“The Last Frontier” lives up to its nickname with its numerous small towns. Some of Alaska’s small towns have under 500 year-round residents which make them some of the most unique and secluded vacation destinations. Each small town has its own character and slice of the beautiful Alaskan wilderness. America By Rail offers tours every year throughout Alaska, including the Alaska by Rail tour that lets you explore all of Alaska’s best regions. Take a detour through the big cities to visit Alaska’s hidden gem small towns.
With a small population of 428, it’s not hard to avoid the crowds in Gustavus. The small town is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park and surrounded by the Tongass National Forest. If you love the outdoors, Gustavus is the ideal place to explore. You can hike, fish, kayak and view the glaciers in the national park. If you want to experience the local charm, you can bike the town’s few roads to local shops or grab a bite to eat at the Clove Hitch Cafe. You can get to Gustavus by ferry from Juneau or by jet.
Angoon is located on the southwest side of Admiralty Island in Alaska’s panhandle. The small town has only 444 year-round residents but is known to have more bears than people. The town’s people call the area “Xootsnoowu” which means “Fortress of the Bears” because of the over 1,500 brown bears that call the area home. You can see some of these bears at the Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area managed by the U.S Forest Service. Angoon is also known for its great fishing spots where you’ll be able to catch halibut or salmon.
Whittier was cleverly nicknamed “The Town Under One Roof” because a majority of its 214 residents live in one building. The town is also the gateway to Prince William Sound where several cruise ships port each year to admire the untouched wilderness. You can visit the Prince William Sound Museum to learn more about the town’s military history. Visitors can also enjoy exploring the wilderness around the sound, kayaking on the harbor, or taking a glacier tour. Whittier is an easy drive from Anchorage and is a stop on the Alaskan Railroad.
Also located on the Alaskan panhandle, Kake is situated on the northwest side of Kupreanof Island. Kake has been home to the Tlingit indigenous people for thousands of years and a majority of its population of 563 people are of Tlingit heritage. Visit during the summer and attend the annual Dog Salmon Festival. The Kake Tribal Corporation puts on the event every year to celebrate the bounty of the land through free food, games and tribal dances. One of the world’s largest totem poles from a single tree is also in Kake and stands at 128 feet tall.
This town with a population of 219 is located in the Kenai Peninsula bordering the Chugach National Forest. The town was on the original Iditarod Trail and was named Moose Pass because the town’s first mail carrier had trouble getting around the moose on his mail route. Its location near the national forest makes it a great destination for hiking or enjoying the forest views from one of the town’s secluded bed and breakfasts. “Flightseeing” is also a popular attraction where visitors board a small plane and catch scenic views of the town from the sky. The town is also a stop on the Alaskan railroad as its location is 100 miles south of Anchorage and 30 miles north of Seward.
The best part about traveling to Alaska is the eclectic mix of people and its relaxing wilderness setting. You’ll get the best of both worlds when you tour through its small towns throughout the state. America By Rail’s Alaskan tours stop in some of Alaska’s major cities, but also give you a chance to visit destinations off the beaten path.