The state of Alaska is enormous, remote, and wild: the perfect combination for adventuresome flying. In fact, some villages can only be accessed by plane or dogsled. Get the most out of your trip to Alaska by logging some inflight hours as part of your itinerary. Here are four possible destinations to chart.
Fly where the eagles do. Part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Adak Island is a paradise for birdwatchers. Its location, near the west edge of the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea, makes Adak Island an easy waypoint for over 200 types of Asian birds. Clam Lagoon is one of the best spots to watch for visiting species.
Much of this volcanic island belongs to Aleut Corporation, so plan ahead for required permits, fees, and permission to hunt or fish. Adak Airport is the westernmost public airport in the US and offers two runways.
A visit to Golovin is a glimpse at life in another era. Located on the Seward Peninsula, this town of 150 residents was originally the Eskimo (Inupiat) village of Chinik. Golovin now has a subsistence economy and many residents still primarily use herbal medicines.
Though Golovin saw Russian and Swedish influence during the 19th century and served as a Gold Rush trading post, the population today is over 80% Native American.
Services are few, so you may want to make your visit a day trip. The building that housed Dexter’s Roadhouse, a relic of the Gold Rush era, remains intact although the business closed in the 1950s. Between November and May, you’ll want to use the gravel airstrip because Golovnin Bay is frozen over. Keep in mind that the sale or importation of alcohol is banned.
No Alaskan flying vacation would be complete without a landing on one of Mt. McKinley’s five glaciers. At 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley is the tallest mountain in the world when measured on land (Mt. Everest is on a plateau)and the drama of standing on ancient and pristine ice next to the craggy mountain is a once in a lifetime experience.
You’ll need skis on your plane and special permission from the National Park Service (as well as a Denali Park pass), so this journey is best accomplished as part of an Alaskan tour which can be arranged through your Anchorage hotel. This is one landing you’ll be telling friends about for years.
For a glimpse of the vast arctic tundra, fly in to Galbraith Lake. This shallow lake is a great jumping off point for hikes into the Brooks Range, Gates of the Arctic National Park, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Atigun Valley (where this glacial lake sits) is north of the Continental Divide. That means the Atigun River flows from the lake to the Arctic Ocean.
You could choose to drive the Dalton Highway to get here, but you can save yourself from 275 miles of gravel road by flying in. If you want to overnight, try the primitive Bureau of Land Management camping area near the small gravel airstrip.
Know Before You Go
Flying in Alaska can be dangerous (that’s part of the excitement, right?). Between the changeable weather and the rough terrain, make sure you trust your pilot in command.
If you’re flying your own plane, verify you have the right equipment. A taildragger is often better for the short runways. Double and triple check your flight maps to see whether you are landing at a gravel field or a seaplane base. And emergency equipment is a must.
These four amazing places are only a small selection of the possible fly-in destinations in Alaska. Now that you’re ready for adventure, pull your chocks, clear the prop and take off into the Last Frontier. Tell us about your flight plan in the comments below.