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Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

New Hampshire
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Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

We are going to Alaska for 9 nights and was looking for ideas or to see if I have made any bad planning. Feel free to provide any feedback.

My parents took me to Alaska in the 70’s one summer and it was the trip of a life time (That trip was over 3 months!) and now I’m taking my wife and 11 yr old girl on the long promised trip. June 26 through July 5th.

Big goals – in order:

See Glacier, See Bears, Denali, Whales, see Wildlife in general. Take a million pictures. See Musk Ox if they fit into the trip.

Would like to get a half day bike ride in and some good hikes. I’m not an avid fisherman but we would like to do some fishing.

Day 1 (6/26)

We fly into Anchorage in the late afternoon, pick up rental car, get acquainted, and get to our hotel. Anything more is gravy.

Any suggestions for Anchorage?

Day 2 (6/26)

Drive to Denali via Parks highway

Hope to pan for gold on the way there is an open to the public spot just south of the park.

See what we see take our time. We have our hotel just outside the park reserved for 2 nights.

Day 3 (6/27)

Day long Bus tour through Denali – already reserved.

Day 4 (6/28)

Most of day around Denali, thinking about renting bikes … Drive to Fairbanks … Late dinner in Fairbanks … already have our cabin reserved.

Day 5 (6/29)

See Fairbanks until noon. Ideas? (Will not go to Frontier town I dont like tourest traps!)

Head south but would like to avoid doubling back over the Parks highway, but don’t see much about the Richardson and Campbell Highway through Paxton.

Aha Paxson! – The town our truck broke down in back in the 70’s, my dad took that well.

Is there anywhere to stay around there?

Even the Milepost seems to be sketchy on this route!

Day 5 (6/30)

Paxton or there abouts to Anchorage

Stay in Anchorage

Day 6 (7/1)

Some kind of day trip.

Train ride? Any ideas.

Day 7 (7/2)

Drive to Whittier; see the Portage glacier on the way. Stay the night.

Any cabin / hotel ideas?

Day 8 (7/3)

Prince William Sound glacier tours – unless someone suggests something better.

Want a good glacier tour and if we see a whale all the better.

Day 9 (7/4)

Fishing somewhere.


Day 10 (7/5)

Flight leaves at 6pm so any ideas for the first part of the day?



Manitoba, Canada
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1. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

Hi Ken, welcome. You have June 26 listed twice, and Day 5 listed twice. Does that mean you have an extra day?

Day 1- don’t forget, “late afternoon” will seem like 4 hours later to you. Wait until you get there to see if you feel like doing anything other than have a nice meal and crashing. Have a couple of easy back-ups in case you have some energy, such as Pt. Woronzoff, Earthquake Park, walk part of Tony Knowles Trail, visit Alaska Wildberry for some unique chocolates/jams etc to take home for friends.

Day 2 – try goldpanning just north of Palmer at Independence Mine. Maybe also stop at Musk Ox Farm in Palmer.

Day 4 – have you considered whitewater rafting? Lots of people enjoy that, either the easy level I & II or the more exciting III & IV.

Day 5 – sorry, I never know what to say when someone says they don't like touristy things. Does the U. of Alaska Museum count as a tourist trap?

Accommodations near Paxson: www.ak-lodges-review.com/…

Day 5#2 – Any interest in doing an ice fall trek on Matanuska Glacier?

Gets a bit hazy after that--maybe get the days straightened out first.

Normally I’d recommend a train ride to Seward and back (very scenic route), but would you feel a Kenai Fjords wildlife cruise out of Seward is too touristy? You have a better chance of seeing whales there than Whittier. What about SeaLife Center? Or a walk to Exit Glacier?

As for Whittier, there isn’t much to do there, and I don’t recommend you spend the night and whole morning unless you have some specific reason for doing that. The 2 main glacier tours out of there are 26 glacier and majormarine, both of which leave in the afternoon.

And bears were 2nd on your list. You likely will see a couple in Denali. Other than that it’s pretty much hit and miss. Will that be enough? You can see bears, moose, etc. close up at Wildlife Conservation Center near Portage. If you want to see several in the wild, your best idea is to do bear-viewing flight out of either Homer or Anchorage, though that is pretty pricey.

Fishing: depends what you’re looking for. Halibut in Homer, Seward, Whittier. Salmon in those locations plus Kenai River, Russian River, even from Ship Creek in Anchorage. Were you looking for a charter?

Hopefully a few ideas to get you started.

Ward, AR
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2. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

6/29 - large animal research station has muskoxen, caribou and reindeer. 1/2 hour and 1 hour tours. uaf.edu/lars

we ended up pushing on further and staying in the Lake Louise area. it's just over an hour west of Glennallen. seemed to be more choices there than Paxson area. there are several lodges down Lake Louise Rd. we stayed at thepointlodge.com

7/1 - I highly recommend an ice trekking at Matanuska glacier. 3 hour hike on a glacier. very fun experience. great views that made for great pictures. micaguides.com or novalaska.com.

