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All American road trip in Alaska

Mountain View...
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All American road trip in Alaska

Hey Guys

I really need help. I have been living in the US for the last 3 years but my geographic knowledge is limited to California. I was planning a 7-9 day trip in August along the CA Pacific highway but at the last minute we have decided to opt for an Alaskan adventure as we are kinda bored of the heat wave.

I know everything is last minute so we'll definitely have some booking issues but that can be handled; experienced last minute travelers.

So here is why we need help!

MAIN ISSUES:

- Cannot step out of the US as we are on US work visas and wont be allowed to re-enter from Canada

- Need to fly in from San Diego to Anchorage or some major city and then travel by car to save costs

- Need a road trip plan that allows for relaxation and a variety of attractions: wildlife, scenic nature, ice, culture, historic sights, maybe a 1 day cruise to chill out...

Thanks in advance.

SO please anybody well versed with Alaska go ahead and give me some advice!

Elmer,NJ
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1. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

Hi....I will give you a rundown of what we did when we went to Alaska with our two teenagers...you can decide for yourself what things you would want to do and what doesnt appeal to you...

We flew into Anchorage...rented an SUV for 14 days

Stayed in Anchorage for two days; one to get over the Jet Lag after a 13 hour flight...and the other to see the Anchorage Visitor Center which is their original log house with a sod roof; pretty interesting. Also took a trolley tour around Anchorage...I think it was about $10 per person or so. Then we went to the Alaska Zoo as well.

Spent the next three days in Talkeetna, about 2 hours north of Anchorage. This town is known as the base for those who want to climb Mt McKinley; it is a charming town and the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is absolutely gorgeous; their deck has a spectacular view of the "Big One" and the surrounding mountains. The town of Talkeetna itself is very quaint and charming. We also chartered a five hour salmon fishing trip on the Talkeetna River as well.

Then we went on to Denali National Park, about four more hours north give or take. We stayed there for about four days; took the Park bus tour into Eielson which was about 8am until 4pm. There is a bus tour into Kantishna, an old mining town, that takes about 14 hours round trip. Saw moose, a grizzly with three cubs, a lynx, loads of caribou, Arctic ground squirrel, golden eagles, dall sheep, etc.

After that, we spent two days on the Alaskan Tundra in Healy; just north of Denali Natl Park. Went horseback riding and did a day trip to Nenana. Fairbanks would be about an hour away.

The last leg of our trip was to go to Seward; where we also spent a day out fishing for halibut; my husband landed a 62lb Ling Cod which drew a lot of attention on the dock! LOL...We also hiked the half mile to Exit Glacier which is pretty awesome; you can almost touch it!! You can also hike up the mountainous trails to see the ice field.

We took an evening dinner cruise ( buffet) and it was narrated by a Park Ranger who told us all about the puffins, sea otters, etc. We got VERY close to a bald eagle....got excellent pics!!

Also, dont miss the Alaska Sealife Center.....this is also in Seward and not to be missed!

The drive along the Turnagain Arm from Anchorage to Seward is just gorgeous, there are many areas you can pull over and park to take pics; and the wildflowers are beautiful as well.

Have a great trip....if you need any info as to who to contact to make reservations on any of these things, you can email me at hawaiiandogs@msn.com. I think we booked the dinner cruise at Alaska Tour and Travel, and they are very informative and happy to help.

One word of advice; the further inland you go in Alaska,,,the warmer it gets. Its not uncommon for Fairbanks to get in the 90's and very few places have A/C, so you may want to keep that in mind when you decide where to go. Seward of course was much cooler......low 70's in the day and 50ish at nite....

Have a great trip!!!

Mountain View...
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2. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

Lablover

Thanks for your detailed response. Your trip was quite different from some of the others I read up on this forum so its given me a fresh perspective. My rough plans for the 8 day trip are as follows:

Anchorage 2 days including drive to Fairbanks

(Culture stop: heritage center, museum, botanical gardens, chocolate waterfall, downtown shops, ship creek)

Fairbanks 2 days including drive to Denali

(History stop: Ester or gold mine tour, north pole, pipeline, arctic circle, riverboat tour)

Denali 2 days

(Scenic stop: bus tour to wonder lake and hike, animal spotting, Mt Mckinley, river rafting, fishing, dog sledge)

Seward/Whittier 2 days including drive back to Anchorage

(Final stop: Exit Glacier, Portage Glacier, Kenai Fjords tour, sealife center)

I was initially thinking about doing an Anchorage-Denali-Fairbanks-Valdez-Seward-Anchorage closed loop drive but I think its too much of a stretch. If we cancelled Fairbanks we could do it but I don't know whether the scenic drive down Richardson Hwy is worth a day's drive.

