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State Spotlight: Alaska

Courtesy Denali Zipline Tours

Zips Ahoy!
Zip lines have become one of the hottest adventure experiences in travel, and this year, a new zip-line experience opened in the Denali region, one of Alaska’s most visited areas.

Denali Zipline Tours is the northernmost forest canopy tour in North America. Located in Talkeetna, just outside Denali National Park, this zip course is set up in the shadow of Mount McKinley and the Alaska Mountain Range. Visitors get uncommon views of those famous mountains from the eight zip lines and tree platforms that make up the course.

The three-hour experience begins with harness outfitting and “ground school,” a zip-line safety lesson. From there, participants go on a hike through Alaskan boreal forest to the first launch platform. The course begins with short zips at low heights, but guests soon find themselves zipping down lines that are several hundred feet long and perched 150 feet over a river valley. The final zip line is more than 700 feet long.

Polar Bear Adventure

Few visitors to Alaska ever make it to the northern reaches of the state, where remote setting and arctic temperatures make conditions difficult. Those who make the trek, though, are rewarded with wonderful wildlife encounters.

This year, Bald Mountain Air Service began offering polar-bear-viewing tours in Kaktovic, a small community on Barter Island just off the northeast coast of Alaska. The tours begin with a two-hour scenic flight over the Alaska Range and Yukon Flats to Kaktovic. Upon landing, groups are met by an Inupiat Eskimo guide who acquaints them with the Arctic island and its native inhabitants.

The guides then take visitors into the wild, where they have the extraordinary opportunity to see and photograph polar bears in their natural habitat. Tours last between four and six hours; then, participants make the return flight back to Anchorage.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.