Alaska is the Pacific Northwest on steroids. 🙂 It is the Leh Ladakh of the United States!
Alaska is north of Canada and as wide as the entire US if you count it’s islands. It is way bigger that Texas and biggest state by area in the United States. If you are in the mood for some pristine alpine wilderness or bears, Alaska should be on your list!
Alaska was my destination of choice for various reasons. I’ve been to Yellowstone national park twice. Though it was beautiful both times, I lucked out on any bear viewing. I read I would have better luck with Denali national park. There were several cruises to Alaska from Seattle. The pretty pictures looked like it would be a great place to relax. We thought it would be something different we ( My Dad, Mom and I ) could enjoy as a family. My mother is a nature lover.
I called Expedia to book a cruise but they informed me that all their cruises from Seattle to Alaska stop by Canada at least once. They get some tax breaks or something. Also, even if my parents choose to never leave the vessel, they would need Canadian Visas. That would not work for them. I was getting a $211 each round trip flight ticket from Seattle to Anchorage. So I took it. This was 2015.
So, in short, my itinerary for Southeast Alaska looked like:
Day 1 (Aug 11) – Arrive at Anchorage
Day 2 (Aug 12) – See Anchorage, drive to Talkeetna and spend the night there.
Day 3 (Aug 13) – Drive to Denali State park, then National Park and stay there
Day 4 (Aug 14) – Drive to Fairbanks, see Fairbanks and stay there
Day 5 (Aug 15) – Drive to Denali state park again and stay at Talkeetna
Day 6 (Aug 16) – Drive to Anchorage and stay there
Day 7 (Aug 17) – Fly back to Seattle
I could have done a day trip to Seward and Kenai from Anchorage but could not fit that in. Some folks choose to skip Fairbanks but I don’t regret driving there. I think being remote makes it all the more interesting. Thought the most popular thing to see in Alaska is the Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska is huge. So, it makes sense to target either the south east or the northwest. I have never been to the northwest of Alaska, but a rough itinerary for that would look like:
Day 1: Skagway Shore Excursion: Full-Day Tour of the Yukon
Day 2. Tracy Arm Fjord – One of the commercial tours
Day 3: Mendenhall glacier + West Glacier hike
Day 4: Hike Mt Juneau – optional and VERY dangerous
Day 5: Go to Sitka
Day 6: Spend the day at Sitka
Day 7: Fly back
Anchorage and Juneau are not connected by road. Several big cities are not connected by road. That is why 1 in 6 Alaskans know how to fly bush planes. That is how they get around. My first itinerary included a lot of driving. Even 6 hours continuous. Its does not seem so bad if you have a very good car. I would suggest getting a large sedan or a saloon car for this trip. Parking is not a problem in Alaska and distances are long. I agree, taking a flight from Seattle to Anchorage and then from Fairbanks back to Seattle would have cut our driving out but the flights would have been more expensive as we were not getting a deal there.
Alaska tour is very popular in summer and fall. It is not cheap. So, please make all your bookings at least a month in advance. If you want to see northern lights, summer is not the best time. You may want to go in the winter. Fairbanks has some great displays. Note: Do not pack too much in your itinerary as wifi is spotty and roads are in bad condition. You may spend time finding your lodge or fixing a tire. We had a flat tire at Fairbanks at 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday. It was troublesome finding help and driving in the dark. So, I suggest driving during day time.
Day 1: Arrive
Seattle to Anchorage was a 3.5 hour long flight. We arrived late and the car booking took a while as well. We stayed at http://www.vrbo.com/611103 with Marcy Shannon – This was reasonable and comfy. They were helpful when we arrived late and gave us a tour map too.
Day 2: See Anchorage and drive to Talkeetna
We chose to see Point Woronzov and Westchester Lagoon. We drove to Talkeetna after, walked around their cute downtown and stayed at cozy cabins http://www.vrbo.com/685982, http://www.vrbo.com/685200 with David – These were more like luxury campgrounds. Cabins is a loaded term I guess. We were expected to bring our own toiletries.
Day 3 of Alaska tour
Drive to Denali State Park North View. Then to your lodge. We stayed at Grande Denali Lodge. It was too extravagant but we had no option then. We enjoyed the lovely view from our room 🙂
Take the guided tour of Denali National Park. They have various options ranging from a 4 hour tour to a 12 hour tour. We took the 11 hour tour. We saw beautiful mountain ranges and 11 bears. Yes! 11 bears in 11 hours 🙂 We saw reindeer and moose too. We didn’t get a chance to see Mt Denali due to the weather but that’s Ok. I suggest taking the 11 or 12 hour tour. If you take your private vehicle, they will not let you drive more than 11 miles in. You’ll have a much better chance of seeing more animals the deeper you go in the park. There are lodges inside the park as well and there is danger of bears there. We drove to Fairbanks after. It was hectic .But it would have been worse to do all the driving the next day.
Take the Riverboat Discovery Cruise at Fairbanks and see their downtown. Drive to Talkeetna after. Stay at http://www.vrbo.com/3943848hawith Marne Gunderson – This place was lovely.
Drive to Anchorage. Stay at Frenchy’s adventure https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/ 2825084 with Karen – Really nice place too. Includes breakfast. We chatted and learned so much from Karen and Jeff. I’ve tried to share as much as possible. Enjoy the downtown and shop if you need to.
We had a very good experience. Alaskans are friendly and knowledgeable by my experience. All in all, every turn seems like a viewpoint. Alaska is very pretty!