Also I can't decide between these, please advise based on value for money:

1. Flight view of Mt. Mckinley or Arctic Circle

2. Exit Glacier or Port Glacier or Kenai Fjords or all 3

3. Rafting on the Nenana @ Denali or riverboat tour @ Fairbanks

4. Which is the best place to fish ? First timers :)

All of you great forum members I am awaiting your replies eagerly to decide !

Pittsburgh, PA
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3. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

I would not recommend three days in Talkeetna; you would be better off spending more time in or near Denali; I would drive or take the train to Seward and take a scenic wildlife cruise - did so 2 years ago - saw orcas, humpbacks breaching, otters, eagles, etc. etc. If you spend any time in Anchorage, rent bikes and get on Tony Knowles trail - first day in Anchorage on it, we saw about 10 moose. We spent most of time in Denali,

Seward, and Homer on last trip. All fantastic! Only regret was stop in Talkeetna. This September we will be checking out Hatcher Pass (about 50 miles from Anchorage - supposed to be beautiful - although there are probably not many places that are not awesome in AK); Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs.

Check out Hotwire or other internet sites to rent a car.

Enjoy!

Fort Lauderdale...
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4. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

My trip was very much like the one you are planning except I stayed one night in Anc then took off to Denali by car, Fairbanks, Palmer , Seward and then back a day in Anc.

If you go to Talkeetna, I would maybe limit that to a day.

I could not take the Taxi Tour because I had promised the coupon to my Toursaver buyer. But I hear it is a great trip.

They take you over McKinley and land on a Glacier.

I did all of the tours you listed. I stayed in Alaska for almost 9 days and got it all in without any anxiety.

I only regret that I did not see Homer or go Halibut fishing.

But, Alaska will be there waiting for me next time.

If you go to Fairbanks don't forget dinner at Esters gold camp. It is the best! And check out the Aurora Express B&B for a different experience and the Riverboat is a must.

Have fun.

Elmer,NJ
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5. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

Hi again UPASU...

It all depends on what u are into...if u want excitement, I would recommend a glacier landing ( we did that in Talkeetna also) and if you can fit it into your budget, dont miss the whitewater rafting on the Nenana River when u stay in Denali. My teens are STILL talking about it to this day; they will also take a pic of you near the falls as you pass by; its a great keepsake and I think it was only $15 or $20.

If you can fit it in, I would do Exit Glacier, Portage Glacier, and Kenai Fjords. My husband remarked how much of the Portage Glacier has disappeared since he was in Alaska. He has been all over Alaska and LOVES it! LOL.

As for fishing, it depends on what you want to hook. Mahay's in Talkeetna is very reputable and they will take you on the river to some great spots depending on what is running.

I think we used Aurora Charters in Seward for the halibut charters, but keep in mind that will be an "all day" excursion.

We are going back to Alaska next year to buy property and this time we will go to Homer and the volcanoes/Katmai Nat Park/etc as well as Kodiak Island. We plan to go to different regions every other year since my husband is a wildlife enforcement officer and this kind of nature is right up his alley.

The only downside to going too far into Alaska's interior is that you may tend to run into wildfires; this is the season and we did run into a lot of smoke in Denali National Park...it was awful and they dont normally put the fires out in Alaska; they tend to let them burn off unless they are very close to a city or town.

Hopefully you won't encounter this...but have a great time and try not to plan too much into one day..this is why we stretched our days out and made some excellent home movies!!!

Mountain View...
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6. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

ALL great comments from you Alaska lovers. Need some more clarification:

I want to do a 9-10 day trip but air tickets are about 500/person in that case. 7 day return tickets are $350. I am thinking about bidding on Priceline for 350 ticket for 9-10 day return. Since loding is available around 100 per night I think its worth having a relaxed long vacation than a rushed one.

However, in case I am forced to do a 7 day tour I need to eliminate some things:

1. Fairbanks is looking less appealing now. Many people have talked about the fly/bus tour of the Arctic Circle. Can someone please clarify what you actually see/do during this full day trip? Also please describe the riverboat tour.

2. I am not planning to stay in Talkeetna just take the air tour. How long does it take and what do you actually see/do ?

