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Alaska Itinerary

Birmingham, Alabama
9 posts
Alaska Itinerary


We are planning our first trip to Alaska for summer 2018. There will be three couples, mid-50s to mid-60s in good health and reasonable shape for adventures. We are so excited about seeing and experiencing the natural beauty of Alaska! I would appreciate comments and advice on the following itinerary. Is it realistic or too ambitious? Recommendations?

I've checked the tide tables and there's a good chance for a bore tide on Turnagain Arm. I'm not sure about the ferry schedule for next summer so that our timing would work out for viewing bore tide one day when near Girdwood and then catching the ferry from Whittier to Valdez the next day.

One couple volunteered to drive the rental vehicle from Denali back to Anchorage to allow the other couples the opportunity to ride the train. Is it worth the money to ride Alaska Railroad from Denali back to Anchorage for scenery/experience or just ride the rental vehicle back with whole group?

Day 1, Fly to Anchorage

Day 2, Anchorage to Seward: pick up rental vehicle and buy supplies, drive Seward Hwy., (stopping for sights), hike Russian River Falls (Lower Russian Lakes Trail at Cooper Landing) to see salmon and possibly bears!!!, drive to Seward

Day 3, Seward: Kenai Fjords Tours, National Parks Tour, 8 am – 2 pm or 11:30 am – 5:30 pm

Day 4, Seward: Kayak, Resurrection Bay (Sunny Cove Kayaking), 9 am – 3 pm, visit Alaska SeaLife Center

Day 5, Seward to Girdwood: Hike Exit Glacier (if haven’t yet), drive to Girdwood, if clear day ride Tram at Aleyska Resort (lunch at Bore Tide Deli), Hike Winner Creek Trail (hand tram), watch Bore Tide on Turnagain Arm (if timing is right)

Day 6, Girdwood to Whittier to Valdez to Glacier View: through tunnel at Whittier, Alaska Marine Hwy. Ferry to Valdez (Prince William Sound), scenic drive up Richardson Hwy to Glenn Hwy to Glacier View

Day 7, Glacier View to Talkeetna: Matanuska Glacier hike (MICA Guides or NOVA), drive Hatcher Pass, Parks Hwy to Talkeetna

Day 8, Talkeetna to Denali: Denali Flightseeing (K2 Aviation), drive to Denali (stopping for scenic views), introduction to DNP (visit Visitor Center, explore first 15 miles by car)

Day 9, Denali: Bus to Kantishna, (Denali Backcountry Adventure or Kantishna Wilderness Trails or NPS Shuttle Bus)

Day 10, Denali: Explore DNP, Hike (Savage Alpine Trail or Mt. Healy Overlook Trail or Ranger-led Discovery Hike), visit sled dogs, or other Denali area activities (possibly buy NPS Shuttle tickets for 2nd day for better chance to see Denali)

Day 11, Denali to Anchorage: drive back to Anchorage/part of group ride Alaska Railroad Denali Star Train (noon to 8), return rental vehicle

Day 12, Fly from Anchorage to home

Thank you!

Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage
Level Contributor
13,257 posts
233 reviews
1. Re: Alaska Itinerary

Day 6...

- I think it's a waste of time and money to take the ferry to Valdez but not stay there for a day or two.

Birmingham, Alabama
9 posts
2. Re: Alaska Itinerary

We won't have the time/days to spend in Valdez without cutting something else out of our trip. I thought the ferry would be a way to experience Prince William Sound (another day on the water enjoying views of mountains and glaciers and possibly wildlife) and also giving us a way to enjoy the scenic drive up the Richardson Hwy to Glenallen. This was an option that I just added as opposed to driving back up through Anchorage to get to Glacier View before our Matanuska Glacier Hike. If we take the ferry to Valdez, we would plan on stopping to see a few sights like Bridal Veil Falls, etc. That would be a long or possibly late day depending on the ferry schedule. I think the schedule this year is departure from Whittier around noon and arriving Valdez close to 7 pm.

Winnipeg, Canada
Level Contributor
6,747 posts
3. Re: Alaska Itinerary

I agree with sdpryde.

And a ferry is a mode of transportation only, NOT a substitute for a glacier cruise in Prince William Sound. It doesn't stop at glaciers, doesn't stop at waterfalls, doesn't stop for wildlife. Just chugs on by.

And it doesn't make sense that you are doing a hike to RR Falls where you almost certainly won't see bears, then blasting right through Valdez where you have a decent chance of seeing bears if you spend some time at the fish hatchery.

Have you considered renting a vehicle from a company that allows you to drive scenic Denali Hwy (most companies don't permit driving on gravel highways)?

Edited: 04 June 2017, 03:50
Winnipeg, Canada
Level Contributor
6,747 posts
4. Re: Alaska Itinerary

If you rent from a company that allows driving Denali Hwy (Midnight Sun, A-1, Go North), consider this:

Day 1, Fly to Anchorage

Day 2, Anchorage to Seward: pick up rental vehicle and buy supplies, drive Seward Hwy., (stopping for sights). Hike Exit Glacier and maybe part of Harding Icefield.

