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4.5 day trip to Alaska

4.5 day trip to Alaska

Old Aug 8, 15, 4:43 am
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4.5 day trip to Alaska

I will be getting into ANC on a Sat morning (4am) and flying out around midnight. Between then everything is open game... I just booked the ticket on an impulse and given the great fare! I understand it's a short trip and I have little knowledge about visiting AK in summer. But hoping FTers can guide a bit.

Given the distances and narrow roads, driving around is probably gonna be big part of the trip so I only want to focus on Seward and Denali. Things I want to do - bike, hike, run and drive through the beautiful state! I would like to avoid full-day organized tours (Denali being an exception) and explore on my own.

1. Can I visit exit glacier without a tour?

2. Should I pack Kenai and Exit Glacier in one day? I would like leave Seward on Day 2 and drive towards Denali. I am guessing that's a 7 hr drive. Otherwise I could head back to Anchorage and spend the night there. Open to suggestions.

3. Denali looks frakin HUGE! 5. Is it worth spending a day on tour bus to see deep insides of the park? Is area b/w mile 15 and 92 worth it?

4. Lodges in glitter gulch of Denali are sold out. Kantishna is more expensive than Park Hyatt Maldives!! Where else can I stay around the area?

5. If I don't get to stay at Denali National Park, how can I make the best of it over two days?

6. Half day in Anchorage... any notable restaurants tbefore catching my red-eye?
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Old Aug 8, 15, 7:33 pm
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1. Havenít been out to Exit Glacier.

2. Unless youíre going to Kenai to fish, Iíd cut that out and spend some quality time in Seward. Iíd highly recommend a day cruise on Kenai Fjords. You can hop off at Fox Island for some sea kayaking and then catch another ship back to Seward. Overcast days (vs. sunny) are best for wildlife viewing.

Glad you plan to rent a car as the train would be too slow in your small time window.

Since you like to hike and run, you might consider doing Denali on another visit to do it right, because you need special equipment and permits for backcountry hiking and time to get to Wonder Lake. I personally wouldnít blow a day on a bus tour.

3. Conversely, you may want to consider just going up to Talkeenta (100 miles north of Anchorage) vs. 230 up to Denali. The view of the range is spectacular from Talkeetna, and you can also do anything from rafting to a flight over Denali. K2 Aviation does glacier landings, but my guess is that itís too soft this time of year.

4. Check Talkeetna Lodge or the budget-friendly charming Roadhouse with long tables for everyone to share meals at. There are also lots of B & Bs you can search for online. Even if you donít stay at the Talkeetna Lodge, stop and have a cup of coffee on their deck for a spectacular view.

5. In addition to Talkeetna, you might also want to check out the Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla on the way. Or I think thereís a dog team tour on Exit glacier.

6. Anchorage

Running/biking: Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (access from downtown) Flat Top (access from south side of Anchorage)

Restaurants probably not in tourist books:

Downtown Snow City Cafť Ė casual, great eggs benedict, make reservation Ė even for breakfast Ė no kidding. Meter parking $1/hr or free on weekends.

Anchorage Market (weekends only - youíd have to catch on Sunday). The back aisle has food venders. Located at 3rd and C. Free to enter.

By airport: Restaurant or bar at the Millennium Hotel has great view to watch planes from international and also float planes from Lake Hood. Note: This is the Iditarod Headquarters hotel in March. Salmon is stellar.

Midtown - Charlies Bakery at 2729 C St (in strip center with KFC at Northern Lights and C) - cheap Chinese. #24 shrimp dumplings are awesome for $5.50

I hope you enjoy Alaska!
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Old Aug 8, 15, 8:14 pm
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Originally Posted by carsnoceans View Post
I will be getting into ANC on a Sat morning (4am) and flying out around midnight. Between then everything is open game... I just booked the ticket on an impulse and given the great fare! I understand it's a short trip and I have little knowledge about visiting AK in summer. But hoping FTers can guide a bit.

