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5 Day Itinerary to Southcentral Alaska

Old Jan 10th, 2007, 05:54 AM
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5 Day Itinerary to Southcentral Alaska

Sorry for two posts but didn't put Alaska in my Title.

This is our first trip to Alaska. My husband and I have narrowed down where we want to go (or should I say have the time to go) but still struggling with the amount of driving vs the amount of time in a specific location.

My thought is that our trip is a road tour (vs a cruise) and that the fun is the exploring as you drive to your destination, not necessarily just the getting to and staying at the destination. Even though walking around the towns (such as Homer) is something we would enjoy as well.

We love to hike and kayak but for this trip because we only have 5 days and want to see as much possible, we won't be doing day hikes or kayaking. Mainly hiking just off the road some when there's a point of interest or a different view and hopefully seeing wildlife.

I would appreciate any opinions on what we've tentatively planned so far:

Our dilemma is we would like to go to Homer, Seward and Denali and squeezing it all in. Right now, it looks like we will be driving an average of 3 to 5 hours a day.

We get in to ANC at 6P on Saturday, June 2. We then have 5 full days as we leave Friday, June 8.

Sunday arrive ANC 6P - retrieve rental car. Drive a couple of hours toward Homer (question - does it turn completely dark at any time in early June and if so, how much daylight would you say we will have on this drive.) I don't want to miss the beautiful scenery but will be backtracking also and see it again. What would be a good stopping point around 9P? and is there a town with a hotel/B&B that anyone could recommend. The other option would be to stay in ANC for the night (and see some of ANC) and get up early and drive all the way to Homer Sunday. Either way we'll be in Homer to stay Sunday night.

From what I can gather so far, the drive from Anchorage to Homer is just wonderful so we'll take many more hours than 5 to drive down to it I'm assuming.

Leave Homer Monday and drive to Seward (about 3 hours if driving straight there?). See Exit Glacier while in Seward. Spend Monday night in Seward. Boat Tour Tuesday AM.

Drive from Seward to ANC or north of ANC Tuesday (boat tour ends at 2:30P). Stop at Portage Glacier if time. Spend Tuesday night in ANC or north of ANC (Talkeetna maybe?)

Wednesday, drive the rest of the way to Denali. Once up around Denali, do some light hiking and do the bus tour in to Denali Thursday.

We would then have to drive all the way back to ANC after the bus tour to spend the night for our flight out at 7A on Friday.

Sorry for my rambling. We're just not sure if this plan is feasible without shortchanging ourselves in some areas. We have considered not going all the way to Homer but maybe just a little ways down to see this part. So that would shorten the trip some but we wouldn't see the scenery all the way to Homer (or see Homer). If we do this, could anyone recommend a good stopping point that would be our turnaround point and a place to stay (town/hotel)? And will we be sorry we didn't drive all the way to Homer?

Or we've thought maybe we should cross off Denali (which I hate to do).

I know it depends on whatever we're up for, but I would appreciate an opinion from those of you with experience if you think it would be wise to slow it down a bit and cross something off to enjoy the things we are doing (and what would you cross off?)AND realize that we can do what we missed the next time - whenever that may be

Thank you for putting up with my rambling and thank you for any advice/suggestions you can provide me. The more I research and talk about going, the more excited I'm getting.
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 07:11 AM
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The summer solstice/longest day of the year is June 21. It doesn't get completely dark at night, more dusky. I think how far you go the first night depends on how long your flight has been. And, by the time you get your baggage and rental car is could easily be 7 or 8pm. I would stay on the outskirts of Anchorage near the Seward Hwy. (Maybe have pizza at the Moose's Tooth.) Keep in mind Monday morning will be busy with commuter traffic. You can have pizza outside with a nice view of moutains. There is plenty to do along the Seward Hwy. I think once you get past the turnoff/closer to Soldotna, the scenery becomes mostly trees and not spectacular. If you chose to drive to Soldotna (about 3 hours) there should be plenty of motels rooms. It's a good size town with lots of stores. Once you get past Soldotna, the drive to Homer is more trees but you have a view of the volcanos across the bay. There aren't many opportunities to find a motel room or restaurant once you get past Soldotna. I think you would have more fun with a leisurely first evening in Anchorage and be refreshed for the spectacular drive the next day. I really liked Homer. I think there is more to see and do on the KP than the road between Anchorage and Denali although we also enjoyed Independence Mine. I vote for enjoying some hikes and not spending as much time in the car. Leave Denali for another trip.
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 09:50 AM
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You definitely do not have enough time to do Denali and then Homer. Denali is a 5 hr drive from Anchorage and the buses don't run 24 hours a day, so if you want to take the bus into the park, a over night in the area the night before is highly recommended. Then depending how you physically feel after the trip, you have 4-5 back to Anchorage. Homer is a 6 hr trip from Anchorage. Soldotna is roughly 3 hours and it makes a great break point. Not a lot of services between the 2 cities so a break in Soldotna allows you to get out and visit the area, then it' is only 3 more hours to Homer. Although the sun shines for almost 24 hrs, keeping up with the sun takes itís toll after a couple of days.
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 12:56 PM
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Double post


