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8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

Stony Brook, New...
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8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

Hi,

I am planning a 7-day trip to Alaska for me and my husband.

This is the itinerary we have decided on so far - any suggestions would be greatly welcome as we might have tried to stuff in too much in too less days but since its like one of those 'once in a lifetime' trips we really want to see and do as much as we can. Here goes :

Day - 1: Arrive at Anchorage (11:50 pm) - get rental car and stay the night in local hotel.

Day - 2 : Early start - drive to Talkeetna - do McKinley flightseeing (10:30am or 12:30pm - many people commented its better to take one of the earlier flights for better visibility but 10:30am may be too tight driving up from Anchorage?) - After flight, drive to Denali (collect shuttle tickets and if possible drive up to savage river, do they restrict driving inside in the evening ? we are hoping to reach by 6? Is that too ambitious?)

Day - 3 : Take the 5:15 am shuttle to Wonder Lake (in the hope that an earlier shuttle will get us more animals and better visibility of McKinley or should we just take the more human 6:15 am?) - We will get down at Eielson if weather is bad skipping Wonder lake and do a hike before taking the bus back.

We would like to hike in an area that gives a feel of the tundra vegetation - any suggestions? Is the Eielson hike (not the stroll) ok to do alone without a ranger to guide us? Frankly, I am a little worried about bears, but also want to do atleast one hike!

Day - 4 : Drive from Denali to Matanushka, do the glacier hike with MICA guides (4pm) and stay the night in Palmer.

Day - 5 : Drive to Seward - do the the Exit glacier hike - any special thing to do in Seward at night?

Day - 6 : The 6 hour Kenai Fjord Cruise at 8am - evening is free (any suggestions?) Or should we do the 9 hour cruise? What else can be done/seen at Seward?

Day - 7 : Early start, drive to Homer, ( See Russian river falls, Ninilchik village on the way, anything else? ) - try to reach homer by 2pm so we have time to explore the spit/trails etc (not very clear on what to see)

Day - 8 : Start from Homer at 2 pm to drive to ANC airport for return flight at 12:30 am in the night. So we have the morning till 2 pm for some activity in Homer. So I am confused between bear watching trip (expensive!) / grewingk glacier hike (enough time? water taxi availability early in the day?) / or anything else ?

Also is starting at 2pm in the afternoon enough to reach Anchorage in time for the flight? Mostly we will not be stopping for scenery as we would have done the same drive at a leisurely pace before.

So the main concerns I have here are regarding the Homer part of the trip, initially my plan was to spend 2 nights there but after putting Matanushka into our program we had to cut off one day from Homer. Now we have one evening and one morning in Homer, we are not interested in fishing/rookery and my husband is not too keen on the bear watching (also its too expensive, maybe if our Talkeetna flightseeing does not work out due to weather we could do a bear watching flight). If we stayed for 2 nights I was planning on the Grewingk hike but now I am not sure if it could be done by 2 pm.

Since there is less time and we have been mostly running around in the first part of trip, should we just take time out and relax by the beach in Homer for the morning or is there some other thing we could do. Please suggest.

Healy, Alaska
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1. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

I would consider flipping it (just because you may want it to green up a bit more in Denali) - heading south first to Seward and Homer, though I don't really think you have time for both - but I am not really good with the day to day itineraries - but thought I would point out a few things.

Don't miss the Sealife center in Seward.

You might consider staying in the Glacierview area since you are up there in the late afternoon - very scenic! http://www.glacierview-alaska.com/

Then head to Talkeetna/Denali. Yes, you can drive to Savage on the park road anytime. It will still be daylight when you are here in June (no dark) so you can do it at 10pm if you want! Also, I don't think you have to be on the earliest bus . . . 6 would be fine. You just want to maximize your time in the park, so that you can hike, etc. Eielson is actually a great place for a stroll - you can see bears pretty clearly on the tundra. I am sure others will chime in and help you much more than me! :)

Wasilla, Alaska
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2. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

I would either skip Homer or skip Matanuska Glacier. I don't think you have time for both.

I love Homer, but if it was me, that is what I would eliminate. I would use that time for a glacier cruise out of Whittier and spend time in the Portage/Whittier/Girdwood area.

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3. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

For hiking on the tundra, one can take the shuttle to Wonder Lake.

After you stop at Toklat for the restrooms, ask the driver to point out Thorofare pass to get a look on the way out. It's wide-open tundra with lots of visibility, right before Eielson. Then look around Eielson when you stop there. Go to Wonder Lake. Then decide on the way back if you want to hike at Eielson or at Thorofare pass. Just know that the tundra can be wet & be prepared to get your hiking footwear wet!

I've spent many summers as a teacher in Denali & it is true that the mountain makes its own weather, often clouding up early afternoon. The animals, though, can be out & about any time in June.

Edited: 27 February 2014, 14:06
fti
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4. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

I have to agree about Homer. Just to drive those 7-8 hours round trip to spend part of that afternoon and part of the next morning there? Way too much driving - you are driving about as much time you you will really spend exploring the place. No "beach" to really hang out at. Plus, you are going to Homer with no real clarity on what to do/see! That is called the "been there, done that" and you really don't want that mentality in Alaska - you want to put yourself in a place that has activities that interest you.

