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Alaska Itinerary

Alaska Itinerary

Old Nov 25, 19, 7:42 pm
  #1  
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Alaska Itinerary

Hey, is anyone willing to share their itinerary with me? My dad and I are thinking about doing a trip next summer. He's getting up there but still in good health and able to move around just fine.

So, we are roughly planning on 10-14 days. We are sort of undecided as to whether to book a tour or just book everything ourselves and go it alone. National Parks are important to us and seeing as much wildlife as humanly possible. Denali and Kenai are mandatory.

Any suggestions? Thanks.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 6:36 am
  #2  
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Originally Posted by Sandeep1 View Post
Hey, is anyone willing to share their itinerary with me? My dad and I are thinking about doing a trip next summer. He's getting up there but still in good health and able to move around just fine.

So, we are roughly planning on 10-14 days. We are sort of undecided as to whether to book a tour or just book everything ourselves and go it alone. National Parks are important to us and seeing as much wildlife as humanly possible. Denali and Kenai are mandatory.

Any suggestions? Thanks.
When in the summer? Itineraries in May vs July vs September could look very different.

2 weeks is a good amount of time. Renting a car is great and doing it on your own is great too.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 6:01 pm
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
When in the summer? Itineraries in May vs July vs September could look very different.

2 weeks is a good amount of time. Renting a car is great and doing it on your own is great too.
It will be June most likely, or possibly even July.
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Old Nov 27, 19, 9:00 am
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There are many options; here's a list of overnight locations for a 10-day trip.

1 Anchorage
2 Homer
3 Homer - Kachemak Bay day trip (Seldovia, Halibut Cove)
4 Seward
5 Seward - Kenai Fjords day cruise
6 Anchorage - Stop in Hope, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
7 Denali area
8 Denali - Day into park interior
9 Mat-Su - Palmer, Knik - Hatcher Pass/Independence Mine, Matanuska Glacier
10 Anchorage/depart

Longer stays (days 11 - 14) could (and IMO should) include some time off the road system. I would suggest a side trip either to Kotzebue or Nome, both reached by Alaska Airlines from Anchorage for around $300 round trip (or 10,000 Alaska miles, a good deal.) Kotzebue is an Inupiat Eskimo community on an arm of the Arctic Ocean. It's above the arctic circle, so in much of June and into early July you'll have 24 hour (not just midnight) sun. Stick a toe in the Arctic Ocean, learn about this remarkable culture and environment.

Nome is an historic gold rush town located on the Seward Peninsula facing the Bering Sea. In addition to lots of history and plenty of colorful characters, there's a decent road system radiating from Nome out into the bush, where there are LOTS of animals - muskoxen, moose, reindeer and caribou, bears... you can rent a vehicle locally and do a day trip, or probably arrange a short tour with somebody local. Long, long daylight hours here too.

Another option would be to arrange a stop on the way north or back in Southeast Alaska, in order to get a glimpse of this beautiful region. My recommendation would be Sitka, as it's bypassed by most of the big cruise ships, is the prettiest of the Southeast communities, has a rich Russian America and Native Alaskan history, and some good wildlife resources including the Fortress of the Bear and the Raptor Center, both dedicated to saving and rehabilitating their various species. A stop in Sitka can be arranged easily with Alaska Airlines.
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Old Nov 27, 19, 7:29 pm
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We did a several day road trip to hit most of the high spots in Alaska about 2 years ago. We went the end of May/first of June - still plenty of snow on the mountains yet nice weather. We flew into Anchorage and rented a car at the airport. I would highly suggest doing things on your own - my feeling is you'll get cut short on a tour because you won't have the freedom to stop where you want if something catches your eye. In Alaska your eyes will be continuously caught.

1) Anchorage (early evening)
2) Anchorage (general touring around the area - Eagle River Nature Center, Flattop Mountain and Potter's Marsh)
3) Glennallen
4) Fairbanks (via Paxson & Delta Junction)
5) Fairbanks (drove to Coldfoot & back)
6) Healy
7) Healy (Denali Wilderness Tour)
8) Anchorage (side trip stop at Talkeetna for lunch)
9) Seward (side trip to Whittier)
10) Soldotna (day cruise at Seward then to Soldotna)
11) Soldotna (day trip to Homer)
12) Anchorage then home

We wish we had added a couple more days to the trip though we had plenty of time to do what we wanted. One thing I would have done with more nights would have been stay at least one in Homer - cool town.

Originally we were going to do the circle to Fairbanks in reverse of what we did but needed to get to Denali after June 1st when the road is open the entire distance into the park - something to keep in mind while planning a trip during that time period.

