10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

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10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby yedi » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:45 am

My girlfriend and I just scored a pair of really cheap round-trip tickets to Anchorage in early September, but we bought the tickets before we had any idea of what we wanted to do. Now we're trying to put together a feasible itinerary. Going to Denali is a given, and I've already reserved a campsite at Wonder Lake. Other than that, we're pretty open to suggestions (although we prefer to get out into the parks rather than spending our days seeing the sights in the cities).

So, I thought I'd throw it out to people who have much greater experience in Alaska than I (i.e., more than none). What should we do, and how long should we spend at different areas?

Thanks for any suggestions!

ETA: We've looked at this 10-day loop that does Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Kenai Fjords. We're accustomed to roadtripping long distances, but is this itinerary just stupid busy?

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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby Scott P » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:28 am

The areas south of Denali and north of Denali have different weather patterns, so you may keep this in mind. The areas south of Denali get wetter in September (September is one of the rainiest months in Southern Alaska) and the areas north get drier in September (September is one of the best months to see Denali from the north). Weather wise, you may be better off staying on the north side of Denali and areas north. Of course if you can deal with the rain (places like Kenai fiords will be very rainy in September), it won't matter. September is usually a good month to see brown bears as well and the fall colors should be good.

How long do you have? Just 10 days or do you have more? Are you looking to backpack or day hikes? Alaska is a big place so it would help to know how long you have and what activities you are most interested in.
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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby JoeyJ » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:56 am

I asked about this a while back also- some good ideas and suggestions here!
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. -Abe Lincoln

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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby RyanJ » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:10 am

There is a lot to see in AK. Below are a few suggestions:
1) Skip Fairbanks.
2) Camping in the park is awesome.
3) Do a plane ride out of Talkeetna w/glacier landing if available. We did the McKinley Base Camp w/Glacier landing. It lasted about 2 hours.
4) While around Denali take the Kantishna Wilderness tour to the end of the road. Bring bug spray.
5) Kenai Peninsula is very nice. Kenai Fjords National Park Park Cruise w/Fox Island dinner. Watched the Alalik Glacier calving.

Have fun!

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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby peter303 » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:05 am

My first trip to Alaska was a "road trip" from Seward to Fairbanks with stops in Whittier, Anchorage, and Denali.
There are campgrounds EVERYWHERE including the center of towns so we just car camped on a whim. Only had trouble on Memorial Day weekend. Some spots in interior Denali go quickly too and can be reserved in advance. Some memorable camps include watching otters swim from central Seward, bald eagles peck in th sand outside my Homer pit tent, and she-wolf walking down the road at Savage River Denali.

If you do the car-camping thing, load up breakfasts, lunches and beverages an Anchorage Safeway (Carrs). Also buy cheap incidentals like pilows and ice chests at an Anchorage Big Box store instead of checking in too much expensive luggage. Book a day long cruise from one of the coastal cities (Seward, Homer, Whittier, Valdez) to see more marine mammals, birds and glaciers than you probably ever seen in your life. I recommend the longest Kenaii Fjords cruise fromSeward. Take the longest bus ride in Denali that is operating at the time. The park ones are almost as good as the commercial operators and cheaper.

The Bible of Alska road touring use to be the MilePost Book. I dont know if they are still around or have an App version.
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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby donquixote17 » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:40 am

To me, that 10 day tour sounds like too much driving. The truly unique thing about Alaska is that it is wild. It's hard to experience the wilderness when you're driving almost every day. I'd suggest you choose maybe 3 places to spend some time and enjoy 3-4 days in each place. If you are a backpacker, I'd encourage you to find somewhere to get away from the roads and enjoy the wild. Denali is a must-see in my opinion and cool way to do it is to take the bus into the park, get a backcountry permit, and backpack wherever you want to in the park. Much of the park is above treeline, so it's easy to go wherever you want. I also like the suggestion above to stop in Talkeetna and land on a glacier near Denali if you have some extra cash! Anchorage is an often overlooked area that I think it a wonderful place for hiking. The chugach mountains near Anchorage are beautiful and have lots of day hikes and a few backpacking routes. See here for info on hiking in Chugach State Park: Crow Pass and South Fork trails are two wonderful 2-3 day backpacking trips in the park. In Alaska, the treeline is only a couple thousand feet above sea level, so keep in mind that you are very free to explore the mountains by hiking above the treeline and walking the ridge line. If you like to fish, go to the Kenai Peninsula and either fly fish on the Kenai River or deep sea fish in Homer or Seward. If you end up going to the Kenai Peninsula, Kenai Fjords is beautiful. Not too much hiking access, but you can either take a tour boat or kayaks out to the fjords.

I agree with the suggestion to skip Fairbanks. In the 10 day trip you linked, I would say that their drive to Delta Junction and Fairbanks is a waste of time. If Wrangell St. Elias sparks your interest, spend some time there, but don't go up to Fairbanks. It's one of the lamest towns in Alaska.

