Best Places To View Volcanoes

Some of Alaska’s most spectacular volcanoes are a snap to view from the highway system near Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the Copper River Basin. Most of Alaska’s other 130 volcanoes (at least 50 active in recent centuries) are in more remote areas, but can be seen during airplane flights or ocean trips.

JUMP TO: MAP | Spurr | Redoubt | Iliamna | Augustine | Sanford | Drum | Wrangell | Edgecumbe | Novarupta | Makushin | Tours | View All

Redoubt Volcano

An active Redoubt Volcano visible from Kenai

The Easiest Volcanoes To See

Cook Inlet

Vistas of the Cook Inlet volcanoes can be as scenic as it gets, with their immense, white cones looming above the ocean against a vast, blue sky. Best chances for these crystalline panoramas occur on clear weather days during spring and early summer, and during cold snaps in winter. Some are visible from Anchorage, but best views are found at beach parks or coastal recreation areas along the Sterling Highway between Kenai and Homer.

Mount Spurr

Visible from downtown Anchorage

For starters, try for a glimpse of this 11,070-foot white massif about 80 miles due west of Anchorage. And it’s not just a pretty postcard shot. A 1992 eruption blasted ash more than 10 miles into the sky and coated Alaska’s largest city with an eighth-inch of accumulation.

Redoubt Volcano

Visible from the mouth of the Kenai River

The 10,197-foot Redoubt Volcano dominates the horizon about 50 miles west of the Kenai River mouth and Clam Gulch, forming a craggy and conical mountain that regular emits steam above its summit. Its 1989-90 eruption caused millions in damages around the region.

Illiamna Volcano

Visible from Deep Creek and Anchor Point

Iliamna Volcano rises 10,016 feet about 50 miles directly across from Anchor Point and Deep Creek. It’s the most mysterious cone in Cook Inlet—it rumbles a lot and produces steam clouds. But scientists aren’t completely sure when it last blew its top.

Augustine Volcano

Dominates lower Cook Inlet outside of Kachemak Bay

Augustine Volcano forms its own island about 70 miles southwest of Homer, rising from the sea a storybook cone that can appear almost other-worldly. Given clear weather, Augustine is easily visible during marine tours and fishing charters out of Homer.

Mount Drum

Mount Drum painted pink with alpenglow light

The Copper Basin Volcanoes

On a clear day, the final 10-mile drive east toward Glennallen on the Glenn Highway, about 180 miles east of Anchorage, presents one of the most extraordinary views in the state. Three large volcanoes loom from inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Taken as a whole, they dominate the horizon with such immensity that the vista might seem unreal.

Mount Sanford

Visible from Glenn, Richardson and Tok Cutoff highways

The 16,237-foot Mount Sanford rises to the north, bookended by a long ridge and an immense cliff. Alaska’s sixth highest peak, Sanford has not erupted in at least 10,000 years.

Mount Drum

Visible from Glenn and Richardson highways

Mount Drum, a 12,011-foot storybook cone, rises in the middle. Like Sanford, Drum has been snoozing for at least 10,000 years.

Mount Wrangell

Visible from Glenn and Richardson highways

The colossal 14,163-foot Mount Wrangell sprawls to the south, more like a mountain range all its own than a solitary peak. It last erupted in 1930, based on local reports, but observers frequently report steaming from the summit.

Makushin Volcano near Unalaska releases steam

Makushin Volcano near Unalaska releases steam

Three More Easy Views

Mount Edgecumbe

On an island visible from Sitka

This dormant volcano dominates the horizon about 15 miles west of Sitka on the southern lobe of Kruzof Island, and is one of Southeast Alaska’s most interesting and beloved landmarks.

Novarupta (Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes)

Inside Katmai National Park & Preserve

Located about 290 miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula across Shelikof Strait from Kodiak Island, Novarupta obliterated itself in 1912 during the most powerful volcanic eruption of the 20th Century. It left behind a moonscape valley that’s one of the Katmai’s most intriguing destinations.


About 800 miles southwest of Anchorage in the Aleutian Chain

Rising 5,906 feet from the western lobe of Unalaska Island only 16 miles from the village and the port of Dutch Harbor, Makushin Volcano is one of Alaska’s most restless, with 10 rumblings or events recorded since the early 1980s.