Given the distances and narrow roads, driving around is probably gonna be big part of the trip so I only want to focus on Seward and Denali. Things I want to do - bike, hike, run and drive through the beautiful state! I would like to avoid full-day organized tours (Denali being an exception) and explore on my own.

1. Can I visit exit glacier without a tour? Yes. Hike above exit glacier is a real nice hike. Suggestion, make stops between Anchorage and Seward on the way down as most pull-offs are on the right.

2. Should I pack Kenai and Exit Glacier in one day? I would like leave Seward on Day 2 and drive towards Denali. I am guessing that's a 7 hr drive. Otherwise I could head back to Anchorage and spend the night there. Open to suggestions. Yes. suggest against driving Seward to Denali if you are not familiar with the roads. Seward to talkeetna would be max or possibly overnight in Wasilla/Palmer

3. Denali looks frakin HUGE! 5. Is it worth spending a day on tour bus to see deep insides of the park? Is area b/w mile 15 and 92 worth it? Most of the wildlife and best scenery is after mile 15. Go to Eielsen at a min. Weather day of trip can make a big difference. I have had rainy days where it was terrible idea and clear days where it was great idea. Wildlife can be hit or miss but it is worth the chance.jmho

4. Lodges in glitter gulch of Denali are sold out. Kantishna is more expensive than Park Hyatt Maldives!! Where else can I stay around the area? lot of places just outside of park try McKinley River cabins

5. If I don't get to stay at Denali National Park, how can I make the best of it over two days?

6. Half day in Anchorage... any notable restaurants tbefore catching my red-eye?
try Eklutna Lake Twin Peaks trail if you like to hike. Great hike up to plateaus with resident flock of big horn sheep. Lazy Mountain hike in Matsu Valley is a good challenging hike too. Lower and upper Reed lake hikes in Hatcher Pass are very good too.
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Old Aug 9, 15, 8:08 am
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Originally Posted by Skyjam View Post
2. Unless youíre going to Kenai to fish, Iíd cut that out and spend some quality time in Seward. Iíd highly recommend a day cruise on Kenai Fjords. You can hop off at Fox Island for some sea kayaking and then catch another ship back to Seward. Overcast days (vs. sunny) are best for wildlife viewing.
No fishing. Is that the biggest reason for people to visit Kenai? Is there another way to visit Kenai Fjords than a day cruise... perhaps sea-kayak?

Originally Posted by Skyjam View Post
Since you like to hike and run, you might consider doing Denali on another visit to do it right, because you need special equipment and permits for backcountry hiking and time to get to Wonder Lake. I personally wouldnít blow a day on a bus tour.

3. Conversely, you may want to consider just going up to Talkeenta (100 miles north of Anchorage) vs. 230 up to Denali. The view of the range is spectacular from Talkeetna, and you can also do anything from rafting to a flight over Denali. K2 Aviation does glacier landings, but my guess is that itís too soft this time of year.

4. Check Talkeetna Lodge or the budget-friendly charming Roadhouse with long tables for everyone to share meals at. There are also lots of B & Bs you can search for online. Even if you donít stay at the Talkeetna Lodge, stop and have a cup of coffee on their deck for a spectacular view.
I will check out Talkeenta but I really wanted to visit Denali NP. The vast expanse of Denali NP seems pretty amazing. Being short on time and lack of proper permits/ camping gear, it would have to be a pretty short visit to Denali NP. Cabins/lodges inside are too darn expensive right now and I am not sure about a day trip would really do justice.

Is it wise to biking in Denali NP? I was thinking of renting bicycle and uses shuttle bus as a HOHO ride.
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Old Aug 9, 15, 10:03 am
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Originally Posted by carsnoceans View Post
I will be getting into ANC on a Sat morning (4am) and flying out around midnight. Between then everything is open game... I just booked the ticket on an impulse and given the great fare! I understand it's a short trip and I have little knowledge about visiting AK in summer. But hoping FTers can guide a bit.

