Planning your own self-directed Alaskan Vacation is a great alternative to an Alaskan Cruise. Alaskan Cruises are a great value and they provide an excellent product, but you are also getting the same experience that everyone else on the cruise is getting. If you want to choose the path least tread upon and experience Alaska on your own terms, here are some great Alaskan Travel Guides for planning that adventure.
The web is a great resource and, let’s face it, is likely to have more current information than a book, but you have to know what you’re looking for. Books can give a more complete picture, are easy to navigate, and develop their own character over time. Dog ears, sticky notes, paper scraps in between the pages, notes and doodles in the margins, and any number of other things can turn a normal book into a travel companion.
Alaskan Travel Guides
Here are some Alaskan Travel Guides that have stood the test of time and are chock full of detailed information and guidance to help your Alaska Trip Planning.
The Milepost 2018: Alaskan Travel Planner
If you only have a single source of information in your bag, this is the one to have. The Milepost Guides have been the best Alaskan Travel Guides since 1949, and my family has used The Milepost as a reference since I was a child growing up here in Alaska. We buy a new one every few years and it lives in our vehicle full-time.
The Milepost contains mile-by-mile information on every highway and community in Alaska, including Trans-Alaskan highway through Canada. Road Trips are a part of life in Alaska, and if you want to know what’s up the road or around the next corner, this is the book for you. If you are going the extra mile and driving to Alaska from the Lower 48, this book is a must-have.
They also have a great website which even includes Alaskan Cruise info: www.themilepost.com
Travelers Guide to Alaskan Camping
The Travelers Guide to Alaskan Camping is the definitive guide for RV’ers and car campers in Alaska. Are you out on a remote highway and need to know where the closest dump station is? Been driving for hours and need to find a camp spot to pitch a tent? This is the book for you!
This book is 500 pages focused on campsites and RV parks on every highway and community in Alaska. With an RV and this book, who needs an Alaskan Cruise? This book lives in our bookshelf for planning our trips, but we take it with us every time we take a Road Trip.
Alaska on the Go
Erin Kirkland is an Alaskan journalist, outdoor enthusiast and dedicated mom who has accumulated her outdoor experiences with her family into a this excellent guide book. This book makes Alaska more accessible for families who need some tips and guidance on exploring with their kids. Topics range from what to consider packing to where to explore in Alaska, all with an eye on getting the kids out for a successful Alaskan adventure. For our family, the best part of Alaska is exploring it with our kids. If you are exploring Alaska with kids, this book or the authors website are great resources.
Check out the Alaska On the Go Website here: http://akonthego.com
The Highway Angler
Alaska and Fishing go hand in hand. If you have a larger budget it’s not that difficult to hire a fishing guide that will handle everything for you and take you to the most beautiful and serene fishing locations in the world. But if you want to direct your own Alaskan vacation on your schedule then this is a great guide for finding great fishing that is accessible from the road system, along with information on gear and regulations. No need to pack your fishing gear with you. If you’re in one of the larger towns you can grab the basics at Walmart, Fred Meyers or any number of sporting goods stores inexpensively.
Alaska Road & Recreation Atlas
Alaskan Atlas and Gazeeter:
My wife and I are map junkies, and we love both of these books. The Alaska Atlas and Gazeeter has been right next to our Milepost for years, but we found the Alaska Road and Recreation Atlas at Costco recently and were really attracted to it. Either will do nicely for any map junkie.
Both contain full detailed maps of the state and road system as well as some useful information and data about particular areas. In addition to maps these guides are also great primers for information such as Hunting and Fishing spots, Hiking Trails, Museums etc. Very handy for getting that ‘birds eye’ view of things to determine what you want to put more energy researching.
55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska
Best Hikes near Anchorage
If you’re up here for the hiking then, of course, a hiking guide book is pretty handy! This is one guide that you really want something specific to the area you will be travelling in. Alaska is a third of the size of the United States, and any Hiking guide book that covers the state is either going to be huge or only have the most popular routes. Here are two that we use for hiking ideas and information in Southcentral Alaska.
Travelers come to Alaska for any number of reasons, and there are niche guides for whatever you might be into. Here are some other books to consider that my wife and have found valuable over the years.
Kayaking & Camping in Prince William Sound
Kayaking Prince William Sound is my wife and I’s absolute favorite thing to do in Alaska. With a title meant specifically for us, we were instantly attracted to this book and not disappointed. It has great information for anyone exploring Prince William Sound, not just kayakers.
The Kenai Canoe Trails
The Kenai Canoe Trails are definitely off of the beaten path for most Alaskan visitors. The year my wife and I were planning our first canoe adventure in this area is the same year we had our first daughter. Our plans were merely delayed and now that the kids are older we’re looking forward to exploring this area more.
A Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers
Alaska’s Wild Plants
Both of these books are excellent guides to the plant life you are likely to find in Alaska. The Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers is the more comprehensive of the two, while Alaska’s Wild Plants is the more concise and compact of the two – you would hardly notice it in your backpack. This guide also has a focus on the edible plants in Alaska. There’s a surprising amount of food in the wilderness waiting for you to nibble on for those who know what to look for.
Cautionary Note: there’s bad stuff out there too so use caution!
No matter what your Alaskan vacation consists of, do your homework and be prepared! Don’t let the beauty of Alaska fool you – it is a rugged and unforgiving land for the unwary.
Check out my post on the 8 Must Pack items for any Alaskan Adventure for more helpful tips.
Links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links and all proceeds go to support this site – thank you! However, if you are traveling thru Anchorage and don’t need your books right away, let me recommend the best bookstore you’ve never heard of: Title Wave (http://www.wavebooks.com/). Title Wave is our local used book store and has a huge selection of Alaskan books and guides. Our family goes there almost weekly to browse for new reads. The Alaska section is right up front and probably has most of the titles below for great prices.
Either way you support the Alaskan economy so check it out!