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First Alaska Trip- Please Advise!!!

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First Alaska Trip- Please Advise!!!

Please share your thoughts...

We are hoping to take our parents to Alaska for their 75th birthdays. I've been reading the Alaska Forums as well as other resources and I'm TOTALLY overwhelmed w/ all the neat options.

Here are some specifics:

-Everyone on the trip is new to Alaska. They include: 2 grandparents (75), 3 kids (11, 11, 10) and 4 other adults (40s)

-We have 10 days. Hoping to do something mid June to early July if possible.

-One family is flying in from CA and the others from Tx.

-Gparents are active for their age but couldn't do extended hikes, etc.

-Our wish list highlights include Denali Park and Glacier Bay. We're keen to see bears, other wildlife, sea animals in their environment and don't have any inclination to do museums, aquariums, visitor centers, etc.

Thoughts we have so far:

1.) Alaska Railroad (GoldStar) to Denali.

2.) Driving and stopping in some recommended spots from Denali south to the Inner Passage.

3.) An overnight through the glaciers (not one of those huge cruise ships).

4.) Will fly out of different airport back home.

fti
MN
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1. Re: First Alaska Trip- Please Advise!!!

Welcome to the forum.

Unfortunately with 10 days you really can't go to both Denali and Glacier Bay. Well I guess you *could* but you spend way too much time in transit for very little gain. As much as I love both places (been to Glacier Bay once by cruise ship then a couple years later spent 3 nights there). It will take you 2 days to get from Denali to Glacier Bay, which is really a waste of your valuable time in Alaska.

If glaciers are a priority, why not go to Denali and take a nice Prince William Sound cruise from Whittier? And since you mentioned wildlife and sea animals, going to Seward as well and taking the 6 hour Kenai Fjords tour would be ideal. You can easily do all of that in 10 days.

You can take the train to Denali, but the problem with that is you miss a LOT if you can't stop along the way, especially with kids. Plus, you get a wider choice of lodging if you drive. Yes, it would mean two cars, but it opens up many more options.

Since you didn't say if the 10 days includes your travel days, it is hard to give you a specific itinerary, but I could see something like this:

Day 1 arrive Anchorage

Day 2 buy supplies, drive to Denali

Day 3/4 in Denali

Day 5 drive back to Anchorage

Day 6 drive to Whittier for Prince William Sound glacier cruise. Start out early so you can make stops along the way including the Wildlife Conservation Center and the Winner Creek Trail (from the Crow Creek mine side which is shorter and get to the hand tram - very unique and great for the kids), back to Anchorage, return rental car

Day 7 train to Seward - shorter train ride, easier to get around Seward without a car, Sealife Center, maybe Exit Glacier

Day 8 Kenai Fjords tour

Day 8 or Day 9 train back to Anchorage

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Seward
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2. Re: First Alaska Trip- Please Advise!!!

You can drive only to Haines and that's at least a 2 day drive in 2-3 cars with 9 people. Because you’ll be driving through Canada everyone would need a passport. Maybe you can or cannot find a car rental that will allow one way. If you find a rental car count on a drop-off charges of between $500 and$1000. I know someone who paid $850 drop-off charges but that was from Haines to Anchorage. If you take the train to Denali then you would need to get yours elf to Fairbanks or Anchorage to rent a car. There is no road access between Haines and towns along Inside Passage. Flying or ferries are only ways to get to all communities there. Then to get to Glacier Bay from Haines to Juneau you need to take the ferry from Haines to Juneau. Finally fly or take another ferry from Juneau to Gustavus. At the end you would fly out from Juneau after getting to Juneau by ferry or flying. The ferry sails between Juneau and Gustavus only twice a week. That would be strenuous itinerary and probably not realistic since renting a car one way from Fairbanks or Anchorage would be a challenge or almost impossible. I don't know if you know this but there are many glaciers near Anchorage, Seward, Valdez, Whittier, Girdwood, Palmer. There are tours that would take you to see glaciers in Prince William Sound. If you take the Kenai Fjords cruise you will see glaciers. Not far away from Anchorage you could get to Matanuska Glacier and go on guided hike with crampons attached to your boots. The easiest access is to Exit Glacier near Seward. You can go on a guided walk with a park ranger; you can walk on your own or take challenging hike to the ice fields.

If you have to include both, Denali NP and Glacier Bay NP, in your itinerary only logical way with such limited time frame, IMO, is to fly from Anchorage to Juneau and then to Gustavus.

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3. Re: First Alaska Trip- Please Advise!!!

I like all of the ideas in the previous 2 posters remarks.

For the most "bang for your buck", I do favour a schedule like fti has listed. Use one airport and stick to the shorter, easier to get around area (i.e. south-central).

With a group of your size/variety; one thing to remember about many of the destinations in AK is that not everybody has to be doing the same thing at the same time. e.g. Say you are all in Seward and you have 4 or 5 "hardy" souls that want to hike up to the Harding Ice Field. While they are doing that "all-day" event, the others could be the Sea Life Ctr &/or Exit Glacier and touring Seward.

Denali is another great place to let people vary their activities. If there's people not as mobile, then they could stay on a shuttle bus all day & fit in Wonder Lake. Those more active could get on & off the shuttle to get some amazing hiking in.

Byron Glacier (near Portage) is a great, easier hike that most people are capable of doing and it has some great "payback" in scenery and the possibility for those young (or young at heart) to play in the snow on the toe of a glacier (great photo ops.) Make a picnic out of it & you'd easily use up 3 or 4 hours here.

Good luck & enjoy AK,

Scott

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Seward
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4. Re: First Alaska Trip- Please Advise!!!

I second FTI's suggestion. Glacier Bay is not readily accessible without flying from Anchorage to Juneau to Gustavus or a 16 hour drive through Canada to Haines and then ferry from there.

You can get your glacier fix in Prince William Sound, along with Bryon & Portage Glacier, Exit Glacier, Matanuska Glacier and maybe even the Knik Glacier.

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5. Re: First Alaska Trip- Please Advise!!!

Thank You to All of you who took the time to share your pointers! It has been Sooooo Helpful. Based on the comments, I think we'll skip the Inner Passage this time around. I might have some f/u questions once I get to the niity-gitty details. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

6. Re: First Alaska Trip- Please Advise!!!

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