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Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Orange, California
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Need help planning a 2 week road trip

My husband and I are planning a 2 week trip to Alaska with my parents in June 2014 for my dad’s 70th birthday. We are quite fit and outdoorsy and my parents (both 70 then) are reasonably fit for their age. We have never been to Alaska before and my parents are flying in from India June to do this with us. FYI, we enjoy nature, hiking and sightseeing and would like to focus on wildlife viewing, glacier cruise, whale watching tours and adventure activities. My parents will be happy to explore the area if my husband and I decide to go on long hikes or go kayaking. We are not interested in fishing.

I have spent many hours researching TA forums and have come up with a tentative itinerary. We will by flying in and out of Anchorage where we will rent a SUV for the road trip.

We are considering travelling either June 21-July 6 or June 28-July 13. In your experience- is any one set of dates better than the other? We couldn’t decide which dates would be better (considering weather/ various boat excursions/ wildlife viewing and bear sighting…)?

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage. Depending on the time we can either crash in a hotel or pick up the rental car, buy groceries and other supplies and head towards Girdwood.

Day 2 Girdwood: Visit Wildlife Conservation center Crow Creek Gold Mine, easy hike -Winner creek maybe

Day 3: Should we spend another day in Girdwood doing any/all of these: Bryon Glacier, Potter Marsh, Beluga Point, Portage Glacier? Or will be doing similar activities elsewhere?

Day 4 & 5: Drive to Whittier: Whale watching (Sound Eco) and Glacier Cruise (Major Marine), Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Day 6 and 7: Drive to Seward: Kenai Fjords National park tour (which tour company should we book the excursion with?) Exit Glacier, Harding Ice Field hike, Kayaking, Alaska Sea life center, Ididaride or Godwin Glacier sled dog tour

Day 8, 9 and 10: Homer? We are not interested in fishing.

Should we instead go to Silver Salmon Creek for bear watching?

OR Drive to Matanushke Glacier, ice trek with MICA guides, airboat to icebergs.

Day 11 and 12: Drive to Denali. Shuttle to wonder lake on both days, do short hikes, picnic in the park. We plan on staying in Healy over night.

Day 13: Drive to Talkeetna for a flightseeing trip

Is this too ambitious? Are we staying at any one place for too long? I am not sure that this is the best route- I would appreciate any suggested changes. Also, please recommend hikes/excursions/activities that we can include or skip. Is there a best glacier cruise or whale watching trip? Where should we go to view bears?

I hope to book our flights and a rental car by the end of this week. How quickly do I need to book all the excursions? Also, 3 of us are vegetarian. Is it difficult to find vegetarian food in Alaska?

I appreciate any help I can get planning this trip and thanks for all the information on the forums! I have used TA in the past extensively to plan trips to Toronto, Niagara, Barcelona and Chicago. Thank you all.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Oh, I wish I were good with day to day itineraries, but I am not. I don't think your dates are that different - mid-June to mid-July are one of my most favorite times here in the summer. :)

By the way, it is the Matanuska glacier - a beautiful area - I would consider even overnighting up here.

Homer is a beautiful seaside town - with lots of great restaurants, including some with vegetarian fare.

Almost all good restaurants will have some vegetarian choices, but if you do a search, you will find links to the most popular restaurants with good vegetarian choices. The best way though - is to buy your own groceries - at least for snacks/lunches. Then you will be assured to have something that meets your needs!

I wouldn't worry too much about booking your lodging & excursions until the first of the year, which gives you plenty of time for more research. You might consider reading a copy of the Milepost as well. Happy planning!! :)

Orange, California
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2. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Thanks for the prompt reply coalminer. Will one day be enough to sightsee Homer? And I'll plan on spending 2 days in the Matanuska glacier area. Should I skip any of the activities I've listed?

Lincoln, NE
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3. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Depending on what you plan, it would be easy to spend three days in Homer. You could plan a trip to Halibut Cove or the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies which is really awesome. They have some nice art galleries and great hiking trails. Homer is one of our favorite places to visit. They also have a wonderful Farmer's Market on Saturday and I think Wednesday. Keep aware of highway construction. Delays due to construction can make relatively short trips very time consuming.

fti
MN
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4. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Welcome to the forum.

Your itinerary generally looks nice, but a few suggestions:

You can do the activities from Girdwood in one day. Last June in one full day we took the 1 hour Portage Glacier tour, did gold panning at Indian Valley Mine, the wildlife conservation center, Winner Creek Trail (from the Crow Creek Mine side, so shorter) and visited the Begich Boggs visitor center. We weren't rushed. We started at 10am, went back to the campground for lunch and were back at our campground for dinner in the early evening. All that to say it is up to you whether you want to spend another day in Girdwood.

If you go to Homer, I would go there first then go to Seward. I never go to a town for only one night unless it is truly "in transit." If you go to Homer for just a night, you don't arrive until mid to late afternoon and leave the next day, thus leaving you with very little time to sightsee.

In Seward, there are three companies to do the Kenai Fjords tour with (Major Marine, Kenai Fjords and Alaska Saltwater Lodge in a smaller boat). Just be sure your tour is 6 hours or longer. Shorter tours don't get out of the bay.

