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South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Fresno, California
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South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Hi Alaska enthusiasts!

I Would love your input/suggestions on our trip July 22-Aug 7. Details:

- active family of 4, children ages 15(girl) and 9 (boy)

-some prior Alaska experience; we did a 7 day cruise in the southeast when I was pregnant with my son. I also visited years before that and backpacked overnight in Denali (without children).

-fly in to Anchorage at 2:30 PM, depart Anchorage 1:30 PM

-have an existing car rental reservation for entire trip

- we prefer to spend 2-4 nights in lodging with a kitchen at most destinations

- we have a general game plan: down to Homer then back up to Denali (and maybe Fairbanks before returning to Anchorage) with some lodging reserved already

-all plans are negotiable except the flight. The listed activities below are just things we are interested in and need PRUNING.

Ideas so far

Day 1 Anchorage: museum, Far North Bicentennial park short hike (no lodging yet), waterfront walk

Day 2 Drive to Seward with long stop in Girdwood: Crow Creek pan gold,Winner Creek hike to hand tram (heard it might shut down), aerial tram from Alyeska Ski Resort; Wildlife CC

Finish drive to Seward for a 3 night reservation (Sauerdough).

Day 3 Seward: Fjords tour (6+ hours), town exploration

Day 4 Seward : marine aquarium, Exit Glacier (short hike)

Day 5 Drive to Homer (stop suggestions?) Cottage lodging reserved for 4 nights. Explore town.

Day 6 Homer: Kayak or water taxi (island hike), Explore town. Suggestions?

Day 7 Homer: hike or fish, beach/park time

Day 8 Homer: lazy, spontaneous day. Suggestions?

Day 9 Drive day (up to Willow 5.5 hours) Rest stop suggestions? Lodging at Dream a Dream B&B (not yet reserved)

Day 10 AM Iditarod presentation and husky led ride. Afternoon drive to Denali area with stop near Cooper: short hike to view Salmon jumping at Russian River Falls. PM Arrival Denali Mountain Hostel & Cabins for 3 nights (already reserved but dates can be adjusted)

Day 11 Drive to Denali for early shuttle to Eeilson or Wonder Lake (for view if clear): visitor center, ranger or other short trail walk (Thoro Mountain...) Sable Pass Closure Road walk?

Day 12 ATV or Discovery Hikes or raft trip?

Day 13 Depart Denali for: Fairbanks?: Steamship, Museum, Creamer's Field hike, Chena River hike. Arctic Circle bus trip (Day 14)?

OR skip Fairbanks and head over to Matunuska Glacier: State Rec Area & the Park for hiking

and a relaxing B&B (Day 14)

Day 15 Drive day to Anchorage, more sightseeing. Suggestions? No lodging yet.

Day 16 Depart Anchorage

Big question: Is there a creative way to put a 1 way gold star train ride in there somewhere, preferably the Seward coastal leg? Could one adult drive the rental car ahead and return via ? Or one adult drives and skips the train. Is it worth the effort?

Also, where would be a good place to put in a flight seeing trip. Do you have suggestions on reputable companies for this.

Again, this is very preliminary. Please feel free to make many suggestions.

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Seward
Seward
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1. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Stop at Russian River should come in on way to Willow from Homer (Homer to Cooper about 2.5 hrs?)

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2. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Welcome to TA! It is helpful for us if you would keep all your inquiries in this one thread. Looks like you have done your homework as the trip is looking pretty good.

In Homer, ideas for your open times include Beluga Slough for bird watching & adjacent Bishop's Beach; drive up East End Rd for views across the Bay; ferry to Seldovia; the spit beaches.

Fairbanks back to Anchorage is a long drive, plus add the proposed road construction this summer. With kids, I might look at Matanuska glacier.

In Anchorage you might look at Spring Hill Suites University Lake as there are easy hiking trails out the back door around the lake or further, with waterfowl & moose potential.

Have fun planning!

Edited: 05 January 2014, 23:31
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Fresno, California
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3. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Thank you for the Homer tips. They all sound great. I am wondering if my original post is too long?

Should I break it up into shorter posts so it isn't so overwhelming? What is opinion on the train and plane being pushed in? Where would you suggest?

