National parks are at the heart of our Alaska trips. Kenai Fjords, Denali, Glacier Bay, Katmai… Whether you reach them by land on an Alaska national park tour, or by sea on an Alaska national park cruise, we offer the best access, exclusivity and wilderness experience aboard these small ship and wilderness lodge stays.

Skip the crowds and see Alaska national parks at their best, most remote reaches. Learn about choosing an Alaska national park cruise or tour here, then contact our expert team for a more personalized recommendation.

ON THIS PAGE Alaska National Park Tours:
Cruise or Land Tour?
Glacier Bay Alaska National Park Cruises
Kenai Fjords National Park Tours
Denali Alaska National Park Tours
Katmai National Park Tours
Lake Clark National Park Tours

Choosing an Alaska National Park Cruise or Land-Based Tour?

A primer on choosing your Alaska National Park tour or cruise is to understand the diverse landscape of Alaska, and the distances between many of these Alaska national parks.

A map showing the Alaska national parks tour locations of Denali, Lake Clark, Kenai Fjords, Glacier Bay and more.
map via NPS.gov

In some Alaska national parks like Glacier Bay, access is nearly exclusively by ship (unless you flightsee). So even if you choose to stay on land at a lodge versus overnight aboard a ship, you will still take dayboats to explore the park. So oftentimes an overnight cruise is simply more efficient.

At Katmai National Park, your access is via floatplane. You must fly on a floatplane to embark your ship or stay at a lodge in the park. While for a Lake Clark Alaska national parks tour, you’ll arrive via bush plane.

To visit Denali, you’re looking at a combo of cars, buses and trains to access this Alaska national park deep in Alaska’s interior. No cruises here! Although we can easily plan cruises that include Denali National Park before or after the main cruise itinerary begins or ends.

Anchorage is the hub for Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Lake Clark and Denali Alaska national park tours, while Southeast Alaska’s town of Gustavus is the main gateway for Glacier Bay explorations.

Due to the remoteness of each park, some are more difficult than others to combine together into one trip. Our team of Adventure Specialists are adept at making combination Alaska national park cruise itineraries and tours. Let us help you access an Alaska national parks tour with efficiency and ease.

Alaska National Parks Tours – Details of Each Park

While there are 8 national parks in the state, our Alaska national parks tours focus on 5 key parks that offer the most abundant wildlife, ease of access and best boutique wilderness lodges and small ships that match our curated collections worldwide. Learn a bit more about each park and the cruise and land tour itineraries you’ll find there:

Glacier Bay Alaska National Park Cruises

Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska is our most popular Alaska cruise destination, and we offer an option for every travel style and budget. The park covers over three million acres with open ocean and fjord coastlines spanning most of its perimeter. It is famed for its beauty, notably witnessed by John Muir in 1897 and afterwards a long line of distinguished scientists and naturalists. Small ships here can best access many of the coves and landings around these hundreds of miles. Access is nearly exclusively by ship (unless you flightsee), and we offer many diverse itineraries to explore this national treasure.

View all of our Glacier Bay cruise routes (more than 20 to choose from), but a sampling of popular favorites include:

  • Sea Wolf Glacier Bay Adventure – This cruise aboard the historic 12-guest Sea Wolf (pictured above) spends most of its itinerary inside the park. The itinerary travels from waterfall-laden Geike Inlet to the barren mountain faces of the East and West arms.
  • Discover Glacier Bay – Choose from two small historic ships ranging from 8 to 12 guests on this itinerary that spends a full 8 days in the park—much longer than most cruises dedicate.
  • Northern Passages & Glacier Bay – Cruise between Juneau and Sitka over 8 days aboard one of two small adventure ships, ranging in size from 36 to 84 passengers. A day packed with sights is spent inside the park.
  • Inside Passage SojournGlacier Bay & Island Adventure – These two itineraries are run by Alaskan-owned-and-operated small ships ranging from 40 to 49 guests. Each route offers a full day spent in the park, with a special bonus of a Native Huna Tlingit interpretive naturalist coming aboard to reveal the traditional ties to this ancient treasure. 
  • Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness – Over 8 days, join guides from National Geographic & just 100 guests aboard for the premier Alaska cruise in education and guiding. Join Nat Geo’s extended Treasures of the Inside Passage: Alaska & British Columbia cruise to explore more of the coastline.
  • Glacier Bay Backcountry Explorer – This lodge-based trip includes a day cruise into the park, a great option for those who would prefer accommodation in wilderness lodges and B&Bs. This trip also includes a glacier trekking adventure and a scenic flight.

Kenai Fjords Alaska National Park Tours

Covering almost 670,000 acres, Kenai Fjords National Park sits on the Kenai Peninsula in southcentral Alaska, near the town of Seward south of Anchorage. Over 50% of the park is covered in ice, with nearly 40 glaciers flowing from the Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords’ crowning feature. AdventureSmith’s Kenai Fjords National Park tour itineraries are based at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, the only lodge located within the park boundaries, accessed only by dayboat. Our overnight Kenai National Park cruise itineraries range from short 5-day cruises exploring the park, to epic expeditions across the Aleutians to Japan.

As with all our trips worldwide, the best Kenai Fjords tours are those that explore away from the crowds. Thus, we do not offer any day-only Kenai Fjords tours.

  • Kenai Fjords Backcountry Explorer is our itinerary dedicated to best exploring Kenai Fjords. From a spectacular setting on the shore of a protected lagoon in full view of Pedersen Glacier, Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge provides an excellent array of activity choices, including kayaking, and bountiful opportunities for wildlife viewing.
  • Alaska Wildland Collection covers more of the Kenai Peninsula beyond the national park. Raft the Kenai River, explore and hike the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park and then return to Anchorage by the historic Alaska Railroad.
  • Ultimate Alaska Adventure takes adventure to a higher level with more included activities. This trip pairs backcountry adventure and wild Alaska by sea kayaking in Kenai Fjords National Park, flying via helicopter onto a glacial snowpack, taking a floatplane journey to a remote mountain lake, horseback riding in Chugach National Forest, riding the Alaska Railroad and more.
  • Alaska Coast to Denali Journey & Alaska Grand Adventure are options to visit two Alaska national parks: Kenai Fjords and Denali. Cruise to Kenai, visit Denali, then return via historic Alaska railroad. Plus rafting and optional flightseeing!
  • Sea Star Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise is a 5-day cruise devoted fully to Kenai Fjords National Park tours by boat, hike and kayak. No set itinerary allows the captain to explore the best locations each week.
  • Aleutian Islands Odyssey doubles down your Alaska national parks tour by ship, spending a day at Kenai Fjords National Park and another at Katmai National Park on this Alaska to Japan expedition cruise.

Denali Alaska National Park Tours

In addition to the last two trips above that also include Kenai Fjords National Park, there are of course numerous Denali-focused trips that hone in on exploring Alaska’s interior wilderness. Learn more about visiting Denali National Park in our dedicated post on the park and its many tours. There’s so much to say that this Alaska national park has its own dedicated page on our website!

Katmai National Park Tours & Cruises

Katmai has Alaska’s most famous bear viewing. And it’s all about floatplanes on Katmai National Park tours, making accessing this Alaska National Park a big part of the fun and an authentic Alaskan experience. Look to these cruises and land tours to see this park at its finest:

  • Brown Bears of Katmai – A floatplane-accessed tour based at Brooks Lodge on the Brooks River. Watch the bears feed on salmon from the safety of platforms, or choose other adventures from the lodge.
  • Great Alaskan Grizzly Encounter – This is the premier way to most intimately explore the park with a focus on viewing brown bears. Just 8 guests sail aboard this expedition ship, with pre- and post-cruise time in Kodiak.
  • Aleutian Islands Odyssey – Double down your Alaska national parks tour by spending a day at Katmai National Park and another at Kenai Fjords National Park on this Alaska to Japan expedition cruise.
  • Across the Bering Sea – This is a good Alaska national park cruise choice if you’re up for a longer adventure aboard an ice-class, National Geographic expedition ship. Select itineraries visit Katmai National Park in route to the Aleutians, or go as far as Japan.

Lake Clark National Park Tours

Lake Clark is less famous than the previous four Alaska national park tour locations. Why? It’s a roadless wilderness! But all the better for travelers seeking the most wilderness-focused Alaskan national park tour. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve’s 4 million protected acres are the ancestral homelands of the Dena’ina people. This pristine, intact ecosystem sits at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. Trips here are accessed from chartered bush planes that take you from Homer across the Cook Inlet.

  • Alaska Bear Camp Adventure – This remote, off-the-grid Alaskan national park lodge hosts just 14 guests for an unparalleled immersion in wild bear habitat. This is the Alaska national parks tour for those who want premier bear viewing in one of the most off-the-beaten-path parks.

MORE ALASKA RESOURCES:
Alaska Trips
Alaska Trip Reviews
Alaska Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Alaska
Alaska Small Ship Cruises
Small Alaskan Cruise Lines
Glacier Bay Cruises & Tours
Alaska Inside Passage Cruises
Alaska Whale Watching Cruises
Alaska Yacht Charters
Luxury Alaska Cruises
Alaska Family Cruises
Alaska Cruise Deals
Alaska Tours
Visiting Denali National Park

This Alaska National Parks cruise & land tour recap is among AdventureSmith Explorations’ extensive travel resources. Contact us for more tips & real-time availability for planning your Alaskan national park tour.