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Itinerary advice, please

Itinerary advice, please

Old May 9, 16, 2:21 pm
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Question Itinerary advice, please

We have 12 days in Alaska in early June and have hired a car. After a night or two in Anchorage we will poddle down to the Kenai Peninsula with stops along the way. We have booked boat trips on Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords and a flightseeing tour from Homer to see bears in Katmai. All that will be at a fairly leisurely pace and take up 6 days. We would like to spend the last 2 days in Denali (and it will take a day to get there, I guess).

That leaves about 3 days that we haven't planned yet. Our focus is on wild life, nature and scenery. We are open to most things including flying somewhere if it is warranted.

What would the veterans of Alaskan travel recommend? Thanks in advance.
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Old May 9, 16, 10:22 pm
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If you have the time and the ferry schedules permit you could do a loop, driving from Anchorage to Valdez through the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, taking stops to hike on the Matanuska Glacier and hiking to several gorgeous waterfalls along Highway 4 into Valdez. Valdez has some excellent kayaking trips. Depending on your budget/time you could go to Columbia, Shoup, or Valdez glacier. Alternatively you could also make your way down to McCarthy and visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Then, take the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry from Valdez to Whittier through the Prince William Sound and drive back to Anchorage.

We'll be in Alaska the same time, from June 6-12. This time we'll just be visiting the Kenai Peninsula but I wish we had more time to visit Valdez and Wrangell-St. Elias.
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Old May 10, 16, 8:26 am
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Originally Posted by Cheetah_SA View Post
We have 12 days in Alaska in early June and have hired a car. After a night or two in Anchorage we will poddle down to the Kenai Peninsula with stops along the way. We have booked boat trips on Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords and a flightseeing tour from Homer to see bears in Katmai. All that will be at a fairly leisurely pace and take up 6 days. We would like to spend the last 2 days in Denali (and it will take a day to get there, I guess).

That leaves about 3 days that we haven't planned yet. Our focus is on wild life, nature and scenery. We are open to most things including flying somewhere if it is warranted.

What would the veterans of Alaskan travel recommend? Thanks in advance.
What I'd do is drop the car at ANC after visiting Denali, and fly to Nome on Alaska Airlines (decent redemption value with BA Avios if you have any).

Nome is an historic gold rush town on the Bering Sea - the end of the Iditarod race and still home to lots of daft gold miners including a bunch that mine the ocean bottom off the shoreline.

But unlike most other bush communities in Alaska, Nome has a limited road system, with several roads that head off into the tundra of the Seward Peninsula. You'll pass signs of previous gold mining, but for the most part the country is empty and stunning in its stark beauty. There are moose, caribou, muskoxen, bears, and a bazillion birds; wildflowers... it's a dramatic change from what you'll see on the rest of your visit.

You won't be far enough north for 24 hour sun, but you'll have "midnight sun" for sure, and it won't get dark at all. Hotel and vehicle rental prices (you'll need to google to find car sources) won't be terribly different from Anchorage, maybe even a little cheaper, but the experience will be one that few Alaska residents have, let alone visitors.

Guide to the local road network - http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm...ewardpeninsula
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Old May 11, 16, 2:54 pm
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Two fantastic suggestions! Thank you both.

Lots to think about ...

We wanted to do Denali at the end of the trip to be able to get deeper into the park. Not sure how important that is?
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Old May 11, 16, 4:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Cheetah_SA View Post
Two fantastic suggestions! Thank you both.

Lots to think about ...

We wanted to do Denali at the end of the trip to be able to get deeper into the park. Not sure how important that is?
"Deeper" into Denali Park usually means Wonder Lake, more or less the end of the line for shuttles.

If the mountain is visible (half or more of the time it isn't due to clouds) the view from Wonder Lake is great. However, in June, Wonder Lake is overwhelmed with mosquitoes; many people find it intolerable.

The Nome area will also have plenty of mosquitoes at that time; however they won't be too bad in town and near salt water, and if you're touring the road system you can keep the windows up. Bring plenty of bug dope regardless.

Not knowing where you're coming from on the way to Alaska or going after, one other idea might be to fly to Juneau at the end of the trip and get a sense for the southeastern part of the state. You can fly from Juneau to Seattle, or take a ferry to some other town and fly to Seattle from there (Sitka would be my choice.) Several options.
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Old May 12, 16, 1:11 pm
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Thanks again, Gardyloo.

