Sharing the Alaska outdoors together is what it's all about! Sitting around the campfire with friends and family, telling stories of the day's events or planning future trips adds to the experience in ways impossible to express with words on a page. Let's look at some ideas for families involved in the Alaska outdoors!
Many people move to Alaska specifically for the purpose of experiencing the outdoors together; to share in many rich experiences as a couple, or to build wilderness skills and ethics into their children, that will become part of them and future generations. Some families see Alaska as a step back into a simpler time filled with raw nature and a connection with wild places that are all but gone in other parts of the country. For the fortunate few who were born here, this is a home like no other. Whatever your motivation or perspective, Alaska is a great place for growing families.
Resources for Families
There are no lack of outdoor activities for families to do together in Alaska! Whether you are a couple, a young family, a single parent with kids, raising teenagers or if you are grandparents looking to rediscover the outdoors through the eyes of your grandchildren, there is something for you. Let's look at some areas of interest.
One of the best ways to introduce children to the Alaska outdoors is through wildlife viewing or bird watching. Some families make a master list of Alaska's species, checking them off as they are discovered. Because some species are common, chances of success are high. This keeps younger children interested, while the older siblings can take their time rounding out the list with more unusual species.
Hiking as a family is a great bonding experience that offers many opportunities to teach wilderness skills, the proper use of equipment and how to safely interact with the wilderness. Regardless of where you live in Alaska, hiking opportunities exist right out your front door. Even Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, offers many biking and hiking trails within city limits. Many areas have maintained public trails nearby, with varying degrees of difficulty to choose from. Out Bookstore has an entire section of trail maps you can check for trails that meet your time constraints and can fit within the skill level and endurance of your family.
One of the great benefits of hiking, besides the physical conditioning aspects, is how inexpensive it is. While more aggressive trails might require an upgrade in footwear, and extended hikes might require a backpack and good rain gear, you get to call the shots on what you want to spend.
Avoid overdoing it with small children. Most of them have a short attention span, and can quickly lose interest or become tired. Choose shorter hikes, perhaps those that end at a wildlife viewing area. Bring along a binocular to look at wildlife, or perhaps a wildlife identification guide. Teach the kids how to identify plants, birds and mammals they are likely to encounter along the way. Our bookstore contains an entire section devoted to these resources; pick one up and give it a try!
Here is a short list of things to bring along on a day hike:
- Sturdy footwear
- Outerwear that matches the climate
- Rain gear
- Trekking pole or walking stick
- Pepper spray or firearm for bear protection
- Guidebook for identifying plants, birds and animals
- Small day pack
- Water bottle
- Small first-aid kit containing Band-aids
- Bug spray / mosquito head net
Regardless of how you do it, overnighting away from home is always an adventure! It doesn't matter if you use an RV, if you camp in a campground or if you hike in to an area and camp in the woods; it's a great experience. There are no lack of campsites almost anywhere in Alaska. Check our Places pages for camping opportunities in the various areas of the state.
Kids love to fish! But the key is keeping their interest level up. Eventually they will learn that, most of the time, you won't catch a fish on every cast. But in the mind of a young child, it's all about action! Fortunately, many parts of Alaska enjoy times of abundance during certain seasons. Learn these seasons and you'll dramatically increase your "catching" opportunities, which helps to keep the kids engaged in the process. And by taking the pressure off in that area, you can take more time teaching them the skills involved and the ethical principles that are important to you.
Pink salmon are by far the most abundant species in Southeast, the Kenai Peninsula, and South-central Alaska. Review our pages on these areas for run timing, and our Pink Salmon Page for species information, terminal gear, and rod and reel setups for catching pinks.
Rainbow trout are a popular species to catch, and shore-based opportunities exist in many areas. In some cases, a boat helps to get you out where the fish are, and also keeps the kids contained so nobody wanders off while you're not looking. Rainbows will take a variety of artificial and, where legal, bait such as worms and salmon eggs. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocks rainbow trout in many areas; check their website for stocking details. Lakes are often a good bet, as rivers can be a bit more challenging for small children due to the current. Check our Rainbow Trout page for details on rigging and locations.
Grayling are easy to catch and will keep children excited and engaged. They are common in many areas of the state, and can be managed quite well on smaller rods and reels designed for kids. Check our Grayling Page for more information.
Many families introduce their children to Alaska hunting at an early age. Often it starts with helping mom and dad process moose or caribou meat after the fall harvest, during which many discussions can take place about where our food comes from, our place in the ecosystem and things we can do to hunt safely and responsibly. As children mature, many of them are naturally drawn to hunting. Take your time in training them with the necessary skills, and be patient. Each one learns in different ways.
Many Alaska families enjoy trapping during the winter months, both as a way to teach children about nature, and to teach the value of doing honest, quality work to earn money. Though fur prices vary from year to year, prime hides that have been properly cared for can fetch top dollar, and the funds can be used to support the outdoor recreation budget used for other pursuits throughout the year.
With the exception of some parts of Southeast Alaska, much of the state offers great cross-country or downhill ski opportunities. Many families see skiing trips as a great time of bonding together, especially when the day ends at a lodge or in a hot tub while you watch the northern lights dancing overhead.