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Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

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Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

So my grandmother is talking a bunch of us to alaska for two weeks, I just realized how big the state is. What should I not miss?

The family is flying into anchorage but I could in theory fly in to another location. the plan is to spend one week in alaska and then one week on the coral princess cruise. I want to see as much as I can, and would like to take at least one camping trip maybe more. I am spending $3000 on a new Nikon D800e so I love photography, I'd like to see a grizzly and a polarbear but I doubt I'll be able to make it that far north in a week; I've heard the denses population of grizlies on the planet is somewhere south.

Any comments appreciated but here are some direct questions:

1. What should I not miss in Alaska on a 1 week trip (landscapes, best bang for the buck).

2. Any one been on this cruise? What excursions should I take?

3. I like driving beautiful road, and would like to take a loop to meet my family in denali. where should I fly into and what loop should I take for the best scenery.... figure I could drive up to 4 days (I love this part of travel, its not unusual for me to just driver 200-300 miles a day on a Vaca =).

What I'm into: photography, survival, nature... I could commit to a 2 day hike.

The state is so big I have no idea how to plan this, lol, please help.

haines, alaska
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1. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

When is your trip ??......Which cruise ports ??.......How much time in each port ??.....

When will you need to meet up with the rest of your group in Denali ?.....Will they be camping or do they have reservations for accommodations ??

Step one is that you need to book your flight and rental car as soon as possible.....

1. Flying into Fairbanks would get you closer to Denali than Anchorage, but you would either have to drop you rental car off in Anchorage on the way to your ship or return it to Fairbanks and take the train or fly back to Anchorage......The one way rental from Fairbanks to Anchorage would cost more than to return it where you pick it up......

2. Flying into Anchorage would mean a longer drive to Denali but then you could return your rental car when you come back on your way to board the ship......

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2. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

Thanks for taking the time. Not sure if this google map will work, but this is what I was kinda thinking... at the same time, I wonder if I would have a better time just chillin in Denali, camping and hiking... I know I'm out of my league here, lol... Alaska! Below that is my families schedule and I need to make them aline for the cruise and at least a day in Denali... is very tough, I could spend a lifetime in Alaska happy as a clam.


July 11 travel and arrive in Anchorage at 7:30 pm western time

July 12 – Anchourage/museum or car trip

July 13 thru July 18 - Denali National Park

July 18 –Car to Anchorage

July 19 Sat morning Railroad trip (gorgeous) to Whittier where Coral Princess leaves

July 19-thru July 26 – Cruise to Van Couver

Sat July 26 thru Mon July 28 – 2 nights leave Van Couver early and arrive in Atlanta 10ish eastern time but will be operating then on western time and it will be earlier by our bodies

Edited: 19 April 2014, 17:11
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3. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?


Updated map, picking up and dropping off car in anchorage, in theory. But I know I have to reduce this drive somehow... do I? What do you think? Are there any of these roads that aren't so great and should be skipped? God I don't want to miss anything! This is hard.

Edited: 19 April 2014, 17:19
Wasilla, Alaska
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4. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

Let me make this easier.... You are going to miss stuff. I've lived in Alaska for 33 years and have traveled and done a lot and there's still stuff I'm trying to get to. So don't beat yourself up trying to see everything. Pick a handful of things that really interest you and focus on those.

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5. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

I'm confused, but maybe in your excitement you're just leaving out a lot.

So all you want to do is drive for the entire week? Driving 200 miles in Georgia is not the same as driving 200 miles in AK. Most roads in AK are only 1 to 2 lanes in each direction, they are not super highways. Do you have plans of stopping and doing anything at these towns? Are you driving by yourself? Where and when do you plan on sleeping?

if I were you, I'd spend July 13 driving up to Denali, 14 - 17 in the park, July 18 driving back. To spend just one day in the park, when you say you love photography, is a shame. Sure the other parts of AK are beautiful, but all you're going to see is a lot of pavement and a lot of road construction.

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6. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

So all you want to do is drive for the entire week?

-no, not really. I don't want to miss being outside, so it is a balancing act between seeing more and being more "in" it.

Driving 200 miles in Georgia is not the same as driving 200 miles in AK.

-no, not really. I mean I've spent a week taking a loop around Colorado, the canadian rockies, japan and once around Arizona, likely 1000 miles. I actually enjoyed it. The south east is 100% the same ever where, I've lived here forever. I like driving in the mountains... but I also like hiking. Driving lets you see more in a shorter time... some of those roads are beautiful base on the picks I've seen online.