Day 3 - 7.5 hr. Kenai Fjords wildlife/glacier cruise with Major Marine. Doesn’t cost much more than the 6 hr. cruise and gives you an extra glacier plus extra time to look for wildlife. Keep an eye on the websites for specials, last year Major Marine had 40% off on Cyber Monday.

Day 4, Seward: Kayak, Resurrection Bay (Sunny Cove Kayaking), 9 am – 3 pm. SeaLife Center. Overnight Seward.

Day 5 - Drive to Girdwood, if clear day ride Tram at Aleyska Resort (lunch at Bore Tide Deli), Hike Winner Creek Trail (hand tram), watch Bore Tide on Turnagain Arm (if timing is right). You didn’t give a date so we can know when the possible bore tide would be, but end up either Palmer or Glacier View.

Day 6 – morning Matanuska ice hike. Drive to Valdez (4.5 hrs) with scenic stops. If this is late June or later, check out Solomon Gulch fish hatchery. If you spend some time there you have a chance of seeing sea lions and/or bears catching the returning salmon.

Day 7 – all day kayaking near the icebergs of Columbia Glacier (non-kayakers can take the day wildlife cruise there—be aware they might not get close enough to the glacier to see calving, due to all the icebergs). After supper, drive to Copper River (2 hrs) to overnight.

Day 8 – drive to Denali/Healy via Glenn & Denali Hwys., 7+ hrs of driving(speed limit is 35 mph on the gravel part of Denali Hwy, and if parts of the road are rutted you might want to drive even slower). Allow all day for the drive since you’ll want to make lots of scenic stops. Hardly any traffic though, until you get to Parks Hwy near Denali NP. Entrance activities as time allows over the next 3 days. Overnight Healy.

Day 9 – Shuttle to Eielson (8 hrs) or Wonder Lake (11 hrs).

Day 10 – 2nd shuttle to Eielson. If you had a good trip yesterday (saw lots of wildlife and a good view of the Mountain), you can shorten or even skip today’s shuttle to have more time for hiking/entrance activities. Or if some of you get on the Ranger-led Discovery hike (sign up as soon as you get to Denali), you can trade your tickets in for the Disco bus.

Day 11 – Drive to Talkeetna (3 hrs) for early afternoon flightseeing. If some of your group wants to ride the train, it departs Talkeetna at 5 pm, arrives Anchorage 8 pm. Personally I found the stretch from Denali to Anchorage BORING by train (loved it by car), and in fact was thinking of leaping out the window long before we reached Anchorage, but maybe the shorter trip wouldn’t be as bad.

Day 12, Fly from Anchorage to home

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Birmingham, Alabama
9 posts
5. Re: Alaska Itinerary

Thanks so much for the input!

I don't think our group would want to spend two days kayaking. What recommendations regarding kayaking Resurrection Bay vs. Columbia Glacier? or doing glacier kayaking in Kenai Fjords while at Seward instead of Resurrection Bay?

Trying to weigh options of scenic drives: Hatcher Pass (and hitting Talkeetna on the way north instead of on the way south at the end of the trip) or taking the east to west route Maple Marshmallows recommended along Denali Hwy. Is the beauty along Denali Hwy worth the slow/rough ride as opposed to taking Parks Hwy (if we don't go as far east and south to Valdez)? It all looks so amazingly beautiful. I can't wait to see and experience it!

We had not originally included Valdez on trip, planning to just hit Anchorage/Seward/Talkeetna/Denali on a north-south route, with a side trip out to Matanuska Glacier and drive through Hatcher Pass on the way up. Added Valdez when I saw some of the beauty along the Richardson and Glenn Highways.

Eagle River, Alaska
Level Contributor
17 posts
7 reviews
6. Re: Alaska Itinerary

Regarding riding the train back from Denali...........personally I would drive in the car with your companions. The train is very, very slow and the scenery is beautiful by car or train.

Level Contributor
4 posts
17 reviews
7. Re: Alaska Itinerary

Just wanted so add my recommendation for Midnight Sun Car Rental. We just used them this month (June, 2017) for a our land portion of an Alaska visit. They do allow their vehicles on AK8. It's a must see part of wilderness Alaska! They have units of all sizes, we had to upsize from a huge Suburban to Nissan minibus to hold all the luggage for 6 people (they took out the back seat, still giving us plenty of seating and having lots of room for luggage). Our group could not have been more pleased with how accommodating this small local company is. They also made arrangements to have our rental waiting for us at the pier in Whittier, saving us the time of a trip to Anchorage to pick it up and then trekking back down towards Seward. Also, stayed at Alaskya. Beautiful property, tram and hike was worth the time.

Edited: 15 June 2017, 21:01
8. Re: Alaska Itinerary

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