Given the distances and narrow roads, driving around is probably gonna be big part of the trip so I only want to focus on Seward and Denali. Things I want to do - bike, hike, run and drive through the beautiful state! I would like to avoid full-day organized tours (Denali being an exception) and explore on my own.

1. Can I visit exit glacier without a tour?

2. Should I pack Kenai and Exit Glacier in one day? I would like leave Seward on Day 2 and drive towards Denali. I am guessing that's a 7 hr drive. Otherwise I could head back to Anchorage and spend the night there. Open to suggestions.

3. Denali looks frakin HUGE! 5. Is it worth spending a day on tour bus to see deep insides of the park? Is area b/w mile 15 and 92 worth it?

4. Lodges in glitter gulch of Denali are sold out. Kantishna is more expensive than Park Hyatt Maldives!! Where else can I stay around the area?

5. If I don't get to stay at Denali National Park, how can I make the best of it over two days?

6. Half day in Anchorage... any notable restaurants tbefore catching my red-eye?
Originally Posted by carsnoceans View Post
No fishing. Is that the biggest reason for people to visit Kenai? Is there another way to visit Kenai Fjords than a day cruise... perhaps sea-kayak?

I will check out Talkeenta but I really wanted to visit Denali NP. The vast expanse of Denali NP seems pretty amazing. Being short on time and lack of proper permits/ camping gear, it would have to be a pretty short visit to Denali NP. Cabins/lodges inside are too darn expensive right now and I am not sure about a day trip would really do justice.

Is it wise to biking in Denali NP? I was thinking of renting bicycle and uses shuttle bus as a HOHO ride.
Let's clarify a couple of things that might be muddling the picture.

First, there's Kenai the peninsula, Kenai the river, and Kenai the town. When people talk about visiting "the Kenai" they usually mean the peninsula. Kenai the town is okay, but it's not especially a tourism draw compared to some of the other towns on the Kenai Peninsula such as Seward and Homer. Kenai River is a very big river that runs through the peninsula and empties into Cook Inlet at the town of Kenai. The Kenai River is extremely popular for fishing, so when someone says he spent the weekend "on the Kenai" it always evokes a second question, "Do you mean the river?"

Seward is technically on the Kenai peninsula, but when you say "I'm going to go fishing on the Kenai" most people will assume you mean either the river or the peninsula. Seward is the jumping-off point for Kenai Fjords National Park, which is quite some distance from Seward and on the opposite side of the peninsula from the town of Kenai. (And no, not a place you can sea-kayak to from Seward in a day.) The day cruises are the only practical way to visit the national park, and you need one of the longer ones as the passage to the fjords is on big-water open ocean in part.

Can you visit Exit Glacier without a tour? Yes, easy.

Can you go from Seward to Denali in a day? Yes, but it's a long drive and traffic can be slow along the Seward Highway between Portage and Anchorage. See below for more discussion of Denali.

Denali is huge and accommodations all around - in Glitter Gulch, the B&Bs, Healy... can be very hard to obtain, particularly on short notice. WHEN is this trip? You said "summer," but (a) that's not very specific, and (b) "summer" in Denali ends real early, like in a couple of weeks. That's not a bad thing - gorgeous fall color - but it stays crowded (especially with cruise people on tours) pretty much until things really wind down in early - mid September.

If you can't find accommodation that's affordable for Denali, frankly I'd recommend a couple of alternatives.

1. Use the days to get a far different picture of Alaska. For around $300 or 25K AA miles you can fly round trip from Anchorage to Kotzebue, an Eskimo village on an arm of the Arctic Ocean, above the arctic circle. Stay at the comfortable Nullagvik Hotel across the street from the beach, learn about life in the arctic... fascinating.