If it were me, I would skip Homer and spend the extra night either in Denali, Seward or perhaps along Turnagain Arm. Lots to do/see along Turnagain Arm. See the Top Questions about Girdwood for a link - Winner Creek Trail, gold panning, Wildlife Conservation Center, Portage Glacier area, Prince William Sound glacier boat tour and more.

For hiking in Denali, denalicat (as usual!) gave great tips. Highway Pass is another great option. Open tundra and you can even hike to a waterfall that isn't too far (ask a ranger or your bus driver).

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5. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

Another great idea from fti.

Have the bus driver point out Highway pass too, another great open visibility area. Then you can decide whether Highway pass, Thorofare pass or Eielson are looks best for you.

Just be aware a bear can be anywhere in any of the hidden ravines, as I have too often found out. So be very alert hiking. If you see a bus stopped for a while, know that they may be watching a bear that you can't see.

Lake Tahoe...
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6. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

I assume that you are aware of the 4-hour time differential between New York and Alaska. You arrive late and into the sack after midnight, up early the next day to drive to Denali with a stop at Talkeetna to do a flight seeing trip, Wow. And, you are not going to allow time to explore Talkeetna? Too bad as that is a real neat funky place.

Homer is a neat place to visit - but not for a overnight visit. The trail to Grewingk Glacier is a across the bay in Kachemak Bay State Park. The water taxi is not going to whisk you over in five minutes. The hike to the glacier is seven miles (or five hours one-way) per "50 Hikes In Alaska's Kenai Peninsula". The hike to the lake itself is shorter. Then you want to leave Homer at 2 p.m. for a 225-mile drive back to Anchorage. Wow

Anchorage, Alaska
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7. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

I like AKstafford's ideas (& the others' too) regarding Homer (have to spend at least 2 nights). Here's a link with activities for the Girdwood/Portage/Whittier area: http://goo.gl/dPvuEJ

Stony Brook, New...
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8. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

Hello everyone,

Wow, lots of suggestions .. thanks a lot everyone for taking the time out !!!!

Now, first for the Denali trip :

When denalicat mentions the tundra hike spots near Eielson, is that a part of the Eielson alpine hike (the steeper one not the stroll) ?

I am assuming that the trails around thorofare pass or highway pass would be unmarked ? Are they safe to go on if we havent done unmarked trails before (only 2 people) ?

Also if i want to come back on a later shuttle do I have to register with someone and book a place on one? What if I want to take the shuttle from roadside rather than from one of the designated stops?

Also would it be better to do one of the ranger led hikes (because I am really scared of walking into bears!! and yet would like to enjoy walking on tundra) I heard that the alpine hike needs signing up on that day itself. Anyone here who went for it could tell me how early I need to be if I want to sign up.

What do you do when you realize there's a bear around but you cant see it ?

And now for the Homer part of the trip :

I understand it will involve a lot of driving, but we are prepared to sleep very little if that is what it needs to see everything. Also, I read so much about Homer and initially we had planned to stay 2 nights there so I would be very very sad to remove it from my schedule altogether. Isn't it supposed to be very beautiful ?

Since we anyways don't have anything concrete planned for the last 1.5 days I thought we could see another new place and would really appreciate some half day activity suggestions!

For the morning in Homer, so far I just have 2 ideas :

a) the bear watching trip (cheaper in Homer than from Anchorage but need to convince husband! ) or

b) the Grewingk lake hike (need to talk to the taxi people about feasibility)

To address k2iks concerns :

We plan to spend some time in Talkeetna on our way back from Denali as we will have some time on our hands that day. (and eat sourdough pancakes at Talkeetna Roadhouse too :) )

I am planning to call mako's water taxi and ask their opinion if the Grewingk hike is do-able in half a day if they can ferry us a little early in the day.

And we plan leaving Homer at 2pm which will give us atleast 8 hours to drive back to Anchorage.

I dont know when I can go back to Alaska again so I am just praying all my plans fall into the right place!!

Stony Brook, New...
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9. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

I wanted to go to Whittier to do glacier kayaking but the price for 2 person only is exorbitant! (600 + ) and many others have a minimum of 3 or 4 persons!

Healy, Alaska
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10. Re: 8 - day Alaska trip itinerary (2nd week of June 2014)

As far as your bear concerns, do watch the safety video in the park visitor center. Here is a link if youw ant to watch/learn now:

nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/bear-safety.htm

Most bears in the park are very shy of humans and tend to stay away, but you need to be smart and aware. Much of the hiking deep in the park and in the tundra is treeless - so you usually have good visibility of where you are and seeing wildlife. Though if you have the opportunity to hike with a ranger, that can be very enjoyable as well. :)

You don't have to register to catch a later shuttle, but I would make sure I had my ticket with.

Homer is a beautiful area - can you add an extra day?? It is a LONG drive.