Since you are asking if you should skip something, I suggest yes. In my opinion, Homer is a 2 night stop. You list no activities you plan?? But state you want to go there- why??

If certainly IS very worthwhile- with time. For clairfication- there is no point in doing a portion of this drive- after Cooper Landing to Cook Inlet- it's the dullest scenery of the Sterling Highway. No point in any further unless you get to Homer.

As a suggestion- consider Seward and Denali park- with your wildlife priorities these two areas are winners.

Depending on where you are coming from, you are no considering jet lag and time differences for your first day drive- if you continue with Homer. You will have daylight to 11pm so doable to Homer- but not ideal if you are tired and get any delays at the airport, car pick up, delayed in Anchorage, meal stop etc. You may not be on the road until past 7pm.

With just doing Seward, I suggest an early am drive there from Anchorage, one overnight, drive to Talkeetna, then 2 nights in Denali park, 1 night Anchorage. It's a 5 hour drive Seward to Talkeetna. I would do your Kenai Fjords boat trip 3pm your first day. Then some am activites- Exit glacier etct, then your drive to Talkeetna. Be aware that you likely will want a grocery stop- last available will be Wasilla.

Overnighting in Talkeetn is a nice break then plenty of time to get to Denali and activities that next day. 2 overnights in Denali Park is highly recommended. Shuttle to Fish Creek, you are too early for Wonder Lake. Then a full day to drive back to Anchorage, with the possibility to see some of Anchorage, if of interest.

This is my suggestion, adding Homer, just puts you too much on the road in too tight a schedule in my opinion. You must count on delays and construction. Allow time for the "small" stuff that happens in Alaska.


