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9 highlights from 9 days in Alaska (late August 2021)

9 highlights from 9 days in Alaska (late August 2021)

Old Sep 25th, 2021, 06:25 AM
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WOW! Fantastic photos and a great report. Thanks so much.
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Old Sep 26th, 2021, 06:13 AM
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Thanks, schmerl and mms! This trip definitely did whet my appetite for more. On that note, a few concluding thoughts.

What worked? Pretty much everything.

Accommodations: We don’t tend to stay at big resorts, but Alyeska was fine as a landing spot on our first night. Everywhere else, we had at least some semblance of a kitchen and a decent outdoor sitting area. We particularly enjoyed the small deck at our creek-side cabin near Denali.

We booked everything fairly early on, once we purchased our airfare. Alyeska didn’t seem full, but I doubt the others would have been available had we waited months. These days, we usually go for accommodations that are fully refundable until a day (or few) before arrival. I don’t think that was possible with many of the places we looked at and ultimately booked – we would have incurred some penalties had we cancelled.

Time of year: Although you can never predict the weather, I thought late August worked well. It was still fairly warm at most points, and there was enough “nighttime” to have a shot at seeing the northern lights. But a week or two later, things will have begun closing for the season.

Balance of up-front planning and flexibility: Some advance planning is necessary. The Teklanika Road permits were snapped up right away when they went on sale in April. About six weeks before our trip, we started researching the fjord cruises out of Seward and saw that our preferred option was already sold out for one of our two full days there. We immediately bought tickets for the other day, and right after, that cruise also showed as sold out – so we apparently came very close to having to opt for something else. That said, we left a good amount of time open to decide what was best based on the weather, etc. We booked our Denali air tour less than 48 hours beforehand.

What would we do differently?

Fly round trip, not open jaw: While we occupied ourselves for an afternoon in Fairbanks – particularly with the small but interesting Museum of the North at the university – we could have saved the $450 one-way fee for our car. I actually looked into switching to Anchorage during our trip, but those flights were very full, while the Fairbanks flight was barely half full.

More time: That’s a given, but unfortunately not possible for us right now. But we do recommend that others give it as much time as you can.

Going somewhere off the well-trodden path: As I said upfront, our itinerary did provide a nice mix of experiences for a first-time visit. That said, we always enjoy it when we stumble on something that we didn’t expect while on our trips. I guess seeing the northern lights might fall into that category, but even there, we knew a few days beforehand that it might be a possibility.

We definitely want to go back again and explore more of Alaska – including spending more time on/around the Kenai peninsula and…to be determined.

So, I think that’s it. As always, we do some reading here while planning, and that was certainly the case this time. Thanks to all who have shared advice and experiences in recent years. I hope this will be helpful to others in the future.
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Old Sep 26th, 2021, 08:17 AM
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I’m scheduled to go,to Alaska in June. We have reservations at the Kantishna Backcountry Lodge. It’s looking like that might not happen due to the road closure. Not sure if they will keep the lodge open, but I guess we could consider flying in. Aside, from that, if it is not possible to stay in Kantishna, would you consider shortening time in Denali and move it to Kenai and try to get into one of the fabulous lodges there ?
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Old Sep 30th, 2021, 10:31 AM
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These photos are gorgeous! Aurora borealis is on my bucket list too. What a treat to see it on a clear night! Thanks for sharing.
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