Last thing I have to say is don't forget the mosquito net and bug dope for Wonder Lake.

I grew up in AK and worked at a National Park Service visitor center in Anchorage for 3 summers, so feel free to ask me any specific questions.

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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby MonGoose » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:41 am

Everywhere in Alaska is amazing, so wherever you go you'll have a good time. September is a good time to be in Denali because the mosquitoes will be gone, the wild blueberries will be prevalent and the fall colors are beautiful. Be sure to go to a Sled Dog Talk in Denali (of course I'm biased because I used to give them). I would also recommend checking out Seward, which is a 2.5 hour drive from Anchorage to see the ocean and the Exit Glacier. Seward is a great place to rent ocean kayaks, book a whale watching trip or charter a fishing trip. There should be a late run of coho salmon this time of year and the halibut fishing is always good. The Kenai peninsula also has stellar fishing. Also check out the Alaskan Railroad for transportation anywhere between Seward and Fairbanks. Finally, be aware that what constitutes a "highway" in Alaska can actually mean a rough dirt road in some places. Double check that your "highway" is paved before heading out across the state. Have fun!

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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby peter303 » Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:28 am

In defense of Fairbanks, I would not put it high on my list, but it has some features of interest.
I did it once as a daytrip between two camping nights in Denali. And another tip doing the Parks Road - Pipeline Road -Matsu Road triangle. The Pipleine Road Richardson Highway is more rustic than the touristy Parks Road passing through several impressive mountain ranges.

Fairbanks has some quirky little museums like the Museum of Ice, the Museum of Dog Sledding, and a very nice Natural History Museum embedded in the University of Alaska. From the UA museum you may get a great view of Denali Mountain in the distance. Ironically you dont get views of Denali from within the namesake park unless you take the deepest bus tours, probably not offered after Labor Day. The north slope truck road emerges from Fairbanks. But car rental companies have explicit contract clauses saying not to drive that road (too many hummucks?).

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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby yedi » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:39 pm

Wow. Thanks for all the suggestions. The number of things we could do is pretty daunting, but I certainly appreciate the help.

ScottP, we've only got the 10 days, so we're trying to be deliberate with our time. That's really interesting re: the different weather patterns. Is that because the Alaska Range forms kind of an east-west crescent? We live in Seattle, so doing things when it's wet outside just comes with the territory.

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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby swbackcountry » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:22 pm

I would go with a pocket full of options due to weather, researching a few options with various conditions in mind. But perhaps just go deeper into Denali n p from where your going.

Perhaps fly in and out to the brook range (via Bettles) to Naktuvuk, taking 4-10 days(?). A quick, cool place just NE of Hatcher pass is the Snowbird glacier/ Reed lake area. There's some cool lakes up there(and Huts), doable in a two-three day trip (that's near Palmer/Wasilla). Raven Glacier/Crow Pass outside of Girdwood/Alyeska in Chugach State Park is another quick fun trail to glacier trip. Its the first/last part of the Eklutna Traverse. There's a hut there that is usually booked, but you can test it if its unavailable. Plus you get to see Girdwood (go to Chair 5 restaurant) ( Another quick one is, taking the tourist train down to Seward (its super scenic!), and heading up from Seward to the Kenai NP ( to top of the Exit Glacier on the Harding Ice Field. With the train ride, that'd take you probably 4 days and you'd get to see the coast, which is also awesome. (We stayed at the Naughty Otter down there one time). Renting fat bikes and bikepacking up to the Knik glacier from Palmer might be fun if not rainy, that's a big 4x4 road for part of it, and would only take two days and takes you into so cool and crazy Alaskan wilds with glaciers mountains and craziness... ...

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Re: 10-Day Alaska Tour - Any Suggestions?

Postby siop » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:50 pm

10 days is not very long to spend in Alaska. I work there quite a bit so I've traveled all over. I'd say that loop is pretty ambitious and you'll barely get to see anything if you try to do it all. Keep in mind its quite a haul to get out to Wonder Lake. Logistically it'll take a day to get to Denali and another day to take the bus to Wonder Lake. So just there and back to Anchorage is already 4 days and that doesn't count spending any time in Denali. Maybe its because I've been stuck in Fairbanks so many times but I've had some great days hiking there. If you head out towards Chena Hot Springs there's loads of hiking. Granite Tors is one of my favorite loops and in September its covered in blueberrries. I absolutely love it! I'd also recommend stopping at Matanuska Glacier on your way to or from Denali. You can rent crampons there pretty cheap if you don't want to haul your own up there, but its pretty fun to walk around the glacier. Kenai is awesome too! I'd definitely do one of the glacier tours. In the Kenai penninsula Homer is my favorite town and there are a couple of trails, but all the glacier tours are out of Kenai. Another great town, I just happen to love Homer. I'd say between Denali and Kenai that's a pretty solid 10 day trip. September is my favorite time of year up there so have a blast! Oh and I've been up there several times in September when some big winter storms come through so make sure you have some warm gear.
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