Alaska has been on our bucket list for quite some time. Instead of just checking it off, our visit has only created more reasons to go back. Our Alaska float plane rides were the best parts of our trip!
Alaska is a huge state. Even in person, you can’t seem to grasp the scale of everything you’re experiencing. I’ve never felt so small in comparison to my surroundings, yet the grandeur makes you feel larger than life. What made us feel even smaller? Exploring from the air on an Alaska float plane tour.
As we began planning our trip, our list of desired experiences kept growing. We love scenic road trips, and couldn’t wait to experience this new landscape. With so much to see and limited time, we had to narrow down our list.
Aerial Exploration: Alaska Float Plane Tours
We were excited to ask our friends in Alaska what they recommended as “must-do” experiences from a local perspective. Everyone seemed to agree that we’d need to see Alaska from the air to understand the vastness of it. Getting a birds eye view of the water, mountains and most of all, glaciers, were our number one priority!
Our friends in Anchorage suggested that Rust’s Flying Adventures was the place to go for a scenic flight. After talking to the friendly staff at Rust’s, they suggested two different styles of scenic flights. The first would be flying a float plane through the Chugach mountains, over the Price Williams Sound and surrounding glaciers. The second flight would include flying around Denali, America’s tallest peak and landing below on Ruth Glacier. Between the two flights, we were sure to get a good taste of Alaska!
There is no quick way to get to Alaska, however, our flight into Anchorage was stunning. I won’t forget our first preview of the impressive Chugach range. The next day we made our way to Hood Lake, the world’s largest and busiest floatplane base. We were greeted by our friendly and well-seasoned bush pilot, Bruce, who had spent his life flying planes all over the world.
Bruce informed us that the Prince William Sound route is one of his favorites. We loaded into a small deHaviland Beaver plane, each getting our own window seat and two way radio. Taking off from the water was a new experience for us. As we left Anchorage, we followed the Turnagain Arm, flying along the Chugach Mountains.
Checking out the Wildlife from an Alaskan Float Plane
We were lucky enough to take in some of the local wildlife, including Dall sheep high on the cliffs, a black bear and even a few whales surfacing as we flew over the Prince William Sound. From above we could see the valleys where the receding glaciers touch the rivers. All of the glacier water merges into massive blue-colored fjords and inlets. The highlight of this trip was the water landing near a glacier where we had a little bay to ourselves. We took a moment to enjoy the stunning scenery and solitude.
Throughout our flight we both felt speechless and overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery. I had experienced large mountains before, but never so many, so close and with so many glaciers and the sea to compliment the view! But we knew that our flying days weren’t over yet, and after such an exciting experience I couldn’t wait for our Alaska float plane tour of Denali.
Denali by Air
We had to get up early and drive to Talkeetna, a cute town on the southern end of Denali National Park. It was a gorgeous bluebird morning, and we caught our first glimpse of the magnificent Denali as we were driving along the highway. We checked in to the Denali Bluffs Hotel, grabbed our overboots to keep our feet dry once we landed on the glacier, and loaded the DeHavilland Turbine Otter.
This plane was slightly larger than the float plane from the day before. We still had our own windows, but this time we were ready to land on a glacier! As we left Talkeetna, we flew over the mighty Susitna River and up the valley towards the Alaska Mountain Range. The forest landscape below started evolving into the tundra, and the hills were replaced by mountains.
As the plane turned, what looked like a large cloud system on the horizon started to transform into the silhouette of the massive peak. Denali is such a large mountain that it has its own weather patterns. The peaks can be rather elusive to get a clear view of, but we were in luck that day! We flew next to the jagged ridges that were delicately covered in overhanging cornus. There were massive glacier fields and equally impressive “smaller” peaks. We saw the climbers’ basecamp before preparing ourselves to get a small taste of what these mountaineers experience.
Descending onto the Glacier
I felt as if we were shrinking as we descended below the the massive heights. We were greeted with a lovely glacial breeze as we stepped off the plane. We spent 20 minutes just soaking in the experience. Surrounded by 360 degrees of granite peaks, I found myself disoriented by the scale of how huge everything was, and overwhelmed by the majestic experience. We loaded back up and tried to soak in every view as we made our way back towards Talkeetna, watching where the glaciers turned into rivers, flowing back through the forest, and toward the valley we started in. An Alaska float plane tour is definitely the best way to experience the Alaskan wilderness.
As we left Talkeetna, I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude. It’s truly special to experience this place in such an intimate way. Seeing Alaska from a float plane was truly the best way to appreciate the scale of the landscape. It was easily one of the most exciting and memorable experiences we’ve ever had. Seeing Alaska in this lens left me craving more, and with an appreciation of just how vast Alaska is. I can’t wait to go back for more.
Check out our Alaska road trip itinerary to help plan your trip!