Alaska wildlife map & highlights

With its own ‘Big Five’ (wolves, bears, Dall sheep, caribou and moose) on land, eagles overhead and whales off the coast, Alaska is where you come when you’re really wild about wildlife. There are eight national parks here, and they are huge. In Wrangell St Elias alone you could fit six Yellowstones. You’ve got protected wilderness areas, forests and nature reserves, and vast icefields. It’s the largest American state, more than twice the size of Texas, the next biggest. And the prolific wildlife here is super-sized as well. On Kodiak Island, you can watch as massive grizzly bears chomp their jaws around spawning salmon, in Glacier Bay you can cruise alongside humpback and orca whales, and in the Arctic north you can see polar bears plodding hungrily along the coast. Alaska is nature at its most raw.

1. Anchorage

Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and is often known as the final outpost before the ‘Last Frontier’. It’s the starting point for most overland trips, and gateway to Denali National Park and the Kenai Peninsula. Anchorage is an urban environment, but the wilderness is always encroaching – moose are constantly wandering the streets, and bears are a common sight too.
Denali National Park

2. Denali National Park

Most national parks prefer you stick to the paths. In Denali National Park, 25,000km2 of subarctic wilderness between Anchorage and Fairbanks, you’re positively encouraged to explore the back country. There’s only one road in and out, so if you want to see the wildlife, which includes Alaska’s own ‘Big Five’, a guided small group tour is your best option.
Glacier Bay National Park

3. Glacier Bay National Park

Small ship cruises complimented by shore excursions along the Alaskan coast are a fantastic way to see marine wildlife. Humpbacks and orcas swim up fjords in Glacier Bay National Park, such as Tracy Arm. Glacier bears, a subspecies of black bear, can often be observed foraging on the shores, while the impressive sight of a huge block of ice calving from a glacier is heralded by a deafening crack.
Katmai National Park

4. Katmai National Park

Home to the largest population of brown bears in the world, volcanic Katmai National Park is the place to be during the salmon-spawning season, which begins around mid-July at Brooks Falls. The park is only accessible by plane or boat, and is often combined with the nearby Kodiak Archipelago – the native bears on these islands are massive even compared to mainland grizzlies.
Kenai Fjords National Park

5. Kenai Fjords National Park

This coastal park on the southern Kenai Peninsula forms one of Alaska’s most dramatic landscapes – the vast Harding ice field, and beautiful, deep fjords around which a variety of Alaskan wildlife can be seen. Both brown and black bears are found here, along with bald eagles and shy wolves. Marine life includes otters, seals and beavers, and several species of whale.
Lake Clark National Park

6. Lake Clark National Park

Almost all of America’s brown bears live in Alaska, and many congregate around Lake Clark in the southwest. An astonishing range of wildlife can be found here, from bald and golden eagles to beluga whales and wolf packs. But the bears are the big draw, and if you want to enhance your viewing opportunities then consider a photography tour led by a bear behavioural expert.
North coast

7. North coast

If you want to see polar bears in Alaska then you need to head for the very far north, to Fairbanks just south of the Arctic Circle. From here, you can take a small plane flight out to remote communities on the north coast such as Kaktovik or Utqiagvik, where the bears hunt seals or scraps from whaling expeditions. Arctic foxes and snowy owls are also spotted frequently.
Wrangell St Elias National Park

8. Wrangell St Elias National Park

You can fit six Yellowstones into Wrangell St Elias National Park, which teems with wildlife. Alaska’s ‘Big Five’ can be seen here on fjord cruises, along with wolverines, beavers and bison. On the coast you might encounter whales, porpoises and sea lions. This is true Alaskan wilderness, camping in the middle of nowhere, and the scenery outside your tent is little short of epic.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Alaska wildlife or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: John Yunker] [Anchorage: Teo Romera] [Denalo National Park: Joris Beugels] [Glacier Bay National Park: Matt Howard] [Katmai National Park: Christoph Strassler] [Kenai Fjords National Park: lwtt93] [Lake Clark National Park: Lake Clark National Park] [North Coast: Scott McMurren] [Wrangell St Elias National Park: National Park Service]