From seals to arctic hares, Alaska is home to a diverse range of animals that thrive in its vast swaths of untouched land, including seven of the 12 largest National Parks in the US. Many travelers make the trip to the Last Frontier to catch glimpses of Alaska’s remarkable wildlife, the most notable of which are referred to as the Big Five.
WHAT ARE ALASKA’S BIG FIVE?
Originally the term Big Five referred to five large land mammals that were difficult to hunt, but today they are the five animals that visitors are most lucky to spot while spending time in the wilderness.
The Alaskan Big Five are moose, bears (both black bears and grizzly bears), Dall Sheep, Caribou, and Gray Wolves. Visitors Many people can picture moose, bear, and wolves in their minds, but have never seen them in person, especially not in their wild habitats. On the other hand, Caribou and Dall Sheep may be a bit harder to picture.
Dall Sheep are a species of sheep found only in Alaska and western Canada. They have coarse white fur that covers an insulating coat of fine wool. Their large, curved horns most easily recognize them on either side of their heads. Both males and females have these trademark horns, but the males’ horn are usually larger. These sheep are mountain climbers who thrive on the high, windy cliffs of Alaska.
Caribou is another name for a reindeer. These animals stand about six feet tall, not including their antlers, and are common in arctic climates. They often travel in herds as they migrate around their annual routes. They are unique among deer species because both the males and females have large antlers that they shed in the winter.
WHERE CAN YOU SEE THEM?
Travelers have the best chance of seeing Alaska’s Big Five by visiting Denali National Park. Since being established in 1917, this park has protected over 6 million acres of Alaska’s wilderness as well as the highest mountain peak in North America, Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). The name Denali was given to the mountain by the Koyukon people; its name means the high one. To learn more about the park, visit the National Park Service’s website.
HOW TO GET TO ALASKA
The travel season in Alaska is usually between late May and mid-September. These months are when most tours operate, and cruise lines sail around the area. For your best chance at seeing the Northern Lights, plan to travel in August or September.
For many travelers, a cruise is one of the best ways to visit Alaska. Cruises combine transportation, accommodation, dining, and entertainment in one convenient package while also allowing guests to see several locations in one trip. Cruises lines also have connections with many local tour operators, providing their guests with reputable options for everything from hiking glaciers and whale-watching to fishing or meeting sled dogs. Travel agents are masters at pairing you with the cruise line that will deliver your dream Alaskan experience.
For those looking to keep their feet firmly on land, riding the rails through Alaska can be a great way to see the state. Rail cars allow their passengers to travel comfortably while taking in the scenery around them. With so many options, we can add value by helping their clients determine the best Alaskan itinerary for you.
Want to do both cruise and land? Many cruise lines have their own lodges on land and land tour packages that cruisers can add as either a pre-or post-cruise option!