Alaska Roadtrip Ideas -- Thoughts?
Replies: 19 - Last Post: Feb 6, 2013 5:10 AM Last Post By: kforde
Jan 29, 2013 4:02 AM
Alaska Roadtrip Ideas -- Thoughts?Hi folks,
Here is the plan. Alaska in an RV for 2 weeks 7th July - 22nd July with my wife and in-laws (seems like a good idea now, will see how it goes!).
Hoping for some advice on a road trip itinerary. Photographically landscape, wildlife, cool old villages. I was thinking of keeping it easy, sticking around the ocean and the Kenai Peninsula. I figure there is no point trying to cover too much ground and spend the entire time driving. My wife and I are lucky to have a job that provides an excessive travel allowance that can be put towards the flights and RV so missing something this trip is not a massive deal as we can justifiably come back in a couple of years to do another couple of weeks.
Any recommendations would be appreciated for campgrounds, out of the way sites, off the beaten track photo locations, tour companies (plane/helicopter), RV companies, iconic must do hikes etc.
I am going with a photography focus(excuse the terrible and unintentional pun), but will be looking to do some hiking and possibly mountain biking as well.
Thanks in advance for all of your help!
Jan 29, 2013 5:56 AM
1About 50 miles south of Anchorage, along the Seward Highway, is Portage Valley, with National Forest Campgrounds -- primitive latrines, no electricity. Gorgeous scenery, Lots of wildlife, including bears and moose. Portage Glacier with a boat tour to its base. Begich-Boggs Visitors Center with a natural history museum and film about the glaciers in Alaska. There are areas where you may go hiking. Drive through the tunnel to Whittier and go out on the 26 Glaciers Cruise into Prince William Sound -- calmer waters than out of Seward.
Drive further south to the end of the Seward Highway, another 50 miles, to Seward. There is a campground near Exit Glacier, which is 8 miles from the Seward Highway before entering the city. There is also a large city campground alongside Resurrection Bay and at the tip of the peninsula, within walking distance to downtown restaurants and the aquarium. Kenai Fjords cruises out into the Pacific Ocean are very popular. You will see whales, porpoises, maybe sea otters, lots of birds, and wildlife on the rock outcrops on shore, such as sheep and bears. Be prepared with Dramamine, and I also wear accupressure wristbands to prevent seasickness.
Fishing is the big summer activity in Alaska, especially for tourists. The Kenai River is world-renowned for its huge salmon -- trophy-sized. Only fly fishing allowed. The turnoff for the Kenai River is about 20 miles north of Seward at Tern Lake, at the junction with the Sterling Highway. Take the Sterling Highway to Cooper Landing -- an historic pioneer town. Spend the night at one of the near by campgrounds and explore. You may take a float trip down the Kenai River, starting at its headwaters at Kenai Lake. (The Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge in Cooper Landing does have an RV campground for those wishing more luxury.)
Drive alongside the Kenai River south through the canyon to Soldotna. Spend the night at the city campground alongside the Kenai River (access road is south of the Fred Meyer Supermarket). Explore the surroundings. Drive west on the Kenai Spur Road to the city of Kenai, originally founded by the Russian fur traders. Check out the Russian Orthodox church and the Fort Kenay plus the Visitors Center Museum. Take the road south across the Kenai River where you can see it flowing out into Cook Inlet. You will see fish processing plants. At Califonsky Road, turn west (right) and then at the sign for the fish processing plants, turn another right. You will see nice homes along the road as you approach the old Wards Cove processing plant. It is now a tourist destination with interesting shops and seafood restaurant. There is a salmon processing plant next-door in full operation.
Afterwards, continue south along Califonsky Beach Road to where it merges with the Sterling Highway. Continue south (right turn) to Homer. There are many very interesting small villages en route, including a village of Russian Old Believers that is tucked away off of the highway.
Homer has flightseeing tours over Katmai. It has cruises on Katchemak Bay. Homer Spit is the breakwater for the Bay, and it has many interesting shops and boat marinas. There is an RV campground at the end of the Spit. Otherwise, there is a national forest campground above the town of Homer in the woods. It is a beautiful village with lots of gorgeous scenery. Also check out the NOAA Museum just off of the Sterling Highway at the entrance to Homer. It has information and natural history of the Aleutian Islands.