I definitely liked the Matanuska Glacier. It was a big hit with the teens I took there in June too. If you go there, you need to overnight there when coming from Seward or Homer.

If you skip Matanuska Glacier, then it is not wise to drive all the way from Seward to Denali. You could do it in one day, but it might take 8 hours or it might take 12 hours depending on traffic, stops, road construction, etc. Also, I would book the flightseeing tour from Talkeetna for the first time you drive by there, i.e. on the way to Denali. That way if it gets canceled (which happens fairly often), you can reschedule it for the return trip from Denali. Actually, if you drive from Seward to Talkeetna one day, you can book the flightseeing for that evening. If it gets canceled you can take the flightseeing tour the next morning before driving to Denali. If that also gets canceled, you have one more chance on the way back from Denali to Anchorage.

The Prince William Sound cruises are glacier cruises. The Sound Eco cruise with Gerry is great. I took it a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ours wasn't really his "whale watching" tour, but we got quite far east in the Sound and saw a humpback and also saw several orcas. Saw a ton of marine wildlife on that tour also. In fact, the Sound Eco tour was more like a Kenai Fjords tour in that our emphasis was marine wildlife and not glaciers. By chartering his boat, you can basically tell him what you want to see/do and he will do it.

Once you book the flights, book the car rental, but keep looking for price drops on the car rental. It happens a lot.

I would book the excursions once you are confident of the itinerary and of which tours you want to take. Look at the coupon books to see if either one is worth buying. Generally you won't have to worry about most tours selling out. The exceptions are the Sound Eco tour (he only operates a few days a week and if someone else books him first, you are out of luck) and maybe the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge bear trip if you plan that. Otherwise, if you book by early 2014 you will be fine.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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5. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Some info on the area near the Matanuska Glacier:

http://www.glacierview-alaska.com/

My favorite place to recommend staying while in this area: http://www.homesteadcabinsak.com/ and if that doesn't suit or they are booked, I would then stay at Sheep Mtn Lodge:

http://www.sheepmountain.com/

Once you figure out your day to day itinerary, we can help you more with lodging, restaurants and activities based on where you will be staying/traveling to. :)

Lake Tahoe...
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6. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Regarding your visit to Homer the Danny J has two trips per day to Halibut Cove. The mid-day trip goes via Gull Island to view the birds (you cannot get off) and the cheaper one is late in the afternoon w/o Gull Island, and is mainly for dinner types for The Saltry.

The Coastal Studies excursion goes over to Peterson Bay with the main attraction for tide pooling. You can do some extensive walking. Recommend good walking shoes as the below tide surfaces can be slippery. It is definitely a different Alaskan experience.

Homer also has the Pratt Museum and the Islands and Oceans Center worth visiting. We also have some fine restaurants and some neat driving destinations. Be sure to visit the Fritz Creek General Store.

Anchorage, Alaska
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7. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Good advice/ideas from all previous poster.

Following on fti's advice regarding Girdwood area; your days 2,3,4,5 can easily be done in 2 days freeing up time for other options.

Vegetarian...

In Anchorage you've many options (all searchable):

- any pizza place (Moose's Tooth is a local, tourist institution that is usually very busy, but still good)

- Middle Way Cafe and Organic Oasis are very good options

- Bear Tooth Grill also has some good/varied options

In Girdwood, Jack Sprat's will usually have 1 or 2 good veggie options

Other areas... don't know.

Matanuska GLacier...

I consider this a "must do". I loved my early evening trek on the glacier (I used MICA guides & would recommend them, though I'm sure others are also good).

Edited: 31 October 2013, 16:27
Orange, California
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8. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Thanks for all this info guys. Fti- you just saved me a bunch of days to see other places ☺

Since it does not seem like flying in 6/21 is preferred over 6/28 or vice versa, I'll book whichever flight is cheaper. Will any place be too busy over july 4th weekend?

We will overnight in Matanuska area on our way to Denali. Homestead guest cabins seem really nice. Thanks for that coalminer. Will we need more than a day at Talkeetna?

I am torn between going to Homer vs Silver Salmon Creek. Would it be possible to see both places? Homer sounds great but the drive seems really long. I am leaning towards spending a day at Silver Salmon creek (inspite of how expensive it will be even just for an overnight trip…yikes!!) Would it make sense to head there after Seward (fly in from Soldotna)?

I have a feeling that we will love Denali – will 2 days be enough?

Any other “must dos” that I am missing?

USA
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9. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

Seward is crazy busy 4th of July due to the Mt Marathon.

fti
MN
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10. Re: Need help planning a 2 week road trip

The overnight at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge is not really that much more expensive than the day trip and it gives you hours more bear viewing time. I would try at all costs to do the overnight trip, even if it means skipping a place like Homer.

You absolutely need two nights at Denali and even then, it only gives you one full day at the park. This is what most people do who just want to go there, take a trip into the park and say they have been there. If you really like wildlife, scenery, hiking or photography, my guess is that you will want at least 3 nights at Denali so you can have two full days in Denali.