2. If the weather's good, go on a flightseeing tour of Denali on a floatplane from Anchorage, and save yourself the long (and frankly boring) drive to Talkeetna or Denali. If Denali isn't visible (and you should be aware that half the visitors to the national park never see the mountain - it makes its own weather) then there are several alternative flightseeing trips available - over Prince William Sound, the Chugach mountains and their glaciers, across Cook Inlet to volcano country... Just my opinion, but not getting up into the air in Alaska is a sin, especially for FTers. You just can't imagine what Denali looks like through the windows of a light plane flying toward it at 6000 feet - "fills the sky" doesn't even come close. The flightseeing trips are expensive, but worth every stinkin' penny if you ask me.

3. Go on a glacier cruise out of Whittier - either Phillips or Major Marine.

4. Do a day hike in the Chugach mountains, accessed right from Anchorage. http://www.anchorage.net/articles/an...-hiking-trails

5. Rent a bike and do the Tony Knowles trail right in Anchorage. Watch out for moose. This is also a great activity if you're a plane nut, as you can watch the floatplanes come and go from Lake Hood as well as the fish freighters and heavies coming and going from ANC.

6. If the time is right, visit the state fair in Palmer. Giant mutant cabbages and zucchini, typical fair stuff, rodeo, gorgeous setting.

Frankly, with as limited an amount of time you have, dedicating 3 full days for Denali (a day getting there, a day there, a day back) is not the best use of your time in my view, not when there are many alternatives.

Just my view of course; others may disagree.

Oh, restaurant for the last night. Watch the sunset from Simon's in downtown, or join the tourists at the Moose's Tooth (pretty good pizza) or at the F Street Station downtown.
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Old Aug 9, 15, 2:26 pm
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
Let's clarify a couple of things that might be muddling the picture.
.....
Thank you so much for the detailed post. Very insightful.

Just couple of additional bits that might help in getting some recommendations.... I'll be there in from 21st to 26th (Aug). I am traveling with a buddy of mine (no family/kids) so mobility factor is high. However, neither of us expected the accommodation, tours or interstate flights to be that high.

1. I did a quick search for Kenai Fjord NP tours. Its $150/pp for 6-8hr tours. Seems a bit pricey but so does everything else. Any recommendations?

2. Is Harding Icefield hike around Exit Glacier? As I understand the Harding Icefield trail ends on the top of the glacier... not sure if it's some other glacier.

4. Whittier > Kenai Fjords NP cruise?

5. Is Northern Lights a possibility in this season (and timeframe)? I believe, there would be some travel required.

6. Kotzebue sounds fantastic. But $300 in airfare and $389/night in hotel is too much. That's over $1000 in additional travel and accommodation.

If Denali NP is out, how about Homer? I could go from Seward to Homer rather than going north. Would it be a good destination for late Aug? Perhaps make it sort of a road trip... Anchorage -> Seward -> Homer ->Coopers Landing -> Anchorage.

Last edited by carsnoceans; Aug 9, 15 at 3:06 pm Reason: Roadtrip thoughts
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Old Aug 9, 15, 5:46 pm
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Originally Posted by carsnoceans View Post
Thank you so much for the detailed post. Very insightful.

Just couple of additional bits that might help in getting some recommendations.... I'll be there in from 21st to 26th (Aug). I am traveling with a buddy of mine (no family/kids) so mobility factor is high. However, neither of us expected the accommodation, tours or interstate flights to be that high.

1. I did a quick search for Kenai Fjord NP tours. Its $150/pp for 6-8hr tours. Seems a bit pricey but so does everything else. Any recommendations?

2. Is Harding Icefield hike around Exit Glacier? As I understand the Harding Icefield trail ends on the top of the glacier... not sure if it's some other glacier.

4. Whittier > Kenai Fjords NP cruise?

5. Is Northern Lights a possibility in this season (and timeframe)? I believe, there would be some travel required.

6. Kotzebue sounds fantastic. But $300 in airfare and $389/night in hotel is too much. That's over $1000 in additional travel and accommodation.

