Like all of Alaska, the South Central region is very spread out and the topography is incredibly diverse. But unlike in other regions, there are loads of ways to get around, and each mode of transport offers a different kind of experience.
As soon as you land in Anchorage, you'll probably want to rent a car in preparation for an early departure the next day. Decompress after your flight at the tasteful Copper Whale Inn; it's a stone's throw from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and its great eateries and shops. For a leisurely stroll, walk along the Coastal Trail to Westchester Lagoon, or hike the entire 9 miles past Earthquake Park to Kincaid Park.
For dinner, Simon & Seafort’s is within walking distance from the inn and has great food and a fantastic view across the water to Mt. Susitna (the "Sleeping Lady"). Humpy’s Great Alaskan Ale House is a fun bar with live music and surprisingly good pub grub.
(1½-hour drive from Anchorage)
Hunker down to an early breakfast at the inn, and then go pick up some picnic fixings for your day trip. Drive down the scenic Seward Highway and turn off toward Whittier. Before reaching Whittier, pull over at the Portage Glacier turnoff, where you can see the glacier and the iceberg-filled lake right from your car. Continue on to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in North America that's shared with trains.
Kayaking on the Prince William Sound is wonderful, and the knowledgeable guides at Alaska Sea Kayakers provide the gear and know-how to make it an experience of a lifetime.
At the end of the day, head back to Anchorage and return the car. Have dinner at the Snow Goose; be sure to request a table on the outdoor deck overlooking the bay. If you're not too tired, check out the nightlife at Crush Wine and Bistro and Bernie’s Bungalow Lounge.
(7-hour train trip from Anchorage)
Board the morning train with Alaska Railroad and enjoy the seven-hour scenic ride to Talkeetna, a small Alaska town where artists, pilots, and mountaineers congregate. It’s where climbers preparing to ascend Mt. McKinley hang out before they’re flown to base camp. Book a room at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and take a chartered flight over the summit (weather permitting) with Talkeetna Aero Services. Spend the rest of the afternoon walking on a glacier.
Take a before- or after-dinner stroll through this tiny town, and check out the artwork that residents create during the quiet, cold winter months. Talkeetna Roadhouse is a nice dinner option and a good place to soak in the bustling summer scene.
(5-hour train trip from Talkeetna)
For over 60 years, Camp Denali and North Face Lodge has been family-owned and operated. It offers three-, four-, or seven-night stays. A shuttle will pick you up at the train station and deliver you to a rustic wilderness lodge, deep within Denali National Park. Knowledgeable naturalists offer daily guided outings; evening programs focus on the natural and cultural history of Denali.
Denali National Park is a 6-million acre Arctic wonderland that teems with wildlife. On any given day you may see grizzlies, wolves, caribou, and moose. The weather around Mt. McKinley is fickle, so there's never a guarantee of seeing the mountain's peaks, though that hardly matters as you explore the glaciers, forests, and candy-colored tundra. On day two in the park, take advantage the lodge's outstanding, off-trail, wildlife-watching expedition. Fill the rest of your time here with canoeing on Wonder Lake, biking, or a flightseeing tour around the mountain.
(8-hour train trip from Denali)
Take the afternoon train back to Anchorage and arrive in time for a late dinner. Check into one of our recommended hotels, and get ready for your flight the next day.
Pack your bags and check out of the hotel. It's time to go to the airport and fly home.