Most roads in AK are only 1 to 2 lanes in each direction, they are not super highways. Do you have plans of stopping and doing anything at these towns?

-I would like to yes, every chance I get... I mean, its all about seeing for me, so anything that boosts my metaphorical vision is good. I'm entirely interested in the nature, so I intend to that, lol... My experience with travel, is the things you stumble on are often more memorable than those which you plan. But, you know... I only definitively decide to take the trip like Wednesday... so I need some plans.

Are you driving by yourself?


Where and when do you plan on sleeping?

-I would like to camp some... I'd love to see the northern lights but don't think its the right time of year. I'd love to see the stars, real stars... Atlanta is full of light pollution, most everywhere in the S.E. is full of it. I would like to take a camping excursion, but suspect I need a guide and how the heck do I decide! Somewhere in Denali, probably a lodge, I'll have a room when I need it and I can stay in any hotel.

There just so many questions I have I can't write them all down. Like, okay... if I go to Denali for a full 7 days, what next... lol, I mean, do I just walk into the wilderness? If I decide to camp, I don't want to pay for the room which means I have to plan the days I camp now... but I'm not sure how to arrange that until I'm there.

I guess ultimately, good travel show of Alaska would help, but everything I find is just nature shows and not travel info.

Josh, any help is appreciated.

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7. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

Start by reading some trip reports from the last couple of years and make notes on what interests you. We sailed the Coral last June, loved it. We had week before in a RV. Combined, was the trip of our lives. Juneau, we whale watched and hiked Mendenhall. Skagway, we self drove to Emerald lake. Ketchikan-flight over Misty Fjords. Spend at least 2 days in Denali and you probably will see grizzlies, if you take the shuttle bus to Wonder Lake. Your camera will get a workout, we took over 3,000 pics in the 2 weeks

Edited: 20 April 2014, 03:55
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8. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

OK, I guess you really like driving. But in AK, Less is More. My first couple of trips ( gosh, still ) it could easily take me 2 hours just to get to Wasilla. Going from the flats to the mountains is gorgeous and I'd just pull over and watch the moose, or the sun shining on the mountains. And it only gets better from there. I've seen Denali a dozen times and it never looks the same twice. Same with Hatcher's Pass. Every trip, every hour, the mountains take on their own life and look different. I love mountains, but if you like animals, Denali is the place to find them.

It's very hard (and very expensive) in AK to just get a hotel for the night without booking in advance. You need to know now where you want to sleep, to make reservations. Unless you are camping, it's very hard to just wing it. Rent your car now! It's expensive and prices tend to get higher as time goes on.

And do read some of the trip reports. It will give you a better idea of how much ground you can cover in a day.

Your plan is way to much driving and not enough time to stop and see and do things. but to each his own.

Winder, Georgia
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9. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

Hello fellow Georgian. Alaska is too big to see it all in one trip, but I always pack as much as possible into each day. On your first day I would drive down along Turnagin Arm, stopping often for photo ops, visit Girdwood, & the Wildlife Conservation Center before returning to Anchorage. On your way north, stop at Talkeetna for flightseeing & a river trip, before going on to Denali. Several days in the park will give you a variety of landscapes & wildlife. In July the only polar bear will be at the zoo in Anchorage, but browns will be in Denali and browns & blacks at Anan. If any permits are still available, you can fly from Ketchikan to Anan. Whale watching in Juneau will give the best opportunity for more wildlife including sea lions & eagles. I usually take 3000-5000 photos on a week trip, so be sure you have plenty of memory cards & a long lens.

Edited: 22 April 2014, 04:02
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10. Re: Help Planning Trip, What not to miss?

Thanks for all the advice Guys. My plans are getting firmer. It looks like I'll have 48 hours to kill after getting off the plane in anchorage at 1am before I have to be in Denali to get my camping permits. I'm not sure what to do with that time, either drive south or east I guess... looking for a good loop up to Denali so I don't drive the same road twice and see the same stuff. So that is really were I am, I need that 48 hour loop from anchorage to denali allowing me to see everything I can in that time. I will stay at hotels or camp, doesn't matter... but I need to get the loop. Here is what I was thinking but suspect its still about 150-200miles too long and may or may not be the best drive. What do you think?


Other than that, I just need to settle on:

1. which tours to take on the cruise

2. which units I should try to camp in while in Denali Back country. This one I could use help with.