For detailed information about any national park, click the park name below. For a list of discounted cruises and cruise tours that visit one of these national parks (or an adjacent town or lodge with access to the park), make your selection and click "Show Me the Deals!" For Gates of the Arctic National Park, select Coldfoot, AK. For Wrangell-St. Elias, select Copper River, AK.
Gates of the Arctic
The pristine wilderness is an irresistible draw for visitors to Alaska and western Canada. Millions of acres of ice, forest, snow and water mix together to create a dynamic habitat for wildlife and a majestic scene to behold. More than half of the parklands in the United States can be found in Alaska, and the raw nature and untouched serenity of these parks are within reach when you travel on a cruise or cruise tour. Many are accessible from ports on a cruise, but some are farther inland and can only be reached on a cruise tour.
The parks and public lands of Alaska and Canada are the perfect backdrop to exciting excursions and hikes. Travel on a guided tour into the deep backcountry of Denali National Park or take a fishing trip in Glacier Bay National Park. Stroll through meadows, marvel at mountains or trek across a glacier. Year-round, the parks can provide enjoyment for travelers of all ages.
With so much of Alaska and western Canada untamed and protected by conservation efforts, there’s a plethora of flora and fauna to admire. Whales in the water and bears on land are the big game to keep an eye out for, though bird-watching and fishing are popular pastimes as well.
Banff National Park
Located in Alberta, at the foot of the Cascade Mountains, Banff National Park (the first park in Canada and third in the world) spans 2,564 square miles of valleys, mountains, rivers, glaciers and forests. Mountain climbing, camping, scuba diving, and wildlife viewing are all popular activities in the summer. If you're not keen on flight-seeing or helicopter rides but want to get the full scope of the scenery, the Banff gondola can give you a different aerial view of the region. You can visit the park on an optional excursion on some Canadian Rockies cruise tours.
Denali National Park
One of the most well-known parks in Alaska is Denali National Park. It is home to Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, which stands an impressive 20,320 feet tall. The park is situated in the middle of the state, north of Anchorage, and is included on most Alaska cruise tour itineraries.
The 6 million acres that comprise the park are a complete subarctic eco-system with 750 species of flowering plants and over 200 birds and mammals. The park is a popular destination for tourists looking to hike, camp and view wildlife, and the grounds of the preserve also serve as a subject for research in the natural sciences. Bus tours run along the 90-mile Denali Park Road, which is closed to private vehicles after Mile 15. Walking and biking are great ways to get to know the park. Visitors also enjoy rafting, hiking and flight-seeing.
Gates of the Arctic National Park
The aptly named Gates of the Arctic National Park in northern Alaska is a vast territory of undisturbed land, even more so than the rest of the untouched state. The seemingly infinite territory is made up of an intricate maze of glaciated valleys, rugged mountains and arctic tundra vegetation. The populations of caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and bears far outnumber the sparse population of roughly 1,500 people.
Adventurous souls wanting to venture to the Gates of the Arctic National Park must travel to Coldfoot, AK—the town sits just outside the park. Cruise tours returning to Fairbanks, AK from Prudhoe, AK spend the night in Coldfoot, AK. To visit the park you must purchase a flight-seeing excursion. These typically depart after dinner. Don’t worry, there is plenty of sunlight since during the Alaskan summer the sun shines until 11pm.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, in southeast Alaska, has a diverse makeup containing snowcapped mountains, protected coves of coastal beaches, deep fjords, tidewater glaciers and coastal waters. While in the park you are never more than 30 miles from the coast, so it is easily accessed by boat or cruise ship.
Rich with marine life, the bay is an important habitat for many species including the endangered humpback whale, threatened Steller sea lion, harbor seals, sea otters and porpoises. The most popular activities in the park focus on the water. Visitors can take boat tours, kayak, raft, fish and go whale-watching. Glacier Bay National Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, is a popular Alaska cruise destination found on many cruise and cruise tour itineraries.
Jasper National Park
Along the border of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, sits Jasper National Park. There are over 650 miles of hiking trails and several spectacular drives that showcase the largest of Canada's Rocky Mountain Parks. The enormous expanse of Maligne Lake can be found in the park; it is the largest glacier-fed lake in the Canadian Rockies at over 13 miles long and more than 300 feet deep. Jasper is connected to Banff National Park to the south by the Icefields Parkway. This road winds through the breathtaking beauty of massive icefields that straddle the Continental Divide. There’s much to do in the park, from spotting an elusive grizzly bear to backpacking a grueling trail. Picnics and educational programming are also possible for a more relaxed experience. On Canadian Rockies cruise tours, you travel via the Rocky Mountaineer® traincar through this park en route to Kamloops. Enjoy the dramatic scenery as you climb over Yellowhead Pass.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park lies along the southeast coast of the Kenai Peninsula, near the town of Seward, Alaska, a common cruise port. Consisting of three major parts (Exit Glacier, Harding Icefield and the coast), Kenai Fjords comprises over 650,000 acres. Exit Glacier, a half-mile wide river of ice, is the easiest section of the park to access. Beautiful tidewater glaciers and abundant marine wildlife are found along the park’s coastline.
Ice and snow cover 60 percent of the park. Along the water massive chunks of ice -- some the size of cars or even houses -- crash from tidewater glaciers into the sea. Glacier tours and wildlife cruises are a great way to take in the spectacular scenery of the park. Princess offers the park as a destination on some cruise tours; other cruise lines offer optional excursions to the park from Anchorage and Seward.
Kluane National Park
Kluane National Park is one of the treasured refuges of the park system in Canada. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and contains Canada’s tallest peak, Mount Logan. The dramatic landscape of the park encompasses glacier-cut valleys speckled with alpine wildflowers and towering peaks of jagged rock. Kluane is closely linked to the Wrangell-St. Elias Park in Alaska, as the two preserves share a border along the Alaska-Canada divide. Kluane National Park is a possible destination on a cruise tour.
A wide array of wildlife can be found in the park: Dall sheep, wolves, grizzly bears, moose and mountain goats. An experienced naturalist can take you through the park or you can hike on your own. Camping, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding and many other wilderness endeavors are possible here.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
The equivalent of six Yellowstones, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest in the U.S. National Park System. Covering over 13 million acres east of Anchorage, this vast expanse of land encompasses impressive mountains, enormous glaciers, surging rivers and abundant wildlife. Princess offers optional excursions to Wrangell-St. Elias as part of cruise tours visiting their Copper River Lodge; other cruise lines offer optional excursions to the park from Anchorage.
The full spread of outdoor activities is available here, including everything from hiking and biking to sportfishing and hunting. Rafting, kayaking and cross-country skiing are also possible. One unique park feature is the now-deserted Kennecott Mine town site, a National Historic Landmark. Copper was first discovered in the area at the turn of the 20th century, but the mines went into full production when the railroad line was completed in 1911. The town thrived until the copper ran out, and then it became a virtual ghost town. A few people call the area home today, living in Kennecott or nearby McCarthy. Several of the structures from the mining days are still standing, making it a great example of early 20th-century copper mining.