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Anchorage - 4 Days in March, Itinerary Suggestions

Anchorage - 4 Days in March, Itinerary Suggestions

Old Dec 22, 15, 9:29 pm
  #1  
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Anchorage - 4 Days in March, Itinerary Suggestions

Hi All,

Me and a buddy are flying up to Anchorage for four days, March 9-13 for the first time (those are the dates that work). We just want a taste of Alaska winter scenery, and (perhaps) a chance to see the northern lights. We have four full days and a rental car to play with.

Tentatively, I'd like to do Seward/Whittier on one day (Thurs) return to ANC for the night, and then drive up to Fairbanks Friday morning, stopping in Talkeetna along the way, and maybe an hour of snowshoeing in the part of Denali that's open.

Spend Saturday morning in Fairbanks (maybe hit the ice festival?), and then drive back to Anchorage. Spend Sunday exploring Anchorage or possibly doing some dogsledding or snowmobiling in Girdwood.

A) I know this a ton of driving, in potentially difficult conditions. I have some winter driving experience but would prefer not to hurt myself or wreck the car (Fwiw I will have full insurance coverage). Should I re-evaluate?

B) If you were going to modify this, what would you suggest? We're two guys in our twenties, trying to stick to a budget. Hotels and the rental are a given, but we'd prefer not shell out too much. Finally, we're also ready to go balls to the wall - wake up at 6 am daily to maximize our time (apparently there's already 12 hours daylight at this point).

Thanks for your help!
ccohen322 is offline  
Old Dec 23, 15, 1:34 am
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It's an ambitious plan. Not impossible, just potentially tight.

The further you get from Anchorage and light pollution, the better your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. You can follow Aurora Borealis Notifications on Facebook to find out when and where they're active.

Whittier/Seward can be done in a day, depending on how much time you want to spend outside of the car and in daylight. Plan for at least 6 hours of driving if you intend to visit both towns and return to Anchorage in the same day. Whittier is a 1-1.5 hour drive from Anchorage, and the one-way tunnel changes direction every 30 minutes and requires that cars be in line before the direction switches. That means if you miss a cutoff, you could be waiting an hour for the tunnel to switch back to your direction. Next, add 10-30 minutes each way to get through the tunnel. Seward is another 1.5-2 hours from Whittier.

Fairbanks is a minimum of 5.5 hours from Anchorage on a good summer day with no stops and a lead foot (not recommended). In March, I'd plan for more like 7-8 hours each way to be safe. Add to that your stops in Talkeetna and Denali.

Girdwood is about an hour drive from Anchorage. You might also consider visiting the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center if you have time and any interest in seeing Alaskan wildlife from a safe distance.

Since I don't know what sort of winter driving experience you have, I'll err on the side of caution. If possible, try to rent an all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive vehicle since there will still be snow and ice on the ground. Sometimes it is warm (40-50) and slushy. Sometimes there are snow dumps in March after a false spring in February. Before you go anywhere, buy a gallon of windshield wiper fluid so you can refill the reservoir and get a couple of chamois or a roll of paper towels to clean the headlights.

Happy travels!
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Old Dec 23, 15, 9:11 am
  #3  
fti
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Honestly, having been to Alaska over 30 times, many of those trips in the winter, your plans show that you have no idea about the driving distances in Alaska.

Also, the first responder saying that Fairbanks is a minimum of 5.5 hours from Anchorage, even with a lead foot, is just crazy. 360 miles in 5.5 hours is a AVERAGE of over 65 mph. There are quite a few places where the speed limit goes way down. Even with a lead foot in the summer (good roads, no snow) you would not be able to make it in that time.

Why go all that way to Alaska just to see the Alaskan roads and be driving all day? I prefer to DO something in Alaska vs. just driving.

I can certainly give some recommendations, but if you are intent on driving all over the state in four days, there is no reason to convince you to change your desires and no reason for me to waste my time typing alternate suggestions . Let me know.
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Old Dec 23, 15, 9:43 am
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That proposed itinerary sounds brutal to me. I would skip Fairbanks if I were you. You can get plenty of winter scenery in the Anchorage area!
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Old Dec 23, 15, 9:53 am
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
Honestly, having been to Alaska over 30 times, many of those trips in the winter, your plans show that you have no idea about the driving distances in Alaska.

