Did you know Alaska means “great land” in Aleut? If you travel to Alaska, you’ll quickly see why. Alaska is one of the most spectacular places in the world to photograph wildlife and breathtaking scenery. In Alaska, you’ll find 17 of the highest mountain peaks in the country, more than 3 million lakes, an estimated 100,000 glaciers and more than 70 volcanoes. It’s no wonder Alaska is a photographer’s dream come true.
You may be wondering where to start, since there is so much beauty to behold in the Last Frontier. We’ll inspire your photography journey, and show you some of the most jaw-dropping locations to take photos in Alaska.
Most Beautiful Places in Alaska to Take Photos
Alaska may be best known for Denali National Park, but the entire state is full of photogenic jewels. Consider the following locations for your photography excursions. By the end of this post, you might agree — photography in Alaska should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Kodiak is a city on Kodiak Island —Alaska’s largest island. It’s one of the top fishing destinations in the country, where you might catch halibut, cod, trout and salmon. It’s also home to Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll find enchanting fjords, impressive mountains, alpine lakes and peaceful meadows.
Wildlife photography is a top activity for refuge visitors. Birdwatching photographers have a chance to capture the beauty of over 200 species of birds. In the winter, they’ll find sea ducks and other migratory birds, and in the summer they may see puffins from the North Pacific.
Many people travel to Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge to view Kodiak bears, as 3,000 bears call the refuge home. Frazer Lake, which is at the southern portion of the refuge, is a popular spot for bear viewing. The best time to look for bears is at dawn or dusk. You have a greater chance of seeing bears at salmon streams from July to September. The refuge staff recommends taking a guided tour to view and photograph bears. With a guided tour, you can make the most of your experience and ensure your safety.
There are tons of other photography opportunities in Kodiak. For example, you could take a boat tour of nearby islands and snap photos of sea otters, sea lions, puffins or maybe even whales. Or, you could stay in Kodiak and capture images of St. Paul Harbor and the colorful fishing boats set against a backdrop of mountain greenery.
Seward is a port city located south of Anchorage, surrounded by the majesty of the snow-capped peaks and Kenai Fjords National Park. Seward is one of the state’s oldest and most picturesque communities.
To start your photography expedition, you might take a picture of the Seward Boat Harbor at the northern tip of Resurrection Bay and capture the essence of Seward. You could also go on a boat tour of Resurrection Bay, camera in hand, and explore hidden coves or photograph sea otters, harbor seals and eagles. Head down to Lowell Point for calming pictures of deep blue water and misty mountains.
You could easily capture hundreds of photos without ever leaving the bay area. However, photographers do not want to miss the chance to explore Kenai Fjords National Park— a top destination for visitors who wish to surround themselves with glacial beauty. You’ll find almost 40 glaciers drifting from the Harding Icefield and an abundance of wildlife in the park’s lush forests and crystal waters.
You might get to photograph sea otters, sea lions, moose, mountain goats, gray wolves, bears and a variety of birds. You might also see orcas and humpback whales. Imagine snapping a shot of a whale rocketing from the water, or capturing the striking contrast of a red kayak in front of a glacier.
Most of the park is only accessible by water, but a boat tour offers incredible opportunities to photograph breathtaking scenery and wildlife. If you’re a photographer visiting Seward, Kenai Fjords National Park is a must-see.
Metlakatla, located on Annette Islands Indian Reservation, is the only American Indian Reserve in Alaska. It’s also the only settlement of the Tsimshian people in the country. The community has an active economy due to its natural resources and the ability to harvest halibut, cod, clams and salmon. Metlakatla features lush forests and salmon-rich streams. Visitors usually travel to Metlakatla by boat or seaplane.
For traveling photographers who want to capture Alaska’s cultural diversity and history, Metlakatla is the place to go. Plan to take pictures of skillfully crafted totems, traditional dance, a longhouse painted with a Tsimshian design or the tranquil harbor. You might also take photos of the island from atop Yellow Hill, which stands 540 feet above the community and offers a panoramic view.
Are you looking to photograph a colorful array of totems and Native American art? Or would you rather snap pictures of Alaskan wildlife? You can choose both if you head to Wrangell.
Wrangell is one of the oldest towns in Alaska and surrounded by natural beauty. You’ll find over a dozen totems scattered through the town. Make sure to take your camera to Chief Shakes Longhouse, located on an island in the middle of the harbor, to take close-ups of totems and tribal designs. You can easily reach Chief Shakes Longhouse by walking over the pedestrian bridge. Keep on the lookout for bald eagles too while you explore the island.
While in Wrangell, you might also visit Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park to photograph primitive rock carvings. If you want to take a short trip south of Wrangell, you can visit the Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory to watch eagles, harbor seals and bears feast on salmon. However, you don’t have to leave Wrangell to view wildlife. You only need to look to the trees to catch a shot of an eagle or to the shoreline for herons. Everywhere you turn, you can find something picture-perfect.
5. Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm
Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm are long, narrow fjords located about 45 miles south of Juneau. From aboard a boat, photographers can capture some of the most unforgettable scenery in Alaska. Imagine plunging waterfalls crashing down cliffs into turquoise water, or brilliant blue ice formations dotting the water like gems. You’ll also have the chance to see eagles, seals, bears and whales if you go in the summer.
You might take your camera with you as you stand within a half mile of South Sawyer Glacier if conditions are right. This glacier, at the head of Tracy Arm, extends deep underwater, producing a vibrant blue hue. If you’re lucky, you might also find mountain goats at the base.
For dramatic glacial scenery that will take your breath away, make sure to explore Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm. When you look at your gorgeous photos post-trip, you’ll be so glad you did.
6. Inian Islands
Inian Islands is a unique and pristine designated wilderness area located between Chichagof Island and Glacier Bay National Park. The area is only accessible by floatplane or boat. There are no established trails on the islands, but visitors still have plenty of ways to explore. If you tour Inian Islands by boat, you’ll get to treat your eyes, and your camera, to the unspoiled beauty of dense temperate rainforests, rocky shorelines and shimmering icy water. You’ll mostly want to focus on the water, so you don’t miss the chance to capture photos of humpbacks, orcas, sea lions and otters.
7. Icy Strait Point
Icy Strait Point is a tourist destination privately owned and operated by Huna Totem Corporation. It’s on Chichagof Island outside of Hoonah — Alaska’s largest Tlingit village. Lush rainforest and clear, blue waters surround Icy Strait Point. Here, you can choose from over 20 tours, check out a restored Alaskan salmon cannery, walk nature trails or set up your gear on the shore and wait to capture shots of whales or eagles soaring overhead.
One of the benefits of visiting Icy Strait Point, besides its stunning beauty, is the chance to search for wildlife with the help of a tour guide. For example, you might head with a guide to see brown bears at the Spasski River Valley, which is known for a high brown bear density. While on a tour, a guide can show you the best spots for taking wildlife photos. You’ll also get to learn about the animals and enhance your overall experience. You’ll enjoy the meaning of your photographs with greater depth if you learn the story and history behind them.
Juneau is Alaska’s capital city. Downtown Juneau sits at the bottom of Mount Juneau on the Gastineau Channel. Tongass National Forest surrounds the city — the largest national forest and home to the highest density of black bears in the world. An estimated 32,247 people call Juneau home.
Juneau in itself is a photogenic location. While in the city, watch the sky, and you might catch a bald eagle or great blue heron flying overhead. You may also find whales swimming past you as you walk through town, or seals peeking at you from the channel. Search the steep sides of Mount Juneau, and you might catch a black bear or mountain goat feasting on vegetation.
To get closer to the abundance of wildlife in Juneau, you can ride the Mount Roberts Tramway almost 2,000 feet above downtown and explore subalpine trails. In the summer, you’ll find marmots and grouse. You might also see bears, deer, porcupines and other mammals along the trails.
Finally, you won’t want to miss Mendenhall Glacier while you’re visiting Juneau. Here, you can view the 13-mile-long glacier, which ends at Mendenhall Lake, from the historic visitor center. You can also walk along the lake for spectacular views of icebergs or to photograph Nugget Falls cascading down the mountain. You might also snap shots of moss-covered trees or wildlife while exploring the area. To get there, you can take a bus or taxi from downtown.
9. Misty Fjords
Located a short trip east of Ketchikan, Misty Fjords National Monument is a designated wilderness area and part of the Tongass National Forest. Thousands of years ago, ice covered the area, carving deep fjords with cliffs reaching thousands of feet into the sky. You can travel by boat on the Behm Canal to enter the heart of the fjords and take jaw-dropping photos. It’s possible you’ll see whales, porpoises, mountain goats and bears along the way. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to photograph plunging waterfalls, abundant wildlife, dramatic cliffs, dense green forest and pure, astonishing beauty.
Situated near the entrance of the Inside Passage, Ketchikan is a city that offers charming scenery, surrounded by wildlife-rich waters and forest. Besides being in the Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan is also home to a vibrant arts scene. In other words, there is a ton of potential to photograph something incredible anywhere you turn in Ketchikan.
For example, did you know Ketchikan has the largest collection of totem poles in the world? Some of them are also among the oldest. You can get shots of totems scattered around town or at one of their totem parks. If you want to immerse yourself in nature while visiting Ketchikan, consider taking a trip just outside town to the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary to possibly get photos of eagles or black bears. At the sanctuary, you can also stop at a historic sawmill or stroll through the totem park.
Visit Alaska With Windstar Cruises
Alaska scenery is hard to believe unless you’ve been there. Words can’t describe the majesty of steep rocky cliffs jutting out from deep blue-green water, or the sight of massive ice formations carved by time and nature. If you explore Alaska, you will never forget the scenery. Taking pictures is one way to remind yourself of your journey, but the beauty of Alaska will likely remain embedded in your mind and your heart.
At Windstar Cruises, we can take you there. We’ll carry you to must-see Alaskan ports, as well as secluded harbors where big ships can’t go. We aim to show our passengers the most beautiful places in Alaska in one comfortable, intimate voyage. To learn more about our Alaskan cruises, contact us today!