Common Misconceptions About Alaska

Alaska’s reputation precedes it as big and bold and wild. While all of this is true, there’s definitely some “fake news” circulating out there and we’re here to bust those myths!

Rays of light part the clouds over the surface moraine of the Kennicott Glacier


“You can see all of Alaska in a single trip”

Alaska is bigger than Texas, California and Montana combined, so no, unless you have many months to plan a truly comprehensive itinerary, there’s no way you’ll see it all in a single trip. If you try to plan a fast-paced multi-destination vacation in Alaska, you’ll spend more time in transport from destination to destination than at the places you want to visit.

Our recommendations:

  • Pick one or two places to explore in depth so you can get past the tourist-trap surface and have an authentic experience.
  • Do the activities that are the highlights of the area – WSENP is famous for its glacial ice so make sure you get out on a glacier out here and save sea kayaking for another destination along the coast.
  • Be prepared to come back! Alaska is likely to steal your heart so while you’re here, be sure to scope out the next adventure!

“A dot on the map = a town”

Communities in Alaska are scattered and often smaller than you’d think. Some communities, like McCarthy/Kennecott, are accessed by a dirt road and others can’t even be accessed by roads at all! When plotting a route through the state be aware that a dot on the map often signifies a community of some kind but it’s very possible that this little group lives off-the-grid, or doesn’t have a grocery store, gas station, or even a traffic light in the vicinity. Some small “dots on the map” you might drive by and not even notice as they are tucked away in the woods, off the main road.

Our recommendations:

  • Research your destinations and ask the locals about recommendations for places to stop along the way. Our office staff is happy to talk through your travel plan and recommend a cool hike along the way or let you know where the last gas station is before you reach McCarthy.
  • If you’re driving through AK make sure you are very self-sufficient and have extra supplies with you in case you get stuck. Many road systems don’t have good service so you can’t call AAA or look up a Youtube video on how to change a tire. Make sure you have the tools and knowledge you need to handle some road-tripping curveballs as well as the patience and buffer in your itinerary for potential unexpected road closures due to flooding, mudslides, etc.


Grizzly bear lays on its belly and looks forward

“The bears are gonna get me!”

Bears are as quintessential to Alaska as salmon and bush planes and out here we know that humans are not a standard part of their diet so they are NOT out to get you!! Some parts of AK have concentrated populations of bears and are popular destinations for guided bear viewing, often a pricey but super cool excursion. WSENP’s bear population, on the other hand, is quite scattered, the bears have very large territories and it’s easy for them to avoid our small human groups. Bear sightings here are very special and most often at a very comfortable distance. Because the bears haven’t been habituated to humans, it’s not uncommon for them to be more afraid of us and run away!

Our recommendations:

  • Practice good bear etiquette to avoid unfriendly encounters. Talking while you hike will help prevent you from accidentally sneaking up on a grizzly and startling it. Taking care to store your food properly while camping will ensure no one comes sniffing around your tent at night. Your guide will coach you on best practices.
  • Be smart about where you hike. If you’re going to be doing any remote, independent hiking on rarely frequented (by humans) bear terrain, purchase a bear spray and learn how to use it.
    • Tip: You can’t fly on commercial jets with bear spray so if you’re going to buy it, do it here in Alaska and be ready to leave it behind before flying home.
    • You won’t need bear spray on any of our tours – your guides will be prepared and have all the resources your group needs for bear mitigation.


“The bugs are so bad!”

We often joke that the mosquito is the real state bird of AK because truly, the bugs do make a noticeable appearance every summer. But they really aren’t that bad! If you come from another mosquito-ey state you probably won’t even notice the bugs. Mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and other little pests can be easily avoided on the glaciers and anywhere there’s a moving breeze. Occasionally, you might hit a bad spot on a muggy day near standing water, but by no means should this be the defining vibe of your entire AK trip.

Our recommendations:

  • Bring bug spray – DEET works the best but is notoriously chemically and can ruin waterproof gear, so be careful as you spray. Natural repellents aren’t quite as strong but still work great!
  • Bring light pants and long-sleeve tops – even when it gets hot out, you might still prefer full-length pants and long sleeves to prevent sunburn, protect you from a bushwack and the bugs. Some brands even make special bug-proof clothing out of mosquito-proof fabric!
  • Get out on the glacier! Yet another reason to visit the ice – bugs don’t live out there!


“Brrrr…Isn’t it cold up there?”

A rainbow arcs over the mountains, with shrubbery in the foreground

Relative terms like “cold” and “hot” are just that – relative, and can mean different things to different people. It’s obviously not tropical up here, but it would be wrong to think that summer months don’t bring a big blast of sunshine and with it a good amount of heat! On hot and sunny days, temps can range between 70-90F during the day and you’ll often see folks on the icy glacier in T-shirts. That said, the weather can be fickle and swing from sunny to stormy in the blink of an eye.

Our recommendations:

  • Layer up with a variety of clothing options spanning the seasons. Your apparel should have you prepared to sweat in the sun, stay dry in the rain and bundle up on a day that might feel like winter to you!
  • Different parts of Alaska have different weather patterns so do your research to hit each spot on your list in the prime of its season. Check out our FAQ page for advice on the best time to visit the Wrangells!


Learn more about traveling to Wrangell – St. Elias! Get in touch with any remaining questions – we can’t wait to see you in the Wrangells this summer and are happy to help you get out here by answering any questions you have!

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