Ward, AR
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3. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

sorry. the Matanuska could be on 6/30 not 7/1

Seward, Alaska
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4. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

Hi KBK14

Totally agree with the others - scrap Whittier all together - you can check off a lot of your goals in those last 4 or 5 days in Seward. Take the train to Seward for a relaxing, stunning trip - you'll arrive in Seward at 11am - time enough to visit the SeaLife Center, get some dinner and get settled in your lodging. Next day you can do your fishing charter, next day you can do your cruise, and the last day visit Exit Glacier - hike around there - stop for dinner at the Salmon Bake. Could also do the Idid-a-ride dog sled trip or the Godwin Glacier Helicopter trip. The following day on your way up to Anchorage you could stop at the Alaska Conservation Center to see most of the Alaskan species of animals up close. (You could hire a car in Seward and drive to Anchorage.)

Definitely do stop at the Wildberry Chocolate Factory in Anchorage like someone else said - your daughter will LOVE the highest chocolate waterfall in the world (probably your wife will love it too!)


New York
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5. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

You can also see the musk ox without a tour in At the Fairbanks U, but the tour is definately worthwhile.

I'll assume your "touristy" reference is for Pioneer Park?? But actually, no, it offers a great deal of history and worthwhile if you have the time. But with only one day in Fairbanks??

There aren't many places to stay along the Richardson, Fairbanks/Glennallen. But I would suggest the Tangle River Inn on the Denali Highway, if you really want remote, but accessable.

What "Campbell Highway""??? Do you mean Denali??

What "tour" have you booked in Denali Park?? The shuttle buses are the best bargain around in Alaska.

I too would suggest you adjust your time, and don't have marathon driving. Ice Trekking at Matanuska is excellent and a great deal, with not needing any fly in.

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6. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

Well, the drive along the old highway from Fairbanks to Anchorage is one great trip, so here are some details:

Fairbanks – Valdez (Richardson Highway)

It is about 360 miles up the new (Parks) highway to Fairbanks and 460 miles back the Old Highway (Richardson/Glenn) highway. By far the old highway is more beautiful!

Fairbanks and the Interior get more sunshine along with warmer, dryer weather than coastal Alaska. You will pass by / cross four different mountain ranges: the Alaska Range, Wrangels, Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains.

Fairbanks – Delta 100 miles

Delta - Miller Creeks (the earthquake zone) - 50 miles

Miller Creeks – Paxson 35 miles

Paxson – Tangle Lakes 20 miles

Paxson – Glennallen 75 miles

Glennallen – Copper Center 15 miles

Copper Center – Valdez 100 miles

Valdez – Anchorage 300 miles

Glennallen – Anchorage 180 miles


The heart of a gold rush, Fairbanks is great for the riverboat tour, the Pioneer Park with the old, original cabins. Often unmentioned as you approach Fairbanks from Denali Park, is the town of Ester, with gold fields with the Malamute Saloon.

From Fairbanks you can take the 60 mile one-way road to Chena Hot Springs. Chena Hot Springs is a great place to spend a night in a camper or a cabin and offers hot soak, a beautiful drive and great hikes along with likely moose close by.

If you are only in Fairbanks for a day, I recommend a car rental and day trip from the University Museum to Musk ox Farm (Large Animal farm today), out along Farmers Loop past the permafrost houses and sunken radio station, along Goldstream Road to Fox, perhaps a stop for lunch at the Turtle Club, Chatinika Gold Camp and the abandoned gold dredge across the street, and then return to Fairbanks along the Steese Highway and stop to look over the detailed pipeline display on the roadside. Summer of 2007 you will find a surprisingly large permafrost ice lens exposed on the cliff a few hundred feet north of the pipeline display, something few people get to see.

At first blush Pioneer Park may seem like a tourist trap, but it is an open air museum with original cabins from Old Fairbanks and has the riverboat Nenana there as well.

Heading out of town on the Richardson toward Delta you will pass through North Pole. It is best known for the all-year ‘Santa Clause House’. It is a good stop for shoppers and a chance to send postcards from NORTH POLE, Alaska. Farther down the road you pass by Chena Lakes Recreation Area, the product of a flood control project. Along the road to Delta you will be passing through old gold mining country and paralleling the pipeline. Plan on stopping several places to enjoy the scenery and to take a break.


You will go about 100 miles to Delta Junction. 5 miles south of there you will pass Ft Greely, where some of the missile defense facilities are located. Once in Isabelle Pass you pass "Galloping Gertie", the Black Rapids Glacier on the other side of the river valley. In the 1930's this glacier surged forward and almost cut off the river.

