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Seward-Homer-Anchorage in one & half day, need advice

Seward-Homer-Anchorage in one & half day, need advice

Old Dec 6, 17, 8:48 pm
  #1  
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Seward-Homer-Anchorage in one & half day, need advice

We will be in Seward at the end of our 13 day itinerary. The last one & half days are open. The options I am considering are Cooper landing, Skilak Rd drive/Soldotna, & homer. Take a look at my itinerary, and give your suggestions for the last one & half days. This trip will be in July 2018. We are a couple in 60s. Our interests are hiking, scenic drives, wildlife, glaciers, National Parks, small towns, local food. Our flight back home from Anchorage is at midnight, so we have to be back from Seward/Homer area at the airport by 9 pm.

July 3 (Tues) - Arrive ANC at 11:20 pm. Cab to downtown hotel

July 4 (Wed) - July 4 parade in downtown. flattop mountain hike. How can we get there? We will not have a car until tomorrow. Uber or any other public transportation? I see a shuttle bus offered by a bike shop in downtown ($ 23 per person). Will that be a better option?

July 5 (Thurs) - Pickup rental car (opens at 8 am). Start driving towards Hatcher Pass. Do the Reed Lake Hike, Independence mine. Overnight at Hatcher Pass B & B (two nights booked)

July 6 (Fri) - Drive on scenic Glenn Highway towards Matanuska Glacier. Ice Fall Trek with MICA Guide at 11:30 am. Drive back to Hatcher Pass B & B. Do April Bowl hike or any other hike if we have time. Stay at hatcher pass.

July 7 (Sat) - Start driving towards Talkeetna. Mt Denali Flightseeing tour. Drive to Denali NP. Pick up shuttle bus tickets for next two days. Explore visitor center. Drive to lodging in Healy

July 8 (Sun) - shuttle bus to wonder lake/hikes. Overnight Healy

July 9 (Mon) - Take 2nd day shuttle bus to wonder lake. Overnight Healy

July 10 (Tues) - Drive to Girdwood. Long 5-6 hr drive with frequent stops on scenic Seward Highway. Overnight at Girdwood

July 11 (Wed) - Explore Girdwood area. Winner Creek Trail Hand Arm hike. Byron Glacier Trail. AWWC. Begich Boggs Visitor center. Exit glacier. Overnight Girdwood

July 12 (Thurs) - Drive to Whittier for the 26 Glacier tour. May do the portage pass hike after the tour. Drive to Seward. Overnight at Seward.

July 13 (Fri) - Marmot Meadows ranger led hike at 9 am. May continue this hike to do harding icefield hike

July 14 (Sat) - Major Marine 7.5 hr Kenai Fjord Cruise

July 15 (Sun) - Half day Kayaking tour done by noon. We have this half day, & almost all day tomorrow open. Possible options

1) Drive to cooper landing. Do the Russian river fall hike, stay somewhere in the area.

2) Drive Skilak Rd & upto Solodtna. overnight Soldotna

3) Drive all the way & overnight in Homer

July 16 (Mon) - Flight home is at midnight from Anchorage. Start driving back to Anchorage. If we are in homer, it will be a long drive to Anchorage (5 hours??). We will not have much time in homer, but we can at least just see what it is all about. My concern is about the drive back on the last day, and making it to airport in time.
Feel free to provide your input on the rest of my itinerary. Thanks!
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Old Dec 8, 17, 12:07 pm
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Originally Posted by Sunny54 View Post
July 4 (Wed) - July 4 parade in downtown. flattop mountain hike. How can we get there? We will not have a car until tomorrow. Uber or any other public transportation? I see a shuttle bus offered by a bike shop in downtown ($ 23 per person). Will that be a better option?
Rent a car or use that shuttle. There really isn't anything better. The closest public transportation can get you is the Dimond Center, from which it is a $22 one-way Uber/Lyft ride to the Glen Alps trailhead (with a small amount of hassle, you can get slightly closer and shave maybe a couple bucks off that fare by getting off around Lake Otis and Abbott or Old Seward and O'Malley, but either way, it's vastly more expensive than the shuttle from downtown).

Originally Posted by Sunny54 View Post
July 16 (Mon) - Flight home is at midnight from Anchorage. Start driving back to Anchorage. If we are in homer, it will be a long drive to Anchorage (5 hours??). We will not have much time in homer, but we can at least just see what it is all about. My concern is about the drive back on the last day, and making it to airport in time.
I think the rest of your itinerary sounds absolutely fantastic, and thank you for doing Alaska justice and planning a long enough trip with time to get out into the wilderness and not just cruise by it on a cruise bus like the vast majority of tourists who come to Alaska!

