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Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

Lubbock, Texas
Level Contributor
100 posts
44 reviews
Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

My husband and I would like to spend 8 nights in Alaska during the middle part of August 2016. We are most interested in bear viewing, but also want to see other wildlife, especially whale watching. We have been on 3 Alaska cruises and really like Juneau. We know we can see bears, whale watching, hiking the glaciers, Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay all from there. But, does anyone have a better suggestion? What about Anchorage, Kenai, Denali?

Wasilla, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
6,802 posts
171 reviews
1. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

For whales, you'll want to be in Southeast Alaska. Juneau would work. Hoonah would be another option.

http://visithoonah.com/tours_charters.html

Central Florida...
Level Contributor
1,511 posts
2. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

With the variety of wildlife in AK, I don't think you can have a "home base." We saw over 40 critters on our two bus trips into Denali, and also saw many whales, birds, sea lions and Eagles on our boat tours from Seward and Whittier. It s all good!

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
496 posts
45 reviews
3. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

Aside from Juneau for Whale watching you might consider Seward and Homer

Denali ,in terms of wildlife viewing can be hit or miss.

Homer is a beautiful town with great scenery and lots to do. It's also a good place to take a fly out to see bears(it's expensive, but IMO well worth it)

Seward also has some neat stuff to do.. Kenai Fjords Tour for wildlife,and glacier viewing, the Sealife center and Exit Glacier.

If you are interested in fishing I personally prefer Seward but Homer also works

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Level Contributor
45,625 posts
44 reviews
4. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

Well, I would pick Denali for easy access wildlife viewing.

If bears are a huge priority, then perhaps Katmai, Kodiak, McNeil River, Lake Clark etc are places to look at flying into.

New York
Level Contributor
3,411 posts
55 reviews
5. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

There is "home-base" in Alaska. :) You need to be on the move in my opinion.

Alaska is wildlife loaded. Denali and Kenai Fjords are jackpots.

I suggest- get some trip report reading in and find out more about mainland Alaska to be able to compare the areas you want to go to. 8 days is a pretty short time, with the option of a one way cruise in/out of Seward with the extra time there.

Lubbock, Texas
Level Contributor
100 posts
44 reviews
6. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

Thank you for all the suggestions. We have also considered trying to fit in Anchorage/Denali/Kenai/Fairbanks instead of going to Juneau... Here are some things we are interested in...

Fly-in bear viewing. I am a photographer, so is there a "best" spot, or most reliable spot that is relatively quick to get to by flying in?

Full day cruise through Kenai State Park

Kayak around the Valdez glacier (closer/better glaciers?)

Denali National Park

White water rafting

Anchorage wildlife refuge center

Ice trekking and climbing

Arctic Circle

Polar Bears - heard there was a day excursion from Fairbanks to photograph polar bears?

Northern Lights - have heard of a mushing/overnight camping trip for this?

Is it possible to visit all these places with 9 1/2 days?

New York
Level Contributor
3,411 posts
55 reviews
7. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

From your list- it's about a 2 week trip. With fly in tours, you have to have extra time, in my opinion. There is fly in polar bear viewing out of Fairbanks, in August. You need to be very careful about dates- you want to choose a mid point for peak. Same with brown bear viewing and fly in trips- you need to be very aware of your dates and predictability of salmon runs. I never recommend the day trips for the browns, always superior for at least 1 overnight. for razor clam diet bears- I highly recommend Bear Mountain Lodge.

Denali Park is a wildlife jackpot- it's of significant advantage to take advantage of their buy 2 get 3 entry (if still offered next year), going at least to Eielson. Same with Kenai fjords (which is a national park) multiple trips are "better" for seeing more. :) I always go out repetitively, last time 4 trips in a row. Each was very different.

For glaciers, Prince William Sound boat tours are excellent. Again, it could be very worthwhile to go out on different tours a couple days.

Ice Trekking at Matansuka Glacier.

For aurora- DAILY check the prediction reports. Be willing to get in your car and drive out of lights. You need dark- clear -seeing stars skies.

Edited: 11:37 am, October 31, 2015
Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage
Level Contributor
13,257 posts
233 reviews
8. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

Fly-in bear viewing. (2 night min)

Full day cruise through Kenai State Park (2 night min)

Kayak around the Valdez glacier (2 night min)

Denali National Park ((3 night min)

White water rafting (1 night min)

Anchorage wildlife refuge center (include with above or below)

Ice trekking and climbing (1 night min)

Arctic Circle (2 night minimum)

Polar Bears (2 night minimum)

Northern Lights (no night min. - need to be in right place/time)

Is it possible to visit all these places with 9 1/2 days?

- I cam up with 15 nights. I put how many nights I feel that each of your listed activities needs, I think that minimum would also include transporting yourself between the various sites, but it wold be at a break-neck pace and you'd be missing so much in between (though if you did what was listed above, it'd be a pretty cool (& expensive trip).

- Arctic Circle... If you went polar bear vieiwing, then you'd get above the Arctic Circle. If you mean going to the sign on the road, then you'd have a long journey by road from Fairbanks.

- pitfalls... The NLs (if active & if you are located appropriately) can be started to be seen in very late August/early September (because in that time, we are actually starting to have a significant amount of dark hours. Decent/probable polar bear viewing is going to be mid-September thru October in Kaktovik (flights from Fairbanks). It would be difficult to time this with other AK adventure that could close down earlier in September. At best this excursion would have to be timed to be your last actiity.

Lubbock, Texas
Level Contributor
100 posts
44 reviews
9. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

Okay,

I think we will skip polar bear expedition and the arctic circle. I didn't realize the polar bear one day trips were $1,500 per person! SO, that leaves us with the following rough draft of an itinerary. HELP is greatly appreciated!

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage by 1pm. Get rental car, drive to Portage. Visit wildlife refuge. Overnight in Portage.

Day 2: Glacier trekking and ice climbing in Portage with Ascending Path. Drive to Seward. Overnight in Seward.

Day 3: Full-day of Bear Glacier paddleboarding or kayaking.

Day 4: Full-day Kenai State Park cruise (either 8 1/2 state park cruise or the 9 hour northwestern fjord tour). Drive to Homer, stopping at Hidden Creek for possible easy bear viewing. Stop at Kenai Spur Highway where it crosses Beaver Creek for possible moose.

Day 5: Day trip for bears in Homer with Bald Mountain Air Services. Drive back to Anchorage.

Day 7: Drive to Denali. Overnight in Denali

Day 8: Denali

Day 9: Drive back to Anchorage, fly out

Is this too much driving?

Should we add another day for Prince William Sound? Or is that redundant after seeing Kenai and Bear Glacier?

We would like to somehow fit Valdez glacier kayaking OR Prince William Sound from Valdez (heard the wildlife is better in that part of the sound), but Valdez just seems really out of the way...

Should we spend more time bear watching out of Homer? Are there any relatively affordable overnight bear tours or 2 night bear tours from there?

I have heard you can't take personal cars into Denali past Mile 15, what would be the best way for us to see Denali?

Lastly, should we take an extra day in Seward for Resurrection Bay, or is that redundant?

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Level Contributor
45,625 posts
44 reviews
10. Re: Best Home-Base for Wildlife Viewing?

While I would highly encourage a visit to Denali, you really only have about a day and half & you would need more time. OR you should skip it. To access the park after mile 15, I would recommend using the shuttle bus system. www.nps.gov/dena for all the info about the park. Visiting Denali national park is one of the most affordable ways to see wildlife in Alaska.

I don't know of any lodging in Portage - probably staying in Girdwood would work best - I am sure the DE's in that area will know.