Alaska in Pictures: 20 Beautiful Places to Photograph
Alaska is a place of big pictures. The best places to photograph in Alaska include icy fjords, wild mountain valleys, and historic mining towns. A wide-angle lens is recommended for landscape photos of the state, and a telephoto lens will help capture the wildlife within The Last Frontier. The sky over Alaska is also known for its photogenic qualities, including the aurora borealis and midnight sun.
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1. Wonder Lake, Denali National Park & Preserve
Encompassing high elevation peaks of the Alaska Range, Denali defines Alaska adventure and landscapes. Found within the park, Mount McKinley is the highest mountain peak in North America. A 92-mile park road is all that accesses this six-million-acre national park and preserve.
Wonder Lake is a good destination within the park for photographers. The lake provides a beautiful foreground for photos of the mountain peaks. On most days, the lake has a mirror-like surface, so you can get some cool optical effects with the reflection of Mount McKinley and the Alaskan mountain landscape on the lake.
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2. Seward Highway
Stretching for 127 miles between Anchorage and Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, this scenic byway is filled with great photo subjects. From Anchorage, the first 50 miles of the route hugs the Chugach Mountains and shoreline of Turnagain Arm. The combination of the water and the 3,000-foot peaks make it a great place to photograph.
When you're not taking pictures of the mountains, point your camera to the water, where whales are spotted from the shoulder of the highway. A thoroughfare for adventure, the highway concludes at the seaside town of Seward.
3. Brooks Camp, Katmai National Park and Preserve
Photographers visiting Alaska always want to capture some photos of bears feeding on salmon in a raging river. A popular spot for wildlife photography in Alaska, Brooks Camp within Katmai National Park is teeming with wild brown bears. Boardwalk trails and viewing platforms allow people to photograph these massive mammals from a safe distance.
Three observation platforms on the Brooks River are accessible from Brooks Camp, including an iconic spot overlooking Brooks Falls. June and September tend to see the highest concentration of bears feeding on the Brooks River.
4. Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
If you're looking for a great place in Alaska to photograph glaciers, the Exit Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula is one of the most accessible glaciers to drive to in Alaska. A visit to the crackling blue Exit Glacier, a 15-minute drive from the city of Seward, also puts visitors into the vast expanse of Kenai Fjords National Park.
From Exit Glacier, the Harding Icefield Trail extends for eight miles through this coastal environment.
5. Northern Lights in Fairbanks
Every photographer should have the Northern Lights on their photo bucket list. The city of Fairbanks offers a near guarantee to see this celestial show, also known as the aurora borealis. The Aurora Season, between August 21 and April 21, is the window for checking out the Northern Lights. Throughout the rest of the year, Fairbanks is better known for its midnight sun.
6. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Girdwood
This wildlife conservation center takes the guesswork out of photographing wildlife. An hour east of Anchorage on the Seward Highway, this wildlife sanctuary adopts animals that are no longer fit to live in the wild. Several viewing platforms at the conservation center allow visitors to look at these animals up close. A few of the resident animals include wolverines, black bears, moose, and foxes.
7. Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Another beautiful place to photographic in Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park is also a popular cruise ship destination. The entire region is home to an impressive collection of tide pool glaciers. The 21-mile-long Margerie Glacier is arguably the most impressive. This crackling attraction is in the West Arm of the park and only accessible by boat. Views of this frequently calving (when large ice chunks fall into the water) glacier also include vantage points of the adjacent Grand Pacific Glacier.
8. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Aside from all the natural places to photograph, Alaska has some historic places as well. One of the most visited national parks in Alaska, Klondike offers photographers a look at the state's prospecting past. Part of the park's popularity is due to its location in Skagway, a prominent cruise stop on the Inside Passage.
Much of Skagway's infrastructure that resulted from the 1897-1898 Klondike Gold Rush still remains today and gives photographers some cool architectural subjects. These century-old buildings are now under the designation of a national historical park.
9. Chugach State Park, Anchorage
Chugach State Park is one of the largest state parks in North America. It's also a top spot for adventure in Alaska. Only a short drive from Anchorage, this near 500,000-acre state park provides some of the most accessible outdoor experiences in the state. Alpine environments, dense forests, and big wildlife define many photos of Chugach.
10. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
The largest national park in North America, Wrangell-St. Elias is six times larger than Yellowstone National Park. So much space lends to an abundance of photo opportunities and adventure. Wildlife, alpine landscapes, and several glaciers are a few notable photo opportunities in the park. The historic towns of Kennicott and McCarthy within the park are also fun to capture with a camera.
11. The Alaska Highway
The Alaska Highway, also known as the Alcan Highway, spans over a thousand miles from British Columbia to Delta Junction near Fairbanks. The Alcan is paved, but the surroundings are wild and all-encompassing. Stunning mountain landscapes surround every mile of this two-lane marvel of engineering. Visitor amenities along the route include gas stations, hotels, and restaurants.
12. Kodiak National Wildlife Preserve
Encompassing much of the Kodiak Archipelago in the Gulf of Alaska, the Kodiak brown bear is the most photographed resident of this refuge. The refuge is only accessible by boat or seaplane, and guided tours are the best way to snap a picture of a bear. Birding and bird photography is also popular at the refuge, with over 200 species of birds known to visit the area.
This charming small town was established during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s. Haines is an essential connection between the Inside Passage and the Alaska Interior. The idyllic mountain and coastal landscapes of Haines pose for great pictures. In the fall, the area attracts bald eagles and people who want to photograph them.
14. Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventures, Juneau
A top attraction of Juneau, this acclaimed botanical center displays gardens on an Alaskan scale. Throughout the 50 acres of this rainforest garden are several eye-catching plants on display. The unique Flower Towers, made from upside-down tree trunks, are especially photogenic features of the space. Abutting this natural space is the entirety of the Tongass National Forest.
A popular cruise stop along the Inside Passage, the city of Ketchikan is full of colorful appeal. With a rich heritage and thriving fishing industry, the town welcomes visitors with vibrant storefronts. Ketchikan is also the top spot in the state to photograph totem poles. The city currently has over 80 authentic Native American Totem Poles spread throughout the charming downtown district.
16. Downtown Anchorage
Alaska has some beautiful places for street photography in addition to its abundance of wildlife and natural landscapes. A popular area for street photography in Anchorage is around the intersection of 6th and H street, home to a former tile factory. The rear of the building is a popular subject for photos; it has a large tile sign that includes the word "Alaska."
The Alaska Art Museum, also located downtown, is another beautiful place to photograph. The building itself is a striking example of modern architecture. Inside, you will find some fascinating photo subjects, as the collections represent the art and culture of Native Alaskans. Finally, photographers should visit the Chugach Gallery on the fourth floor, which has floor-to-ceiling windows with striking views of the city and mountains; it's a great place to take photographs.
17. Flattop Mountain, Anchorage
This mountain, located just outside Anchorage, is a beautiful place to photograph and a good vantage point to get pics of the city of Anchorage. The mountain is easy to hike in the summer, or there are several scenic overlooks located along the road, which goes up the mountain (no hiking necessary).
This place to photograph is easily accessible for Anchorage visitors, as there is a shuttle from downtown right to the trailhead, which runs from mid-May through mid-November. The bike-friendly shuttle ride includes a city tour, and they offer bike rentals (the shuttle picks up from Downtown Bike Rentals). The hike to the summit is just under two miles, but you can also access viewpoints a short distance from the trailhead.
18. Keystone Canyon, Valdez
Waterfalls are beautiful places to take photos, and Keystone Canyon, near Valdez, offers multiple ones. Richardson Highway is the main route to the city of Valdez, and it passes right through the three-mile-long gorge. Check out Rudleston Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, each presenting unique environments for photographers. These are also very popular spots for Instagrammers, as the falls' make great backdrops.
19. Valdez Harbor
This small boat harbor and the surrounding infrastructure is a cool place to take pictures of boats and fishermen. The hub of activity also comes with the background of the ocean and the mountains (which are snow-covered in winter), and this is why it's a great place to take photos. You can get some great photos in the late morning as the fishermen come back and unload their catch.
The harbor is also a great place for charter fishing trips or to rent a small boat to take some pics from the water.
20. Matanuska Glacier, Glacier View
Located about a hundred miles northeast of Anchorage, the Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States. It's also a glacier you can walk or hike on to take pictures, even as a first-timer. It's a beautiful (and popular) place for portraits and people photography; you can get shots here where all you can see is the glacier as the background, yet you're really only a short walk from the parking lot.