If Denali NP is out, how about Homer? I could go from Seward to Homer rather than going north. Would it be a good destination for late Aug? Perhaps make it sort of a road trip... Anchorage -> Seward -> Homer ->Coopers Landing -> Anchorage.
Answers -

1. Yep, it's expensive. Worth it. Alaska is not a cheap vacation.

2. The Harding Icefield hike runs along the side of Exit Glacier. It's a very steep trail and be sure to take weather protection as things can go south really quickly around glaciers and icefields. Also watch for black bears which can be plentiful thereabouts (make a lot of noise.)

4. No, the Whittier cruises travel around the western edge of Prince William Sound and up College Fjord (numerous tidewater glaciers.) It's a long way from Kenai Fjords NP. Get a map. The Kenai Fjords have lots of wildlife and a few glaciers; the Whittier cruises more glaciers and less wildlife.

5. Highly unlikely; you'd need to be where it gets to full darkness, which in August is hard to accomplish. It's past "midnight sun" time, but twilight lasts a LONG time.

6. See answer no. 1. How often do you expect to put a toe in the Arctic Ocean? Be sure to add the (absent) cost of the car for two days and a night in an Anchorage hotel into the math. You could also look at Nome, a fascinating gold rush town on the Bering Sea, instead of Kotz. Lodging is probably cheaper, maybe airfare too, and it's equally fascinating in its own way. You could rent a vehicle in Nome and get out into the tundra - muskoxen, bears...

Homer - sure, Homer is fun. If you go there, try to get across Kachemak Bay to the picturesque village of Seldovia. BTW Cooper Landing is basically a wide spot in the road. If you're looking for interesting detours off the Seward Hwy, pop down into Hope, an old mining village and the only town on the south shore of Turnagain Arm. There are a couple of great hikes - easy to hard - that leave Hope.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Aug 9, 15 at 5:52 pm
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Old Aug 9, 15, 11:38 pm
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
Answers -

1. Yep, it's expensive. Worth it. Alaska is not a cheap vacation.

2. The Harding Icefield hike runs along the side of Exit Glacier. It's a very steep trail and be sure to take weather protection as things can go south really quickly around glaciers and icefields. Also watch for black bears which can be plentiful thereabouts (make a lot of noise.)

4. No, the Whittier cruises travel around the western edge of Prince William Sound and up College Fjord (numerous tidewater glaciers.) It's a long way from Kenai Fjords NP. Get a map. The Kenai Fjords have lots of wildlife and a few glaciers; the Whittier cruises more glaciers and less wildlife.

5. Highly unlikely; you'd need to be where it gets to full darkness, which in August is hard to accomplish. It's past "midnight sun" time, but twilight lasts a LONG time.

6. See answer no. 1. How often do you expect to put a toe in the Arctic Ocean? Be sure to add the (absent) cost of the car for two days and a night in an Anchorage hotel into the math. You could also look at Nome, a fascinating gold rush town on the Bering Sea, instead of Kotz. Lodging is probably cheaper, maybe airfare too, and it's equally fascinating in its own way. You could rent a vehicle in Nome and get out into the tundra - muskoxen, bears...

Homer - sure, Homer is fun. If you go there, try to get across Kachemak Bay to the picturesque village of Seldovia. BTW Cooper Landing is basically a wide spot in the road. If you're looking for interesting detours off the Seward Hwy, pop down into Hope, an old mining village and the only town on the south shore of Turnagain Arm. There are a couple of great hikes - easy to hard - that leave Hope.
Dipping toes in Arctic is a dream (one of them) but I am not the solo decision taker on expenses. Same goes for flight tours, Kantishna lodging etc. There will need to be a second trip

Is Icefield Harding trail just a steep climb or fairly advanced/technical as well? I have done some hiking in HI (the famous Kalalau trail) and that tested my nerves. I am for some exercise but not looking for a technical climb. Also, weather protection as in few warm layers and waterproof shoes/jacket? Anything else?

I think roadtrip from Seward to Homer seems like the winner then. Seldovia ferry seems quite affordable as well. Between interesting detours and single lane hwys, this should take up couple of days easily.
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Old Aug 10, 15, 7:35 am
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Rather than start a new thread, I'll post here.