I *HIGHLY* recommend driving up the Dalton Highway to at least Coldfoot. It is a very interesting experience. We had to pick up a 2nd rental car as the regulars won't allow you to drive that highway in their cars. We rented a 4x4 Ford Escape equipped specifically for the Dalton from Arctic Outfitters - it had a CB radio, two spare tires, and tool box and first aid kit, both fully equipped. There was no radio or cellphone service, little other traffic but there was others if we'd needed help - our favorite day of them all. The scenery can be stark in places; mountains, creeks and ponds in other sections. There are a number of places to stop for picnics, photos and outhouses. There's fuel available at the Yukon River crossing store and again at Coldfoot - we filled up both places just to be on the safe side. A few miles past the Yukon River is a little eating joint called "The Hot Spot" that was excellent and the ladies who run the place were just a lot of fun - and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. At Coldfoot we ate something at the truckstop cafe before heading back - there is also a sort of museum/information center across the Dalton from the truckstop that was very nice. We left Fairbanks around 8:00 AM and were back about midnight - though it never got dark enough to need headlights. The next time we intend on driving all the way to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay.

Allow more time between destinations than you might normally allow. Time is weird in Alaska. It seems to move much slower - what sort of seems like a LONG time can really be a short time. Not in a boring way. The drive to Glennallen from Anchorage is only about 165 miles - it took ALL DAY LONG! There's so much to see that you may want to stop often, which is what we did. I tended to allow about twice the time between destinations - though we weren't really on a schedule at all. Most of the highways outside the larger cities are two lane and a wreck, road construction or simply slow moving traffic can also delay you if you haven't allowed extra time. Getting lost on the Alaska road system is probably not much of an issue as there are only a few main highways. I use my Garmin GPS mostly as a way of keeping track of how much further it is to a destination or the ETA.

I also suggest making your hotel/motel reservations well in advance. There aren't that many places to stay (like at Glennallen...) so they often sell out during tourist season. The same for rental cars - the earlier you book the cheaper it generally is. I have a benefit at work that I can use our company contract rate with one of the rental car companies that is very good - our contracted rate is anywhere from 1/3rd to half the regular rack rate plus it includes the extra damage insurance, roadside assistance (which could be very helpful in Alaska...I locked my keys in the car at Fairbanks this past February...) and extra drivers. One should check if they might have something similar through their company.

Another site I highly recommend is the Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass. Very, very cool and well worth the deviation from the main highway.

Good luck!
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Last edited by SupercrewBear; Nov 27, 19 at 7:44 pm
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Old Nov 30, 19, 2:56 pm
  #6  
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Some great advice above. My only suggestion for Denali would be to avoid the tour buses. SuperCrewBear mentioned the Wilderness Tour (Tundra Wilderness Tour - TWT - I assume). This is a tour geared 99% toward cruisetour passengers. The buses pick up and drop off at the hotels, the tour buses usually fill every seat. But the transit shuttle buses depart from the Denali Bus Depot (no problem getting there with a car). The transit shuttle buses travel along the same road, make the same rest stops and the Eielson shuttle actually goes 4 miles further than the Tundra Wilderness Tour to a really nice Eielson Visitor Center. Plus, the transit shuttle bus costs about 1/3 the price of the TWT. Transit shuttle buses always depart with a few empty seats so they can pick up people along the way. That is another reason to take the shuttle buses - you can get off to walk along the road, hike or just spend more time at the Eielson Visitor Center if desired.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 4:17 pm
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
Some great advice above. My only suggestion for Denali would be to avoid the tour buses. SuperCrewBear mentioned the Wilderness Tour (Tundra Wilderness Tour - TWT - I assume). This is a tour geared 99% toward cruisetour passengers. The buses pick up and drop off at the hotels, the tour buses usually fill every seat. But the transit shuttle buses depart from the Denali Bus Depot (no problem getting there with a car). The transit shuttle buses travel along the same road, make the same rest stops and the Eielson shuttle actually goes 4 miles further than the Tundra Wilderness Tour to a really nice Eielson Visitor Center. Plus, the transit shuttle bus costs about 1/3 the price of the TWT. Transit shuttle buses always depart with a few empty seats so they can pick up people along the way. That is another reason to take the shuttle buses - you can get off to walk along the road, hike or just spend more time at the Eielson Visitor Center if desired.
I agree with you 100%. If we ever do this visit again it will be on the shuttles. As you said, the seats were all full - so crowded. The price difference is significant - at the time we didn't know any better. The shuttles have drivers that I've heard do a great job of narration (like the more expensive option) plus they also stop when wildlife is spotted. The shuttle is definitely the better choice. (Take plenty of snacks and drinks.)
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Old Dec 7, 19, 2:01 am
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Originally Posted by SupercrewBear View Post
I agree with you 100%. If we ever do this visit again it will be on the shuttles. As you said, the seats were all full - so crowded. The price difference is significant - at the time we didn't know any better. The shuttles have drivers that I've heard do a great job of narration (like the more expensive option) plus they also stop when wildlife is spotted. The shuttle is definitely the better choice. (Take plenty of snacks and drinks.)
One of our own FTers, Seat 2A, is a transit shuttle bus driver and a very good one I must say. He has been doing it for over 25 years. Most give great commentary though on the shuttle buses that is technically not required.
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Old Dec 10, 19, 12:30 pm
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Alaska Itenerary

