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itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

california
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itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

I would love the advice of this community on my rough itinerary, thank you in advance.

I'm planning a trip for five adults (two couples, one grown son), with the primary purpose of seeing the Northern Lights. I've researched what kinds of activities and park access will be available at this time, so I know what to expect in general. We arrive in Anchorage on Friday and fly out of Fairbanks on Tuesday.

We arrive in Anchorage at 12:30pm and will rent a car. I'm planning to take us down to the Portage Glacier and Whittier area for the day. I anticipate we will be done there around 5pm.

1. Should I plan to spend the night in Anchorage, or is it reasonable to start driving to our next destination? The next destination would be somewhere between Anchorage and Fairbanks. We don't mind driving long distances or late into the night, but don't want to be reckless, especially if the weather might be a factor.

2. If reasonable to start driving, is Talkeetna a good choice this time of year? Or should we push on to Healy? Would love to get a chance to see Mt. McKinley.

3. What are your opinions on whether to stay the next few nights in Healy or in one of the hotels outside of Fairbanks, like the Aurora Borealis Lodge? Not sure if it is worthwhile staying close to the park, since access will be so limited. However, that is only my assumption and I'd like your input. If I stayed closer to Fairbanks, I could easily go into town to spend the day. I have to spend the last night in Fairbanks anyways to catch my flight on Tuesday morning.

4. Would it be fairly easy to find lodging as I arrive at places, or should I really book in advance? I'm hoping for a lot of flexibility, so that I can change my plans easily in case a particular area is expecting heavy cloud cover.

Thanks for your help.

Healy, Alaska
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1. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

I would think you would be able to find lodging fairly easily, though I don't know if that is true for the Aurora Borealis lodge, since they are a speciality lodge. If that is important, I would book that ahead.

IF I was going to Portage/Whittier, I would probably stay in Girdwood or Anchorage and not try to drive at night. Though me, I would head to Seward instead. :)

Depends where you stay that night - you could do Talkeetna or Healy I think.

You could stay in Healy - we do have the advantage of the dark - no city lights to distract any northern lights if it is clear. However, what do you plan to do in the day time? Fairbanks might hold more for you there. In October in Healy, you will only have 3 restaurants to choose from, and a few hotels & B&B's - Fairbanks will offer your group much more in that regard. Not sure if I was much help - I am not really good with itineraries, but I wish you the best in your travels! :)

california
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2. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

Thanks for the reply, coalminer. I suppose if we spend the night in Anchorage, then going to Seward would be possible. I originally did not plan for that, since I wanted to get moving on up the highway, but I'll look into that now.

So is my assumption correct, that there isn't much point in staying close to the park at this time of year? I am leaning toward Fairbanks for that very reason, but thought I'd ask first.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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3. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

It really depends on weather and what else you are planning to do I think . . .

california
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4. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

We are open to ways to spend our days, and are not trying to cram every Alaskan experience into this trip. We'll plan another trip to do things like see the park, observe bears and salmon, etc. Since this trip is primarily focused on the Northern Lights, anything else we can do/see will be great but not critical.

As of right now, the itinerary is shaping up to include one night in/near Anchorage, maybe one night near Talkeetna if we don't get a glimpse of the mountain on our drive up, and the rest of the nights near Fairbanks so that we have something to do during the day.

If you can think of any activities that would make sense for us to do in/near Healy instead of these other locations, please let me know. I appreciate your help.

Anchorage, Alaska
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5. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

If time is short/critical and unless you have a specific Seward related activity you really want to do, I'd avoid Seward. Nothing wrong with Seward but I prefer Girdwood/Portage. Girdwood/Portage has many great activities to do that can easily fill1 to 2 days and I think their restaurants are far superior to those in Seward. You also save a few hours of driving time.

I don't think I'd drive all the way to Healy that evening and Talkeetna will be about 3.5 to 4 hrs minimum (not including waiting time at the tunnel); so judge by your abilities and how much you want to drive in the dark (miss scenery then).

california
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6. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

Thanks for the input, sdpryde. That's two mentions of Girdwood as a good overnight location. I'm assuming that the smaller towns outside of Anchorage will provide us with darker skies, so I will strongly consider spending the night there.

Anchorage, Alaska
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7. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

Though you will have darker skies in Girdwood, you're going to be tucked in among mountains that will block how much sky you can see.

california
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8. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

Hmm, thanks for that piece of info. This is harder than I thought! What do you think about the northern outskirts of Anchorage to spend the night?

Bristol, Connecticut
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9. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

There are areas north of Anchorage that have some great views. There is a B&B called Homestays at Homestead in Eagle River that I looked into for a family member, they have not stayed there yet. It has an excellent location for viewing Northern Lights in South Fork Valley. Hiland Road and Skyline Road are also great places to view the lights in the Eagle River area.

That being said, I have seen some great northern lights along Turnagain Arm near Girdwood.

california
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10. Re: itinerary advice please: oct 12-16

Thanks, spacefry. Sounds like the northern outskirts of Anchorage could be good enough, and provide us with the flexibility of hanging out in a large city if we have extra time on that first evening. We might even drive a bit further north just for viewing purposes, then come back to sleep. This is all very helpful.

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