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My Upcoming Alaska Itinerary

My Upcoming Alaska Itinerary

Old Jul 27, 11, 10:01 pm
  #1  
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My Upcoming Alaska Itinerary

After almost 2 months of research and with help from experts in this thread, I finally came up with my Alaska itinerary. Please comment.

August 13: arrival at Anchorage. Almost 10pm.

August 14: pick up rental car. Biking along Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (groupon offer) for a couple of hours. Hiking Flattop mountain in the afternoon.

August 15: drive to Seward. Stop at Wild Animal Center briefly (free tickets from Kenai Fjord National Park tour purchase) and scenic points on the highway. Hike Exit Glacier. Do evening kayaking (7-11pm) with Miller's landing.

August 16: 11:30am Kenai Fjord National Park tour (6-hour). Stay at Hotel Seward. Late afternoon hike Hardin Icefield Trail.

August 17: Sea life center in the morning. Drive to Whittier to take 1pm Major Marine Prince Williams Sound tour. Stay at Anchorage.

August 18: Drive to Denali State Park. Kayaking Byers lake. Drive to Denali National Park entrance. Hike Denali Horseshoe lake trail.

August 19: Take shuttle bus to Wonder lake. Hike Eielson Alpine trail.

August 20: Take shuttle bus to Wonder lake. Hike wonder lake trail and Eielson Stroll.

August 21: half day in Denali NP. See whether I can book discovery hike. drive back to Anchorage.

August 22: local shopping. Departure in the evening.

Any comments? Did I miss anything major from my 10-day schedule?
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Old Jul 28, 11, 1:36 pm
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Why pick up the car on Sunday Aug 14 if you are mostly going be in Anchorage that day? You might save enough money on the rental if you pick up on Monday to pay for the cost of a shuttle to Flattop and back. It is worth comparing anyway.

Aug 16 is too much. You won't get to Harding Icefield Trail until well after 6pm. It takes 6-8 hours to hike the entire trail. I would do Sealife Center this evening (open till 8pm?). Stop at Exit Glacier the morning of Aug 17th on the way to Whittier. But you really don't have time for hiking Harding Icefield Trail.

>>August 18: Drive to Denali State Park. Kayaking Byers lake. Drive to Denali National Park entrance. Hike Denali Horseshoe lake trail.

Kind of a long day but it would work. Be sure to buy grocery food for Denali in Anchorage or Wasilla.

>>August 19: Take shuttle bus to Wonder lake. Hike Eielson Alpine trail.

I personally would strongly advise doing a different hike. Why, with all the vastness of Denali NP, do people like hiking with dozens of others on this trail? Hike down to the river bar from Eielson. Or hike the mountain to the east of this alpine trail. Or ask a bus driver for other ideas. I guess if you like crowds and like being a "tourist" do as planned. But certainly not my suggestion.

>>August 20: Take shuttle bus to Wonder lake. Hike wonder lake trail and Eielson Stroll.

There is no "Wonder Lake trail." Do you mean the McKinley Bar Trail? If so, be sure to let your driver know you are doing that and he can let you off at the trailhead. That saves 1/2 mile of walking.

Be sure to bring a bus schedule with you

>>August 21: half day in Denali NP. See whether I can book discovery hike. drive back to Anchorage.

Disco Hike won't work unless you have more time. Try to get to Denali by 8pm on Aug 18th and go IMMEDIATELY to the visitor center to check on Disco hike availability. They should be taking reservations for Aug 19 and 20 by then. Book whatever day you can get and whichever hike most interests you (hikes are posted by Friday online at nps.gov/dena). If 19/20 are full when you arrive on 18th, then when you return on 19th check again for the 21st. You can still do a Disco hike this day, just arriving in Anchorage later than planned.

If you really want to do the Harding Icefield Trail hike, why not depart on Aug 14 for Seward? Do the Harding Icefield Hike on Aug 15 before kayaking. Then Aug 22 you can do the Flattop hike, Tony Knowles and/or shopping.

Buy your shuttle tickets now to Wonder Lake for all three days in Denali. Call and get 3 bus tickets for the price of 2 (this offer is not available online). If you get the Disco hike one day, you can exchange your ticket for $4 at the WAC.

