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snow capped mountains behind a tundra plateau in Alaska's National Parks

Best National Parks In Alaska To Visit By Cruise

The best guide to exploring Alaska National Parks by cruise. Find helpful information on the best national parks in Alaska and travel tips.

When it comes to national parks, Alaska can’t be beat. Alaska holds more than half of America’s national park lands and has an abundance of wildlife refuges. Alaska national parks vary dramatically from one to the next--some boast sky-high peaks and volcanoes; others feature artic-blue glaciers known to calve at a moment’s notice. Others, such as the isolated Gates of the Artic offer the opportunity to truly get away from it all.

Here is a list of national parks in Alaska that you can experience on an Alaska cruise or cruisetour.

1. Most Iconic: Denali National Park & Preserve

Mt. Denali, or the “Great One” lives up to its nickname. At roughly 20,310 feet, Denali rises over six million acres of incredible terrain as the King of the alpine forest. Undeniably one of the best national parks in Alaska, Denali is located approximately two hours from Fairbanks and four from Anchorage. Read more about Denali National Park & Preserve.

How To See Denali Alaska National Park

It is possible to visit Denali National Park on an Alaska cruisetour, the best of both worlds. Cruisetours combine cruising Alaska ports on the coast with interior adventure. Experience Alaska’s otherworldly icescapes by sea and then enjoy a one-, two- or three-night stay at McKinley Chalet Resort, our premier accommodation at the doorstep of Denali.

Every Alaska Cruisetour includes a scenic Alaska train ride on our McKinley Explorer domed railcar. The Tundra Wilderness Tour travels 62 miles into the park and comes included on two night or longer stays at the resort. It is a highly rated Alaska national park tour that shows off a host of magnificent vistas and abundant flora and fauna.

2. Most Dazzling: Kenai Fjords National Park

Just outside the charming town of Seward, Kenai Fjords National Park is full of natural beauty, such as jagged peaks, lush waterfalls and 40 glaciers spilling from the Harding Icefield. It is one of the best national parks in Alaska to see varied landscapes and learn about the impact of Alaska glaciers. Marine animals patrol the waters in abundance and thousands of Alaska’s most fascinating seabirds—such as puffins and marbled murrelets—call it home.

Best Way To See Kenai Fjords Alaska National Park

A boat tour is optimal. You can take a day cruise from Seward or even paddle the park via kayak. Although this marine wilderness is best explored by water, it is possible to experience one of the park’s major attractions from land. Exit Glacier, a valley glacier is accessible via a few trails off the highway.

3.Most Spectacular: Glacier Bay National Park

Every Alaska national park is spectacular, but Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is special. It’s big: 3.3-million-acres of forests, foothills, wet tundra, and 1,000 glaciers. Turn around aspiring Jack Kerouacs. This Alaska national park isn’t easily accessed by the classic American road trip. There is only one road into the park and it comes from the tiny town of Gustavus, which is only reached by flight or boat. As you cruise through the park, you’ll notice a lack of human interference and sound. Glacier Bay is a symphony of soothing natural sounds from creaking ice to lapping waves.

Glacier Bay is the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit who lived on the abundant resources of it long ago. Today, most live in the village of Hoonah, across Icy Strait as advancing glacier ice forced them to relocate. Read more about Glacier Bay National Park.

Alaska National Park Tours Of Glacier Bay

Alaska National Park tours of Glacier Bay are limited to protect this fragile ecosystem. Holland America Line has more Alaska cruise options to Glacier Bay than any other cruise line. Rangers and Huna Tlingit cultural guides will come aboard to answer questions and explain the significance of this spectacular place. Expect to spend a whole day in the park.

4. Most Impressive: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Mountain enthusiasts, this is the best Alaska national park for you. Off the Glenn Highway, about four hours from Anchorage, Wrangell-St Elias is home to 9 of the highest peaks in the U.S. and Mt. Wrangell, an astounding active volcano, known to dramatically release tendrils of smoke. There are summits more than 16,000 feet and 35% of Wrangell-St. Elias is covered in glaciers. Beaver, lynx, fox, timber wolves, and grizzlies call these wild lands home.

Cruise to its Hubbard Glacier, one of the most active glaciers in North America.

Ready to go wild at an Alaska national park? For more Alaska travel resources and tips, view all Alaska Articles and Videos. Or peruse Holland America’s Alaska cruise ports.