Kenai or Southeast Alaska
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Jun 7, 2012 8:08 AM Last Post By: johnsang
Jun 6, 2012 7:15 PM
Kenai or Southeast AlaskaI am going to a wedding in Ketchikan late July; then I have 2 weeks to explore. I fly out of Anchorage. Any advice on which itinerary to choose???
1) Take the Alaska Marine Highway System from Ketchikan to Haines. Then do the Haines highway/Alaska highway 14 hour drive to Fairbanks. Then work my down to Anchorage via Denali where I fly out.
2) Fly from Ketchikan to Anchorage after wedding and do the Kenai Peninsula and Denali.
My goal is to see a variety of majestic scenery and wildlife. I love to hike and camp, but would end up a statistic if orienteering was involved. I want to see a lot, but don't want to rush so much that it's all a blur. I am mildly freaking out because I just realized my live by the moment travel style probably won't work in AK's tourist season....as apparently ferries and hostels book fast. I am on a budget but not a shoestring. Advice appreciated.
Jun 6, 2012 7:51 PM
Jun 6, 2012 7:56 PM
2Make sure that there is a car rental place in Haines. There is one, or at least an RV rental place, in Skagway. The Haines Highway is very scenic if you can get the car because it follows the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park's impressive mountain range plus the the river where bald eagles gather in mid-winter because there is a hot springs and it is the last salmon run. Otherwise, I love Skagway with its preserved Gold Rush era buildings and theater skits. I also love Whitehorse, capitol of Yukon Territory. The Alaska-Canada Highway from Whitehorse to Tok, Alaska, parallels the Wrangell-St. Elias mountain range and crosses some "moonscape" settings and large rivers. (The Alaska Grayline bus goes from Skagway to Whitehorse, where you may have a better chance of renting a car -- make sure that you can drop the car off in Anchorage -- rent from Avis or Hertz, which are international.)
Take a sleepingbag with you onto the ferry because you can snooze in the ferry's lounge en route from Bellingham to Ketchikan, plus en route two more nights to either Haines or Skagway. Plan to car-camp if you cannot find a hostel -- rent a compact SUV with back seat that folds down, such as Honda or Jeep Liberty. Allow 2-3 days to drive from Skagway/Haines to Fairbanks. http://www.AlaskaHostels.com gives web page for Fairbanks hostel plus web addresses for other hostels throughout Alaska so that you can make reservations. Either camp in Homer or stay at the Seaside Farm Hostel. There are not many hostels on the Kenai Peninsula. Stay at Alyeska Hostel in Girdwood. Stay at the Spenard Hostel in Anchorage. It is 5 minutes taxi ride to the international airport from there.
Edited by: trekker502
Jun 6, 2012 11:30 PM
3There are a few car rental companies in Skagway. Avis does, I believe, sometimes allow one way rentals but car availability may be an issue - hard to say. A one way rental between Skagway and Anchorage may be possible but could be spendy. I just tried a few late July dates in their online reservation system and had no luck - sold out. But you should try it using your actual dates and see what comes up.
You need to plan ahead though because if you can't manage to rent a car in Haines or Skagway (one that you can drive to Anchorage) you may as well fly to Anchorage from SE Alaska (Juneau would be a straight shot) because there is no easy way to get to Fairbanks, Anchorage or even Tok, AK from Haines or Skagway on the road system without a car. There used to be shuttle services but they seem to have disappeared and Greyhound only operates in the Yukon, not Alaska. Grayline, an Alaskan tour bus operator, has been suggested to others but as far as I can tell they only offer tours and they are expensive (ie 2500 plus). No rail option for that route either.
There is a once a month AK State Ferry sailing (maybe twice) that links Juneau to Southcentral Alaska (Whittier) from which you can take a train or bus to Anchorage.
A company called Alaska/Yukon Trails offers a tour between Whitehorse and Dawson, Yukon and another between Dawson and Fairbanks. It looks like a person could book both tours to essentially travel between Whitehorse and Fairbanks but you'd have to be interested in seeing that country - it's a big loop out of the way (personally, I love Dawson and you get to cross the Yukon River at Dawson on a small free ferry). There is a two person minimum on those tours. You'd have to do a bit of checking on that combo but it could be an option because it's fairly easy to get a train or bus between Skagway and Whitehorse. Here is the website: http://www.alaskashuttle.com/. A major caveat is that I know nothing about the company so this isn't an endorsement.
Hope that all makes sense!
Edited by: alapah
Jun 7, 2012 5:35 AM
4I also love Dawson City and have been there about 4 times. It is about 3 times the size of Skagway with preserved Gold Rush era buildings, can can girls shows, historic buildings such as the Jack London and Robert Service homes, plus its on the bank of the Yukon River. If it is raining, the streets are almost knee-deep in mud, so bring mud-worthy boots/shoes. The Top of the World Highway/Taylor Highway take you past gold mining villages near Chicken, Alaska. Keep your eyes open for wildlife -- I have seen a wolverine near the border crossing. The Northern Klondike Highway route to Dawson City has a stop at the Titina Trench Overlook, which is the major faultline that opened up all of the gold and silver deposits in the area. It is also a major migration route for birds and waterfowl plus caribou and other mammals north from Watson Lake to Alaska's far north, following the Yukon River from Dawson City. There is also a breakfast stop at a Scottish roadhouse where you will be served the largest cinnamon buns that you have ever seen. You will also see the junction with the Dempster Highway, which you may travel up to the Northwest Territories and the Beaufort Sea/Arctic Ocean in your future adventures.
Jun 7, 2012 5:44 AM
5Great advice so far. Personally, I love the alaska marine highway and vote for that. I would always suggest that. Maybe take that north from Ketchikan.
Jun 7, 2012 8:08 AM
6Going north on the Alaska Marine Highway is by far the most scenic and interesting. If you take the ferry north to Haines or Skagway there will be many vehicles (100+?)on that boat, going north after they land. You could very probably negotiate a ride with someone from Haines or Skagway, you would have an opportunity to enquire on the ferry as many people hang out in the main lounge/cafeteria area. If that didn't work then get off and find a ride in town as the only road out goes north into the Yukon to the Alaska Highway. Or, you can fly from Haines to Juneau then to Anchorage (or anywhere), Haines to JUN is about $100 one way on "Wings of Alaska".
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