is the capital of Alaska. It is a natural assumption because Anchorage is the largest city and most people live there. However, Anchorage is the economic capital of Alaska while Juneau is the political capital.
You cannot get to Juneau by driving. Well, sort of that is. There are no roads leading to Juneau. It is located in southeast Alaska nestled in between the mountains and the sea. Doesn’t that sound so lovely? Most tourists arrive in Juneau via their cruise ship.
We visited Juneau when we were RV road-tripping Alaska using the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. And we were definitely not disappointed we made the trip. Having the majestic mountains right next to the sea was a beautiful vista we have not forgotten.
Due to its remote and rugged nature, there are a lot of outdoor activities to choose from in Juneau. How about a helicopter ride over the Juneau-famous Mendenhall Glacier? That is a very popular activity. If a helicopter ride is not your style (it was not ours either!) the Mendenhall Glacier is a short one mile ride out of town and definitely worth a visit.
Whale watching tours are another popular option to consider in Juneau. If you prefer to stay on dry land, hiking, biking, camping or simply walking around to explore Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and/or the Tongass National Forest are excellent options for picturesque views in one of the most unique towns in Alaska.
Here is Juneau, sandwiched between the mountains and the sea. Such rugged beauty.
Skagway Has A Very Colorful Gold Rush History
If you travel to Skagway, it will probably be on a cruise ship. Located in southeast Alaska, Skagway is along the extremely popular Inside Passage cruise route.
Skagway’s main street is Broadway which features picturesque false-front shops to browse and dream in. Restaurants dot the street as well to tempt you. There are locals strolling the wooden sidewalks in Gold Rush period costumes. Skagway was the starting place for the 1897 gold rush.
The abandoned town of Dyea, next to Skagway is a great place to learn about the gold rush stampede. You can take a self-guided tour or a ranger-led tour. We did the ranger tour and learned just how horrible the conditions were for those brave men and women who wanted to strike it rich.
There are loads of trails to run or hike to see first-hand the absolutely stunning views of Skagway.
One of the most popular Skagway tours is the White Pass and Yukon Railroad tour. You can choose several options, depending on how much time you have and your finances. The narrow-gauge railroad, often times with glass-domed ceilings will offer you unparalleled views of Alaska.
Historic downtown Skagway.
Sitka Has A Russian Heritage
Sitka is an Alaskan town of about 9,000 inhabitants, located south of Juneau in the Inside Passage, and facing the Pacific Ocean. Sitka boasts a decidedly Russian influence. In 1867, when the Russians sold Alaska to the United States, the sale took place in Sitka.
Only accessible by sea or by air, Sitka offers limitless options to discover the raw and rugged Alaska. The forested mountains seem to bow down to the sea providing jaw-dropping unforgettable vistas.
You can begin your visit to Sitka by stopping to see the Cathedral of St. Michael, with its onion-shaped dome and gold crosses. There are interesting shops located downtown such as an art gallery and a book store.
Hiking, education, and boating make Sitka one of the most unique towns in Alaska.
Spectacular view of Sitka earns it one of the most unrivaled in beauty towns in Alaska.
Here I have listed thirteen picturesque towns in Alaska for your consideration. Are you planning a visit to Alaska? Will you be cruising or driving? I have suggested lots of towns in Alaska for you to choose from. Whether you will be cruising or driving, most or at least some of them will be accessible to you. Have you visited Alaska already? Do you have another picturesque town to suggest?
Please leave questions and suggestions in the comments section below.
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