Is Flightseeing in Alaska worth it?

Flightseeing in Alaska is an epic experience of a lifetime, and totally worth the expense if you love epic landscapes and ice and rock and enjoy the experience of flying. If you don’t want to spend the money for flightseeing, you should feel totally fine about skipping it and you’ll still have an amazing trip!

I’m here to break down why flightseeing is awesome as well as the downsides and the very best, most incredible flightseeing tours available in Alaska!

View from the copilot's seat of a small plane in Alaska. Some instruments are viewable in the foreground and lakes, forest and clouds are visible through the window
If you’re lucky, you might get to sit in the copilot’s seat on a small plane! Flightseeing on the way to Katmai National Park.

Related: How to plan a trip to Alaska

Why flightseeing in Alaska is worth it if it’s in your budget

Flightseeing in Alaska is truly unforgettable! These are the main reasons it is worth it (if it’s in your budget):

  • Alaska’s landscapes are epic – mountains, glaciers, rivers, icebergs and more are truly unforgettable from the air
  • Some of Alaska you just can’t see any other way! Most visitors are not going to climb Denali or trek many days into the backcountry to see some of the amazing mountain ranges up close and this is a great way to do it in a short amount of time.
  • You’ll get to see places fewer visitors get to see – this is just one way (not the only one) to see places many people miss
  • You’ll get to experience a unique element of life in Alaska – small plane or helicopter aviation
  • Pay the extra money for the glacier landing – if this is an option (especially in Denali National Park) and you’re already doing flightseeing, pay the extra money for the glacier landing. You will be SO glad you did, it’s unforgettable!

If flightseeing is not in your budget, make sure to snag a window seat on your flight to Alaska and take the day boat tour wherever you are. This will give you an amazing experience without the cost of flightseeing. Don’t worry about it if it’s too expensive!

How much does flightseeing in Alaska cost?

In general, expect flightseeing in Alaska to cost between $200 and $600 per person for a trip from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. Helicopter trips and glacier landing trips are closer to the high end of that range or even a bit higher.

All day trips, such as bear viewing, are more like $1000+ per person.

In general, helicopter trips are more expensive for the time in the sky than fixed wing (small plane) flights. Any flight with a landing costs more that just a flight. A lot of the cost is determined by the length of the flight, so look for a shorter flight without a landing if you want to spend less.

Flightseeing is expensive due to several factors, including a small number of people per plane and the expense of aircraft operations such as pilots and fuel. Flightseeing operators also have to account for cancellations due to weather in their costs.

Downsides of flightseeing in Alaska

There are three downsides to consider if you’re thinking of booking flightseeing in Alaska. These are not reasons not to do it, but they are good to be aware of:

  • Flightseeing is the most prone to weather delays and cancellations out of any tour you can do in Alaska. Small planes and helicopters need more visibility than jets and tour boats, and weather is more unpredictable and varied in places where you go flightseeing (among the tallest mountains in North America or above glaciers for example).
  • It’s expensive – if it’s too big of a stretch for your budget, I encourage you to do something else instead (especially boat trips) and don’t worry about missing out. You’ll still have an amazing trip.
  • Not everyone likes small planes or helicopters – While many people find the experience of flying over epic mountains and icefields in a small plane or helicopter absolutely thrilling, some find it terrifying or just uncomfortable, and that’s ok! This can be a fun way to face your fears for a thrill, but don’t feel like you have to do it if you don’t want to. Do not pressure someone in your group into flightseeing if they don’t want to do it. This is a waste of money and makes for a hard day for everyone.

Best flightseeing in Alaska

If you are going to splurge on flightseeing in Alaska, these are the places that are the MOST worth it, in my opinion. Flightseeing is always spectacular, and Alaska flightseeing operators all have an excellent safety record, these are my favorites for their epicness and unique elements.

  • Denali Glacier Landing – a flight over the highest peak in North America really is unforgettable and possibly the highlight of your entire trip! If you do this, pay the extra bit to land on a glacier in Denali National Park. There’s really nothing else like it.
  • Seward/Harding Icefield – Take a flight from Seward up to the Harding Icefield and land on a glacier on a ski plane and get out and walk around on this massive icy landscape. If you like, you can combine this with a guided ice climbing or hiking adventure.
  • Flight over Katmai National Park’s Volcanoes – this is a truly unique experience, and one you have to get a bit lucky with as far as weather, but if you get the chance to fly over the massive volcanoes of Katmai National Park do it. You can combine this with bear viewing in Katmai or Lake Clark National Park. If you are staying in a remote area in one of these parks and you have the change to do this flightseeing trip, don’t miss it.
  • Wrangell St Elias National Park fly from McCarthy or Chitina over the largest national park in the United States, with truly stunning mountains and glaciers in every direction.
  • Helicopter Glacier dog mushing in Skagway or Juneauthis is my personal favorite of all the flightseeing options in Alaska! You can do this trip in either Juneau or Skagway and not only see breathtaking mountain and glacier sightseeing, you’ll also get to ride along on a dog sled on a glacier!
  • Knik Glacier helicopter landing – another excellent option similar to the Skagway or Juneau tour, especially for those traveling on their own in Alaska. Located in Palmer, Alaska Helicopter Tours offers a relatively short helicopter flight takes you to Knik Glacier. Here you can go for a walk, dog sledding or even glacier paddle boarding!
a helicopter sitting at a dog sled camp on a glacier, with many small dog houses and white tents. There are glaciated mountains and clouds in the background.
Dog sledding camp on a glacier near Juneau. Photo Credit: © State of Alaska/Brian Adams

Final Thoughts

If you have it in your budget and you want to do something epic, while keeping an open mind about weather delays and cancellations, then flightseeing in Alaska is absolutely worth it!

If it’s not in your budget, or you’re not keen on small planes, you can skip it and rest assured that you’ll still have an amazing time on your Alaska trip.

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!