Alaska Road Trip--many questions
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Aug 16, 2012 7:51 AM Last Post By: nrclibn
Aug 15, 2012 3:15 AM
Alaska Road Trip--many questionsHi,
This is my first time coming here, so I am not sure if my question is posted at right place. If it is not, excuse me, plz.
My husband and I are in our early 60’s and this is my retirement trip. It is going to be a road trip of about two weeks (giver or take a couple days depending on what I learn here.)…summer of 2013. We enjoy road trips and have been campers/hikers our entire
lives. However, my husband has had knee replacement surgery (2 years ago) so our hiking isn’t what it once was. The following is my “draft” agenda which I hope some of you can help me with.
We will be flying round trip from Austin Texas to Anchorage. I mention Texas because there is a reason I live here…it is called “heat.” I am cold natured…wet-cold weather is my least favorite, however, I love travel and the outdoors and know how to layer…at least for most of the US.
So we will be making a big loop, Anchorage to Anchorage.
Question: When will be the best time for me to go? I am thinking sometime between mid June to mid July. I know it is probably the most crowded time, but I am looking for the warmest, driest time possible. I know it is unpredictable, but what would be my best shot?
Day 1 – Fly into Anchorage – stay overnight, pick up car
Day 2 – Anchorage to Healy for our visit to Danali – overnight in Healy
Day 3 – Healy - Danali Bus into park
Questions: How far is best? Is Wonder Lake too far? Is is dangerous to get off the bus, (ie bears) for photographs? We had no problems keeping safe distances from the critters in Yellowstone and still getting great photographs (got our first /only Grizzley shot). But Alaska is more "wilderness" than Yellowstone…so I am trying to figure out my boundaries.
Day 4 – Danali to Fairbanks – overnight in Fairbanks (
Question: Should we do the Danali bus again before heading down the road to Fairbanks? Should we skip Fairbanks, head out early and drive directly to Glennallen?
Day 5 Fairbanks to Glennallen – overnight in Glennallen orCopper Center area. (Suggestions.) Staying overnight so that our drive to Valdez on Day 6 will be leisurely with plenty of time to stop and take picuures as I heard it was a spectacular drive.
Question: I heard that this drive is exceptional. True?
Day 6 – Drive to Valdez – Overnight in Valdez
Day 7 – Relax in Valdez – Visit glaciers, kayak? (Suggestions.) Or should we go on to Whittier first thing in the morning via ferry?
Day 8 – Take ferry to Whittier. Drive to Seward area. Overnight in Seward
Day 9 – Seward – Kayak (other suggestions?)_Visit downtown.
Day 10 – Seward – Glacier Boat Tour (suggestions?)
Day 11 – Drive to Homer – go out to Homer Spit, visit downtown; and tidal pools?.
Day 13 – Homer to Girdwood. Enjoy the ride. Overnight in Girdwood. (Unless we have an early morning
flight out…then will go on into Anchorage.)
Day 14 – Fly home from Anchorage
Our main interests: Wildlife viewing, birding, and photography, a glacier/boat tour of Prince William Sound and
Resurrection Bay area; kayaking amongst sea otters and seals; photographing Eagles (my hubby would love that! and Puffins...I want to add to my life (bird) list, easy to moderate hiking. We are open to recommendations. We will be staying mostly in cabins with kitchens or kitchenettes or B&B, or lodges...ie we won't be roughing it but rustic cabins are OK. Should this trip be done in the opposite direction for any reason?
Should we forgo any of what I have above to spend more time in Homer or Fairbanks, less time in Valdez, etc.? Am I trying to cram too much into two weeks? If so, what should I cut? Is there a place that is an absolute must see on this route (or close by) that I need to schedule time in for?
Thank all of you in advance for helping me plan this trip. It took me my whole life to get there so I want to make the very most of it!
iPhone App Development
Edited by: susan12
Aug 15, 2012 4:28 AM
1Tip - If you start seeing Mayan people you went the wrong direction. (or maybe right).
Aug 15, 2012 5:16 AM
Aug 15, 2012 7:56 AM
Welcome to TT!
You are more likely to get more and better answers to your questions if you put them in the Americas-United States of America branch. That's the branch that covers the USA and, therefore, where you are more likely to find TT experts in Alaska (if there are any).
I'm sorry I can't answer your questions.
Good luck with all your plans!
Aug 15, 2012 8:38 AM
4I asked the Moderators to move this post to the United States of America branch...
Aug 15, 2012 1:43 PM
5I don't think you need to take the DEnali bus twice. I would recommend camping one night at Wonder Lake (or even staying at the lodge in Kantishna). But, if you want just a day trip, I would go all the way in. If you want a shorter day you can hop off at the Eielson visitor center and still see most of the good stuff. I wouldn't worry too much about getting off the road and hiking a bit, just be bear aware.
The best place to stay in Copper Center burned down last April. Glennallen is a hole. I would drive to Chitina and stay at the Hotel Chitina and check out that area. I would also look into dropping Homer to add either McCarthy or Cordova, since you'll be in the area already. Cordova is also a major birding area.
Valdez is scenic, but the town itself is really just an oil depot. I would pass through as quick as possible since you'll be in PWS anyway.
Another option could be to drop Fairbanks and take the Denali Highway to Paxson and then down to Valdez.
Your schedule is a bit cramped, but doable.
Aug 15, 2012 1:48 PM
Aug 15, 2012 5:23 PM
Aug 15, 2012 6:16 PM
Aug 15, 2012 10:34 PM
9Healy is out of the way for a trip into Denali National Park. Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is within one mile of the Visitors Center of Denali NP. There are also a couple of other motels/lodges in that vicinity. Denali NP also has its own lodges and shuttlebuses to the Visitors Center. You would need to be at the Visitors' Center early (around 7 a.m.) to queue for the Wonder Lake shuttlebus ride -- 100 miles into Denali NP. There is a natural history tour bus to Kantishna, where passengers eat lunch, then return to the entrance/Visitors' Center. Kantishna is an old mining town that has been spiffed up as a retreat for naturalists deep in the wilderness. Otherwise, you need to carry your liquids and food with you on the shuttlebuses into Denali NP because there are no vendors inside the park. There are restrooms en route.