About 50 miles south of Delta keep your eye open for the Denali Earthquake fault between Upper and Lower Miller creeks. This is just south of pump station 10. You will see the pipeline with broad beams under the pipe so it can slide from side to side. You are also at the foot of the Castner and Canwell Glaciers, which will provide some hiking opportunity if you wish to see them close up and without a tour guide. As you leave there the next mountain ridge to the left is Rainbow Ridge. When the road makes a turn to the right (west) and leaves the ridge, there is a turnout on the right shoulder. Stop there and look back to see why they named "Rainbow Ridge" as they did.

PAXSON – about 176 miles from Fairbanks

The Paxson area is a great place to stop. Glennallen is fine, but it is a 'big town' down in the forest. You will see more staying up in the Paxson area with the more open transition of tundra and taiga (boreal forest).

In the vicinity of Paxson there are two high quality places I can recommend for overnighting. Just a few hundred yards up the paved portion of the Denali Highway are the "Denali Highway Cabins" www.denalihwy.com and just another 15 miles south along the highway is Meier's Lake Roadhouse - Atwater's Chateau Motel.


This little side trip will take you up into high, glacier formed territory and at 16.4 mile you enter the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District, with over 400 archaeological sites in the area (nothing for tourism that I am aware of, however).

From history, archeology and travels in Europe I have always pictured this terrain as typical of Europe as the glaciers were retreating and our ancestors were chucking spears at mastodon and deer. Looking out at the colorful tundra with the mountains and glaciers, lakes and rolling landscape in front of you, it is easy to imagine the days when these great beasts roamed very similar areas along with our ancestors. Then you are rewarded with the beauty of the drive back to Paxson as you head east, back to the main highway.

From Paxson to Glennallen you may well experience what permafrost does to highways. Take it easy and enjoy the rolls and the bumps. Oh, you may encounter a bit of the same permafrost at work north of Healy after you cross the green (?) bridge at Rex and proceed to Nenana. Look for the leaning power poles as well, with braces to hold the poles up in the warming permafrost. I used to drive that road straddling the centerline so no matter which way it tossed me I would have time to recover and stay on the road. Of course traffic and chosen speed have a lot to do with how the car reacts.


Then on the drive down you can always stop in Glennallen for information & lunch.


Heading south of Glennallen to Valdez, cut off onto the "Old Highway" and drive to Copper Center. You will pass through an Indian village along the way you would bypass if you stayed on the main highway. Your reward is a cup of coffee, a meal or an overnight at the romantic (this is a good time to be nice to your wife, yes?) night at the historic Copper Center Roadhouse. It is a beautiful place with great people.

The newer Princess Lodge got rave reviews from visitors I had last year. They loved the room, the view and the friendly service, and found the price very little more than what they paid elsewhere for ho-hum lodging.

Well, that is a quick cut and paste of old ideas. I hope it gives you an idea of what you can look for!


Manitoba, Canada
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7. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

71, very detailed and informative post, thanks!

"Often unmentioned as you approach Fairbanks from Denali Park, is the town of Ester, with gold fields with the Malamute Saloon."

- just thought I'd mention that it is closed this year for renovations.

haines, alaska
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8. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

Hi Ken

Since71 has lots of ideas here......print that one off to help you with your planning.....

Just wanted to second the recommendation of the Paxson Alpine Cabins http://www.denalihwy.com/

The cabins are really comfortable and the owner is a naturalist who can answer any questions you may have about the flora and fauna.....he took us on an evening float trip that way very enjoyable....also ask him for directions to the Gulkana Glacier trail...lots of non "tourist-y" things to do there and it sounds like you have memories of this area as well that you would like to share with your daughter.......

ahhh, dads on vacation, I have a few memories of those also....one of a flat tire on a homemade trailer full of camping gear for a three week tour for a family of 6.....spare tire of course was on the bottom and everything had to be off-loaded....

then the spare tire rolled over the side of the highway and down the hill !!.......Can't remember much of the rest of the trip, but that scenario is engraved on my mind forever.......Happy planning, and make some great memories for your daughter !

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9. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

>>ahhh, dads on vacation, I have a few memories of those also....one of a flat tire on a homemade trailer full of camping gear for a three week tour for a family of 6.....spare tire of course was on the bottom and everything had to be off-loaded....

>>then the spare tire rolled over the side of the highway and down the hill !!.......Can't remember much of the rest of the trip, but that scenario is engraved on my mind forever.......

Too bad no one had a video camera. It certainly would have been nominated for America's Funniest Home Videos.


10. Re: Our Alaska trip - anyone have better ideas ...

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