Jan 29, 2013 11:40 AM
2I forgot to mention, that in the middle of Katchemak Bay is an island where there is a breeding colony of puffins. You may watch the video cam of the puffins at the NOAA Museum. Also, if you take a cruise across Katchemak Bay, you will see sea otters, that the Russians purchased from the Native Americans for their thick fur pelts.
There are opportunities for bicycling the backroads of Homer. For mountain biking, Girdwood, which is 40 miles south of Anchorage, along the Seward Highway (just before Portage Valley) has Alyeska Ski Resort, which has mountain biking during the summer. There is also heli-skiing on glaciers -- sign up at the Alyeska Prince Hotel in Girdwood. There are two 5 Stars restaurants in Girdwood. One serves New Orleans style cuisine. The second is the 7 Glaciers Restaurant at the top of Mt. Alyeska, which you reach by ski tram from the Prince Hotel. Fantastic views of the 7 hanging glaciers from the valley cliffs, the forest-covered valley, and the ocean inlet (Turnagain Arm) several miles away. Turnagain Arm is a fjord with the second highest tidal fluctuation in the world -- the Bay of Fundy in northern Maine has the highest in the world. The Seward Highway follows along the edge of Turnagain Arm from Anchorage to the beginning of the Kenai Mountains.
In Seward, there are kayaking tours out of Miller's Landing, which also has a campground. If you are an experienced kayaker or canoer, there are canoe trails near Sterling, before you reach Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula.
Jan 30, 2013 4:03 AM
Jan 30, 2013 4:43 AM
4This is my initial plan based on your recommendations. The plan to stay in single locations for extended periods is due to my in-laws who would prefer more time in a single place, and to be honest with my focus being mostly photography I am partial to the idea as well.
1 Night: Pick up RV, find Walmart, park, buy supplies and sleep in parking lot.
2 Nights: Williwaw Campground (or alternative) -- Near Portage Valley
2 Nights: Campground near Exit Glacier, which is 8 miles from the Seward Highway before entering the city.
A large city campground alongside Resurrection Bay and at the tip of the peninsula, within walking distance to downtown restaurants and the aquarium.
3/4 Nights: Kenai River -- Kenai Riverside Campground. Fishing is the big summer activity in Alaska, especially for tourists. The Kenai River is world-renowned for its huge salmon -- trophy-sized. Only fly fishing allowed. The turnoff for the Kenai River is about 20 miles north of Seward at Tern Lake, at the junction with the Sterling Highway.
4/5 Nights: Homer -- Homer Spit Campground
-- Halibut Fishing
-- Katmai Tour (flight/boat)
1 Night -- Kenai
1 Night Anchorage
Fly out following evening.
Jan 30, 2013 7:48 AM
5The Walmarts in Anchorage do not allow overnight parking -- at least that was the decree the last time I was there, in August 2008. Fred Meyer Supermarket, on Dimond Blvd., did allow overnight parking. The Sam's Club/McDonald's Restaurant huge parking lot on Old Seward Highway/near Dimond Blvd., did allow free overnight parking. I don't recommend the RV campgrounds inside Anchorage because they are not in safe neighborhoods (there is gang activity in parts of Anchorage). Dimond Blvd/Dimond Shopping Mall is a relatively safe neighborhood and is next to the onramp for the Seward Highway.
Inlet Salmon Processing Plant is next to Ward's Cove tourist area alongside the mouth of the Kenai River -- it is fun to see the commercial fishing operation -- many of the local high school kids work there during the summer. There are five kinds of salmon -- silver/coho, red/sockeye, king/chinook, pink/humpback, dog/----. Their individual runs alternate during the summer season. The Ward's Cove area is owned by the same people who own Land's End lodge and restaurant at the end of Homer Spit. The RV campground is next to their lodge.
Ninilchik is another quaint village en route to Homer, with an original Russian Orthodox Church on the hill. There is an RV campground alongside Cook Inlet there.
I forgot to mention that you will get excellent views across Cook Inlet of the chain of volcanoes -- some are still active. There is a turnout along the Sterling Highway that has a map showing the names of each volcano.
July is a popular month, so you need to make your campground reservations as soon as possible!
