Achorage/Seward or Glacier Bay?

Old Aug 24th, 2005, 06:02 PM
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Achorage/Seward or Glacier Bay?

Am planning a first time trip to Alaska and want to maximize the experience with a minimum amount of moving around. Am interested in all types of wildlife as well as active pursuits such as kayaking, rafting and hiking. Am leaning towards the anchorage area, but would like to see Skagway and take the White Pass rail tour. However, it looks pretty difficult to travel between these destinations. I expect to be in Alaska for about 10 days late July/early August 2006. I have used the excellent Alaka tourism website, but the options are so overwhelming, advice from seasoned Alaska travelers is greatly appreciated.
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Old Aug 25th, 2005, 03:39 AM
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Tough choice! We stayed in Skagway only two nights. We had reserved seats on the train ride several months ahead and could only get late afternoon ride. It got foggy so the views weren't fantastic. We had read about the Chilkoot trail before our trip. Skagway during the day when cruise ships are in port is very crowded and almost comical. Yes, we also went to the hokey but fun vaudeville show. Around 5pm all the cruise ship passengers disappeared. It was odd to see a jewelry shop that has branches in the Caribbean. We didn't stay long enough to do any rafting etc since we were on a schedule to get to Anchorage.
Anchorage is a big, wonderful city on the edge of the wilderness. Although Seward is also a cruise ship port and a favorite with tourists, it's seems to have a better percentage of year round residents. I think the Anchorage/Seward choice gives you more options and choices for a 10 day trip. Few people mention visiting the transportation museum in Wasilla which has a very interesting exhibit on early aviation pioneers. Also Independence Mine near Palmer is a great example of a once thriving community that is now gone. It's a good look a pre-WW2 Alaska. There's also hiking trails in the area. Another thing to think about is that each town in Alaska seems to have a personality of its own. Good luck!
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Old Aug 25th, 2005, 09:43 AM
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We stayed in the Anchorage area for a week and did day-trips from there. Seward is an easy day trip, as is Talkeetna in the other direction. Alaska is an amazing place and I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time no matter what you do.
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Old Aug 25th, 2005, 10:12 AM
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I've taken 2 trips to Alaska, one to Anchorage (with a day trip to Seward) and one to SE Alaska (Juneau/Glacier Bay/Sitka). Both were wonderful and beautiful but I liked SE Alaska better. Glacier Bay is just amazing and I hope someday to return for a multi-day kayaking trip there.
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Old Aug 25th, 2005, 11:55 AM
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Hi Lori:

I concur with the above.

From my point of view, you have three options. You can base out of Anchorage, you can base out of Juneau or you can do a combination.

You want to minimize moving around. You are going to have to move around in order to enjoy Alaska. The part that would (probably) involve the most moving around would be the combination.

I'm basing this on what I would do with 10 days. If it helps fine, if not, hopefully you may get some tips.

I'm biased towards SE Alaska (Juneau/Glacier Bay/Sitka ect. However, as a first time traveler to Alaska, I would do the Anchorage base trip and save the SE for a cruise or another trip. But, basing on 10 days in SE, I would look into the following.

I'm using Juneau as my base because it offers daily commercial flights from Anchorage and it's a good jumping off point.

From Juneau, you can get to Skagway, Glacier Bay, along with other cities of interest.

Juneau has a lot to offer. There are good hiking trails, you can walk to a glacier, you can take a day boat to Tracey Arm, take a whale watching tour and a bunch of other things. You can also go to Admiralty Island and see bears. You can easily spend ten days basing a trip out of Juneau.

As a first time traveler to Alaska, I would recommend basing out of Anchorage. There is just to much to do outside of Anchorage.

This will also involve moving around. Perhaps maybe even more than the SE but it will be worth it.

From Anchorage you have your choice. You can go north or south. I would go north to Talkeetna and Denali National Park. From Talkeetna you can take a flightseeing trip of the area and hopefully see Mt. Denali (McKinley). Talkeetna also has some rafting but I believe they are mostly multi day trips.

From Denali National Park, you can take a NPS (National Park System) bus into the park. They are basically school buses. I highly recommend doing this. I tell people to go to at least Eielson but Wonder Lake would be better. NPS also have free stuff to do along with the Discovery Hike. You do have to pay for the Discovery Hike since you are taking a bus but the cost is cheap and well worth it. You go on a hike with a ranger but you don't know where you are going to hike. Denali also has a ton of hiking trails. Basically, the whole park. <G>

There is also rafting outside of the park (in glitter gulch) which is basically an area of concessions outside of the park entrance. I'm not sure what the real name of the city is but.

If you go south, you have a ton of options. you can go to Seward/Homer and/or Whittier. Seward/Whittier are stepping points for wildlife/glacier tours into Kenai Fjord (Seward) or Prince William Sound. There is also kayaking from both locations.

Homer is a little off the beaten track and I'm not really sure that I would recommend it since you only have 10 days but Homer is a nice town with lots of outdoors stuff. There is a lot of kayaking, hiking (Kachemak Bay), whale watching and a good jumping off point to the interior for bear watching.

I would leave a day or so to see Anchorage. You could spend some time in Anchorage but for me, the real Alaska is outside of Anchorage and therefore would not be worth more than 2 days at the most.

The combination would involve doing some of both but this would be both time and money prohibitive but.

Having said the above, I would recommend the following:

Denali: 2 or 3 days
Anchorage: 2 days
Seward/Whittier 2 or 3 days. (I would pick Seward over Whittier since to me, Seward offers a lot more to do.)

You could easily spend 10 days at any of the places mentioned, well, 10 days at Whittier maybe is pushing it but Whitier has some excellent multi day kayaking trips that I'm going to be looking at for future trips.

I didn't even scratch the surface at what Alaska offers. I'm sure people will disagree with the time frame since it is pushing 10 days a little tight but I believe it is doable.


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Old Aug 26th, 2005, 06:08 AM
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Check out my recent trip report - I can't comment on SE Alaska, but we did your other option this past August - Anchorage, Denali, Seward. Our interests were very much wildlife/hiking/outdoors. I didn't get to go kayaking, but you could easily fit that in in Seward. Just click on my name and you'll see my trip report. If I were you, I would not miss Denali. The views were beyond belief, and that's where we saw the wolves and over 2 dozen grizzlies.
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Old Sep 5th, 2005, 08:46 AM
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With 10 days, Skagway is doable if you want a week cruise. But 3 days isn't enough for interior touring. If land touring is a priority with wildlife, that is the way to go in my opinion. See if you can add days- the combo touring is just ideal!! 5 interior would be my min. recommendation. AND a Seward arrival/departure cruise.

I never recommend "basing" out of Anchorage and don't recommend Seward as a "day trip" it isn't.

I suggest instead- 1 night in Talkeetna, 2 in Denali area, 2 Seward, 2 in Homer, 2 in Anchorage- begining and end of trip. This is basic depending on arrival/departure times.

Wildlife options are excellent in Seward with an all day Kenai Fjords boat trip and Denali Park with the shuttle to at least Fish Creek.
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