Must-Do Dream Trip: Explore the Tongass National Forest

Alaska is one-fifth the size of all of the rest of the states combined—with 1/434th of the population, which means that its untrammeled mountains, forests, lakes, and shores are paradise for solitude seekers. But you don’t need to be ready to walk hundreds of miles like Mike Fay to see a slice of Alaska’s mind-boggling wilderness.

Fay recommends a simple plan: rent a cabin in the Tongass National Forest. “We’re talking about the largest national forest in the United States,” he says. “They have something like 200 wilderness cabins that are in all kinds of places.” Accessible by trail, canoe, or floatplane, the cabins have little more than a couple of bunks, a stove, and an outhouse, but what they lack in amenities they more than make up for in location, solitude, and views.

“I want to go to ‘em all,” says Fay. “Every place you go here is a new adventure. It’s like ooh this place has a little lake and it's got rainbow trout, ooh this place has beaver dams, ooh this place has brown bears and black bears feeding in this creek, ooh this one has hot springs. Pick one, they’re all fantastic.”

The Tongass National Forest has nearly 200 cabins for rent. Find descriptions of the cabins, prices, and transportation information at the forest’s website then reserve through recreation.gov.