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Alaska trip suggestion

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Alaska trip suggestion

I and my wife (both in early 30's) thinking about making our first trip to alaska. Looking for suggestions on which places to visit. We are thinking about going sometime between May 6th and May 20th for about 7 days. We like to see nature/glacier/wildlife.

Are these good days to travel there?

What will be the best way to commute between places train/rental car etc? Is train a good way to enjoy the nature/scenery?

I will be flying from DC Metro area...

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1. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

Your choice if dates is not necessarily the best for the things you'd like to see/do. If you could put it off until at least the last week in May, you'd likely have a better experience. With the dates you've selected you could still hit some winter (at elevation) or lower elevations may not have melted. If melting has occurred, land based outdoor activities could be muddy/messy.

Typically Late May and June are driest (regarding precipitation) with July and August warmer; but wetter (rain).

I highly recommend a rental car for the conveniences/freedom it would offer.

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2. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

"Is train a good way to enjoy the nature/scenery?"

Well, yes and no...the "driver" gets to see everything as it passes by, but neither of you can stop anywhere to admire a scene or watch wildlife if you're lucky enough to pass some. Having done both train and car, hands down I prefer the latter for the reasons sdpryde explained....

Plus, there is only 1 train per day north or south. Really restricts your itinerary. If it's important to you to include a train, you could take the one to Seward and back since you really don't need a car in tiny Seward.

The shuttles don't start running in Denali until May 20, and even then, they go only to Toklat (6 hr. roundtrip). Is there any way you can delay at least the last part of your trip into early June? June 1st, the shuttles go to Eielson (8 hrs), much better chance to come across wildlife and a wonderful view of McKinley if it's "out".

I'd suggest you head to Seward first for a Kenai Fjords NP wildlife cruise, do a Prince William Sound glacier cruise out of Whittier, then head up to Denali for 2 days of shuttles to Eielson.

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3. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

IF you get a specific gravel road approved rental car, from an Anchorage independent, going in your timeframe, could have some independent access into Denali Park.

But, going the last week of May is superior, but will still only get you to Toklat on the shuttle buses. Do your homework on Denali Park, this is your wildlife jackpot. The other wildlife area is a Kenai Fjords boat tour out of Seward.

www.nps.gov/dena

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4. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

I can change my dates to between May 24th to June 2. I cannot delay the trip later than this.

I will be flying in to Anchorage. What are the good places to visit there? If I stay 2 days in anchorage, 2 days in Seward and 2 days in Denali, will that be a good iternary? Can I cover Whittier while I stay in anchorage?

I think Denali is about 8 hours from Anchorage, is it worth to go there? I am just asking because if the wildlife is not going to be out this time in may last week there is no point going there. or if I cover the southern part of Alaska, it's good enough?

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5. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

The wildlife is "out", lol, you just have to go far enough into the park to have the best chance of coming across some. Including the June 1st trip to Eielson would be great.

Denali is 8 hours from Anchorage by train, 5 hours by car. I would *strongly* suggest renting a car for at least the Denali portion, because then on June 1st you can go to Eielson. The train doesn't arrive in time for that.

If you want to include a train ride, do the day excursion to Whittier for an afternoon glacier cruise. The hour south of Anchorage is the most scenic stretch anyway, and that would give you a chance to cover it both by train (when both of you can see everything) and again by car when you can stop to enjoy the views. The best of both worlds!

Here is a sample itinerary to get you started:

May 24 – arrive Anchorage, overnight.

May 25 – 10 a.m. train to Whittier for 26 Glaciers or Majormarine glacier cruise (the former covers a lot more territory and therefore is more scenic, the latter spends more time near glaciers waiting for them to calve). 6:45 pm train back to Anchorage arrives 9:15 pm. Overnight Anchorage.

May 26 – pick up rental car. Leisurely drive to Seward (2.5 hrs) plus lots of stops, including Potter Marsh, Beluga Pt., easy 1 hr. round trip hike to Exit Glacier, etc. : http://alaska.org/driving/seward-drive.htm . Overnight Seward.

May 27 – at least 6 hour Kenai Fjords wildlife cruise (shorter ones don’t get out of the bay). Longer if possible--the more time you're on the water, the more chance there is to come across wildlife. Overnight Seward.

May 28 – Ididaride sled dog tour and/or SeaLife Center. Drive to scenic Matanuska Glacier area (4.5 hrs) to overnight, maybe stopping in Anchorage to see Native Heritage Center, or in Palmer to see Musk Ox Farm (could also do the latter tomorrow).