Are There Volcano Tours?

Visiting an Alaskan volcano in person usually requires hiring an air or marine charter, or committing to an overland expedition. Check out the Alaska Ultimate Safari and our list of backcountry guides. There are many potential trips into the Tordrillo Mountains near Mount Spurr, only 80 miles west of Anchorage, as well as other Cook Inlet and Alaska Peninsula volcanoes. Backcountry expeditions into Wrangell St. Elias National Park frequently climb or approach Wrangell, Drum or Sanford volcanoes. Katmai National Park visitors who can handle a day hike or a backpacking trip can make it into the vicinity of Novarupta and several other volcanoes, and flights to the park will almost certainly deliver great views of its active cones.

Kasatochi Volcano

Kasatochi Volcano

OK, These Guys Can Explode! Should I Be Worried?

Not really. Most Alaska volcanoes probably won’t erupt again in any of our lifetimes. The 50 or so volcanoes known to be active since the 1700s typically go decades (or much longer) between blasts and give plenty of warning. Cook Inlet volcanoes—closest to Alaska’s population center—have consistently followed this pattern since monitoring ramped up during recent decades.

The very active volcanoes—most located on the Alaska Peninsula or islands of the Aleutian Chain —are generally far from towns and present little or no danger to regular travelers or residents. Still, drifting ash clouds from any eruption might pose serious hazards to airliners and other aircraft while in flight.

As a result, the Alaska Volcano Observatory monitors the region’s most restless volcanoes in real time. AVO scientists track ash clouds by satellite and issue alerts when necessary. They work closely with their Russian counterparts monitoring volcanoes in the Russian Far East, too.

Other Viewing Tips

  • Many Aleutian and Alaska Peninsula volcanoes can be seen from the decks of the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry during one of the summer trips, or on certain cruises. In clear weather, the regular airline service to Unalaska-Dutch Harbor can offer great window views of many extremely remote and practically inaccessible volcanoes.
  • Because Alaska’s volcanoes rumble far from roads or on islands, most people will observe them as part of a spectacular-but-distant vista during clear weather. The experience will be enhanced by good glass, so consider carrying a spotting scope or binoculars.
  • Explore online! For a vast trove of information about Alaska volcanoes, check out the Alaska Volcano Observatory. This easy-to-navigate website has current status of erupting volcanoes plus an atlas with maps, photographs, webcams, eruption history, scientific research and more. It’s a great introduction to any volcano along your itinerary, especially if you’re traveling to the Alaska Peninsula or the Aleutian Chain.
  • Alaska contains most of the active volcanoes in the United States. At least 90 have been come alive within the past 10,000 years, and more than 50 have rumbled or erupted since the 1760s.

Show Map


This 10,197-foot mas­sif about 110 miles south­west of Anchor­age and 50 miles west of Kenai is one of the most active vol­ca­noes in Alas­ka. A 1989 – 90 series of erup­tions caused more than $160 mil­lion in dam­ages and lost rev­enue, the sec­ond most cost­ly erup­tion in U.S. history.

One of the most rest­less vol­ca­noes in the region, this stun­ning 4,134-foot cone forms its own five-mile-diam­e­ter island in Cook Inlet about 70 miles west of Homer and 170 miles south­west of Anchorage

Iliamna ris­es less than 50 miles across the water from two state recre­ation beach­es on the south­west cor­ner of the Kenai Penin­su­la. Try Deep Creek State Recre­ation Area at Mile 137, where camp­ing on the beach may be avail­able. (Break­fast with a vol­cano!) Anchor Riv­er State Recre­ation Area at Mile 157 offers more fab­u­lous viewing.

Mount Spurr forms the south­ern but­tress of the Tor­drillo Range, with an active vent on Crater Peak below the sum­mit. This 11,070-foot vol­cano last erupt­ed in Sep­tem­ber of 1992, when it dust­ed the region with an eighth-inch lay­er of vol­canic ash and shut down the reg­u­lar life in Alaska’s largest city for sev­er­al days. 

This colos­sal shield vol­cano may be one of the largest land­forms in Alas­ka — ris­ing 14,163 feet. The sum­mit area fea­tures an ice-filled caldera more than 3,000 feet deep. A great view of Wrangell (and its sis­ter vol­ca­noes of Drum and San­ford) fills the wind­shield dur­ing the final 10-mile-dri­ve east into Glen­nallen on the Glenn Highway.

