Alaska is big — in more ways than one. Not only is it the largest U.S. state by a wide margin, but it’s also home to the 10 highest mountain peaks in the U.S., hosts far more volcanoes than any other state, and has more coastline than all the other states combined. Of the United States’ estimated 12,479 miles of coastline, Alaska accounts for some 6,640 miles all on its own, at least based on one account by the Congressional Research Service. (Coastlines can be notoriously difficult to measure, and counts do vary.)
Alaska’s coastline borders three seas — the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi — along with the Pacific and Arctic oceans, and it rests in some of the most extreme climates in the world. The coasts themselves have been formed over millions of years by fault tectonics, volcanism, glaciation, fluvial processes, and sea level changes. Most of these beaches aren’t usually very balmy: The southeast section of Alaska’s coast is filled with rocky coasts and sheltered fjords, while in the north, sediment from rivers draining from the Brooks Range and the Canadian Rockies forms deltas. Although these rivers are often frozen, wind pushes sea ice along the shore during the coldest months. So if you’re looking for a place to swim, maybe stick to Key West.
The U.S. federal government recognizes 574 tribes throughout the country — and 227 of those are in Alaska alone (the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognizes an additional two). In fact, nearly one in six Alaskans is considered Native American, which is the highest rate of any U.S. state (although California is home to the most Indigenous people overall). Although the U.S. government has formally recognized Alaska’s 229 tribes, the state of Alaska didn’t follow suit until the summer of 2022, when Governor Mike Dunleavy passed legislation recognizing the tribes and their indelible contributions to the history and culture of Alaska.