May 29 – 9:30 a.m. to about 12:30 pm, 3 hr. Ice Falls trek on Matanuska Glacier with MICA or Nova Guides. Drive to Talkeetna (3 hrs) to overnight, stopping in Wasilla to pick up snacks & supplies for Denali. Choose lodging that has a possible view of McKinley (usually shrouded in clouds, but sometimes peeks out late at night or early morning).

May 30 – flightseeing or river float or jetboat if desired. Drive to Denali (3 hrs), stopping at mile 147 to visit Veterans Memorial. Possible activities: drive the 14 miles into the park that private vehicles are allowed to look for wildlife, hike, visitor center displays & film, free Ranger sled dog demo, dinner theatre, whitewater rafting, etc.

May 31 – shuttle to Toklat (6 hrs) to look for wildlife. Bring binoculars for both of you since most wildlife is seen at a distance, and food & beverages since none are for sale in the park. If you want, you can hop off to hike or take pictures, then catch a later shuttle to resume your trip. Must be reserved in advance at www.reservedenali.com . Other activities as time. Overnight Denali.

June 1 – shuttle to Eielson (8 hrs) to look for wildlife and hopefully see Mt. McKinley. Overnight Denali.

June 2 – drive back to Anchorage (5 hrs). Activities in Anchorage if time. Be at airport 2 hrs. prior to flight home.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Edited: 06 April 2011, 01:09
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6. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

Here's what I am planning..

-- Arrive at ANC on May 27th evening or afternoon (based on the flight).

-- May 28th morning drive to Whittier and take 26 glacier tour drive back to ANC and stay overnight there,.

-- May 29th morning drive to seward, enjoy the local route, go for exit glacier hiking. sighseeing in seward if any (looking for suggestion) stay overnight at seward.

-- May 30th 6-8 hour kenai fjords national park cruise/tour. drive back to ANC and stay there overnight.

-- May 31st start early in the morning to drive towards denali national park. Is there anything to see on the local route towards denali?

-- June 1st, take toklat OR Eielson shuttle bus in national park, drive back to ANC. You have suggested to take both the shuttle and spend 2 days in denali. Is it not that one goes 53 miles and other goes 66 miles into the park in the same direction? so if i take the 66 miles shuttle tour will it not cover the toklat route as well?

-- Take flight back on June 2nd.

Is it a good idea to cover both 26th glacier tour in whittier as well as kenai fjords wildlife cruise? if fjords wildlife cruise covers both glacier and wildlife, can i skip the other cruise?

Thanks

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7. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

On May 28th after the cruise in Whittier, why don't you head down to Seward for the night instead of driving back to ANC. Whittier is nearly halfway to Seward anyway.

On the way to Denali there are many places with views or other things to see:

- drive into Talkeetna

- stop at the road way stops near Denali State Park fro great views of Denali (weather permitting)

- Hurricane Gulch is pretty cool

The more time in Denali, you increase your chances of seeing more wildlife. As you go in further you also increase your chances. The other thing you increase your chance of is having the clouds let you get a peek at Denali .

M.Maple hit on this earlier and I've always had great luck with this Denali routine:

- arrive in Denali near dinner time and self drive to Savage River and back

- get to bed early

- get up early and self drive to Savage River and back again (early morning)

- get an early shuttle bus (7 or 7:30 am)

*** Animals tend to be more active early morning and early evening; that's why I do the portion of the road open to the public twice (& I don't find many others doing this, especially in the morning) ***

Good luck,

Scott

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8. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

"Is it a good idea to cover both 26th glacier tour in whittier as well as kenai fjords wildlife cruise? if fjords wildlife cruise covers both glacier and wildlife, can i skip the other cruise?"

If you can do only one, do the Kenai Fjords cruise. But most of us prefer to do both if we can. The trips can be similar, they can be completely different. KF is usually better for wildlife, PWS is usually better for glaciers, but you never know what wildlife or glacier activity you're going to see on any given trip.

"You have suggested to take both the shuttle and spend 2 days in denali. Is it not that one goes 53 miles and other goes 66 miles into the park in the same direction? so if i take the 66 miles shuttle tour will it not cover the toklat route as well?"

Yes, there is only one road into Denali. The reason I mentioned Toklat for the May 31 date is that the Eielson shuttles don't start running until June 1st. So yes, book Eielson for sure. If for some reason you decide on the day you don't want to go that far, you can always hop off and catch another shuttle going back to the entrance.

Scott gave you the reasons we recommend 2 trips into Denali if people can do that. Just like the Seward/Whittier cruises, you never know what you're going to see on any given shuttle....so doing more than one ups the odds you'll have some good sightings. It's tough trying to decide between an extra cruise or an extra shuttle...go with whichever is the most important to you.