Alaska’s sixth high­est peak, the 16,237-foot San­ford dom­i­nates the north­west cor­ner of the Wrangell Moun­tains. A great view of San­ford (and its sis­ter vol­ca­noes of Drum and Wrangell) fills the wind­shield dur­ing the final 10-mile-dri­ve east into Glen­nallen on the Glenn Highway.

This 12,011-foot vol­cano ris­es only about 37 miles due east of Glen­nallen in a sto­ry­book cone with a snowy crown. Although Drum had a dra­mat­ic pre­his­toric erup­tion his­to­ry, sci­en­tists believe it has not explod­ed in about 800,000 years. 

This sweep­ing, wilder­ness val­ley with a col­lapsed cen­tral caldera inside Kat­mai Nation­al Park & Pre­serve expe­ri­enced the most pow­er­ful vol­canic explo­sion of the 20th Cen­tu­ry. The erup­tion of Novarup­ta in 1912 blast­ed 3.5 cubic miles of ash into the sky, dump­ing a foot or more of grit on Alas­ka vil­lages and alter­ing the weath­er across the globe.

This active 5,906-foot vol­cano shroud­ed in ice on the west­ern lobe of Unalas­ka Island last stirred awake in 1995, when it pro­duced tremors and spit out a small cloud of steam and ash. Ris­ing only 16 miles from the vil­lage of Unalas­ka and the port of Dutch Har­bor, Makushin Vol­cano has seen at least five oth­er erup­tions in his­toric times, and pro­duced rum­blings or ash reg­u­lar­ly since the 1980s.

This dor­mant vol­cano ris­es 3,202 feet. Edge­cumbe will be unmis­tak­able dur­ing clear weath­er, loom­ing to the west above Sit­ka Sound as an immense mound, often topped with a crown of snow.

This vol­canic neck or vol­canic plug is part of the Pacif­ic Ring of Fire. These types of vol­canic plugs can cause explo­sive erup­tions, but if it is pre­served, the sur­round­ing rock erodes away cre­at­ing a ver­ti­cal rock outcropping.

This 8,225 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed March, 2006.

This 5161 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Sep­tem­ber, 1996.

This 5315 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Novem­ber, 1987.

This 7051 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed March, 1957. Its most recent activ­i­ty was Jan­u­ary, 1999.

This 5118 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Novem­ber, 1991. Its most recent activ­i­ty was Jan­u­ary, 2004.

This 7005 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed July, 1971. Its most recent activ­i­ty was July, 2005.

This 5030 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Novem­ber, 2006.

This 299 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed March, 1977.

This 6716 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed June, 1911. Its most recent activ­i­ty was May, 1931.

This 5709 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed March, 1987. Its most recent activ­i­ty was May, 2002.

This 4833 ft vol­cano’s most recent activ­i­ty was August, 1988.

This 4003 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed June, 1990.

This 3520 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed July, 2008.

This 1804 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Novem­ber, 1937.

This 4288 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed June, 1996.

This 2930 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Decem­ber, 1929.

This 3648 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed August, 1830.

This 7103 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed 1946. Its most recent activ­i­ty was Febuary, 2005.

This 6903 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Sep­tem­ber, 2006.

This 8104 ft vol­cano’s most recent activ­i­ty was 1845.

This 3599 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Febuary, 1953. Its most recent activ­i­ty was June, 2005.

This 4275 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Decem­ber, 1992. Its most recent activ­i­ty was Octo­ber, 2003.

This 9373 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed April, 1999. Its most recent activ­i­ty was Febuary, 2004.

This 6102 ft vol­cano’s most recent activ­i­ty was Jan­u­ary, 2006.

This 5676 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed Sep­tem­ber, 2010.

This 5925 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed 1914. Its most recent activ­i­ty was Octo­ber, 2005.

This 4836 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed 1852.

This 2625 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed April, 1987.

This 8261 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed May 10, 2013 and you can read about it here.

This 4400 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed May, 1931. Its most recent activ­i­ty was Febuary, 2004.

This 492 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed July, 1992.

1030 ft volcano

This 3497 ft vol­cano last erupt­ed March, 1977.