Alaska air tours, also known as flightseeing, are one of many popular ways to view Alaska’s breathtaking scenery. Flightseeing tours in Alaska provide a unique view from above of Alaska’s epic landscapes, glaciers, mountains, wildlife, and waterfalls. They can take you on stunning flights to the most remote and off-the-grid locations in Alaska. With tours that provide views of Mt. Denali, focus on bear viewing and wildlife, and tours by air charter, air taxi, sea plane, or helicopter, Alaska flightseeing offers something for everyone. This article will introduce and describe some of the best air tours in Alaska to help you get started.
Why take an Alaska air tour?
Alaska’s vast size, limited number of roads, and remote areas make flying one of the best ways to cover a lot of ground, especially if you have a limited amount of time. Flight tours will help you appreciate and grasp the enormous scale of Alaska’s landscape and give you a view of it all that you can’t get from the ground.
What is flightseeing?
Flightseeing in Alaska consists of flying in small planes that hold 2-10 people or helicopters that hold 2-4 people. On flightseeing tours, you can fly up to or land on a glacier and see the wilderness from above. Most planes have window seats for all and many offer narration from the pilot or on headsets.
When is the best time to go flightseeing?
Some Alaska air tours run year-round while others are limited to certain months, usually mid-May to early September. If you want the widest selection, plan on visiting during the summer months. Good weather is the most important consideration when deciding when to go flightseeing. The weather in Alaska is unpredictable and can change quickly, making it hard to book tours in advance. Fortunately, most companies offer free cancellation, so you can change your plans if need be.
What type of air tour to take
Your next decision will be whether to travel by plane or by helicopter. Helicopters fly more slowly than planes. Unlike planes, they can hover, which makes them great for viewing wildlife and studying the landscape. Large windows allow for unobstructed views, and they can set down just about anywhere, although not within Denali Park. Planes travel at higher altitudes than helicopters, allowing you to see more sweeping vistas. Plane tours also tend to be less pricey than helicopter tours.
Where to go/what to see?
While there are several options for where to go and what to see on a flightseeing tour, Denali and Denali National park tours are the most popular choices. Tours of Denali might include Ruth Glacier, Wickersham Wall, Kantisha Glacier, and Denali summit. You can approach Denali from Talkeetna in the south, from the north side of the park, or from Anchorage.
While the quickest way to get to Denali is from Talkeetna in the south, approaching from the north side will provide views of the 17,000 foot plunge of Wickersham Wall, long glacial slopes, and enormous blocks of ice, wildlife, and the mining community of Kantishna. From Anchorage, it will take longer, about 45 minutes, to get to the glacial amphitheaters of Denali. You will fly over wilderness, rivers, forests, and wetlands, spending about 30 minutes exploring the mountain.
Other popular tours include brown bear-viewing tours over Cook Inlet, Chinitna Bay, Lake Clark National Park, and Brooks River in Katmai, glacier viewing tours that might include landings and dog sledding, and tours of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the nation’s largest national park with some of the tallest mountains in North America.
Best Air Tours
With dozens of companies offering air tours and most providing a variety of different tours and packages, there is something for everyone. Each one offers a unique perspective and experience. Here are a few of the best Alaska air tours that you might want to consider.
- Denali Air offers tours that depart from a private airstrip just south of the park entrance. Everyone is guaranteed a window seat as the plane flies through the heart of Denali National Park and around Mt. Denali.
- On TEMSCO Helicopters Denali Flightseeing tours, which operate from May 15 to September 15, you will travel through the peaks of the Alaska range, past a 900-foot waterfall, look for bears and other wildlife, and land on a glacier.
- Kantishna Air Taxi, which operates from May to September, has an airstrip in Kantishna inside Denali Park. It takes just one hour to get to the mountain from there, and you will circle the mountain for 40 minutes.
- Regal Air Flightseeing offers a variety of tours year-round lasting from .5 to 3 hours. Water landings are available from May through October. Operating out of Anchorage, destinations include Denali, Knik and Colony Glacier, the Chugach Mountains, and more.
- On Rust’s Flightseeing tours, which operate year-round and last from .5 to 3 hours, every passenger gets a window seat. Flights leave from Anchorage’s Lake Hood and take you to Denali with an optional glacier landing.
- Anchorage Helicopter Tours operate year-round and last from 15 minutes to 2 hours. They travel to remote areas, hidden sites, and provide views of wildlife and glaciers.
- Trygg Air Walrus Viewing and Flightseeing tours are full day trips for walrus viewing from Anchorage.
- Taquan Air Misty Fjords Flightseeing operates from May to September 30, offering 2 hour trips to remote fjords, forests, and lakes in a DeHavilland floatplane. You will fly over Misty Fjords National Monument and see spectacular scenery.
- Helicopter tours from Seward, running from May to mid-September, will take you flying above glaciers, wildlife, alpine meadows, and fjords. You will have the opportunity to touch down and explore the terrain and meet sled dogs.
- Wings Airways & Taku Glacier Lodge runs tours from May 1 through September 30 from Juneau in a 10-passenger De-Havilland Otter floatplane. The “Flight and Feast Tour” includes dining at a 1920s lodge.
These are just a few of the many flightseeing adventures offered in Alaska. With so many choices, you might want to fit in more than one air tour during your vacation. Whichever Alaska air tour you choose, seeing Alaska from the skies is sure to be an adventure that will stay with you forever.