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4. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Your post is fine, with great details.

Were you interested in flightseeing of Mt McKinley? You could do that on your way to Denali with a back-up weather day on your day back from Denali.

For a train ride, you could forgo Fairbanks & Matanuska glacier, come back to Anchorage & take the glacier discovery to Spencer glacier & back. There are even glacier float trips there via AK RR.

Just a couple of ideas. Others might have more thoughts of how to do these.

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Wasilla, Alaska
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5. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

As mentioned, Cooper Landing and Russian River is best seen coming to or from Homer. Another stop I like on the way to/from Homer is at the mouth of Anchor River. The view across the Inlet from the beach is nice. Here's a Google map showing Seward to Homer with those two stops. http://goo.gl/maps/0kqRW

Speaking of Google Maps, they are generally pretty accurate for showing distance, but they underestimate driving times. For example, you have in your itinerary going from Homer to Willow in 5 1/2 hours. It's 300 miles and Google maps shows it as 5 hours and 40 minutes. In reality that drive is going to take you at least 8 hours. Maybe even more with stops.

Train: Hmmm.... You could start your trip by driving Anchorage to Girwood to Homer. And then come back to Anchorage, park the car and do a round trip train to Seward. Seward is fairly easy to do by foot, except you would have to get transportation to Exit Glacier. I'm not totally in love with this idea, but it could work.

So you are just planning one day of going into Denali National Park? Going in multiple days gives you a better chance at seeing wildlife...

And me personally, I would include the Matanuska Glacier over Fairbanks activities...

Either way, it sounds like you will have a great trip... With as much traveling as you are planning, I would recommend having the Milepost. www.TheMilepost.com . In my opinion it's the best guide to the drive.

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Anchor River
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Seward
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Denali National Park
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Matanuska Glacier
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6. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Flightseeing Denali seems a gamble even with 2 chances at clear weather. Other suggestions are appreciated.

I really like the idea of returning early to Anchorage for the train to the Glacier. I actually just came across a great VRBO house near the Bicentennial park (for more hiking). I'll be checking out the details!

Your input is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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Fresno, California
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7. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Thanks for the heads up on drive times. That doe influence the planning. Is this discrepancy due to summer traffic? I had not thought of returning to Anchorage and then doing the Seward stretch. Very creative and outside the box. Just not sure it is worth reworking reservations to make it work. Maybe forgoing both Matanuska and Fairbanks and an early return to Anchorage to take the Glacier Discovery to Spencer Glacier (as suggested) would be more smooth.

Yes, I would love to do another day IN the park. Not sure if it would sit well with the kids. Seems like a lot of time on that shuttle. Any suggestions on how to make 2 days in the park as active as possible for the kids? Also, I know there are a few trails, but can anyone suggest an area to explore the tundra without going too far or long? I would love the kids to have that experience (without it being too scary),

This is so much fun planning. How easily 16 days has been filled! So much more to come back for.

The milepost.com is next to check out. All these suggestions are APPRECIATED!

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Seward
Seward
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8. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

I ordered The Milepost. Thanks for the tip.

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9. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

The trail up Thoro Mt you mentioned is a good choice for a hike at Eielson. Your mention of walking the road at the Sable closure is another, just be sure not to step off the road. I think 1 shuttle into the park is plenty for kids.

Be sure to fit in at Denali a shuttle to the dog yard & sled demo:

nps.gov/dena/…sled-dog-demonstrations.htm

I took friends with a 15 yr old boy into the park & we took him. He loved it so much he made them go again.He also loved the raft trip with Denali Outdoors.

Since you have your lodging set for Seward, Homer & Denali, it seems to me those will work fine!

On Day 9 rather than the long drive Homer to Willow, spend the night in Girdwood, Anchorage or the furthest Wasilla.

Here's a mileage chart that is hooked on our top questions:

http://www.alaska.org/advice/mileage-chart

Edited: 06 January 2014, 14:05
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Seward
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Wasilla
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10. Re: South/North central 16 days! One way Gold Car?

Thanks for all input. Yes, I was looking at the map for a different place to night over. Girdwood looks good.

Thanks for tip on dog demo. My kids will love it tool