Our coming and going is pretty much set in stone - we arrive and depart from ANC. Because of using award tickets I had to put that line in the sand at an early stage - before much planning had been done.

We had considered flying to Juneau. My partner is particularly fascinated with the boat tour of Glacier Bay from Gustavus. But it seems a very long detour for something that could be less than wonderful if the weather is poor.

From that point of view Nome sounds more forgiving. We would have a couple of days to just drive around soaking up whatever we come across. Sounds enjoyably laid back. But award seats are not available on dates that suit our itinerary so it would mean buying tickets.

Just a thought: is there anything even vaguely like that that is drivable from Anchorage?
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Old May 12, 16, 2:09 pm
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Originally Posted by Cheetah_SA View Post
Just a thought: is there anything even vaguely like that that is drivable from Anchorage?
In my view, not really. Nome is fairly unique in that it has a local road system that isn't connected to the rest of the state.

To be sure, there are native villages that you can reach on the road, and interesting mining towns (McCarthy, Hope.) But IMO they're not the same.

I did want to mention that the AS flights from ANC to OME stop in Kotzebue in one direction or the other (memory fails; it's easily checked.) Kotzebue IS above the arctic circle (and on an arm of the Arctic Ocean) and there you'd have actual 24h sun. Kotzebue is an important Inupiat Eskimo community, and has a comfortable hotel - http://www.nullagvikhotel.com/ - right across from the beach. You could take a day trip to a fish camp, visit the local native heritage center, and not even spend a night (ha ha.) The add-on airfare to include OTZ in the flight schedule isn't very much.

One possibility for a car-based excursion is to do a loop via Valdez. There's a state ferry that runs from Whittier across Prince William Sound to Valdez, and from Valdez you can drive on the Richardson Hwy to Fairbanks, then down to Denali and finally back to Anchorage. The ferry is quite scenic, and the Richardson between Valdez and Copper Center is one of the most scenic highways in North America. You could do this in either direction of course.
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Old May 18, 16, 6:45 am
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Thanks again Gardyloo. Still thinking about Nome and the other possibilities.

Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
One possibility for a car-based excursion is to do a loop via Valdez. There's a state ferry that runs from Whittier across Prince William Sound to Valdez, and from Valdez you can drive on the Richardson Hwy to Fairbanks, then down to Denali and finally back to Anchorage. The ferry is quite scenic, and the Richardson between Valdez and Copper Center is one of the most scenic highways in North America. You could do this in either direction of course.
I did look into the ferry loop (previously also kindly suggested by Big4Flyer). But the ferries only run every second day - and the schedules just happen to be out of synch with our dates making that impossible within our time constraints.
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Old May 19, 16, 2:54 am
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Originally Posted by Cheetah_SA View Post
Thanks again Gardyloo. Still thinking about Nome and the other possibilities.



I did look into the ferry loop (previously also kindly suggested by Big4Flyer). But the ferries only run every second day - and the schedules just happen to be out of synch with our dates making that impossible within our time constraints.
Looks the Alaska Marine Highway took one of the fast ferries out of service for the summer. FVF Chenega usually is based in Prince William Sound. Would normally allow daily or more departures departures. Can't find out too much info beyond it being a budget issue as to why it's not operating.

Did you check both directions? As in, Valdez to Whittier as well as Whittier to Valdez, if the dates would work? Could drive the loop in either direction. I actually prefer the slow ferry, gives a better view. Hard to beat the sightseeing value.
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Old May 19, 16, 1:44 pm
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Originally Posted by alphaeagle View Post
Did you check both directions? As in, Valdez to Whittier as well as Whittier to Valdez, if the dates would work? Could drive the loop in either direction. I actually prefer the slow ferry, gives a better view. Hard to beat the sightseeing value.
Thanks, I did indeed look at both directions and neither works.
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Old Jun 16, 16, 11:09 pm
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Just to wrap this up... we eventually moved things around so that we could take the ferry from Whittier to Valdez and drive back to Anchorage. It involved some backtracking and a lot of driving but we're really glad we we did it. We had (another) perfect day on Prince William Sound for the ferry and the drive back was amazing.