Last edited by fti; Jul 28, 11 at 1:48 pm
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Old Jul 29, 11, 12:27 am
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I just booked a trip to ANC for Labor Day weekend (leaving MSP Saturday and returning Wednesday) and was wondering if your recommendations would still be good then fti.
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Old Jul 29, 11, 8:10 am
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Originally Posted by yohanson View Post
I just booked a trip to ANC for Labor Day weekend (leaving MSP Saturday and returning Wednesday) and was wondering if your recommendations would still be good then fti.
Which recommendations and where do you want to travel?

I would for sure book your car ASAP. Definitely book your lodging in advance for the weekend. And as always, book your shuttle bus tickets in advance.

What do you want to do during the time there? What is your arrival time on Saturday and your departure time on Wednesday? It will be hard to get to both Seward and Denali with just four nights but it depends partly on arrival/departure times.

Fall colors in Denali should be incredible that time of year. I am going to Denali the following week (Sep 11-18) and it will probably be the tail end of the fall colors.
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Old Jul 29, 11, 11:00 am
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This is a quasi MR for me. I get into ANC at 8:55 PM on Sat. and leave 2:30 AM on Wed. so I really only have 3 full days.

I would really like to do some hiking and Denali sounds like it would be really nice. A tour bus would be nice too so I can devote my time to looking at scenery/taking pictures instead of driving. I also wouldn't mind doing some scuba diving while I'm there but that isn't a huge thing for me. Plus, that would be a lot of gear for me to fly with.

I'm Emerald Club Executive with 6 free days of car rental. I priced it out at $192 ai for the 4 days I'm there. I'm staying 6 days in Hawaii in December so not sure if I should burn those days in Alaska or there. 4 of those days expire at the end of the year. I also have points with Hilton and Priority Club but doubt I'd be able to use them in Alaska except for in Anchorage.
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Old Jul 29, 11, 11:23 am
  #6  
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Originally Posted by yohanson View Post
This is a quasi MR for me. I get into ANC at 8:55 PM on Sat. and leave 2:30 AM on Wed. so I really only have 3 full days.

I would really like to do some hiking and Denali sounds like it would be really nice. A tour bus would be nice too so I can devote my time to looking at scenery/taking pictures instead of driving. I also wouldn't mind doing some scuba diving while I'm there but that isn't a huge thing for me. Plus, that would be a lot of gear for me to fly with.

I'm Emerald Club Executive with 6 free days of car rental. I priced it out at $192 ai for the 4 days I'm there. I'm staying 6 days in Hawaii in December so not sure if I should burn those days in Alaska or there. 4 of those days expire at the end of the year. I also have points with Hilton and Priority Club but doubt I'd be able to use them in Alaska except for in Anchorage.
Correct about the points being used in Alaska. Anchorage is the main place for such hotels, Seward has a HI, Fairbanks has a Marriott property.

How about something like this?

Sat Sep 3 arrive Anchorage, pick up car rental (that is a decent price for booking relatively soon before arrival and for airport pick up, but if you can use your free day coupons and save $192, go for it), drive to hotel (check HH, HI or CP availability). I like the location of the CP and Homewood Suites - "midtown", near restaurants and supermarkets, free parking and easy escape north toward Denali.

Sun Sep 4 short stop at grocery store for supplies (no good grocery store north of Wasilla), drive to Talkeetna (2 hours) for lunch. It is a funky, unique town. If interested in a flightseeing tour, this is the place to do it. Four operators and all have good reputations. Continue to Denali. If the Mountain is out be sure to stop at the pullouts for viewing. Also, the Veterans Memorial at mile 147 is worth a stop (not to mention another view of the Mountain, a decent bookstore and toilets).

Upon arrival at Denali, pick up your bus tickets for Mon/Tue, see the exhibits and film at the visitor center, the film at the WAC (where you pick up your bus tickets), maybe the sleddog demo if of interest, drive the first 14 miles of the road this evening. Decent chance of seeing wildlife, especially moose. Can do the nice, flat 2-mile round trip hike at the turnaround point (Savage River). If you wanted a more strenuous hike today and skipped Talkeetna, the Mt. Healy Overlook hike is nice but has a pretty good elevation gain.