I have friends who think Homer is the loveliest spot on earth. I don't see it; it's kind of a mishmash of a town set on a sort-of-ugly bluff with a decent view over a bay with some mountains across the water just beyond the Spit. Nice enough, but given a choice between the two destinations on the Peninsula, I vastly prefer the spectacular fjordlands of Seward, not to mention that Seward is a much easier drive. That said, Homer is worth checking out as a sort of artsy-hippie commune with a bit of Alaska thrown in (it's been referred to as a drinking town with a fishing problem), but it's not usually near the top of my personal recommendations. I have many friends who would vehemently disagree, though, so you could go either way.

The only thing I might caution you about is that last day driving to the airport. The Seward Highway (most often the stretch between Potter Marsh and Portage) occasionally gets shut completely down by the police due to collisions. It's not frequent, but it does happen at least several times each summer. It's a dangerous stretch of highway, and there are always impatient people stuck behind slow-moving tourists (especially RVs) who get tired of waiting and take a chance passing in a dangerous manner with deadly results. Closures can last for hours, and since it is the only route between the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage, there's no way to get around a closure. People do miss their flights because they can't get to the airport after their day down south. I would imagine that local airline staff are understanding when that happens and will generally gladly rebook you on the next available flight (under the "flat tire rule"), but if you have somewhere important to be upon your arrival back home, you may want to consider planning to arrive in ANC a bit earlier.
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Old Dec 9, 17, 7:31 am
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Jackal, Thank you very much for a very valuable feedback. This is why I like forums like this. The guidebooks do not give the perspective from local people which is very helpful. Nowhere I had read about the traffic situation that you have described. I will plan accordingly. I am looking at the “Bear watching tours” from Soldotna (Telon air, and High adventures), and May decide to do this instead of the half day kayaking. Our car rental is pickup from downtown Hertz (since it is cheaper than airport ), but I am dropping it off at airport because the downtown location closes at 5 pm and I did not want the stress of making it there before 5 pm. But now I may consider arriving early in Anchorage , return car at downtown before 5, and find some interesting activity to do in Anchorage on this last evening. Will save $80 on car rental if I do this. Will have to find other means of transportation to the airport. Is there a bus or take Uber? We can check in our bags at the airport before we return the car in downtown.
Thank you for your approval of my itinerary. I have been working on it for last 3 months. I had started out looking at a cruise + Land type of a trip, but from forums like this, I quickly learned that the best way to see real Alaska is drive on your own. I am enjoying my planning and cannot wait to be there and see it all!
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Old Dec 11, 17, 6:30 am
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Sunny54,

I agree with Jackal, you can not risk a closure of the Seward Highway - even if it isn't closed due to a motor vehicle collision, it could be due to traffic. Monday may not be as bad, but in July there has been so much traffic that it has backed up for many miles and turned a 2 hour drive from the Seward/Sterling Hwy Intersection in to a 3 and a half hour drive - Sundays are notorious for this when all of the people in Anchorage come down for the weekend and are heading back. Not surprisingly, this is when many collisions occur. I know that many airlines may have limited or only seasonal service, and although I am not familiar with any of the scheduled out of Anchorage except for AS, many of the flights are very full and it may be hard to find alternate arrangement is you miss those flights.

I assume you have lodging already set up for these dates? If not, secure it now - some of the communities you mentioned are small and have limited options.

For July 15 - Given your three options I personally would eliminate Homer. As was mentioned, some people love it (and it has great scenery) and some people don't. I am pretty indifferent, but I think there is more value in the fjords of Seward, as well as things like Exit Glacier. Seward beats Homer for beauty and scenery on a nice day. I would not drive from Homer to Anchorage in one day, It is a very long slog through mostly two-lane highways filled with motorhomes and people with somewhat questionable driving skills. I think that it could potentially be a negative end to a wonderful trip. If you wish to see Homer there may be some alternate ways of doing it, such as returning the car in Homer and flying back to Anchorage, although that could be cost prohibitive.