Jan 30, 2013 8:13 AM
6Yeah for 2 weeks in July I would head down to Kenai, it's sweet.
Nice camping south of Moose Pass, first NF campground on the right, about 1/2 way to Seward. Great photo ops.
Another cool spot is Anchor point, go down the road to the pens/spit. Free camping. great views and good fishing if their runnin
Homer is a very cool town.
Get a chance check out Hope, very nice village.
I think it's called Moose Wilderness, not sure. it's the WLR area north of Sterling, saw lot's of critters, no one around, very nice and free remote camping, good road..
Jan 30, 2013 12:45 PM
Jan 31, 2013 5:37 AM
8The Fred Meyer/Krogers Supermarket in Soldotna also allows free overnight parking for a limited number of days. There is a laundromat with hot showers about 2 blocks away. There is also a free sewage dump for RVs. If you have a Krogers Supermarket discount card, it is valid at all of their branches across the USA, no matter the local name. Carr's Supermarket in Anchorage is the local branch of Safeway.
If you go halibut fishing out of Homer and catch a 100 lb halibut that you all would not be able to finish eating, the crew on the charter fishing boat will clean the fish and package it in dry ice for your flight home -- be sure to go fishing during the day before your flight. I don't know how many days the dry ice keeps the fish fresh. Homer is about 200 miles south of Anchorage and the international airport.
Jan 31, 2013 10:32 AM
9Good suggestions previously... you might want to check out Whittier and a look at Prince William Sound via one of the glacier tours. Not too expensive and a little different from Seward and Katchemack Bays. The town is quite different from others and the tunnel ride is a bit different. Its on the way to/from the KP. Also take a look at Hope, it's on the way too.
Jan 31, 2013 1:50 PM
10If you are into whitewater river rafting, there is a Class 5 (highest level) rafting trip on 6 Mile Creek, just south of Portage Valley, before the turnoff to Hope. I recommend NOVA agency as the safest for this dangerous rafting trip. I went only half-way, and my raft was the only one that did not have someone fall overboard! Half-way stops just before the most dangerous part. It is a real adrenaline rush. They provide the waterproof gear and lifevests.
I realized that I misspelled Kachemak Bay -- it is not spelled like Ketchikan, with a 't'.
I already suggested 26 Glaciers cruise out of Whittier into Prince William Sound. Take the tunnel from Portage Valley -- alternate cars and trains in the tunnel. It is a toll road one-way.
Jan 31, 2013 8:56 PM
Jan 31, 2013 11:21 PM
12I have been looking at some companies that offer overnight packages, just seems like the best option to avoid hassles I am not aware of. The best option I have found so far is through a company offering a $899 overnight to Hallo Bay. Seems like a good option, although I recognize the location and quality might be reflected in a relatively low price.
Any company/tour guide suggestions for this area? I know there are major tourist locations like Brooks and McNeil River are high on the list but I want to try and avoid those highly crowed areas.
The flight is booked and RV confirmation is coming. Getting very excited about it now, just have to get through the next 5 months and it should be a great vacation.
Thanks for all the advice, but please keep it coming I really appreciate the ideas.
Feb 1, 2013 10:31 AM
13The operation at Hallo Bay is pretty good. I don't have my notes here on timing - you may want to confirm that Hallo Bay is the place to see bears during your visit. The bears follow food sources and some sites have peaks and troughs of activity during the summer. The Hallo Bay bears eat alot of sedges and clams, so they are probably pretty consistent. Luckily, most of the bear viewing sites on western Cook Inlet are accessible from Homer, so you'll always be able to find a place that it hot.
As noted, Brooks Camp will be peaking during your visit but it will also be the most crowded option.
McNeil will be the least crowded because it is operated through a lottery system by the state of Alaska with strict limits on how many people are allowed access. The lottery is open now but you have about a 1% chance to win for the weeks you are there.
Feb 1, 2013 8:35 PM
14Thanks for the information. I will look into viewing opportunities at Hallo Bay, even if it is light on Bears I am sure I will enjoy the trip if the number of people is low and the skyis dark and air is clean. I live in Beijing right now so you can imagine how much I am looking forward to this trip!
Bags feeling light?
Coffee table looking bare?
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