Mon Sep 5 take an early shuttle bus to Wonder Lake (booked in advance). Earliest bus today is 6.15am and I would try to take advantage of it in light of the change to the bus schedule as of Sep 6th. If the Mountain is not visible, get off at Eielson and have the bus dispatcher put you on a different bus back toward the entrance (feel free continuing to WL but the big draw there is the Mountain view when visible). Can get off lots of places for hikes. Here are links to two threads on Trip Advisor with great ideas. You can also ask your bus driver.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g1...e.A.Hike..html

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...in-Alaska.html

Tue Sep 6 similar to Monday but if you want a chance of reaching Wonder Lake and/or hiking, you should take the earliest shuttle which departs at 7.30pm. But this WL bus at 7.30am doesn't get back until 6.30pm so you don't have any time to hike. Try to do most of your hiking on Monday if at all possible. If you took the 7.30am bus to Eielson today, that gets back at 3.30pm. Figuring you want to leave Denali about 6.30-7pm, that gives you about 3 hours to hike somewhere in the park.

Depart Denali by 7pm, figure 5+ hours to Anchorage airport and you want to be at the airport 90-120 minutes before departure (90 minutes is fine if you have elite status and can use F check in and the F security line).

Definitely bring a camera. Bring a decent day pack. You need to bring all your own food/drink into the park. The only thing available past the main visitor center is tap water at the Eielson visitor center. Thus the reason to stop in Anchorage for groceries, snacks, etc. You can buy some lunch boxes and even sub sandwiches just outside the park entrance (Subway is open 24 hours) but I like to buy what I need in Anchorage and not have to worry about stopping in the morning, not to mention it is usually much cheaper in Anchorage at the supermarket.

What type of lodging would you be interested in near Denali? Certain amenities? Hotel? B&B? Cabin?

Not sure about the scuba diving. That is a tough one. If you headed to Seward rather than Denali I would think it is more possible there. And there is some hiking in that area too. I just think for the combination of hiking, wildlife sightings, scenery and the fall colors, Denali would be my overwhelming first choice for that weekend.

We will miss each other in Denali by a few days.

Let us know what you end up doing.

John
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Old Jul 29, 11, 12:22 pm
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A cabin would be preferred but I'm flexible. I've never stayed at a B&B but that might be fine too. BTW, I saw a sub $350 fare last year about this time to ANC too. Is that normal?

Thanks for all the info John! I'll report back.

John
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Old Jul 29, 11, 12:50 pm
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Oh, and, my apologies to the OP for hijacking this thread.
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Old Jul 29, 11, 1:40 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by yohanson View Post
A cabin would be preferred but I'm flexible. I've never stayed at a B&B but that might be fine too. BTW, I saw a sub $350 fare last year about this time to ANC too. Is that normal?

Thanks for all the info John! I'll report back.

John
I have seen some cheap fares here and there. Right now DL is running a fare sale for about $350 RT with travel through 10/1. Two or three years ago I got a deal for $410 from EWR to ANC that allowed a stopover in MSP in both directions. That was great. Usually fares to/from Alaska come down about Sep/Oct when the AK residents get their "permanent fund dividend" checks. Kind of like when stores try to entice people to spend their IRS refund checks in April.

If you want a cabin, here are a couple of options:

McKinley Creekside Cabins

Aspen Haus B&B (don't let the B&B part deceive you - they are cabins and have a good reputation).

Denali Mountain Morning Hostel. They have several private cabins, but almost all still have shared kitchen and shared shower/toilet. Very clean and very well-run. One of my favorite places to stay near Denali actually. I like the international flavor of hostels, especially this one.
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Old Jul 31, 11, 10:56 am
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
Why pick up the car on Sunday Aug 14 if you are mostly going be in Anchorage that day? You might save enough money on the rental if you pick up on Monday to pay for the cost of a shuttle to Flattop and back. It is worth comparing anyway.
I got a good deal on car rental, about $350 for 8 days, picking up from local Avis (not airport). So I can afford the cost with the convenience of being able to drive around Anchorage.

Aug 16 is too much. You won't get to Harding Icefield Trail until well after 6pm. It takes 6-8 hours to hike the entire trail. I would do Sealife Center this evening (open till 8pm?). Stop at Exit Glacier the morning of Aug 17th on the way to Whittier. But you really don't have time for hiking Harding Icefield Trail.
Good catch. I will move Harding Icefield Trail to August 15th. Instead, do the kayaking on Aug 16. Sealife center closes at 6pm, so will not move it.

August 18: Drive to Denali State Park. Kayaking Byers lake. Drive to Denali National Park entrance. Hike Denali Horseshoe lake trail.

Kind of a long day but it would work. Be sure to buy grocery food for Denali in Anchorage or Wasilla.
Yes, I will buy food in Anchorage. Besides snacks (like crackers, chips, drinks, bread), what else do you buy? Is it necessary to buy a cooler to keep food cool and fresh longer?

