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Get Inspired For many people, a trip to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime dream fulfilled. For others, it’s a return to one of their favorite places on the planet. And some visit once and decide to make the state their home. There are reasons aplenty to come to the Great Land and explore: An abundance of wildlife, unique cultural experiences, and unparalleled scenery are just a few. Building time into your itinerary to relax and absorb the small delights is always a good idea, too—enjoying quirky cafes, strolling through a boat harbor, groovin’ to some live local music. And if you’ve never been here, we hope these photos nudge you to start planning. Who knows, in just a few short months, you could be watching humpback whales bubble-net feeding or be flightseeing around the summit of Denali. After all, every adventure starts with an inspiration. —Susan Sommer 1. A pair of…

By Steven Merritt Just like checking the hiking box for Flattop Mountain in Anchorage is a must for visitors or newcomers alike to southcentral Alaska, no trip to Whittier would be complete without a side trip on the Portage Pass Trail, which offers access to Portage Lake and unmatched views of Portage Glacier. While the Begich, Boggs Visitors Center in Portage Valley is a great jumping off point to catch a ride on the M/V Ptarmigan for a lake tour to the glacier, earning the view with your feet is a rewarding option. Once through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel into Whittier, an access road to the small U.S. Forest Service trailhead is just to the right. The trail ascends some 800 feet in less than a mile before cresting at Portage Pass, where the glacier and lake emerge in a broad panorama. Looking back gives hikers a great view…

Despite an economy driven by oil and commercial fishing, Valdez earns the moniker “Little Switzerland” honestly. The city of around 4,000 people rests in a deep fjord beneath the 5,000-foot peaks of the Chugach Mountains, with waterfalls cascading down lush green hillsides at every turn and calm, clear waters lapping along the small boat harbor of Port Valdez.