All in all an outstanding trip. The scenery is beyond anything one imagines - despite having seen it so often on film and pictures. Undoubtedly our most awesome (in the true sense of that word) experiences were various flight-seeing trips we did. Seeing the landscape from the air really exposes one to its incredible complexity and beauty.

Would love to go back. But for us it is an awfully long way away (and rather fiercely expensive!) so not very likely.

Thanks again for all the helpful and well-informed advice from this board!
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Old Jun 17, 16, 7:54 am
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Originally Posted by Cheetah_SA View Post
Just to wrap this up... we eventually moved things around so that we could take the ferry from Whittier to Valdez and drive back to Anchorage. It involved some backtracking and a lot of driving but we're really glad we we did it. We had (another) perfect day on Prince William Sound for the ferry and the drive back was amazing.

All in all an outstanding trip. The scenery is beyond anything one imagines - despite having seen it so often on film and pictures. Undoubtedly our most awesome (in the true sense of that word) experiences were various flight-seeing trips we did. Seeing the landscape from the air really exposes one to its incredible complexity and beauty.

Would love to go back. But for us it is an awfully long way away (and rather fiercely expensive!) so not very likely.

Thanks again for all the helpful and well-informed advice from this board!
Glad you enjoyed the trip. I expect our trips probably overlapped some as we just got back last Sunday after being there for a week. I think we were there at the perfect time of the year. The weather turned out excellent, we only got one day of rain, and everywhere you looked was just like a postcard. Like you, we left already wanting to go back again. I'm hoping fares will be as reasonable from the west coast next year as they were this year and we can do it again.

I felt the same way you did about the flight-seeing flights. My wife and I both agreed that was the best money we ever spent on vacation. Seeing the remoteness and sheer expanse of the land is absolutely awe-inspiring.
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Old Jul 19, 16, 11:49 am
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May I jump in here to ask a related question about a trip plan I'm putting together?

Likely visiting first couple of weeks of September for a couple of weeks. Anckorage arrival and departure; rental car. Current thinking is to head to Denali upon arrival for several days. Then head to Kanai Peninsula for several days in Homer then on to Seward before flying home.

Seeing posts above wondering if a better option might to head to Valdez after Denali for a couple of days. Take the ferry to Whittier and just do Seward area (not include Homer)?

We're primarily interested in easy hiking, sights, wildlife spotting, etc. Nothing too rigorous.

Thoughts? Thank you.
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Old Jul 21, 16, 10:10 am
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Originally Posted by jacknyoc View Post
May I jump in here to ask a related question about a trip plan I'm putting together?

Likely visiting first couple of weeks of September for a couple of weeks. Anckorage arrival and departure; rental car. Current thinking is to head to Denali upon arrival for several days. Then head to Kanai Peninsula for several days in Homer then on to Seward before flying home.

Seeing posts above wondering if a better option might to head to Valdez after Denali for a couple of days. Take the ferry to Whittier and just do Seward area (not include Homer)?

We're primarily interested in easy hiking, sights, wildlife spotting, etc. Nothing too rigorous.

Thoughts? Thank you.
You should probably start your own thread as your plans are quite different from Cheetah_SA's.

The "first couple of weeks of September" are going to be at the absolute tail end of the season for Denali, so definitely go there first.

You're also going to be encountering autumn conditions and shortening daylight (also the weather can start turning poopy) so driving from Denali to Valdez (which will need to be either via Fairbanks or Palmer, not the Denali Hwy which is off limits to the car rental companies) is a full-day exercise, maybe even two days. The Richardson Hwy from Glennallen to Valdez is superbly scenic, which justifies that time; on the other hand, the drive down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer is okay but not in the same scenery league. (Although Homer itself certainly IS.)

But if a "couple of weeks" means 14 days, you have enough time for everything, weather notwithstanding.

Code:
1	Arr Anchorage
2	Anchorage
3	To Denali
4	Denali
5	To Palmer
6	To Valdez
7	Ferry to Whittier
8	To Homer
9	Homer
10	To Seward
11	Seward
12	To Anchorage
13	Anchorage
14	Depart
Note that booking the ferry from Valdez to Whittier is key to this - they don't sail every day. http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/schedules.shtml
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