We're Alaska bound in the spring. We prefer to travel off-peak ie May/June. Is that a good time, or should we wait till it warms up?

We'll be using Alaska miles. This will allow us to make a stopover, and also use miles between cities at their intra-Alaska rates.

At a recent NY Times Travel show in New York, the folks at the booth suggested doing Alaska 101. Fly into Anchorage, then do a week on the Kenai Peninsula.

Here's the question from my wife to you:

For the sake of argument, let's say this will be our only trip to Alaska. What are the must-do things, without worrying about price? If this means a day here, and 2 days there, so be it. Trip length 12 days.

Thoughts?

Thanks.
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Old Aug 10, 15, 8:49 am
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Originally Posted by dhammer53 View Post
Rather than start a new thread, I'll post here.

We're Alaska bound in the spring. We prefer to travel off-peak ie May/June. Is that a good time, or should we wait till it warms up?

We'll be using Alaska miles. This will allow us to make a stopover, and also use miles between cities at their intra-Alaska rates.

At a recent NY Times Travel show in New York, the folks at the booth suggested doing Alaska 101. Fly into Anchorage, then do a week on the Kenai Peninsula.

Here's the question from my wife to you:

For the sake of argument, let's say this will be our only trip to Alaska. What are the must-do things, without worrying about price? If this means a day here, and 2 days there, so be it. Trip length 12 days.

Thoughts?

Thanks.
Mid-May is the beginning of peak season in Alaska. I would suggest early May for your trip. A leisurely drive around the Kenai peninsula could take up 4-5 days with a day in Homer (arts community), a couple of days in Seward to visit the Sea Life Center, Exit Glacier and a day cruise on Resurrection Bay.

Take the ferry from Seward over to Valdez and drive the Glenn Highway up to Fairbanks. I'm not sure about hotels for this portion but you can drive the route in one day. A couple of days around Fairbanks is plenty. Then drive the Parks Highway to Denali Park. A couple of days there gives you a flavor of the place.

Fly to Kodiak and spend a couple of days exploring the island and do a bear viewing flight. bear viewing can also be done out of Homer.

For food, here are some suggestions:

Anchorage:
Club Paris (steaks)
Simon & Seaforts (Crab stuffed halibut)
Glacier Brewhouse (awesome pub food)
Moose's Tooth (top 10 pizzas in the country)
Bob's Bistro & BBQ ("Wall O’ Wine™") and Yes, that is an invitation

Girdwood:

Seven Glaciers


Fairbanks:

Lavelle's (everything plus good wine list)

most of the usual suspects will be out of town May 19-22, so plan around that.

There is so much to see and do that I am only hitting some highlights. Barrow, Nome, Bethel, Adak, Dutch Harbor are all rustic and remote, giving a "Wild" flare to any visit.

Of course, you are required to post in the "When are you coming to Alaska" thread so we can give you the proper welcome^^

Last edited by BOB W; Aug 10, 15 at 10:14 am Reason: spelling error
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Old Aug 10, 15, 11:07 am
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Originally Posted by BOB W View Post
Mid-May is the beginning of peak season in Alaska. I would suggest early May for your trip. A leisurely drive around the Kenai peninsula could take up 4-5 days with a day in Homer (arts community), a couple of days in Seward to visit the Sea Life Center, Exit Glacier and a day cruise on Resurrection Bay.

Take the ferry from Seward over to Valdez and drive the Glenn Highway up to Fairbanks. I'm not sure about hotels for this portion but you can drive the route in one day. A couple of days around Fairbanks is plenty. Then drive the Parks Highway to Denali Park. A couple of days there gives you a flavor of the place.

Fly to Kodiak and spend a couple of days exploring the island and do a bear viewing flight. bear viewing can also be done out of Homer.

For food, here are some suggestions:

Anchorage:
Club Paris (steaks)
Simon & Seaforts (Crab stuffed halibut)
Glacier Brewhouse (awesome pub food)
Moose's Tooth (top 10 pizzas in the country)
Bob's Bistro & BBQ ("Wall O’ Wine™") and Yes, that is an invitation

Girdwood:

Seven Glaciers


Fairbanks:

Lavelle's (everything plus good wine list)

most of the usual suspects will be out of town May 19-22, so plan around that.

There is so much to see and do that I am only hitting some highlights. Barrow, Nome, Bethel, Adak, Dutch Harbor are all rustic and remote, giving a "Wild" flare to any visit.

Of course, you are required to post in the "When are you coming to Alaska" thread so we can give you the proper welcome^^
BOB W's covered a lot of the basics. I'm eternally pressed for time these days and so can't quite take the time to do as comprehensive of a response in the Alaska forum as I've done in previous years, but I did just want to add that while Bob suggests coming up in early May, I would actually suggest late May.

May 15 is when all of the tourism industry operators open for business and start running their stuff. If you show up before May 15, you might find a lot of the businesses in the tourism industry closed or on very limited schedules. That includes everything from the Alaska Native Heritage Center in ANC (a must-see; it opens for business May 10) to air taxi flightseeing services to the Denali park bus system (buses start running May 20; before that, you cannot even get into the best parts of the park except by snowshoe) to the glacier cruises in Whittier and Seward. So if you come up too early, you may find that it's a) a bit chilly for your liking and b) many of the options of things you would want to do are not yet ready for you.

Late May is still fine as far as prices go. It's not yet really peak-of-peak season, so airfares are usually fairly reasonable as the extra seasonal services start in mid-May but planes aren't full, and rental car companies have brought in their summer fleets but aren't yet sold out. Even into early June might be acceptable price-wise; the travel industry usually tries to jack rates up starting June 1 ("June, July, and August" are the peak-of-peak months), but the business isn't quite there yet to sustain high prices, so things usually settle back down until the real heavyweight season starts around June 10-15. Then once you hit June 21--Solstice, the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon, the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Festival, peak of the first run of Kings on the Kenai--forget it. Everything is sold out and you will be paying a pretty penny to visit Alaska. Peak tourist and fishing season stays with us (with a small tourism dip around the July 4 holiday, when rental cars and hotels might be slightly cheaper than surrounding weeks due to lower demand) until about the middle of August, when things start to go in reverse--people go home and prices drop as August peters out, followed by the conclusion of the State Fair on Labor Day and then finally the closing up of the tourism industry in mid-September, when everything is rainy and soggy and leaves are falling (not a good time to come, IMHO, unless you're going to the State Fair and Dutch Harbor ).

So late May is my preferred suggestion for a great time to visit Alaska. Just bring an extra jacket, as it's not quite hot yet--you might see temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s versus the mid-to-high 60s in June with occasional peaks in the 70s from late June through early August (there were even some days above 80 this year--Alaskans melt like igloos at those temperatures).
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Old Aug 10, 15, 11:40 am
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I would incorporate a stop in SE Alaska - Juneau (paging Jerry.A.laska), Sitka, or Ketchikan.

And I would definitely not miss an opportunity to see the Wall of Wine™
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Old Aug 10, 15, 11:56 am
  #13  
fti
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Originally Posted by carsnoceans View Post
Thank you so much for the detailed post. Very insightful.

Just couple of additional bits that might help in getting some recommendations.... I'll be there in from 21st to 26th (Aug). I am traveling with a buddy of mine (no family/kids) so mobility factor is high. However, neither of us expected the accommodation, tours or interstate flights to be that high.

1. I did a quick search for Kenai Fjord NP tours. Its $150/pp for 6-8hr tours. Seems a bit pricey but so does everything else. Any recommendations?

2. Is Harding Icefield hike around Exit Glacier? As I understand the Harding Icefield trail ends on the top of the glacier... not sure if it's some other glacier.

4. Whittier > Kenai Fjords NP cruise?

5. Is Northern Lights a possibility in this season (and timeframe)? I believe, there would be some travel required.

6. Kotzebue sounds fantastic. But $300 in airfare and $389/night in hotel is too much. That's over $1000 in additional travel and accommodation.

If Denali NP is out, how about Homer? I could go from Seward to Homer rather than going north. Would it be a good destination for late Aug? Perhaps make it sort of a road trip... Anchorage -> Seward -> Homer ->Coopers Landing -> Anchorage.
As you are already seeing, there are lots of options and opinions for your trip. I still am uncertain of your dates - you arrive at 4am on the 21st and depart just after midnight on Aug 26th? Or is it just after midnight on Aug 25th?

The Kenai Fjords National Park 6 hour or longer tour is definitely worth it. Do a search for some coupons. Toursaver and Northern Lights coupon books have some coupons that even with the cost of the book could make it worth it.

Harding Icefield Trail is an all-day (+-6 hour round trip) hike. Very good hike and strenuous (3,000 foot elevation gain). But it takes a huge chunk of time.

Personally I think Denali NP is worth a trip but only if you spend 1-2 nights and only if you get on a shuttle bus (not tour bus) at least to Eielson Visitor Center. This is an 8 hour bus ride and gives you incredible scenery and an excellent chance of wildlife sightings, especially in late August. Late August is peak fall color time in Denali too, which is my favorite time to be in the park. You can almost always find lodging in Healy (10 miles north of the park - denalichamber.com is a good place to start) or south of the park near Carlo Creek, also listed on the denali chamber site.

Northern Lights could possibly be seen from southcentral or interior Alaska in late August. Denali is as good as Fairbanks and last Aug/Sep I saw them multiple times from Denali.

Personally I think you miss a lot if you don't head to Denali in late August. The T Shirts say 30% of the visitors see Mt. McKinley but that is a PR ploy. I saw it 19 of my first 20 times in the park but those who work hard to see it get rewarded. I drive into the park late in the evening when the chances are better. I am on buses all day, sometimes early and sometimes late, when it is also more likely to see it. I camp inside the park and that also greatly increases the chances.

Nothing against small plane trips in Alaska - they are definitely one of the best ways to see Alaska (as are small boats, thus the Kenai Fjords recommendation).

Maybe something like this:

Aug 21 arrive, sleep, head to Seward, Exit Glacier
Aug 22 8am Kenai Fjords tour, finished by 2pm, drive to Girdwood, Anchorage or Eagle River, overnight
Aug 23 drive to Denali with stop in Talkeetna (flightseeing?)
Aug 24 shuttle bus to Eielson
Aug 25 drive to Anchorage, fly out at midnight if that is accurate

Figure 3 hours to drive between Anchorage and Seward. Figure 6 hours to drive between Anchorage and Denali with stops, construction, etc.
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Old Aug 11, 15, 3:52 am
  #14  
 
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Carsnoceans, I see youíve received excellent feedback on your questions already, particularly from Gardyloo.

The one thing Iíll add relates to the cost of flight-seeing and boats (fishing or wildlife viewing). They are expensive to maintain them here, and insurance is very high. As someone already mentioned, Denali has its own weather system, which makes flying in the NP an extra challenge -- so you only want experienced pilots to take you in there.

I love the suggestions about seeing some of the interior of Alaska, but know you have to weigh logistics and priorities.

As hotels are so expensive in the summer, what do you think about bringing a tent or buy/rent a used one here? Just make sure you understand how to store food in bear country. I donít know what the motor home rentals cost, but that might be another option to meet both your transportation and lodging needs.
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Old Aug 11, 15, 10:00 am
  #15  
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Seward specific question.... based on the (amazing) information provided above, I have put the Kenai Fjords NP day cruise and Harding Icefield trail on my must-do list.

Assuming, drive from ANC to Seward would take 5-6hrs (with stops), I should be in Seward by 11am or noon. Would that be too late to start the Harding Icefield trail? What would be a good time to start on the trail for best weather?
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