The Best Counties to Buy Land in Alaska

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The Best Counties to Buy Land in Alaska

Bart Waldon

With over 365 million acres spanning dazzling terrain from icy mountain peaks to expansive tundra, Alaska offers no shortage of land investment potential. But pinpointing prime counties to stake a claim requires analysis beyond picturesque vistas. Statistics around population flow, development momentum, and infrastructure growth highlight emerging opportunity zones within Alaska's expansive borders.

Recent Census Bureau estimates show the Matanuska-Susitna Borough leading growth trends in the state. Fueled by access to Anchorage opportunities paired with lower prices, the county witnessed a 4% jump last year - over triple Alaska’s average. Comparatively, the Fairbanks North Star Borough lagged at just 1.2%, likely hampered by higher costs of living. Drilling deeper, Matanuska-Susitna also issued over $255 million in building permits in 2023, dwarfing other Alaskan counties. With indicators pointing to sustained growth in years ahead, the Matanuska-Susitna region shows strong promise for prospective land buyers seeking both future appreciation and current value.

This article explores the top counties for private land ownership in Alaska based on five key factors:

  1. Development Potential
  2. Scenic Beauty & Wildlife
  3. Access to Amenities
  4. Affordability
  5. County Plans & Demographics

We’ll analyze how these metrics apply to the different regions of Alaska and make recommendations on the best areas to consider when searching for land to buy.

Regional Comparison for Buying Land in Alaska

Broadly, Alaska has five distinct regions:

Southcentral Alaska, surrounding Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula, offers the best access to amenities like roads, healthcare, schools, and more. This region sees the most tourism and has moderate weather patterns. Population: ~400,000

Southeast Alaska located along the Alaska Panhandle near glaciers and the Inside Passage waterways appeals for its gorgeous scenery but deals with lots of rainfall. Juneau is the capital. Population: ~75,000

Interior Alaska centered around Fairbanks features extreme cold but offers wilderness, auroras, Chena Hot Springs and agriculture opportunities. Population: ~100,000

Southwest Alaska includes the Aleutians chain, Kodiak Island, Bristol Bay and Katmai National Park known for fishing/crabbing, volcanoes and brown bears. It's remote with storms. Population: ~50,000

North Slope and Arctic Alaska span the Brooks Mountain Range to Arctic coastal lands and see extreme cold temperatures. Oil drilling happens, but minimal development otherwise. Population: ~10,000

Below, we analyze key factors to determine the best regions and counties for buying affordable land in Alaska that is suitable for building or recreational use.

Top Factors for Buying Land in Alaska

Development Potential

Southcentral and Interior Alaska offer the most potential for development of land since they have the highest populations and existing infrastructure. Southcentral has the most moderate weather patterns while Fairbanks area deals with extreme cold. Southeast Alaska deals with high rainfall. The Southwest coastal regions and North Slope above the Arctic Circle have harsh weather challenges and very sparse existing development.

For building residential or commercial structures, connecting to electricity, heating fuel, telephone/internet, accessing building supplies etc, Southcentral communities surrounding Anchorage and in Matanuska-Susitna Valley as well as Fairbanks North Star Borough are the top locations to buy land. These regions offer the best development potential.

Scenic Beauty & Wildlife

All regions of Alaska offer spectacular scenery and wildlife opportunities from glacier-carved mountains, sparkling rivers and vast valleys to bear, moose, caribou and more. Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage and glacier coastlines are exceptionally beautiful as are Southwest coastal regions like Katmai and the Aleutians. Denali National Park and preserves near Fairbanks also provide sublime scenery and wildlife.

If buying recreational land for hunting, fishing, wilderness escapes or to build a vacation property, coastal regions in Southeast, Southcentral and Southwest Alaska are top choices for beauty although less accessible. The Interior around Fairbanks offers great auroras viewing, hot springs and recreation as well. Recreational lands allow seasonal-use buildings.

Access to Amenities

Southcentral Alaska has the best infrastructure with highways, healthcare facilities, schools, stores, businesses and airports. The towns of Palmer, Wasilla, Kenai and Homer in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Kenai Peninsula Boroughs are popular choices here. Fairbanks also offers strong infrastructure as Alaska’s second-largest city.

Southeast communities like Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Skagway offer amenities too but are only accessible by plane or boat. Southwest towns on Kodiak Island and the Aleutians also rely on air or water access. These regions work for buying recreational lands to escape to, not for permanent residences. Healthcare access is limited.


The Matanuska-Susitna Valley north of Anchorage tends to offer the most affordable lands in developed areas of Alaska while still providing scenic views and recreation options. Southeast Alaska, which is near timber areas, offers affordability too.

Further from infrastructure, more remote parcels in Southwest Alaska or the Interior can also be lower priced but require air access and have minimal facilities nearby. Work with a local real estate professional to understand tax costs and confirm if land leasing or permitting applies on state or federal lands.

County Plans & Demographics

Matanuska-Susitna Valley in Southcentral is seeing strong population growth as people migrate from Anchorage but still want access to the city. Infrastructure development is expanding here, including Settler’s Bay State Recreation Area. The governments in Anchorage, Fairbanks North Star and Kenai Peninsula Boroughs also have plans for continued measured growth.

Compare area plans for development projects, population changes, resource management, schools, healthcare etc., when evaluating counties to understand future directions. Connect with a local real estate agent who is acquainted with sales trends and county comparisons, too. They can advise on locations primed for growth.

Best Counties for Buying Land in Alaska

Given the analysis on development potential, scenery, access to amenities, affordability and local area plans, here are the top county recommendations for buyers wanting land in Alaska:

1. Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Encompassing the Matanuska-Susitna Valley just north of Anchorage, this Southcentral borough spans 25,000 square miles. With its gorgeous mountain views, forests, rivers and lakes, MSB offers a tremendous variety of scenic land parcels at affordable prices.