August 19: Take shuttle bus to Wonder lake. Hike Eielson Alpine trail.

I personally would strongly advise doing a different hike. Why, with all the vastness of Denali NP, do people like hiking with dozens of others on this trail? Hike down to the river bar from Eielson. Or hike the mountain to the east of this alpine trail. Or ask a bus driver for other ideas. I guess if you like crowds and like being a "tourist" do as planned. But certainly not my suggestion.
I agree with you. I would have picked the hiking trails from the tripadvisor thread, but wife is adamant not doing those lone trails and prefer ranger-led hikes as she is afraid of bears to death. So I will stick with those marked trails with better chances of other hikers in sight.

August 20: Take shuttle bus to Wonder lake. Hike wonder lake trail and Eielson Stroll.

There is no "Wonder Lake trail." Do you mean the McKinley Bar Trail? If so, be sure to let your driver know you are doing that and he can let you off at the trailhead. That saves 1/2 mile of walking.
Yes, I meant the McKinley Bar Trail. Hope by then, Mosquitos are no longer an issue. Will bring mosquito repellents. Is it a trail worth doing?

August 21: half day in Denali NP. See whether I can book discovery hike. drive back to Anchorage.

Disco Hike won't work unless you have more time. Try to get to Denali by 8pm on Aug 18th and go IMMEDIATELY to the visitor center to check on Disco hike availability. They should be taking reservations for Aug 19 and 20 by then. Book whatever day you can get and whichever hike most interests you (hikes are posted by Friday online at nps.gov/dena). If 19/20 are full when you arrive on 18th, then when you return on 19th check again for the 21st. You can still do a Disco hike this day, just arriving in Anchorage later than planned.
We can go longer if half a day is not enough, just arriving in Anchorage a little later. Will follow your advice to check on Disco hike availability on Aug 18th.

If you really want to do the Harding Icefield Trail hike, why not depart on Aug 14 for Seward? Do the Harding Icefield Hike on Aug 15 before kayaking. Then Aug 22 you can do the Flattop hike, Tony Knowles and/or shopping
.

It will not work since Seward hotels seem all sold out for those days (not sure whether this is typical as I checked the availability almost 1 month ago). I was lucky enough to get two nights in Hotel Seward at $119 / night (the rooms with shared bathrooms. The standard rooms cost $279 per night. WOW!).

Buy your shuttle tickets now to Wonder Lake for all three days in Denali. Call and get 3 bus tickets for the price of 2 (this offer is not available online). If you get the Disco hike one day, you can exchange your ticket for $4 at the WAC.
Yes, I bought the tickets using 3 for 2 promotion. Changing tickets for disco hike is an excellent idea. It saves me a lot of money. Thanks, fti.

My revised itinerary is:

August 13: arrival at Anchorage. Almost 10pm.

August 14: pick up rental car. Biking along Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (groupon offer) for a couple of hours. Hiking Flattop mountain in the afternoon.

August 15: drive to Seward. Stop at scenic points on the highway. Afternoon hike Harding Icefield Trail. Assuming it takes 7 hours to do the whole trail and we start at 2pm (try to start sooner), will it be still bright at 9pm and not too late to get out of the trail?

August 16: 11:30am Kenai Fjord National Park tour (6-hour). Do evening kayaking (7-11pm) with Miller's landing. Stay at Hotel Seward.

August 17: Sea life center in the morning. Drive to Whittier to take 1pm Major Marine Prince Williams Sound tour. Stop at the scenic spots on Seward Highway. Stay at Anchorage.

August 18: Drive to Denali State Park. Kayaking Byers lake. Drive to Denali National Park entrance. Book discovery hike. Hike Denali Horseshoe lake trail.

August 19: Whole day Denali. Take shuttle bus to Wonder lake. Hike Eielson Alpine trail (ranger led).

August 20: Whole day Denali. Take shuttle bus to Wonder lake. Hike McKinley Bar Trail and Eielson Stroll.

August 21: Do discovery hike in Denali NP. After that drive back to Anchorage.

August 22: local shopping. Departure in the evening.

Last edited by jiangxi; Jul 31, 11 at 12:04 pm
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Old Jul 31, 11, 4:42 pm
  #11  
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I bring a cooler with me, but then I camp inside the park for several days at a time. You can easily put a collapsible cooler in your suitcase if you want - weighs little and takes up little room.

It just depends on what you like to eat during the long Denali NP days. Also depends on what options you have at your Denali lodging to keep things fresh.

