My wife and I are planning a driving trip from Houston to Alaska in June and July 2012. Time really is not of the essence – I expect to be retired by the time of the trip. We intend to take the trip in a small SUV, so do not plan to do much off road driving. Here is my proposed itinerary, followed by a few questions at the end. I’ve been to Anchorage on business trips many times and have been to Talkeetna, Kenai River fishing, and Portage Glacier / the Double Musky, but beyond that everything is new to us, and my wife has never been to Alaska. We’ve planned this trip based on Moon Alaska Guide, Ron Dalby’s Guide to the Alaska Highway, the 2009 edition of Milepost, and various reviews and forums on Trip Advisor. I’d appreciate any advice.
Drive from Houston to Fairbanks via Banff / Jasper / Dawson Creek – 14 days.
Fairbanks – two days – sightseeing in town and nearby. Also time for oil change and any other repairs / servicing / medical needs.
Denali National Park – transit day and two days at park. Any recommendations on whether to use a shuttle bus or a tour bus? What are the “must see / must do” attractions? We’re planning to stay in Healy rather than at Glitter Gulch. Any advice on that decision?
Talkeetna – transit day and one day at Talkeetna – to include the rapids boat ride.
Anchorage – transit day and three days in Anchorage. Local sightseeing, museums, Portage Glacier, visit friends, etc. Fishing charter?
Homer – transit day, three days in Homer. Ferry to Seldovia, local sightseeing. Fishing charter?
Seward – transit day, three days in Seward – including possible overnight at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, visit Exit Glacier, SeaLife Center. Can anyone help me with the “pros” and “cons” of an overnight stay at the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge vs. an all day Fjords sightseeing cruise?
Travel day – Seward to Valdez – via Glenn and Richardson Highways. I had originally contemplated taking the ferry via Whittier, but have read that these highways are quite scenic. I may time this so that I drive up to Anchorage the previous evening.
Valdez – one full day – Prince William Sound sightseeing cruise.
Cordova - ferry from Valdez and one full day – plan to drive Copper River Highway / hope to visit Childs Glacier. Two questions – is the Copper River Highway a relatively good gravel road to drive? Does anyone have any insight as to whether the Alaska DOT & PF plans to reopen the road beyond the bridge at Milepost 36 in the summer of 2012?
Cordova to Copper Center – ferry and drive – two nights in Copper Center – take the Kennicott Shuttle to McCarthy / Kennicott as a one day round trip. Any advice on taking the shuttle rather than driving? As my wife points out, two round trip shuttle tickets cost less than one flat tire. Any advice on doing this as a day trip vs. overnight? Will five and a half hours in McCarthy / Kennicott allow sufficient time for a light lunch and a tour of the Kennicott ghost town?
Travel day - Copper Center to Haines – two to three day drive
Travel day - Haines to Juneau via ferry.
Juneau to Glacier Bay – round trip by air – two nights in Gustavus / Glacier Bay National Park; sightseeing cruise in Glacier Bay. Any recommendations on staying in Gustavus vs. in the park?
Juneau – two full days plus departure day on Marine Highway – Mendenhall Glacier; Douglas Island; Mt. Roberts Tramway; Tracy Arms cruise; browsing downtown.
Travel days - Alaska Marine Highway to Prince Rupert
Travel day - BC Ferries – Prince Rupert to Port Hardy – we’ve taken the Northern Expedition northbound and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Drive from Port Hardy to Duke Point / take BC Ferries to Tsawwassen / drive to Houston via Seattle / Billings / Denver – plan to take five days.
So the questions are:
1. Are we missing anything that we should be “sure to see?”
2. Are we doing anything that is not worth the time invested to do it?
3. As you can see, we are planning on four open water sightseeing cruises – Kenai Fjords, Prince William Sound, Glacier Bay and Tracy Arms. If we were to eliminate one (or two), which cruises would you eliminate, and why? (This is not a quiz :-) I just want to get some insight as to which cruises are best for us).
4. Is the McCarthy Road / Kennicott visit worth the two nights it would add to our itinerary (since the day round trip is an all day trip)?
5. I’ve read rave reviews about the Copper River Highway and watching Childs Glacier calf. Is this worth the two days we have invested in it?
6. I’ve read how crowded the Kenai River gets for fishing in June and July. Both my wife and I are inexperienced fishers, and the primary goal would be to experience the outdoors – and perhaps catch one or two nice fish to ship home. Given our itinerary, if our primary goals are salmon fishing and enjoying the Alaskan outdoors, are there better places than the Kenai River to take a one day fishing charter?