As Anchorage expands, MSB towns like Palmer, Wasilla, Big Lake and Talkeetna are seeing rising populations. New infrastructure development makes this region ideal for everything from residential subdivisions to recreational wilderness properties. Partial grid power is expanding. Accessible by the Parks Highway and Alaska Railroad.

Pluses: Affordability, population/jobs growth, moderate weather, spectacular views, recreation options, timber and agricultural potential

Consider Matanuska-Susitna Valley towns like Houston, Willow, Talkeetna and Palmer when searching for land here. Prime investment potential.

2. Kenai Peninsula Borough

The Kenai Peninsula juts off Southcentral Alaska with fishing towns like Soldotna, Homer and Seward situated along the highway system. Marvelous ocean coastlines, mountains and glaciers provide stunning scenery while fishing/wildlife abound. Popular tourism activities also boost the region.

Home prices get pricier closer to Homer, but wonderful parcels with water or mountain views are available inland. On-grid power access ranges 60-95%. Healthcare facilities located in most communities. Access is via Seward Highway or Alaska Marine Highway ferry.

Pluses: Scenic beauty, wildlife, good infrastructure/amenities, fishing/tourism economy

Consider riverfront or wooded properties inland from Homer/Soldotna or along the Sterling Highway stretching to Cooper Landing. Stunning lands to buy.

3. Fairbanks North Star Borough

Centered around Alaska’s second largest city, the Fairbanks North Star Borough spans the Interior region north of the Alaska Range. Long cold winters are offset by incredible auroras displays. Proximity to Denali National Park, hot springs, recreation areas and diverse wildlife make the region appealing.

With an economy buoyed by Fort Wainwright Army Base, University of Alaska-Fairbanks and mining, Fairbanks provides healthcare facilities, cultural attractions and other infrastructure for quality living. Access via major highways and railroad. Grid power ranges 85-95% availability.

Pluses: Strong infrastructure/economy, extreme seasons offset by hot springs/auroras, recreation & mining

Focus land searches on areas south and west of Fairbanks which offer expansive views and woodlands. Airport is here too. Prime region for building or recreational parcels.

Work with Local Experts

While this overview highlights some of the best areas for buying land across Alaska, connecting with borough officials, real estate agents, appraisers and financiers acquainted with different parcels, tax implications and local development directions is essential. Alaska's sheer size, alongside diverse landscapes and remote aspects make on-the-ground expertise invaluable. They know the communities and can advise on smart locations to purchase for your goals.

Land can sell quickly in and around Anchorage as well as prized areas like Homer and Talkeetna. Be prepared to act faster once you pinpoint preferred parcels. Getting prequalified for financing will help make offers more competitive. Alaska's independent spirit continues attracting those seeking freedom. Perhaps you’ll soon claim your own stunning swath; a property where wilderness, room to roam and Northern Lights await.

Final Thoughts

With dreamy landscapes spanning glaciers, mountains, forests and shimmering seas, Alaska's sheer beauty entices land buyers seeking to stake their claim in its expansive wilds. Yet from its Southcentral cities to remote reaches above the Arctic Circle, choosing where to put down stakes requires evaluating key factors like development potential, access to amenities, weather patterns and area growth. Regions like the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Kenai Peninsula, and Interior around Fairbanks rise to the top as locations are primed for building residential or recreational properties. Their existing infrastructure, moderate climates and unfolding growth provide sound foundations upon which to construct your own Alaskan story. Seek local real estate expertise so the right land opportunities don't slip away as quickly as the Northern Lights. Then watch your vision unfold amid some of the world's most glorious scenery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the best areas of Alaska to buy affordable land?

The Matanuska-Susitna Valley north of Anchorage tends to have the most affordable land prices while still offering nice views and recreation opportunities. Areas off the main highways in Interior Alaska and timber regions of Southeast Alaska can also have lower-priced land parcels. However, infrastructure and development is far more limited in these remote regions versus Southcentral communities.

What type of land is best for building my Alaska dream home?

Prioritize areas like the Matanuska-Susitna borough and towns outside Anchorage or Fairbanks which have road connectivity, electrical power access, and construction resources nearby. Bush planes can access remote wilds but building will prove extremely difficult without proper transport of supplies. Recreational-use cabins have different standards than residential homes. Areas on the main highway grids also simplify commuting into job centers.

Should I buy land in Alaska sight unseen?

It is never advisable to purchase land without seeing it first or fully researching the area via local real estate professionals. Alaska's remote aspects mean significant due diligence is essential to evaluate parcel access, terrain, soil stability, flood risks, wildlife patterns and other factors that can profoundly impact costs and development feasibility. Seventy percent of Alaska lands have wetlands issues. Visit first or work closely with local agents experienced in the target region.

What permits and regulations govern land development projects in Alaska?

All projects must comply with borough land ordinances around zoning, platting, construction standards and more. Wetlands usage restrictions often apply per federal law. In remote areas, sustainable hydropower, well or septic requirements come into play too for self-sufficient living. Recreational lands usually limit days occupied. Understand all codes, permits needed and site feasibility with qualified professionals before purchasing.

Should I lease or buy Alaska lands?

Alaska allows temporary leasing of state and borough native corporation lands via competitive bid for up to 55 years. Leasing avoids large upfront costs and property taxes but means you don’t own the land. Converting leased land to private later is difficult. Purchased lands become your asset but require financing, taxes and careful site choice. Weigh options based on costs, intended use and if you want fixed long-term rights. Expert guidance in navigating leasing vs buying processes is key.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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