Are there tour options in Alaska for people with limited mobility?
Alaska is a pristine state with unparalleled natural beauty that draws thousands of travelers from all over the world every year. And while it is still a remote, and oftentimes, wild place to visit, our tourism infrastructure has grown to accommodate travelers with mobility limitations.
The Alaska Railroad provides wheelchair lifts at all stations. Passenger trains are wheelchair accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. GoldStar Dome Alaska Railroad cars, and the Wilderness Express and McKinley Explorer private dome cars all have elevators to their second-level seating areas.
The Park Connection, a deluxe motorcoach transportation service, running between the Denali Park area and Seward, operates lift-equipped buses. Because seating needs to be reconfigured, travelers should notify the Park Connection at least 48 hours in advance if wheelchair accessibility is required. Each motorcoach can accommodate up to two wheelchair passengers at one time.
Anchorage is Alaska's largest city and home to about 40 percent of the state's population. Several of the city's favorite cultural sites and outdoor areas are fully accessible. This includes the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center, an indoor and outdoor facility that presents traditional crafts, stages dances, and displays replicas of homes from the area's indigenous groups. Both can be visited at your own pace.
Flightseeing and driving tours are an excellent option for travelers who have some mobility. These include Prince William Sound Flightseeing from Anchorage (requires getting in and out of a small plane), Turnagain Arm Tour (requires stepping in and out of a van, limited walking), and the Chinitna Bay National Park Bear Viewing Flight from Anchorage (requires getting in and out of a plane, limited walking on slightly uneven terrain).
Seward, a small port town on the Kenai Peninsula, is the gateway to the stunning Kenai Fjords National Park. Many visitors opt to experience the park's coastal fjords, tidewater glaciers, and abundant marine wildlife aboard a day cruise. The two largest day tour operators both run boats accessible to manual wheelchairs. The boats cannot accommodate motorized wheelchairs or scooters. With advance notice, the tour operators can provide a manual wheelchair for use onboard as well as for assistance boarding.
A visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center, Alaska's prime marine wildlife rehabilitation facility, is a perfect complement to a day cruise. The center is fully accessible.
The quaint, historic village of Talkeetna is the base of activity for North America's tallest peak, Denali (formerly McKinley). The best way to experience the mountain is via a fixed wing flightseeing tour. These hour-long flights work well for travelers with limited mobility, although they do require two or three steps up into a small plane.
Other, more adventurous, accessible travel activities in the area include a Talkeetna Wilderness Jetboat tour along the Susitna River, or, for those who cannot walk long distances but have better upper body mobility, a relaxed Denali Kayak Trip on Byers Lake.
The Denali Park area is one of Alaska's most popular places to visit. It marks the entrance to Denali National Park and is host to most activities both outside and within the park. Travelers with physical limitations, but who do not rely on a wheelchair or scooter, have many options. The Denali Husky Homestead tour, which takes guests to a working sled dog kennel, requires light walking and standing. Although there are many stops for photo opportunities, less mobile guests on Denali Highway Jeep Excursions can still enjoy the sights from the jeep. The same is true on a Denali Wilderness Side by Side ATV Tour.
Wheelchair bound travelers can also experience Alaska's vast backcountry on a narrated bus tour inside Denali National Park. These bus tours allow you to experience all Denali National Park has to offer, from spruce forest and tundra, to bears, Dall sheep, caribou, and moose. You can travel 30 miles on the Natural History Bus Tour, 62 miles on the Tundra Wilderness, or even 90 miles on the Kantishna Wilderness Experience. Each of these tours run wheelchair accessible buses when requested in advance. All scheduled rest stops are also wheelchair accessible.
Fairbanks, Alaska's "Golden Heart City," is the last stop on the northbound Alaska Railroad. Visitors with physical limitations can discover the town's rich history aboard an authentic sternwheeler on a fully narrated three-hour river cruise.
Planning Your Accessible Alaska Trip
Knowing that the specifics of physical access are particularly important for travelers with limited mobility, Alaska Tour & Travel reservation agents are available to answer questions and help plan an inclusive and bucket-list-worthy travel package.