Alaska trip planning for mid-late August
Replies: 24 - Last Post: Mar 19, 2012 3:09 PM Last Post By: stopthebus
Jan 18, 2012 4:02 PM
Alaska trip planning for mid-late AugustHi folks,
I am beginning to plan a trip to Alaska with my girlfriend in mid-late August and hoping to get some feedback from those who can tell me more than my guidebooks/readings.
The finer details:
Time: Trip length 10-11 days (Aug 18-28/9, including flight days - coming from East Coast, USA so anticipate mid-afternoon to evening arrival)
Budget: ~$2000 each, not including airfare - no idea how i came up with that, so that is probably flexible
Interests: Outdoor activities. I will give sig other's abilities as she is rate-limiting. But don't tell her: GF likes to and can do serious/strenous hiking - up to 14-15miles/day in the White Mountains -but has never done more than I think 2 day backpacking trip so never been on epic multi-day trip. She has done some sea kayaking w/ me in a tandem off coast of Acadia National Park but seas were not very rough. I have some basic training in wilderness medicine, have spent a bit of time in the backcountry on camping/canoeing trips, but have never wielded a gun and probably wouldn't be comfortable doing so with a grizzly in my face. I also enjoy landscape photography and heard there might be some scenic places in Alaska :)
Ideas so far: Many things look truly amazing, but between practicality and opportunity to see a couple different areas: Prince William Sound vs. Kenai Fjords/Kenai Peninsula for a multi-day (maybe 3 day?) kayaking trip + visiting Denali. Maybe a flightseeing tour if worth it? Haven't delved as much into Juneau/SE Alaska although from what I briefly read and from buddy whose brother lives there seems like a hiker's paradise. We are pretty much open to anything.
I am hoping to generate some ideas for a basic framework for our proposed trip so that I can then look into the details more closely (no sense in delving into Homer vs. Seward when I may not go to Kenai at all).
Really appreciate any and all the advice; this has been a great resource for me in the past and I look forward to hearing what you have to say!
Jan 18, 2012 5:21 PM
1Use "Search All Forums" to find "Gustavus" in the archives -- recent information about kayaking near Glacier Bay in Southeast Alaska. Many of the trails in Southcentral Alaska, including near Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula, have problems with black and grizzly bears, especially the Resurrection Trail near Kenai River. There are bears on the islands in Prince William Sound, which pose a danger to kayakers who camp on the islands. Maybe multiday backpacking in Denali National Park, after listening to the park rangers' talk on bear defense methods, and using a bear-proof food container that the rangers will give to you for your backcountry outing. It is safer to camp and hike near other people in case of any emergency.
There is camping in Seward alongside Resurrection Bay, and kayaking in the Bay is popular. However, winds can cause swells (7-foot swells when I was on the Kenai Fjords cruise).
Are you planning to rent a car?
Jan 18, 2012 8:41 PM
2That'd be a good length of time for doing SE Alaska, or doing Denali + East half of Kenai Peninsula / Prince William Sound.
Great scenery and hiking with either. Juneau has some amazing hikes, but they require clear skies, which tend to be scarce in SE Alaska.
My biggest piece of advice would be to budget for some flexible rain days wherever you go. Maybe it's just been bad luck, but probably 80%+ of the time I've spent in Alaska it has been cold and raining. If I had always been in a rush to get from one place to another, I'd have unknowingly skipped by a lot of great scenery hidden behind the clouds.
Jan 19, 2012 8:44 AM
3Thanks to you both. Very much agree w/ your suggestion of budgeting flexibility, tch7 - i think that should be a given for almost every trip.
I AM thinking about renting a car if we do Denali + Kenai - does that seem like a reasonable/helpful thing in terms of flexibility, or an unnecessary cost?
Any comments on Kenai vs. Prince William Sound in regards to:
(1) hiking, kayaking, and overall wildlife viewing opportunities
(2) cost - particularly kayaking trips and potentially a night or two where we wouldn't camp and want to stay indoors
Jan 19, 2012 6:30 PM
4A car is of limited value for getting from Anchorage to Denali. There's not a whole lot worth stopping for between them that a bus wouldn't stop at, and you can't use a car in Denali. However, a car is very useful to have when heading south from Anchorage, as there are all sorts of little detours and places to stop on the Kenai Peninsula.
Prince William Sound is a little more isolated, so it is perhaps slightly more expensive in general as you're often relying more on tour operators, and there are fewer trails. Scenery and wildlife is pretty similar between PWS & the eastern half of the Kenai Peninsula.
Jan 20, 2012 11:02 AM
5There's quite a bit of rain in Juneau and the SE, so I'm not sure I would call it a hikers paradise. I would opt for hiking on the Kenai or at Denali. In either case, familiarize yourself with good bear safety practices and practice your singing!
The US Forest service has cabins throughout PW Sound. One thing to consider, given your GF's limited kayaking experince, is to rent a cabin and use it as a base for doing day trips/paddles in the area. You can even get a water taxi in Whitier to take you to the cabin so you don't have to spend all of your time paddling from and to Whittier.
