Alaska is one of the world’s most spectacular hiking destinations. A vast wilderness, the Last Frontier of the United States, it boasts rugged mountains, stunning glaciers, frozen wastelands, and wild coastlines.
There’s so much hiking available all across the state that adventurers and explorers will be tempting to dive straight in. But there are a few things worth knowing before you set out into the wilderness, even for experienced hikers. So if you are planning to book an Alaskan cruise next year to explore this magnificent wilderness, here are four things to know about hiking in Alaska.
The weather can be savage
Even in the summer the Alaskan weather can be grim and unpredictable. Up in the mountains away from the protection of Anchorage things can change very quickly, and snow in July, long periods of thick fog, and unexpected hurricane-force winds are just par for the course throughout the year. Unsheltered mountains can be particularly bleak places if the weather turns sour, so always prepare for the worst and pack that extra pair of thermals just in case!
Rescues can be slow
Alaska is pretty darn huge and out in the backcountry emergencies can take some time to respond to. The Alaskan emergency response team is awesome, don’t get me wrong, particularly when it is backed up by the pararescue jumpers of the Alaska Air Guard’s 212th rescue squadron, but even they struggle in the wilderness. Obviously the best plan is not to need rescuing at all, but preparing for the worst is a good idea when taking on somewhere like Alaska.
Standard tricks don’t always work
In plenty of hiking destinations and trails in more populated areas, there are a few tricks all hikers know that you can do if you get lost. But in Alaska doing something like following a stream downhill could have you wandering around for years before you found civilization again.
For example, there’s only one road east of Anchorage before you hit Canada, and no roads at all west of Denali National Park! As a result, being a whizz at navigation and having a decent compass and GPS system is vital.
Treat moose and bears with care
Both moose and bears will tend to avoid you, particularly if you are making enough noise. But if you do happen to get on the wrong side of Alaska’s larger mammals, treat them each with care. With bears, stand your ground, stay calm, and stay together as a group. With moose, run! Moose aren’t predatory, so if you can get out of their threat zone they will leave you alone.