3. I want to do the Wonder Lake shuttle tour on 1 day in Denali and then the rafting and check out the visitor center and free dog sled show on day 2. Is this doable ? How long does the rafting tour last ? If I stay in some cabin 10 miles north or south of Denali for example in Healy; how will I be able to make it to the Wonder Lake shuttle start point at 6 in the morning ? Is this stop close to where we park our car or do we first have to take another bus from parking to inside Denali NP ?

4. I want to spend some time to kickback and relax in our cabin at Homer/Seward. Is it possible to do a less than 1 day fishing tour ? In fact I read in some other post places where one can just walk up to a pond/lake and start fishing without taking a proper tour; just can't find that posting again. Please clarify!

Mountain View...
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7. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

VoyagerMom

Please answer my question on the previous post. I have 2 additional questions for you.

1. Since you did all the tours I am thinking about can you please please rate the tours in the order of best-worst in terms of interesting, time consuming, very tiring, cost, etc.

2. You keep mentioning Palmer and Hatcher Pass. Can you describe these places.

By the way next time you go to Homer you have to do the Bear tour. Some one has put a link in one of the recent postings. Its awesome I saw the pictures. Its too expensive for me though (250 bucks)

Pittsburgh, PA
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8. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

Re: Homer Fishing; my husband took a halibut fishing tour which required all day, as guides said you need time to get out into the deep waters to find the halibut. He did not enjoy this much as the boat took on a ton of water; he was soaked and frozen to the bone; people were not agreeable to share fishing time, he did catch a halibut or two, but by the time you factored in the tour cost, the filleting cost (which he claims he received way less poundage of fish than he caught) and the price of shipping it home, it probably cost about $50/lb. We'd have been better off buying halibut already filleted!

There were a lot people fishing at the beginning of the Homer spit at a large pond. I'm not sure what type of fish they were catching, but they were certaining pulling them in. However, some were snag fishing, which seemed brutal to me. We did enjoy watching seals at this pond also catching fish.

jq
Sacramento, CA
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9. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

Assuming you have rental car, you can drive from Denali River Cabins, or the Perch, 9 miles south of denali in about 10 minutes or so. Healy should not be much further. You drive into the park entrance and park behind the transportation center. This is where you get on the shuttle buses. Be there at least 15 min before your shuttle time. We left the Perch cabins at about 6am or few minutes later to get to denali for 6:45 bus and we were plenty early.

Mountain View...
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10. Re: All American road trip in Alaska

Many thanks to nosmo, Lablover and JQ!

Alright here is my updated roadtrip:

Aug 8: Arrive late night in ANC

Aug 9: Spend half a day seeing some of the city sights like heritage center, botanical gardens, museum.

Start from ANC around 3 pm, Reach Denali by 8 pm latest

Aug 10: See visitor center, dog show, Nenana rafting

Aug 11: Wonder Lake shuttle and hike

Aug 12: Start from Denali early, Reach Fairbanks by 10 am.

This is iffy. I dont know how to split time in Fairbanks.

Maybe do the 2005 Discover the Gold & Sternwheeler Cruise/Tour. I think this is a 8 hour combo pack. Have dinner at Ester.

I think we are going to skip the Trans Arctic Circle Dalton Highway Explorer which takes a whole day. Its $279 very expensive and time consuming. Can we still drive and see the pipeline somewehe in fairbanks ?

Aug 13: Start from Fairbanks and reach Seward by night. Stop at Portage Glacier, Potter Marsh, Turnagain and just enjoy the drive! Can we also stop for the Mt Mcklenay flight at Talkeetna or is it too optimistic in a day?

Aug 14: See Exit Glacier and do the 6 hour Kenai Fjords tour. If time permits see the sealife center.

Aug 15: Start from Seward and reach Homer. Enjoy a nice wilderness lodge, possibly hike a little or go fishing @ Homer Spit. I am pretty sure by this time we will be broke or close to that!

Aug 16: Head back to Anchorage. Stop for lunch at Alyeska resort. In Anchorage if still energized then see chocolate waterfall, downtown shops, ship creek and head to airport by 9 pm.

My Denali shuttle and LAX-ANC air tickets are booked. I am going to start booking the hotels tonight. Please please let me know if there are many loop holes in my itinerary.

By the way are cars extremely expensive in Anchorage? I have tried many sites with many discount codes. Can't find anything less than 400 for a week. Very strange. Weekly car rental is much cheaper in California.