McKinley Bar Trail is a nice hike and usually quite a few people are on the trail. It is about 5 miles round trip.

You shouldn't have an issue with mosquitoes that late in the season, at least at Denali.

>>August 15:Afternoon hike Harding Icefield Trail. Assuming it takes 7 hours to do the whole trail and we start at 2pm (try to start sooner), will it be still bright at 9pm and not too late to get out of the trail?

Check sunrisesunset.com for sunset and twilight times. The light will be dropping off fairly quickly but I think it should be light.

>>August 17: Sea life center in the morning. Drive to Whittier to take 1pm Major Marine Prince Williams Sound tour.

Note that you will need to be at the Whittier tunnel for the 11.30am tunnel (12.30pm tunnel is way too tight - there are often delays). So you need to leave Seward probably by 9.30am.

As I said earlier, leave your Denali hiking plans fluid, depending on what is available when you arrive on Aug 18th. I am going in Sep and pretty much doing the same - seeing what is available for Disco hikes and planning the rest of my time in the park around that.
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Old Aug 7, 11, 3:56 am
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
You shouldn't have an issue with mosquitoes that late in the season, at least at Denali.
In areas of Denali National Park, maybe not. However Beyers Lake in Denali State Park can be pretty buggy even in mid to late August.
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Old Aug 11, 11, 12:57 pm
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Thanks for all the tips, fti & quokka.

I just checked the 10-day weather forecast. I am depressed. I am going to have a raining trip. It seems that it will rain every day.

I know I won't see Mt McKinley when it rains. Besides that, will I miss a lot when compared with sunny days? How about cruise? I have booked 2 cruises from Seward and Whittier. Will rain ruin the cruise experience by not being able to step out of cabin or see anything? How about Denali bus trip? I currently booked 3 days for Denali? Shall I have a backup plan if it rains every day I am there?

Need to solicit opinions on what to expect when it rains every day.
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Old Aug 11, 11, 7:51 pm
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Welcome to Alaska. First of all, disregard the weather forecasts. You know how wrong the forecasters are in the lower 48. Well, they are even worse in AK.

Secondly, even if "rain" is predicted, it is rarely one of those all-day steady rains. It rains a bit in the morning or afternoon or evening. And of course, it rains pretty much every night I tent camp in Alaska (but the nights I spend in hotels, B&B or cabins, it rarely rains - go figure!).

Actually cloudy weather for your Whittier cruise is probably BETTER. You can see the blue in the glaciers much better in overcast weather than when the sun is brightly shining. And photos tend to be better when there is not direct, harsh midday sunlight.

And weather with Denali bus trips? Please tell me you are not looking at weather forecasts for Denali. There are at least 4 mountain passes you drive over from one end of the park road to the other. Let me tell you a story. I was in Denali NP in early June. I camped at Wonder Lake for 3 nights. I brought a bicycle with me so I could bike to Reflection Pond if Mt. McKinley was visible and I could get a reflection photo with alpenglow (already have that shot, but love it anyway). Long story short, it was cloudy and rainy the entire three days (on and off) so I figured I would bring the bike on the bus to Eielson then bike back at the end of the day from Eielson to Wonder Lake - about 19 miles, mostly downhill. My nephew took the bus back. I was at about mile 80(?) and I had a light sprinkle of rain. Not bad actually since it was rather warm so I hardly got wet. When I got back to the campground, my nephew wondered how I did in the downpour that happened. I said, "What downpour?" Apparently it really rained at the campground but hardly anything where I was just a few miles away.

Moral of the story - plan for rain every day then be glad when it doesn't. Take good rain gear (jacket and pants).

>>Will rain ruin the cruise experience by not being able to step out of cabin

Do you melt when you get wet? Why in the world would you not be able to step out of the cabin just because it is raining? PLEASE don't let a little rain stop you from getting outside on the boat!

>>I currently booked 3 days for Denali? Shall I have a backup plan if it rains every day I am there?

If it rains at Denali, then maybe you shorten your hike a bit and spend more time on the shuttle buses. When the sun is shining and it is hot, the wildlife often lays down and rests - much like we do. They don't like the heat either. So in cooler, cloudy and/or rainy weather you might see more wildlife than otherwise.

But really - take rain gear and go with the flow. If someone can't handle a little rain, unfortunately Alaska is not the place for them.
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Old Aug 12, 11, 7:54 pm
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FTI. Your stories lifted my spirits. Will report back my raining trip experience when coming back.
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