I agree with Scott that driving to Seward after the Whittier cruise is a much better use of your time. That would enable you to flip the 29th & 30th. Two reasons: first, if the KF cruise gets shortened to the bay area only due to high waves in the ocean, you can cancel and try again on the 30th. Second, you'll be finished your Seward activities earlier than the cruise, so that would give you more time on the drive back to Anchorage to stop for scenery, etc.

Things to do in Seward include kayaking, glacier hiking or heli-hiking Exit (see Exit Glacier Guides' website), Ididaride or Godwin Glacier sled dog tour & ride, SeaLife Center, flightseeing, hiking, etc.

Other things to see on the drive from Anchorage to Denali are the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer (requires a slight detour), Iditarod HQ displays & film in Wasilla, Veterans Memorial mile 147.

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9. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

Thanks for great advise. I have finally booked my airline tickets. Going to arrive in ANC on 27th night around 11:30 PM and leave from ANC on 2nd early morning red eye flight. so I will have about 5 days to explore alaska.

I am not sure if I will be able to cover Whittier. so for that portion of the trip I am not completely sure if I should book the 26th glacier tour right now or is it something I can buy when I get there if I have time and if my budget permits.

For hotel booking I usually use priceline, which I think I can use for ANC stay, however I am not sure what's the best way to book hotel during visit to Denali national park and seward. Are there cheap motels available good enough for a night sleep? How much should I expect to pay? is it usually costlier than ANC?

For denali part of the stay where (which town) do I stay overnight ?

We are young but we have not hiked a lot..For exit glacier and Matanuska Glacier what type of of walking/experties is required? Do I need special shoes/clothes etc for it?

Thanks

Edited: 08 May 2011, 03:00
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10. Re: Alaska trip suggestion

Too bad you don’t have more days, but c’est la vie…. Action-packed, but when you have only 5 days, not much time for lounging around, is there? Anyway, this is what I would suggest:

May 27 – arrive Anch. 11:30 pm, pick up rental car (eg: airport outlets of Budget & Alamo have small cars available for May 27, 11 pm through June 1, 11 pm for about $160 including taxes.) Overnight Anchorage. (Yes, check Priceline…also check Hotwire.com, where there are currently several hotels available that night for about $100.)

May 28 – Drive to Whittier Tunnel (1 hr plus scenic stops) to arrive no later than the 11:30 a.m. opening (Tunnel is open only 15 min. per hour in either direction: on the half hour going in and on the hour coming out). 26 Glaciers cruise. After, drive to Seward (under 2 hrs.) to overnight.

May 29 – 8 a.m. to 2 pm: Kenai Fjords NP cruise: kenaifjords.com/kenai-nationalpark.html#8am . Drive to Eagle River just north of Anchorage (3 hrs) to overnight, stopping to do the easy 1 hr. hike to the face of Exit Glacier (wear waterproof footwear, the trail to the face of the glacier is flat), maybe Wildlife Conservation Center, Beluga Pt., Potter Marsh (you might have done some of those stops yesterday if time). Overnight Eagle River Motel?

May 30 – drive to Matanuska Glacier (2 hrs) for 11:30 a.m. 3 hr. Ice Falls hike with MICA (not strenuous, they provide all the gear including backpacks…you need to bring bottled water, sunglasses, sunscreen and of course cameras). After, drive to Talkeenta (3.5 hrs) to overnight. Possible stops include Palmer to see the Musk Ox Farm, Wasilla to pick up supplies for Denali, if time see Iditarod HQ displays & film. Overnight in/near Talkeetna somewhere there is a possible view of McKinley (usually shrouded in clouds, but sometimes it peeks out late at night or early morning). If you’re willing to bare-bones it, a cheap but clean place to stay is McKinley View Lodge right on the highway. You don’t get a better view of McKinley than that, the owner is delightful, and the restaurant food very good. Saves you the drive into Talkeetna and back (though if you have extra time, you might want to do that anyway just to explore the little town).

May 31 – drive to Denali (2.5 hrs, or 3 hrs. if you stay in Talkeetna). 1 pm to 7 pm Toklat shuttle (must reserve in advance at www.reservedenali.com ) to look for wildlife. If you get there early, see the visitor center displays & film or do a short hike. Overnight Healy (Denali Park Hotel?..which is actually a motel).

June 1 – 7 a.m. to about 3 pm: first shuttle to Eielson of the year. Drive back to Anchorage (5 hrs). Be at airport 2 hrs. prior to red-eye flight home.

When you have such a tight schedule and have no wiggle-room, book everything in advance.

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