My advice is to decide on few things you really want to do and build your trip around that. Here are some unique things that would be worthy of building a trip around and ones I have done with my family.

Inside passage ferry ride or cruise (easy way to see lots of place in Alaska in comfort)
26 glacier cruise out of Whittier
Hike Mt. Alyeska - 7 glaciers bar has probably the best view of any bar in North America
Bear Viewing at Brooks camp or other bear viewing tours
fishing trip to bring some fish home
flightseeing Denali from Talkeenta
riding white pass railroad out of Skagway
homer

Alaska is a huge place and you can spend lots of time and money just getting from one area to the next. The campgrounds / hotels can be pretty busy during peak times so you will need to plan in advance.
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Old Jan 14, 20, 2:06 pm
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We're trying to roam Alaska for a few days around Memorial Day (yes, a last-minute kind of thing) before a southbound cruise (probably 5/30 on Princess). We're a group of 9--two super seniors (both very mobile), four adults, a teen, a tween, and a 10-year-old

Here is what I've devised so far...

Day 1 - Fly DEN-ANC-FAI
Day 2 - Rent a car from Arctic Outfitters, drive to Arctic Circle sign post and back
Day 3 - Do something, then fly FAI-(SCC)-BRW
Day 4 - Do a tour of Utqiaġvik, fly BRW-(FAI)-ANC, pick up a rental car (or two)
Day 5 - Do something, then drive to Denali National Park
Day 6 - Tour Denali
Day 7 - Do something, then drive back to Anchorage
Day 8 - Do something, then transfer to Whittier for the cruise

I haven't priced out if it's just as cheap to return the rental car(s) to Whittier than Anchorage, it it's about the same price, then maybe we'll head that way instead of Anchorage on Day 7.

My soon-to-be-80 dad (who climbed Mt McKinley in 1978), wants to touch the Arctic Ocean. He wants to do the whole Dalton Highway, but I don't think the rest of the family is into it. Those that want to do the drive to the sign post can hop in a car; the rest (like my mom) can stay in Fairbanks. Then we, as a family, will go visit the northernmost city in the US.
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Old Jan 15, 20, 8:14 am
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If your dad wants to touch the Arctic Ocean, can I suggest you look at flying to Kotzebue instead of Barrow? Not trying to re-plan your trip, but you could fly to ANC instead of FAI, head up to Kotzebue and stay at the Nullagvik Hotel - Nulla?vik Hotel :: Home - right across the street from the (Arctic Ocean) beach (or seawall, beach a short walk.) Then - again, just maybe - take the money you've saved on the FAI/Dalton/Utqiaġvik business and apply it to a flightseeing trip out of Lake Hood in Anchorage. If Denali isn't socked in, the view from a light plane will change your world; if it is, you can fly out over the Chugach Mountains to Knik Glacier, or out over the ice fields around Prince William Sound, or across Cook Inlet to volcano country. https://www.flyrusts.com/

The park road at Denali won't be open as far as the Eielson Visitor Center (opens June 1) and might not even be open at all this year due to erosion this winter - https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/12...ghing-roadway/

Honestly, I'd take those Denali days and head south to Seward. Visit Exit Glacier, go on a Kenai Fjords cruise (wildlife, scenery) and maybe stop in the old gold mining village of Hope on the way to/from. Google the places on this map for ideas around Anchorage/Seward - https://goo.gl/maps/4LeqvifhVC7gRcuz8

The one-way drop fee to Whittier is huge. But with as many people as you have, one-way cars might make sense, but for ONE DAY only (i.e. swap cars before heading to Whittier. Note Avis is the only show in town.) Otherwise you might look at the train, which is quite scenic.

If you drive the Dalton, pack plenty of bug dope.
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Old Jan 15, 20, 8:52 am
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Denali will only have the paved roads open which foes only about 12 miles into the park.

The dirt roads and buses dont start running till early to mid June. How far depends on snow melt and what road damage there is.

