Alaska is a top bucket list destination for many. The stunning beauty, nature and wildlife is just amazing. People are friendly, indigenous experiences are exceptional and the regional foods outstanding.
Part 1 of this article offers day trip ideas using Anchorage as a base. Today I share three 5-7 day road trip options, perfect on their own or added as a pre/post trip to an Inside Passage cruise.
#1: Highlights of the Interior
(Anchorage – Talkeetna - Denali National Park – Fairbanks – Delta Junction - Glennallen – Anchorage)
This was the itinerary on my first visit to Alaska – perfect highlights of the interior. Alaska scenery is just spectacular, and you’ll get plenty on this route. From Anchorage, you drive north on the Parks Highway to Fairbanks, with overnight stops in Talkeetna and Denali. Talkeetna is about half way to Denali, and it is a popular stop - for fishing, river rafting and flight seeing excursions (some of the best in all Alaska) but also for its quirkiness and real Alaska flavor. An option is a short stop in Talkeetna and head straight up to Denali. I highly recommend 2-3 days in the park area. At minimum you need one day to take the bus tour into the park. A 12+ hour trip, its not something your can rush.
Drive time between Denali and Fairbanks is under 3 hours, which gives you more time to experience the Denali area or plenty of time to see Fairbanks highlights.
From Fairbanks take the Richardson Highway to Delta Junction. Be sure to stop in North Pole just outside of Fairbanks (it is after all Christmas year round there). The Richardson Highway is very scenic, with magnificent mountain and glacier views. This route also offers good views of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Seeing this pipeline meander across the tundra was quite fascinating.
From Delta Junction you continue south to Glennallen. You can drive all the way to Anchorage, though this makes for an extremely long day, especially if you have made scenic stops along the way. We stopped in Glennallen and had some of the best bar-b-q’d salmon. Nothing like fresh fish cooked on the grill!
From Glennallen you get on the Glenn Highway to Anchorage. Staying overnight in Glennallen gave us plenty of time to see Matanuska Glacier, about 100 miles outside of Anchorage.
This route can be done in 6-7 days. It is flexible based on what you want to experience. Think about adding a few days if you want more time in Denali or Fairbanks. If time is tight, you can drive or take the train between Anchorage and Fairbanks (or reverse).
#2 – Seward and the Kenai Fjords
(Anchorage – Girdwood – Whittier - Seward – Anchorage)
Distance between Anchorage and Seward is less than 130 miles, but with many scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities, its best to take your time.
From Anchorage, take the Seward Highway along the dramatic shoreline of Turnagain Arm to the resort town of Girdwood. A year round play ground, the area offers skiing in the winter and plenty of outdoor activity in the warmer months. For special views of the Chugach Mountains and Turnagain Arm, take the gondola up to the top of Mount Alyeska.
From Girdwood, continue on the Seward Highway to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Portage Glacier, one of the most accessible glaciers in the area. The visitor center is about 5 miles off the road. The glacier itself is about 10 stories high and miles long and sits at the end of Portage Lake. The glacier is only accessible by boat (tour is about 1 hour). Continue on to Whittier. One thing to note is that the only way to get to Whittier is through Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – a one lane tunnel used by both cars and rail. Check the traffic schedule for times.
Whittier is the gateway to Prince William Sound - perfect for a day cruise where you can see glaciers, whales and other wildlife. Sea kayaking is also a great option.
From Whittier, head back to Portage and take the Seward Highway to Seward, a seaside town full of history, nature and wildlife experiences. Explore the trails or nearby Exit Glacier, also a very accessible glacier. Fishing, boat trips and shopping – all available. One of the top experiences is a Kenai Fjord boat tour – a great way to see plenty of bird and marine life and tidewater glaciers.
We did the half day wildlife cruise along with a sea kayaking adventure from Fox Island and a salmon lunch. We started with the kayaking, working up our appetite for lunch (delicious), then had a relaxing afternoon checking out glaciers, otters, seals and whales and had too much fun observing the puffins. Funny little critters!
For something very special, stay a night or two at the Orca Island Cabins.
From Seward head back to Anchorage. This itinerary is also quite flexible, depending on what you want to see and experience. There is plenty to do in all the suggested overnight stops – this itinerary could be as short as 4 nights but suggest at least 6. This is also a perfect itinerary for cruises that start and end in Seward.
PART 1: DAY TRIPS FROM ANCHORAGE
#3 – Fishing Alaskan Waters
(Anchorage – Seward – Kenai/Soldotna – Homer – Anchorage)
From Anchorage, head to Seward on the Seward Highway. You can see from the itinerary above that a good number of stops can be made along the way. Seward offers far more than fishing, but on this itinerary suggestion, we’ll focus primarily on the fishing opportunities.
Salmon and halibut are the top catches in Seward, with different species of salmon spread across the summer months. You can fish from the beaches, but most charter a boat for the day or even a couple of days.
From Seward, head back to Moose Pass and go west to Soldotna and Kenai. Sport fishers head to the Kenai River for king, coho and sockeye salmon. A variety of trout species also provide popular fishing opportunities. For an extraordinary time, consider a stay at an all-inclusive fishing lodge with expert guides to show you the best spots to bring home a catch.
Kenai is also a great place from which to take bear viewing flights.
From Kenai, continue along the west coast of the peninsula to Homer. Homer may billed as the Halibut Fishing Capital of Alaska, but this charming town is also one of Alaska’s best small towns and known for its eclectic group of artisans.
Here can slow down and relax or get active with kayaking, fishing and hiking. To truly unplug, consider a stay at one of the area’s wilderness lodges.
From Homer, head back to Anchorage. Give yourself a full day, as it’s about a 6 hour drive.
These are just a few samples of what you can experience. Although these are self drive road trip ideas, no worries, plenty of options are available should you rather not drive yourself. The best one for you is based on what you’d like to experience, your budget and how much time you have.
To learn more about Alaska or to get started on an itinerary.
call or email Laurie at 602.540.7338 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder