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Road trip for Scandinavians

Road trip for Scandinavians

Old Nov 10, 15, 1:26 pm
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Road trip for Scandinavians

Hi,

we are two experienced Scandinavians planning a road trip in Alaska. Previously we've explored most coastal roads and mountain passes there are in Norway, Iceland and Sweden. Plus some work driving arctic trucks off-road. Born and raised north of the arctic circle we've seen our fair share of reindeer (heck, our city's town sign is a reindeer!), northern lights, whales, fjords and such.

But still, we love the arctic nature, and want to experience Alaska by road (plus maybe from the air?). With this in mind: where should we ideally drive? Are there any hefty mountain passes and/or gravel roads fitting for a week long road trip with a rental car?

So far I've come to understand this:
There isn't a lot of roads in Alaska, and the one that goes to Prudhoe bay is normally not open to drive with a rental car (on the rental car owners discretion). I've seen some pictures and it looks quite... bland. After a lot of driving in Iceland and crossing the arctic circle xxxx times - I feel it isn't a must.

Driving to the Kenai peninsula - looks very beautiful. Something worth two days of the itinary maybe? We're not interested in long hikes or any ocean kayaking, are there any short 1-2 hour hikes of extraordinary wonder here?

Anchorage - Fairbanks via Denali - how much of Denali national park can one see on open roads? I've heard about this lottery, but I guess it is impossible to "count" on winning these. We're not very interested in staying in Denali, we just want to drive and see the nature + maybe stop for a 1-2 hour hike if there are any. Do we have to look into the buses to enter the national park?

Driving to Skagway via Yukon - the most popular drive? Are there any mountain passes here? How long a time should we count on spending? Are there any ferries going from the Skagway area back to Anchorage? Should we try to catch a ferry/boat to Juneau?

Or should we cut down on the driving and try to catch a flight to any of the west coast cities? Unalakleet is famous from the tv-series. Flying to Barrow - something most people do just to have been north of the arctic circle? Anything worth seeing there for someone who's been to 80 degrees north?

Any other thoughts? I want to see glaciers, sharp mountain peeks, red forests and maybe a grizzly! THANK YOU for any suggestions!

EDIT: Sorry, we are planning on flying in during late August, to catch those red/yellow/brown amazing autumn colors. Can't get enough of 'em back home
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Old Nov 10, 15, 8:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Pangro View Post
Hi,

we are two experienced Scandinavians planning a road trip in Alaska. Previously we've explored most coastal roads and mountain passes there are in Norway, Iceland and Sweden. Plus some work driving arctic trucks off-road. Born and raised north of the arctic circle we've seen our fair share of reindeer (heck, our city's town sign is a reindeer!), northern lights, whales, fjords and such.

But still, we love the arctic nature, and want to experience Alaska by road (plus maybe from the air?). With this in mind: where should we ideally drive? Are there any hefty mountain passes and/or gravel roads fitting for a week long road trip with a rental car?
First, how much time will you have altogether? Second, the major rental car companies don't allow their cars on gravel roads, e.g. the Dalton and Denali Highways, McCarthy road, etc. There are some local firms in Anchorage that will rent cars that are allowed on those roads; a quick Google will give you their names.

Originally Posted by Pangro View Post
So far I've come to understand this:
There isn't a lot of roads in Alaska, and the one that goes to Prudhoe bay is normally not open to drive with a rental car (on the rental car owners discretion). I've seen some pictures and it looks quite... bland. After a lot of driving in Iceland and crossing the arctic circle xxxx times - I feel it isn't a must.
Bland is kind. If you were to book a vehicle that is allowed on gravel roads, then the Denali Hwy (between Cantwell and Paxson) is very scenic and remote feeling, and in the autumn it's gorgeous. Lots of bears, so be very careful.

Originally Posted by Pangro View Post
Driving to the Kenai peninsula - looks very beautiful. Something worth two days of the itinary maybe? We're not interested in long hikes or any ocean kayaking, are there any short 1-2 hour hikes of extraordinary wonder here?
The Kenai is a fine target, and yes, there are many short hikes, depending on where you are. Much of it is bear country, and in late August they're very active. Kenai Fjords National Park (accessed from Seward) is a don't-miss experience.

Originally Posted by Pangro View Post
Anchorage - Fairbanks via Denali - how much of Denali national park can one see on open roads? I've heard about this lottery, but I guess it is impossible to "count" on winning these. We're not very interested in staying in Denali, we just want to drive and see the nature + maybe stop for a 1-2 hour hike if there are any. Do we have to look into the buses to enter the national park?
Very limited areas of the park are open to private vehicles. Yes, use the buses, but the experience is worth it. Depending on how much time you have, I would probably skip Fairbanks and allocate those days elsewhere. For spectacular scenery, the Richardson Hwy between Glennallen and Valdez is near the top of the world's list. Here's a possible road trip route, provided you have a vehicle that can use the Denali Hwy. https://goo.gl/maps/UjEux7ZwZUR2

Originally Posted by Pangro View Post
Driving to Skagway via Yukon - the most popular drive? Are there any mountain passes here? How long a time should we count on spending? Are there any ferries going from the Skagway area back to Anchorage? Should we try to catch a ferry/boat to Juneau?
You will have a very difficult time arranging for a rental car to take into the Yukon, and from Anchorage the drive to Skagway will take three days or so. Again, depending on how much time you actually have, I think your time would be better spent elsewhere.

Now if you want to experience southeast Alaska, consider flying to Juneau from Anchorage and visiting Alaska's historic and pretty capital, or maybe take a ferry to one of the small island villages in the region, such as Tenakee Springs. http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/ You can continue south to Seattle from Juneau, so make that visit at the end of your trip.

Originally Posted by Pangro View Post
Or should we cut down on the driving and try to catch a flight to any of the west coast cities? Unalakleet is famous from the tv-series. Flying to Barrow - something most people do just to have been north of the arctic circle? Anything worth seeing there for someone who's been to 80 degrees north?
Barrow (and my favorite, Kotzebue) are fascinating native communities, but not scenic areas - low tundra, no mountains, etc. One possibility for a road trip in the bush is to fly to the historic mining town of Nome, from which you can rent cars and explore the several roads radiating out from Nome into the Seward Peninsula. Return airfare to Nome from Anchorage is around US$300. Look here: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm...ewardpeninsula

Originally Posted by Pangro View Post
Any other thoughts? I want to see glaciers, sharp mountain peeks, red forests and maybe a grizzly! THANK YOU for any suggestions!
By all means plan on a glacier cruise out of Whittier (not far from Anchorage) for the mountains-and-glaciers experience. Or for a splurge (worth every penny) a bear-viewing flight excursion out of Anchorage - http://www.flyrusts.com/bear-viewing/index.html

Originally Posted by Pangro View Post
EDIT: Sorry, we are planning on flying in during late August, to catch those red/yellow/brown amazing autumn colors. Can't get enough of 'em back home
Happy planning!
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