At this time focus on Seward and Homer area on the Peninsula
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Old Jan 15, 20, 9:12 am
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Originally Posted by pseudoswede View Post
We're trying to roam Alaska for a few days around Memorial Day (yes, a last-minute kind of thing) before a southbound cruise (probably 5/30 on Princess). We're a group of 9--two super seniors (both very mobile), four adults, a teen, a tween, and a 10-year-old

Here is what I've devised so far...

Day 1 - Fly DEN-ANC-FAI
Day 2 - Rent a car from Arctic Outfitters, drive to Arctic Circle sign post and back
Day 3 - Do something, then fly FAI-(SCC)-BRW
Day 4 - Do a tour of Utqiaġvik, fly BRW-(FAI)-ANC, pick up a rental car (or two)
Day 5 - Do something, then drive to Denali National Park
Day 6 - Tour Denali
Day 7 - Do something, then drive back to Anchorage
Day 8 - Do something, then transfer to Whittier for the cruise

I haven't priced out if it's just as cheap to return the rental car(s) to Whittier than Anchorage, it it's about the same price, then maybe we'll head that way instead of Anchorage on Day 7.

My soon-to-be-80 dad (who climbed Mt McKinley in 1978), wants to touch the Arctic Ocean. He wants to do the whole Dalton Highway, but I don't think the rest of the family is into it. Those that want to do the drive to the sign post can hop in a car; the rest (like my mom) can stay in Fairbanks. Then we, as a family, will go visit the northernmost city in the US.

Nice quite the adventure!

The Dalton drive you will encounter many Semi trucks that are driving fast on the highway. It is gravel and best to pull way over to the right and stop when you see one coming. Every time I have done it I have taken lots of big rocks to the windshield so make sure that your car rental place covers that. Paying for a new windshield after the trip would add to the cost. I have not checked in a while but many car rentals used to prohibit travel on the dalton and Denali highway.

Barrow / Utqiaġvik has public transportation so that is an option. A taxi ride to the dump to see the polar bears used to be possible.

Flightseeing in Talkeetna is worth the money if it is clear. They will fly all night if the mountain is out so just call if the weather looks good when in the area, I used K2 in past.

Maybe consider taking the train from Fairbanks to Denali. The train is always fun and you will have spent a bit in the car and it might be a nice break. There are some packages that include rail and lodging.

I don't know what your budget is but wonder lake lodge provides transportation to the lodge. It is expensive but I would try to avoid spending time on the school buses, which is the typical way people tour denali park. It is 7 hours of torture unless you are very short.

Price train vs car rental. Summer car rental in AK is very expensive often over $100 a day for a SUV or Van. Might be cheaper to try ride share?
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Old Feb 12, 20, 9:55 am
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
The park road at Denali won't be open as far as the Eielson Visitor Center (opens June 1) and might not even be open at all this year due to erosion this winter - https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/12...ghing-roadway/

Honestly, I'd take those Denali days and head south to Seward. Visit Exit Glacier, go on a Kenai Fjords cruise (wildlife, scenery) and maybe stop in the old gold mining village of Hope on the way to/from. Google the places on this map for ideas around Anchorage/Seward - https://goo.gl/maps/4LeqvifhVC7gRcuz8
We decided to go on a slightly earlier cruise (5/27 Coral Princess). My parents will fly into ANC on 5/26, while the rest of us (four adults and three kids) fly into Fairbanks on 5/23. Given what is happening at Pretty Rocks, I do wonder if time would be better spent in the Seward area instead. Anyways, here is my new proposed itinerary...

5/23 - Fly into Fairbanks
5/24 - Wilderness Explorer train to Denali National Park; spend the afternoon hiking, maybe utilize the Transit Bus
5/25 - Hike the trails near the DNP Visitor Center; take Wilderness Express train to Anchorage, check into hotel near ANC
5/26 - Day trip to Seward (Alaska SeaLife Center, Kenai Fjord cruise); just reserved a minivan from Avis for $55 all-in!
5/27 - Travel to Whittier, maybe stop at Alaska Wildlife Center; boarding starts at 12:30pm; maybe do a glacier cruise in the afternoon
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Old Feb 13, 20, 7:35 am
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Originally Posted by pseudoswede View Post
Given what is happening at Pretty Rocks, I do wonder if time would be better spent in the Seward area instead.
In my opinion, yes. If it was me I'd spend those Fairbanks/Denali days on the Kenai Peninsula. Head down to Homer, ferry over to Seldovia and/or Halibut Cove. Visit the Russian churches in Ninilchik and Kenai, and take the time to go on one of the longer Kenai Fjord cruises. How changeable are your arrangements?
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