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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 01:48 PM
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Having done both a small ship cruise on the inside passage and a drive from Fairbanks to Denali to Anchorage, I highly suggest you re-think your decision not to take a cruise. I am not suggesting a large ship. We used Special Expeditions which is a bit pricey but I recently saw someone post about using the state ferries. We saw much much more wild life and scenery on the cruise than we did driving. Except for Denali, we didn't see any wildlife. To really experience Denali you have to stay in the park overnight which involves a 6 hour bus ride in and then out. On the cruise we saw, ice bergs (think tidy bowl blue), glaciers with pieces calving, lots of whales, dolphins, etc, eagles, bears. We went salmon fishing, took a flight up to a mountain lake. Much much more of what you would expect from what you think about Alaska. The roads were boring with not much to see between destinations. We enjoyed the driving trip for a lot of reasons but for a first timer, I highly recommend the water route. Have a great trip whatever you decide to do.
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Old Jan 11th, 2007, 12:05 AM
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5 days in Alaska is not much time at all. Remember that it's a very large state and cities are very spread out. I'm an Alaskan and very used to the driving, no big deal for us. We have had outside visitors though, some who enjoyed the long drives and others who didn't at all. Depends upon the person. Keep in mind you may have jet lag or travel delays. Never a good idea to drive if you're fatigued! Don't worry about the dark, that's not an issue in June. It doesn't really get dark, sun begins to go down, but then it comes right back up. It's never dark, just looks like dusk or dawn. Many Alaskans don't feel sleepy because the daylight keeps us awake and alert, play it by ear. Do what feels comfortable to you. Traffic to and from Anchorage to Homer, Soldotna, etc. can be heavy on the weekends as there are many "weekend" commuters. Avoid Fridays and Sundays because you may be stuck in traffic. I wouldn't suggest skipping Denali but I would suggest not rushing Denali. Also, make bus reservations in advance or you'll be disappointed. The bus ride is very long so be prepared with not only camera but snacks. If it's cloudy (common), you won't see the mountain but will probably see animals. Seward and Kenai have short (half day) cruises that allow you to see glaciers, whales, killer whales, and other sealife, depending upon the month. Have fun! Don't rush! Prioritize what you want to see and do. First night I'd suggest just settling in. Have a nice dinner, relax, and get a good night sleep. Takes us about 4 to 4.5 hrs give or take to get to Homer. If you leave the next day in the a.m. you could get to Homer by noon the next day. If you stop by Portage Glacier or Girdwood Ski Resort on the way to Homer that would add a few hrs to your drive. Alaskans don't settle down early so even if you arrived in Homer at 2 or 3 p.m. you'd have time to walk around, explore, and grab a bite to eat. You'll be able to take pictures until midnight if you're still awake. It won't be dark. Homer and Seward are both nice but similar. Spend Tues night either in Talkeetna or Denali, drive all the way. You could then spend Wed & Th in Denali. If you're not too tired, consider the bus tour one day and a white water rafting trip (Nenana River is fun) perhaps the second day. If you do this, you'll be very tired on your flight home. Denali to Anchorage is a long drive and you should be at the airport about 5 a.m. for a 7 a.m. flight. Have fun!
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Old Jan 11th, 2007, 06:21 AM
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You felt like you were rambling, but I just went through the process of "thinking through the exact process - how far from ANC to Homer, then to Seward, then to Denali. Our stay will be much longer, but still the same kind of thinking. The responses have been great.
My question is we were leaving Seward (after a week) and stopping at Gridwood to go up the mountain and possibly a boat ride. The place I wanted to stay had a 2 night minimum and I didn't think we wanted to stay 2 nights...Then the next day we are going to Denali for 4 nights. We want to definitely go all the way into the park (have stayed in the park before), but won't do that again. Do you feel we should just stay one night in Girdwood and 5 nights in Denali. Is there enough to do for 5 nights? We don't raft...I was thinking that when you leave Seward and go a couple of hrs. to Girdwood - get settled in - we have left no time to go into ANC...so maybe go into town??
Is the restaurant (the very expensive one) worth the money? We would have that as our only splurging restaurant, if it is worth it...
I was thinking if you have gone on a fishing trip out of Homer or Seward and the whaling trip and the Fjords trip--would you want to go on a boat ride out of the port there at Girdwood?? Is that really different terrain?
OR should we just go from Seward into Talkeetna (been there one time and had a horrible place to stay), but I see there are very nice places...
Fabulous gift store (if it is still there).
Talk about rambling...Thanks
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Old Jan 11th, 2007, 06:52 AM
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farm123: I think the boat ride you mean is not Girdwood where Mt Alyeska is located but either Whittier or the boat ride to see Portage glacier. We did not go on that boat ride since we had already been on the trip out of Seward to see glaciers. The visitors center, however, is very interesting. During the same visit we also did a boat ride out of Homer, I think it was the Danny C which was considered a nature cruise with a stop in Seldovia. We saw lots of birds, otters and terrific scenery but it was not as exciting as the Kenai Fjords trip. We overnighted in Seldovia at the Boardwalk Hotel and then had a flightseeing trip over a glacier back to Homer. We stayed in Whittier because we were going to visit Girdwood but didn't enjoy Whittier, a former secret military base. Lots of people, however, have recommended the boat ride. The tram ride up Alyeska is fun and scenic since you can see 7 glaciers but it's something you can do on the way to Anchorage. If it were me, I'd spend a night in Anchorage with a visit to Independence Mine on my way to Talkeetna/Denali.
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Old Jan 12th, 2007, 04:05 AM
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What is Independence Mine?
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Old Jan 12th, 2007, 06:04 AM
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Whittier Glacier cruises are VERY different compared to Kenai Fjords boat trips. They both are extremely worth while if you have the interest.

Seven Glaciers Resturant in Girdwood is excellent, have reservations. 5 days would be a LOT for me at Denali park- 3 is always more than enough.

Independence Mine- http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/units/indmine.htm
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Old Jan 12th, 2007, 07:26 PM
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My opnion is that Homer, Seward and Denali can't be done, at least comfortably, in five days. Skip Homer.

Decide how much time you want in Denali...it takes two days, in my experience to get there. Stay overnight in Talkeetna on your way up. Then you need two days in Denali.

You may be able to squeeze in some time in Seward, but you need to be aware of the druvubg distances.

You have done some really good advance planning, but i am not sure that you really understand the driving distances.

You will need a copy of "The Milestone", if you do not have it, which gives mileages and great road maps and ads which will help you understand what is where and what is available.

You can get it online. Google.

Have a great trip, but do not try to do everything in 5 days.

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Old Jan 12th, 2007, 09:26 PM
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Now I would recommend doing only the kenai peninsula (Seward and Homer) OR Denali, not both.

We spent a week in Homer and Seward. Much preferred Homer.

We may go back and see Denali someday, but I certainly don't feel like we missed a "must see" but not rushing to see it last time...
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 05:29 AM
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Budget Queen - very helpful..Thanks
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