I am a bit biased, but the Cooper Landing area is my favorite part of the Kenai Peninsula. You mentioned the possibility of hiking to the Falls or driving down Skilak Lake Rd. If you are coming from Seward, it would be fairly easy to do both of those things. The hike to the falls takes about one hour each way, and the hike is not strenuous at all. I compare it to a Sunday walk - just through bear country. Your time may vary depending on your pace, time stopping, etc. You could spend a few hours at the falls, and then head to Soldotna to stay overnight via Skilak Lake Rd. The road is about 17 miles long but has numerous pullouts for scenery, and also many trails if you have not yet had your fill of hiking. Before planning on going down Skilak, check your rental car contract carefully. Most rental cars prohibit driving down unpaved roads, and some name Skilak Lake Rd. specifically.

For July 10 - Depending on how many stops on the Seward Hwy, you may consider taking a quick trip to Hope. Hope is a tiny little town founded due to the Gold Rush on the Kenai Peninsula. Be aware, it is about 60 miles from Girdwood so it may be too much driving. It's a pretty drive and there isn't a huge amount of things to do - tourist activities usually include kayaking or gold mining but it's a place to go if you have the time.

Both of the bear watching tours you mentioned in Soldotna are pretty reputable, also check out Natron Air as a possibility. As far as transportation from the Hertz office in downtown (I assume it's the one by the Hotel Captain Cook) there is a bus system in Anchorage, but I honestly have no idea how to navigate it. Uber is in Anchorage now, or the bellman at the Captain Cook can probably rustle up an old-fashioned cab.

I hope this input helps. Please feel free to reach out if I can help at all, especially with the Kenai Peninsula area. I would be happy to give any recommendations on services in the area, as there are some notorious places that look good on the Internet that are not in real life. I live in Soldotna so would be happy to meet you both if you come down this way, and there is also a meet up thread for ANC that you can post in for the "big city" Alaska FT'ers.
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Old Dec 11, 17, 2:07 pm
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Originally Posted by AKDan View Post
For July 10 - Depending on how many stops on the Seward Hwy, you may consider taking a quick trip to Hope. Hope is a tiny little town founded due to the Gold Rush on the Kenai Peninsula. Be aware, it is about 60 miles from Girdwood so it may be too much driving. It's a pretty drive and there isn't a huge amount of things to do - tourist activities usually include kayaking or gold mining but it's a place to go if you have the time.
Hope is lovely--I have an old friend who owns a B&B there, and it's just a nice place to get away from the city and enjoy beautiful scenery in peaceful surrounds. I'd suggest it might be the closest bit of "real small-town Alaska" (without being overrun with tourists) to Anchorage. Not a ton to do there, as AKDan said, but pleasant just the same--but easily pulled out of your itinerary if you don't have the time.

Originally Posted by AKDan View Post
As far as transportation from the Hertz office in downtown (I assume it's the one by the Hotel Captain Cook) there is a bus system in Anchorage, but I honestly have no idea how to navigate it. Uber is in Anchorage now, or the bellman at the Captain Cook can probably rustle up an old-fashioned cab.
PeopleMover, the Anchorage bus system, has recently revamped its route network (a controversial subject among bus-riding locals, of which there aren't many...), and it still doesn't easily get most people where they need to go, but the upshot is there is now frequent and direct bus service between the airport and downtown, even late into the night for the red-eye flight arrivals/departures. (Route 40 is the one you want, and departures are now every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes in the evening, with the last departure at 1:30am.) It terminates about 20 minutes later at the downtown transit center on 6th Ave, which is three blocks from Hertz. The bus fare is $2 (an Uber ride is about $16+surge+tip). Details/schedules/maps/etc. at People Mover.

Originally Posted by AKDan View Post
and there is also a meet up thread for ANC that you can post in for the "big city" Alaska FT'ers.
It's here, if your schedule gives you time to pause for a short bit and meet up! I can personally attest that the ANC FT cadre is welcoming and gregarious and will gladly meet up at the drop of a hat: The Consolidated ANC Meet-Up Thread
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Old Dec 12, 17, 3:33 am
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You have a great itinerary. I was going to suggest hope as an option on July 15th or 16th. You might consider going there on the way back to Anchorage or possibly even spending the night. There are a couple of hiking trails that you could do when you are there or close to there.
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Old Dec 13, 17, 12:46 pm
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A very big THANK YOU to all for telling me about “Hope”. I read about it and definitely going to make a stop there, most likely on the 16th when we are heading back to Anchorage. Also, thank you for the bus system info, Peoplemover. We may need it depending on our car rental situation. I have decided to go with Talonair for bear viewing. Have booked Seward lodging, & looking at booking Soldotna and Girdwood (2 nights each). Thanks!
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