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8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

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8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

Update: Thanks to the forum experts, I've changed and fine-tuned my original itinerary. Replaced Anchorage with Palmer, and going to Cooper Landing instead of Homer. It’s now:

Talkeetna – Denali – Hatcher PassSeward – Cooper Landing

What do you think? We’re leaving in a couple weeks and want to make sure I've hit all the major points. Lodging is set, but I’d appreciate any suggestions for things on our path I might miss. Restaurant recommendations? Driving tips?

Our group is a middle-aged mom and two young boys who want to see wildlife and glaciers, and learn about Alaskan culture and history. Here’s our basic itinerary, with lists of activities I hope to include:

Day 1 - Talkeetna

Driving from Anchorage

Staying at Swiss-Alaska Inn

Stop at Eklutna

Explore Talkeetna and river

Ranger station for info about mountain climbing

Breakfast at Roadhouse?

Days 2-3 – Denali

McKinley Chalet Resort

First day: Visitor Center, Dog Kennels, hiking, Cabin Dinner Theater (2 for 1 coupon)

Second day: 7 am shuttle bus to Eilson, off and on for hiking

Day 4 – Hatcher Pass

Hatcher Pass Bed and Breakfast

Explore Independence Mine

Driving from Denali, plan to enter from Wasilla and exit toward Palmer, where we’ll be staying.

Question: I’d like to be at Independence in time for a guided tour (1:00?) What time would I have to leave Denali?

Days 5-6 – Seward

Seward Windsong Lodge

Leisurely drive from Palmer, with many stops

Native Heritage Center and lunch in Anchorage

Many viewpoints and photo opps

Portage glacier – hike to Byron

First day: 10 am Kenai Fjords glacier cruise, dinner and sightseeing in town and harbor

Second Day: Sea Life Center, Lowell Point, Exit Glacier, Drive to Cooper Landing

Day 7 – Cooper Landing

Kenai River Sportfishing Lodge

Hike to Russian River Falls

River raft float the next morning

Question: My 9 yr old is very interested in actually fishing. Don’t want to spend time and money on a charter, but I know nothing about fishing. Is there a place on the river where we could rent equipment and just get a short lesson? Or maybe we just find a nice fisherman who will let us join him for a few minutes. :-)

Day 8 – Drive back to Anchorage

Stop at Wildlife Conservation Center

Dinner at top of Alyeska tram

Return rental in Anchorage to catch midnight flight

Seems very full, but hopefully not too full. Do you think I’m timing the driving legs accurately? Not sure we'll have time for Portage Glacier on the way down, or maybe I should plan on stopping there on the way back up. (Will I have time to do a lot on drive from Palmer to Seward? Is Denali to Hatcher Pass cutting it close?)

Really appreciate all your advice and expertise!!

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1. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

Have you checked with the Sportishing Lodge about a fishing experience for your kiddo?

You have a lot on your plate for a few of these drives, but I'll look more closely later.

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2. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

On Day 2, I recommend driving in 15 miles to Savage River loop trail for your hike that day, an easy trail with bridge over river & marmot village by the bridge.

The drive itself & the bridge looking to the south at Savage River are great ways to see wildlife. Look in the riverbed for caribou & ptarmigan. We've even seen a lynx down in there.

Look for moose in the lake around Mile 9 where one can also see the mountain when it is out.

Day 5 from Palmer to Seward is the one that looks packed full to me. You might want to picnic lunch it rather than stop at a restaurant in Anchorage for lunch.

Looks like you will have a wonderful trip! Enjoy!

Edited: 23 July 2012, 02:20
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3. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

Great suggestions. Thanks!

Maybe we should hit the Native Heritage Center before heading out of Anchorage on Day 1. The drive to Talkeetna doesn't seem too long.

Then the only thing slowing us down from Palmer to Seward would be turnouts on Turnagain and a stop at Portage Glacier.

Wake Forest, North...
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4. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

I agree that it seems full. My recommendation would be to keep it as it is, but treat it as a guide not a schedule. Most of your activities are ones that you don't have to make a reservation for so you can decide to do the activity or not do it based on your time and everyone's mood. I would mark any activities that you think you will really regret not doing and make those a prority with the others being optional.

We did that and it worked well, using the Mantra if everyone isn't having fun then we will stop. It worked well and honestly we did a lot less of the planned activities than I thought, but we had them as options. We never made it to the Heritage Center, Sea Life Center, Conservation Center or went up in the Alesyka Tram. And honestly, I don't feel like our trip was lacking or that we missed something. I'm sure that we would have enjoyed them, but at the time either one kid was asleep in the car, someone was cranky or it would have meant tearing them away from an activity that they were really enjoying, such as playing in the creeks at Exit Glacier.

Definately eat the Roadhouse and Twister Creek in Talkeenta. In Seward we loved the pastries at Ranting Raven.

I can't wait to see your trip report. You are going to have a great time!

Oh, be sure to go to the Vistor's Center and get the backpacks in Denali. Your 9 year old will love them, can't remember the age of your other boy, but he might as well.

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5. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

You mentioned glaciers as an interest... You might consider substituting the Matanuska Glacier for Hatcher's Pass when you are in Palmer.

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6. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

Yep, it's an outline of an itinerary. All those activites are things I may try to do in each location. But if we end up just sitting by a river, that's fine too.

Jennifer- Thanks for the reminder about the Denali backpack! My older son is 12. They've both always done all the Jr. Ranger stuff we can find at every national park, and I don't think they've outgrown it yet. :-) How old are your kids?

AKStafford - I added Hatcher Pass so we could visit Independence Mine. Don't think we could do both that and Matanuska. Hoping to see Portage and Exit glaciers, so that may be enough?

denalicat- Contacted the lodge, and they can only suggest a guided fishing trip. I don't really have the time or money for that. I'm thinking there will be plenty of spots to observe some fishing, and that will have to satisfy my kiddo.

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7. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

A great place to watch fishing is to go to the Russian River ferry- you can even take the ferry across to where a lot of the fishermen fish or watch them from this side since some fish there too:

alaskaoutdoorjournal.com/Fishing/russian3red…

Edited: 23 July 2012, 21:37
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8. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

Thanks denalicat! Would that ferry be near the Russian River Falls?

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9. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

Yes- the Russian River ferry is just west of Russian River campground. Russian River campground is where one needs to enter & pay to park & hike up to Russian River falls.

I think you can park in the outer east parking lot & then walk in at the ferry. Fees are for parking lot camping within & the ferry. It's been a few years since we've been to the ferry.

Edited: 24 July 2012, 00:55
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10. Re: 8 Day road trip with two young boys: Denali to Seward

Dee, Yep, I think that they are perfect ages for the backpacks. Heck, I wanted a backpack. Be sure to get them when you first arrive in Denali. They have wild life and bird guide books, jars to collect water samples and plaster to make animal track molds.

My kids are 9 and 10. The girl loved the backpack, the boy thought it was like school although he loved looking at the guides. The kids can also get Jr Ranger badges at Exit Glacier or on the Major Marine boat tour if you are going with that company.

As for the fishing, I am positive that you can find a nice fisherman to let your son fish for a few minutes. Everyone we met in Alaska was super helpful and friendly.

I can't wait to read your trip report!! You are going to have a great time.