Jan 22, 2012 10:40 AM
6I wouldn't get a car for such a short trip. Take the bus/train to Seward and base yourself there on the Kenai. Take at least one full day cruise into Kenai Fjords (the common one is to Aialik Bay, we preferred the trip to Northwestern Fjord, but both were incredible), take another day to hike up to the Harding Icefield (you can take a shuttle from Exit Glacier guides. If you like backpacking, spending the night at the top of the trail would be amazing). For me, Seward was bar-none the highlight of the Kenai and PWS; the scenery simply did not compare (to me, at least). There is good kayaking in the bay right from Seward (we kayaked out to Caines Head, where there are some trails and camping) or you can pay for a water taxi to take you out into the fjords. Seward has many good lodging and dining options, to boot.
As mentioned, then take the bus/train to Denali. The scenery is beautiful along the way but not much in the way of trails, and you can't use the car once you're in the park. Stop in Talkeetna for a night along the way to flightsee if desired. I'd also recommend trying to go rafting on the Nenana River just outside Denali.
Jan 23, 2012 6:36 AM
7Good to hear you had such a great experience in Seward/Kenai Peninsula, stopthebus. I think the prelim plan as of now would be to head up to Denali via bus, spend ~3 days there, head back to anchorage and rent a car so that we could have some flexibility in our trip down Eastern Kenai for ~5 days. Sounds like that is a spectacular drive and there are alot of interesting places to stop off at, maybe do day trips and camp, before reaching Seward.
The big question for me is where to take a kayaking trip to. I think we'll probably end up taking some sort of guided rental trip (maybe 3 days 2 nights) where I bring all our gear/food, does anyone have experience visiting Northwestern Fjord vs. Aialik Bay via kayak? I'm concerned that we would lose a bit of time actually getting to and from N'Western Fjord on a 3-day trip w/ a tour operator - is that concern warranted?
The alternative is heading to Homer and of course visiting Kachemak Bay State Park which looks incredible vs. heading to Whittier and doing something just as nilsy mentioned.
Jan 23, 2012 8:43 AM
Jan 23, 2012 11:51 PM
9Jeremy, 10 days or so just won't cut it. I've lived in the Yukon (we're immediate neighbors with Alaska) for 30 years and have traveled extensively here and in Alaska and have barely touched the tip of the iceberg. Here's two suggestions for you. Numero uno, find a cool place to do an activity that you're passionate about and enjoy. Don't try to overdo it. Numero dos, go for the big wow factor and do a one hour flight seeing trip into the St. Elias mountains from Haines Junction, Yukon. This as close as you can get to going to another planet without leaving earth. Picture...soaring peaks...massive ancient glaciers. The expression 'breathtaking' was invented here. Best of luck.
Jan 24, 2012 3:19 PM
10Sounds like you are a big fan of the Yukon, Z :) I agree with the not overdoing it part and definitely have reservations about hitting up both Denali and Kenai peninsula in 10-11 days. My initial thoughts were that I would get a quick glimpse of two varied places and would plan to return to explore one or the other in more depth at another point in my life.
Given our interests in hiking, kayaking, but also wanting to have an occasional hot shower in between camping days/multi-day hiking or kayaking trip, is there any other place outside of the Kenai peninsula that people would recommend in that late-August period?
Thanks again to you all for you helpful suggestions
Jan 24, 2012 8:22 PM
11Kenai Peninsula has it all. I suggest you use a comfortable lodge in Kenai area as base. From there you can hike, kayak,. do Seward or Homer or Hope or Skilak Lake. Canoe Swanson system. Fish the famous Kenai or Cook Inlet. Fly-in to a remote lake You can get all meals and great lodging at www.alaskahooksetters.com for about $1100 pp. That gives you $900 each for chartered adventures. They will arrange for you as well
Jan 25, 2012 12:34 PM
12With your limited time the Kenai and Denali are a good combination for a first time visitor. Then you can come back some other time and try places like Wrangell-St.Elias, Katmai, Lake Clark, Brooks Range, Glacier Bay, etc.
Jan 27, 2012 4:09 AM
13Any thoughts about the idea of renting kayaks for a few days, taxiing out to ailiak bay and then either camping or renting one of the public use cabins for a few nights. I have kayaked on some decently rough blue water but do not have formal training in kayak survival, and my girlfriend has alot less experience in a kayak (although I'm considering renting a tandem to make things easier).
Does that sound unsafe to any or all of you who are familiar with the water in that area?
Jan 27, 2012 5:13 AM
14The last time that I was in Seward, the winds were so strong that some of the fishing boats returned to dock with their windows blown out! Alaska's winds are unpredictable. It would be safer for novices to do several days of canoeing along the popular Swanson Lake/River system near Sterling, on the upper Kenai Peninsula. You will see the canoe rentals along the Sterling Highway. It is just west of Skilak Lake.
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