Crowding is relative! Alaska rarely becomes so jammed that you end up feeling congested. Unless salmon are running—or you attend a fair or festival—most Alaska locales will seem less crowded than similar places in the rest of the country. No Alaska venue regularly concentrates people on the scale, say, of a Yosemite or a Yellowstone—or a New York City. The state barely has one resident per square mile—a density reflected by most places most of the time.
So a crowd in Alaska might be 30 or 40 cars pulled over at Beluga Point to watch the surging bore tide of Turnagain Arm. It might a dozen people staring with mouths agape at Dall sheep perching on the cliffs above Windy Corner on the Seward Highway. Maybe 100 cars in the parking lot at Glen Alps below Flat Top Mountain on a sunny summer weekend. A couple score people spread out along the trail to Exit Glacier outside Seward in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Still, sometimes you want Alaska all to yourself. Here’s how.
Stay away from salmon streams when the fish are in
Alaskans are salmon crazy! The Russian River and other Kenai River spots can concentrate anglers side-by-side for classic “combat fishing.” Anchorage’s Ship Creek, Seward beaches and the Homer lagoon likewise can draw crowds eager to hook dime-bright silvers and kings. Check out the latest fishing advice and go to where it’s not supposed to be hot that particular week. (Great fishing for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden can be found on empty lakes and little visited streams.)
Expect crowds at marquee cultural and social events
Alaskans love festivals and fairs and will converge on them in large numbers. Think Seward on the Fourth of July during the running of the Mount Marathon Footrace. Or Girdwood during the Forest Fair with its artisan booths and music. Or the Alaska State Fair during the last two weeks of August into Labor Day Weekend. Here’s our list of likely events.
Don’t visit a port town on a day when a cruise ship docks
These gargantuan vessels can disgorge a thousand or more happy, excited people onto local streets, sometimes doubling or tripling the local population. Scope out the landing schedules in advance of your visit.
Try the Shoulder Season
Most visitors embark on their Alaskan adventure between Memorial Day and Labor Day. But both May and September often feature clear skies and warm days with far fewer people. For instance, May can be the driest month with many warm, sunglass days, while September can deliver great silver salmon fishing beneath golden fall foliage.
Take a road trip someplace unexpected
Most visitors travel south from Anchorage on the Seward and Sterling highways to destinations on the Kenai Peninsula, or travel north up the Parks Highway toward Denali National Park and Fairbanks. Far fewer people venture up the Glenn Highway into the Copper River Basin, or drive the Richardson Highway between Valdez and Fairbanks. There are many rural roads where you might drive for miles without seeing another vehicle.
Visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
With two roads leading into its interior, this 13-million acre natural park with glacier-bound mountains and wild rivers will surround you with open space and quiet. It attracts a fraction of the visitors you’ll see in Denali or Kenai Fjords.
Hike in wilderness just steps from the road
Most visitors remain in the front country, content to take pictures or enjoy the view within a short walk from their transportation. But if you can walk a quarter-mile out—or further—you will almost always find solitude. You don’t have to go far to be alone with Alaska’s natural world! Check out the possibilities on your itinerary.
Fly out to a remote location, or charter a boat to an empty beach
Though it can be pricey, chartering a flight to a river, lake or airstrip can take you into the heart of vast, untracked country in an hour or less. Likewise, many guides in coastal towns like Whittier, Seward and Home offer drop-offs to beaches and islands where you can spend an afternoon (or a week) utterly alone beachcombing, camping or fishing. Many isolated destinations offer public use cabins.