Seeing a moose would make me the happiest girl in the world
June 12, 2011 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Alaska itinerary needed for August trip. Have you been there? What did you do? What did you wish you had more time for? What could've been skipped?

Usually I am pretty good at travel research, but for some reason every time I try to make up an itinerary for the Alaska trip, I end up with 50 open tabs in my browser and no specific things to do or places to go, so I need your help.

I will be running a marathon in Anchorage with 2 of my friends, and we want to spend 5-7 days after the marathon seeing everything there is to see - wildlife, glaciers, mountains, nature, Denali national park, Mt. McKinley, awesome breathtaking sights! We all climb, so any bouldering recommendations would be welcome too.

We won't want to do any serious hiking the first 2-3 days after the run (light/moderate hiking is OK), but we definitely want to do more than just look at things from buses/cruise ships - we need some exploring and adventure while we sight-see.
We'll probably each have a big suitcase with us for the duration of the trip.
We're flying in to Anchorage, but can fly out of Fairbanks or any other airport if a good itinerary brings us there.

If you've been to Alaska for a week, where did you go and what did you do? Specific links/places to stay/directions are always welcome, but even if you give me an itinerary for several days with the highlights of each day, it would help me start planning. Also, we'll spend a whole day in Anchorage before the marathon, what are some cool things to do there? Or is there a day trip we can take from Anchorage?

Should we rent a car for the whole trip? Take trains? I heard there are scenic train routes, and driving gets tiring because of the distances between everything, but won't we need a car once the train gets us somewhere? Especially since we'll have stuff with us?

Thanks for your help!
posted by to Travel & Transportation around Alaska (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You might see if you can get a copy of the Milepost and look and see what you think looks fun along some possible itineraries.

MeMail me if you want specific suggestions in Fairbanks.

If you think you want to drive to Denali, you probably should be looking into lodging ASAP, unless you're planning on camping. If you drive up there, staying in Healy (as opposed to "Glitter Gulch", right outside the park entrance) is an option I would suggest looking into, although even there I imagine stuff's likely to be booked. I'm staying with my parents in a place called EarthSong Lodge (haven't been there yet); other places that were recommended were the Dome B&B and the Motel Nord Haven were also recommended.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:45 PM on June 12, 2011

Can't really help with an itinerary, but I just returned from a little over a week in Denali. It was a work related trip so I spent most of the weekdays working. We did get in some hiking and sightseeing in the afternoons and weekends. I'd highly recommend doing one of the bus trips into the park. You can only drive the first 15 or so miles into the park, any farther and you have to take either a park shuttle bus or one of the tour buses at the McKinley Chalet (in Glitter Gultch). As wonder lake wasn't open yet, we took the 8 hour (round trip) bus ride to the Eielson Visitor Center which is 66 miles into the park. Book an early bus for the best chances of seeing Mt. McKinley (buses start at 7:00 a.m.). You want to book at least a couple of days in advance to get on the early buses, which are the most popular. You can book them at the Wildlife Access center near the park entrance. On our bus trip, we saw a wolf, a herd of caribou, Dall sheep, and three grizzly bears who walked right by our bus. Buses stop for wildlife sightings although you are not allowed to get out of the bus both for your protection and to keep the wildlife from getting to accustomed to humans. You can get off the buses for some off trail hiking in unrestricted areas and hop on another shuttle later. We did a brief hike down to the riverbed from Eileson and caught another bus back.

We stayed at a place called the Totem Inn in Healy. It has a mechancial grizzly bear in the bar; need I say more? Actually it was inexpensive and clean; no complaints. I'd agree that you should make your reservations soonish.

Also we enjoyed several good meals in the area, but I highly recommend going to 229 Parks for a really special meal. It wasn't busy when we were there as the season had barely begun but you might need reservations in August. Also recommend Black Bear for your morning latte. It's in Glitter Gulch but it's a funky independent coffee shop with great coffee and good morning pastries. There's also a relatively new brewery/restaurant called 49th State in Healy (within walking distance from the Totem Inn) that has decent food and a really great selection of beers from Alaska. They should be brewing their own by the time you get there. They also have an outside area where they have live music some nights and the "magic bus" that was used in the film Into the Wild.
posted by kaybdc at 3:18 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh and we had a couple of close moose sightings right by the park entrance on two separate occasions.
posted by kaybdc at 3:19 PM on June 12, 2011

I asked about a very similar question previously.
posted by halogen at 4:06 PM on June 12, 2011

Taking the 13 hr. bus trip to the farthest point in Denali is well worth it. We saw a bear and her cubs, moose, gray wolf, dahl sheep and more. We also took a plane ride from Talkeetna and landed on the glacier. We got out of the plane and walked around on top of the glacier. The temperature was about 30 degrees so be sure to have warm clothes for that trip. The pilot was wonderful and we flew all over the area. We stayed at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge which wasn't cheap but very, very nice.

Be sure to bring your best camera because a small point and shoot just doesn't do justice to the magnificent scenery.
posted by Flacka at 7:30 PM on June 12, 2011

Forgot to say we used Alaska Tour and Travel to book things for us. They customize your trip, make suggestions and took care of everything. They are all natives and very very knowledgeable. Even if you don't end up booking with them their website has some good ideas and suggestions.
posted by Flacka at 7:33 PM on June 12, 2011

For a non-Denali suggestion, the Harding Ice Field hike in the Kenai Fjords, alongside Exit Glacier, is the most spectacular hike I've ever done, and is mandatory IMO. Takes a good chunk of a day but is well, well worth it. Like being on another planet.
posted by eugenen at 6:22 AM on June 13, 2011

I agree with eugenen. If there is one hike you should do, it's the Harding Ice Field trail near Seward. It's a day hike, but a tough one. A Kenai Fjords Tour would be worth going on. The train from Anchorage to Seward is also cool.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 5:40 PM on June 13, 2011

« Older How to start from square one to furnish a home?   |   Bulletproof riding Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.