Denali National Park and Preserve
"The" mountain. To those who have hiked or dream of hiking in Alaska's 6-million-acre Denali National Park, 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley is "the" mountain. Though the park boasts many wonders-wolves, grizzlies, 430 species of flowering plants, glaciers, tundra-the mountain will most capture your imagination. The hiking opportunities are endless but the backcountry permit system can be complicated. Do your homework, apply early, and be open to options.
Contact: Denali National Park and Preserve, (907) 683-2294; www.nps.gov/dena.
Once known as "the meanest 33 miles in history," the Chilkoot Trail remains a tough hike and a walk back in time. Look for Gold Rush relics along the trail and gold nuggets in the creeks. Or find your own treasure among the craggy mountain peaks and endless waterfalls.
Contact: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, (907) 983-2921; www.nps.gov/klgo.
Chugach National Forest
Often overshadowed by its larger and more controversial cousin, Tongass National Forest, the 5.6-million-acre Chugach is 98 percent roadless and just as wild. Migrate there during spring with millions of shorebirds by walking the 70-mile Resurrection Trail system, or set up a basecamp at one of more than 40 public-use cabins.
Contact: Chugach National Forest, (907) 271-2500; www.fs.fed.us/r10/chugach.