McCarthy and Kennicott Copper Mine are especially good to see. McCarthy is 60 miles along an unpaved road from Chitina, and you will cross over the Copper River en route. You would need to make reservations at either the McCarthy Hotel, Kennicott Hotel, or McCarthy Hostel. You would be parking your car across the Kennicott River from McCarthy and carrying your luggage on either a hand-pulled tram over the river (which I rode) unless they have since built a pedestrian bridge over the river. The Victorian-style Kennicott Hotel is a couple of miles from McCarthy and I do not know if they have a shuttlebus for their clients -- I assume that they do. There are nature hikes, birding walks, and art and photography workshops in McCarthy.
The Denali Highway is not completely paved, so I don't know if your car rental agency would allow you to drive its length. It is very scenic and there would be excellent opportunity for birding. Fairbanks is somewhat industrial with suppliers for the oil fields. You might wish to go on an Alaska Grayline bus tour from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean.
There are several options for accommodations in Girdwood. Alyeska Prince Hotel, Carriage House B&B on Crow Creek Road, Alyeska Hostel, or a condominium: http://www.alyeskaaccommodations.com There is the 7 Glaciers Restaurant at the top of Mt. Alyeska accessed by ski tram from the Prince Hotel. There is a renowned Cajun restaurant on Crow Creek Road. There are horse-drawn carriage rides through Girdwood's forested valley. Girdwood also has the Alyeska Ski Resort, which was being considered for the winter Olympics.
The Kenai Fjords Cruise is popular out of Seward. There is kayaking out of Miller's Landing on the outskirts of Seward. There is river rafting in various places in Alaska, such as next to Denali NP, the Matanuska River, the Kennicott River, and others, depending on your adventurous spirit.
From the Visitors' Center in Anchorage, you can catch a shuttlebus to the Alaska Native Cultural Center to watch ceremonial dances by Alaska Indians and Eskimos. The Millenium Hotel is 5 minutes' taxi ride from the International Airport. The Anchorage Sheraton Hotel is popular and is downtown. Potters' Marsh on the southern end of Anchorage, alongside the Seward Highway, has many species of waterfowl. There may also be geese along the shoreline. (I have seen a wolf carrying a duck cross in front of my car headlights early in the morning on the Seward Highway.) Connor's Bog across the street from the International Airport has nesting loons and moose families. You may see foxes, coyotes, wolves, porcupines, bears, and moose in downtown Anchorage's greenbelts. Westchester Lagoon along 15th Avenue downtown also has opportunities for birdwatchers.
Edited by: trekker502
Aug 16, 2012 12:08 AM
10If you are interested, we did a road trip to Alaska and many of the areas you are asking about. The reports/photos are here: http://www.lifewellspent.com/TRAVEL/CANADA/Alaska/index.htm
As you are on a tight schedule, make sure you book your shuttle bus for Denali NP in advance as you are going in high season and could find yourself sitting and waiting for several days to get a seat. Just google Denali NP and you'll find their reservation service. As already mentioned, stay near the gates (like the Princess Lodge) not at Healy.
There is no point thinking about camping at Wonder Lake unless you are arriving already equipped for camping which it does not sound like you are. Also, the bug situation at Wonder Lake is daunting. When I was there I could hardly wait to get back on the bus! Don't worry about bears. The bus driver will only let you off in areas where it is safe. The people who are going hiking/camping backpacker style in the park have to sit through an orientation movie and take bear cannisters for food, reserve the right to be in specific blocks, etc. There is little casual hiking in Denali although there are some nice walking trails between the facilities near the gate (e.g., dog kennels, visitors center etc). Anyway, read about our experience in Denali as it may help you decide how far you want to go. You would not take the bus tour twice.
If you like driving it is kind of fun to drive from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle - only about 100 km. This gives you an introduction to the famed (Ice Road Truckers) Dalton Hwy and you drive alongside the pipeline.
In Valdez make sure you take a boat cruise. We saw fantastic glaciers and whales and otters on the Stan Stephens Cruise - URL is in my report I think. Aside from that, there are museum in Valdez which I really enjoyed. It's a tough little town, having endured and recovered from the earthquake and the oil spill.
The best thing going for Homer, as well, is its museum which is really first class. It won't take you long to walk around the "town" and I don't recollect any tidal pools. The "beach" is all rock. The earthquake tsunami removed all the sand and they had to rebuild the spit with gravel. It's really hard to walk along.
In Anchorage go for a drive around the airport. That's where we saw the most moose, just munching leaves alongside the road. Also, Lake Hood is really cool. More floatplanes take off and land there than anywhere else in North America.
By mid-September my book Alaska and Points North will be available on Amazon - shameless plug :)
Aug 16, 2012 12:16 AM
Aug 16, 2012 5:17 AM
Aug 16, 2012 5:37 AM
13Try the Arctic raspberry, Rubus arcticus, beer at Homer Brewing Company.
Aug 16, 2012 7:51 AM
14If you want to go tidepooling, you need to check tide tables before you commit to specific dates. You can try this tide predictor site. What you want is a combination of a negative number for low tide (the further the water recedes, the more chances you have of seeing something interesting) AND a time that suits you (perhaps 2 am is not your favorite time to be out and about). The usual caveats about predictions vs. guarantees apply.
(3 star Hotel)
From US$169.00 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$179.00 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$11.59 per night