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Trip Report Alaska Trip Report—10 days by car in July

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We are a couple in our mid 50’s. First trip to Alaska. No interest in cruises -- mostly interested in scenery, wildlife, easy/moderate outdoor activities. We will admit this is a busy itinerary but gave us a quick look at a wide area of Alaska. Not for everyone but we loved every day. We would drive along and stop when we saw something interesting or when we had enough sitting in the car. Also note that we had amazing weather which is the exception. Only rain day was Seward. Everyplace we stayed (see underlined below) was fine. The ones we enjoyed the most are marked with (*).

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage—explore town—Maria’s Creekside B&B (*)
Day 2: Drive to Denali—white water rafting with Denali Raft Adventure. Grande Denali Lodge
Day 3: Denali tour with Denali Backcountry Adventure-- Grande Denali Lodge
Day 4: Drive Denali Highway to Paxon—Denali Highway Cabins (*)
Day 5: Drive to Valdez—stopped at Copper River for a hike in Chitina. Rose by the Sea B&B(*)
Day 6: Glacier kayak tour with Anadyr Adventures. Salmon run at the hatchery, walk along harbor. Rose by The Sea B&B(*)
Day 7: Alaska Marine Highway to Whittier. Drive to Seward. Best Western Edgewater
Day 8: Nature guide walk to Exit Glacier. Alaska Sea Life Center. Best Western Edgewater
Day 9: Drive to Homer. Ocean Shores
Day 10: Tour of Kamechak Bay with local guide. Drive to Anchorage for red-eye flight home.

Comments:
• As noted above this was a busy tour. We put 1,400 miles on our rental car. We loved the scenery and stopped whenever we felt like it. This would be a tough trip with most kids.
• If I had to lop off miles I would actually skip Denali. This would be a tough choice but we really loved the southern part of the state—Kenai and trip from Paxton to Valdez.
• Denali Highway was very interesting but I grew up driving on gravel roads. These are serious gravel roads and you need to be willing to drive 30 mph and be very attentive for rocks and pot holes. We did not see wildlife but it was Sunday of a holiday weekend and more traffic than normal on the road. On line there is a lot of conversation on prohibiting rental cars on the Denali highway. Just know what you want to do here—enough said.
• Ferry trip across Prince William Sound was interesting. Saw quite a bit of wildlife, fishing etc. It was about $225 for car and 2 people. Made for a nice loop vs backtracking. Rainy day limited scenic views. We took the slow ride—if you just want to move on there is a 2 hour ferry on select days of the week.
• Seemed every town had their own microbrewery. We enjoyed trying these out.
• Be prepared that costs for everything are about 25% higher than the Midwest. That’s just life in Alaska.
• RV life was very popular. There are RV camps (or pullouts) all over. If you are attracted to that style of travel you would be well accommodated.
• Milestone book was a must. You can find these used on line for the current year.
• All busses in Denali must be a school bus frame. Tours have done some retro fitting with suspensions and seats—park busses have not. Understand this will not be coach bus comfort.


Favorites:
• Scenic drive from Glennallen to Valdez.
• Kayak tour in Valdez
• White water rafting on the Nenana river.
• Wildlife boat cruise in Homer—saw all kinds of birds including Puffins and sea otters.


Changes I would do next time:
• We enjoyed our stay at Maria’s in Anchorage, but we also would have been happy to drive up to Denali on day 1. Felt a little like we were hanging around to leave.
• We did a whole day tour in Denali that took us all the way to Kantishna. Our original plan was to stay there 2 nights which was thwarted by road wash out. Whole day tour was too long. Going into Eielson and back would have been fine. We saw wildlife but with a couple of exceptions were quite a distance away. Good binoculars a must. If you have been to Yellowstone, you will need to adjust your expectations of how near you will be to critters.
• We aren’t much for fishing, but in hindsight would have been fun to do halibut outing or salmon fishing. By the time we decided to add that, weather and time did not permit.
• Alaska Sea Life Center was so so. Was an indoor activity on a wet day, but I’ve seen better. Kids might enjoy it.

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