The Aleuts called it Alyeska -- the Great Land. A place of soaring peaks, sweeping landscapes, and mighty rivers. Everything in Alaska seems larger than life. It is the Last Frontier.
Alaska isn't just a place you visit, it's a feeling you experience, and remember for a lifetime. No wonder people say once you've gone to Alaska, you never come all the way back.
Alaska is a land of almost unimaginable scale. Stretching across 586,000 square miles of untamed wilderness, Alaska is one-fifth the size of the contiguous United States.
It contains the tallest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley, which many Alaskans simply call "the mountain." And of course, the Land of the Midnight Sun has longer summer days than any other state.
The majestic landscape borders two oceans and three seas, with a 47,300-mile coastline. Alaska boasts over three million lakes, 3,0000 rivers, 1,800 islands, and more than 100,000 glaciers.
Alaska is so big it encompasses dozens of ecosystems, from the dry arctic tundra, to the moist rain forest of the Inside Passage. In a place of such enormous variety, don't be surprised to find the unusual -- like a desert of sand dunes in Kobuk Valley National Park.
Some sites in the state boast snow and ice year-round, even when temperatures soar to 80F. Glacial ice has been here since the dawn of time, and even the endless summer sunshine has little effect.
As they slowly advance and recede, the massive glaciers pulverize rocks, literally grinding boulders into soil. Glacial melt, which creates cold and swift streams and rivers, carries tons of soil downstream. After millions of years, this process has given Alaska many broad valleys and plains blessed with rich, fertile earth.
For many visitors, a walk on ancient glacial ice is the experience of a lifetime. Listen carefully, and you can even hear the glaciers move.
People come from around the world to view Alaska's northern lights, the aurora borealis. One of natures most inspiring sights, the northern lights appear most often on cold, clear nights from late August through April. Created by the earth's magnetic field, these curtains of yellow, green, and red light dance silently across the sky.
The bore tide is another Alaska wonder. In Cook Inlet, a strong spring tide may come in so quickly that it becomes a wall of water several feet high, traveling at speeds up to 10 knots.
Volcanoes are a sight most visitors don't expect. Located on the Pacific "ring of fire," Alaska has experienced four volcanic eruptions since 1986.
Alaska's volcanic history is easily seen in the eerie landscape of Katmai National Park and Preserve. This is just one of 15 national-parks, preserves and monuments in Alaska. The state has another 225 parks. In all, Alaska contains over 313 million acres of public lands.
Many people think summer is the only time to visit Alaska -- and the long, warm days are unspeakably beautiful. But so are the crisp blue skies above a blanket of white in winter. Or the trembling golden leaves of autumn. And meadows painted with the wildflowers of spring are a sight never forgotten. Whenever you visit, you'll discover that Alaska is a land of mountain spires, of mighty rivers and of whispering breezes.