Flightseeing in Alaska
Light planes are an inseparable part of Alaskan history and lifestyle. Big parts of Alaska aren’t connected to the road system (for example Juneau, Alaska’s capitol), and depend on sea and air transport for supplies. Most places don’t have airports that accommodate big planes, and so Alaska prides itself in the biggest ratio of pilots per capita in the world.
Alaska is amazing from every angle, whether you’re walking, driving or standing at the window of some visitors center, yet some things that the human eye cant quite grasp until seen from above. The parks in Alaska cover huge territories. The Wrangell-St. Elias nature reserve, for example, spans 13.2 million acres, so even a three-week trek won’t cover more than a fraction. Light planes allow you to cover a greater area, but mostly to see things from a different angle, an angle that provides a real perspective on what you cannot grasp from the ground.
Best places to go on a scenic flight
There are several places in Alaska from which you can go on a scenic flight, and here are the recommended ones:
First of all, Denali. Here you’ll find several types of flights, most of which fly around Mount Denali, and a small part of which fly over the Park. You can choose between a light plane (flying over the mountain) or a helicopter (flying over the Park). Some planes go over the Denali summit and some only fly around it, but what’s really recommended is taking a flight that lands on the glacier from which groups embark to climb the mountain. These flights usually include about half an hour on the glacier, and the views from the glacier and from the air are incredible.
Flights to Denali depart from the park entrance area (the airport is in the town of Healy) and from the town of Talkeetna. Talkeetna is a little closer to the mountain than Healy, and flight are usually a bit cheaper.
Scenic flights in Wrangell-St. Elias – a huge wild area packed with glaciers, lakes and animals – are also a must. Denali can be seen from the Park’s bus, but in Wrangell-St. Elias the roads do not cross the truly beautiful parts of the Park, and large sections of it can only be seen from the air. You can take a flight from McCarthy or from Chitina. Both are equally good.
Recommended air-tour companies:
Talkeetna Air Taxi – Flights over Denali, including landing on the glacier
Wrangell Mountain Air – light-plane flights in Wrangell-St. Elias
Alpine Air – scenic flights in helicopters from Girdwood