Also, the first responder saying that Fairbanks is a minimum of 5.5 hours from Anchorage, even with a lead foot, is just crazy. 360 miles in 5.5 hours is a AVERAGE of over 65 mph. There are quite a few places where the speed limit goes way down. Even with a lead foot in the summer (good roads, no snow) you would not be able to make it in that time.

Why go all that way to Alaska just to see the Alaskan roads and be driving all day? I prefer to DO something in Alaska vs. just driving.

I can certainly give some recommendations, but if you are intent on driving all over the state in four days, there is no reason to convince you to change your desires and no reason for me to waste my time typing alternate suggestions . Let me know.
Thank you for the honest feedback (and users manderwa and wonderlove as well).

I can nix Fairbanks, especially considering what you're saying about the state of the roads and driving speeds. If so, I think basing myself in Anchorage makes the most sense. If you have any activity suggestions I'd be very appreciative. I would still like to hit Talkeetna, which should be a reasonable day trip, right? Also, I'm not entirely opposed to one splurge activity, either a plane ride or snowmobiling (just don't want to completely break the bank).

Thanks again.
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Old Dec 23, 15, 11:07 pm
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
360 miles in 5.5 hours is a AVERAGE of over 65 mph.
Yep. Ah, the invincible days of youth.


ccohen322, do you ski or snowboard? Alyeska Resort is in Girdwood, popular for skiing and incredible views. And yes, Talkeetna would be a reasonable day trip.

I would also nix Fairbanks this time, unless you can find a really good airfare. Occasionally fare sales rival the cost of gas to drive, and with a 50-minute flight each way, can make for a reasonable day or overnight trip.

Anchorage is a bit of a foodie town, so you might check out some of the local restaurants and breweries. Moose's Tooth is a staple for creative pizzas and locally brewed beer. Glacier Brewhouse has great seafood along with their own locally brewed beer, and you can see into the brewery from the restaurant. Snow City Cafe has won the Best of Anchorage award for breakfasts for 12 years running. In Girdwood, check out Double Musky (spendier, but the portions are huge).
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Old Dec 23, 15, 11:54 pm
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fti
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I think Talkeetna is a good option. Great views of Denali the mountain from there if it is visible. You could also see about a flightseeing tour from there. Several vendors, though they might be busy with the Iditarod going on at that time.

A drive along Turnagain Arm to Girdwood and even further is also a nice drive. I have seen moose in the winter along the Seward Highway as well as along the spur road toward Whittier.

One splurge might be the Lazy Otter boat people out of Whittier. http://www.lazyotter.com/. It might be out of your budget for two people, but if they have a couple of others interested around your same dates, maybe something could work out.

In any case, if you did a day drive south of Anchorage to Girdwood, maybe the Lazy Otter charter, maybe the Wildlife Conservation Center (check opening hours), even drive to Hope (small town but very picturesque) that would take care of one day. Another day drive north to Talkeetna with stops along the way. Maybe even take a detour along the Glenn Highway for some ways before turning around. You can see if the trail around Reflections Lake north of Anchorage is open in the winter. It is a nice walk, scenic and short but fun. When driving north of Anchorage, be on the lookout for moose. One time in March my friend and I counted over 30 moose that we spotted from the highway, some closer to the road than others.

If you arrive on the 9th, that means those two trips would take care of the 10th and 11th. You would have one day to explore some of Anchorage. Not sure when on the 13th you would be departing.

I did a snowmobile tour out of Girdwood one winter. Being that I own a snowmobile, my main goal was to get to the ice caves in Portage at a glacier. But there was so little snow that year it was not possible. So we rode along Turnagain Pass south of Portage. Pretty ride, but I was with very inexperienced riders, one of whom kept going into a snowbank. It was the most boring time of my life. If you do this, you need an extremely small group and be very clear up front what your expectations are.

Last edited by fti; Dec 23, 15 at 11:59 pm
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Old Dec 26, 15, 10:39 am
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Thanks for the suggestions!
Will definitely put them to use
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