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Alaska 19 day itinerary - comments/opinions, please?


Sep 22nd, 2017, 07:26 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2017
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Alaska 19 day itinerary - comments/opinions, please?

Hi, my family of 4(I, wife, son 14, daughter 12) are very active and fit. We are not much into museums, historical buildings but would love to enjoy nature, glaciers, bear, whale watching, dog sled riding, glacier cruise, flight seeing at Talkeetna, etc.

From reading through other posts on fodors, I have a 19 day plan for July/August 2018.

Please comment or give any opinion on whether it is too rushed or maybe we can cut a day in some places based on your experiences, etc. as I can still tweak things. Thank you

Day 1- arrive in Anchorage around 1:00 pm (ANC to Matansuka 2-3 hours)

Start driving toward Matansuka Glacier on Glenn Highway. Stop by Independence Mine in Palmer and Mirror Lake. Stay overnight near Matansuka Glacier area.

How much time is needed for Independence Mine in Palmer? Any other recommendations to stop on the way to Matansuka?

Day 2 - Matansuka Glacier Hike.

Can we do the Matansuka glacier hiker without guides? Or is it better with MICA or NOVA?

Stay overnight near Matansuka Glacier area. (Or we could start driving towards Talkeetna but don't want to rush Matansuka Glacier time, Thoughts?)

Day 3- Drive to Talkeetna. (Matansuka to Talkeetna 3 hours - 142 miles)

Not sure if we should stop by for a flight or river tour? Or skip and eat lunch, do some shopping? (Take Mt. McKinley flightseeing tour with glacier landing) Should we do this? Any recommendation on flight or river tour as the flight tours are a bit expensive but may be worth it?

Drive towards Healey and stay overnight. (Talkeetna to Healy 164 miles, 2 hr 46 min)

Day 3 – Denali NP – Bus to Eielson or Wonder Lake if weather is good.

Day 4 – Denali NP 2nd day?? – Bus to Wonder Lake? Is it okay to stay at Denali NP for 1 day. Just concerned about the weather? We can cut this day. Or if there are other things to do at Denali NP?

Day 5 – Healy to Valdez via Denali Hwy (SR 8). But stay overnight in Glenallen or Copper Center area (Or go all the way to Valdez, one concern is do we have time to visit Thompson Pass and Worthington Glacier, thoughts?)

(Healy to Valdez 360 miles, 7h 20min) (Healy to Copper Center 257 miles, 5 h 32 min) (Copper Center to Valdez 105 miles, 1h 52 min)

Day 6 – Copper Center to Valdez. Stop by Worthington Glacier, Thompson Pass.

Do glacier cruise here. Any recommendations? I have read mentions of visiting the Solomon Gultch Hatchery. Ice Caves kayak with Anadyr Day Trips. Columbia or Meares Glacier Cruise with Stan Stevens or Lulu Belle.)

Day 7 – Valdez night 2. Columbia glacier cruise or ?

Day 8 – Valdez night 3? Cut this day in Valdez?

Day 9 – Valdez to Whittier via ferry. Concern is ferry is not available daily. May have to drive back around! Yikes!

Stay at Girdwood overnight
Day 10 – Whittier Prince William Sound 26 Glacier cruise!! ½ day) also Byron Glacier Trail

Day 11 – Crow pass hike, conservation center, Double Musky restaurant? (do we need 3rd night)??

Day 12 - Drive Whittier to Seward night 1 (90 miles 1hr 45 min). Exit Glacier

Day 13 – Seward night 2. Take 110 mile Kenai Fjords day cruise.

Day 14 - Seward. Hike Harding Icefields?. (3rd night needed)??

Day 15 – Seward to Homer. (168 miles 3 hr 30 min) Stop by Bear Lake Weir for salmon watching, if time permits

I have read mentions of Halibut Cove, Bear watching flight, halibut fishing. Any recommendations or thoughts?

Day 16 – Homer night 2.

Day 17 – Homer Night 3. 3 nights in Homer?

Day 18 – Homer to Cooper Landing. Is it worth a night here? Or should we go straight to Anchorage for our last night (Homer to Anchorage 223 miles, 4 h 8 min) (Homer to Cooper landing 120 miles 2 h 16 min) (Cooper landing to Anc 102 miles 1 h 50 min)

Day 19 – Anchorage. Fly home.

Thank you in advance. We are excited!
andym112071 is offline  
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Sep 22nd, 2017, 10:40 AM
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Some general comments:

Matanuska Glacier is on private property; you'll pay an access fee just to get to the glacier face. You can scramble around on your own, but you'd probably need to use a service for actual hikes on the glacier as you'll need their equipment.

National (and most local) rental car companies don't allow their vehicles on the Denali Highway or other unpaved roads. The alternative is to drive all the way up to Fairbanks and back down the Richardson Hwy to Valdez, or reprogram those days elsewhere. Depending on how committed you are to your schedule, you might think about reversing things a little and going Anchorage > Matanuska Glacier > Glennallen > Valdez, then Valdez > Fairbanks > Denali > Anchorage > Kenai Peninsula. That makes for a more compact loop with less retracing of your route.

Two back-to-back days with 8-12 hours on a bus in Denali frankly sounds pretty sucky to me. And if you're skunked on seeing Denali because of the weather, well... Of course this is dependent on your family's tolerance and how you approach these things; it's not for us to say, "Don't do it;" just fair warning.

Halibut Cove is a great day trip from Homer but I wouldn't do more than that. And unless you plan to stop and go fishing on the Kenai River, Cooper Landing isn't anything to worry about. If I were driving back from Homer I'd continue up to Girdwood and spend the last night there - maybe have a final dinner at the restaurant on top of the Alyeska Hotel's gondola run.

I'll throw out one curve ball as a possible alternative for a couple or three days. Think about flying up to Nome, the historic gold rush town on the Bering Sea. You can hire a vehicle in Nome and use it to explore the Seward Peninsula on the regional road system that radiates from Nome. It will show a face of Alaska you won't see on the main road system; there's a lot of wildlife - muskoxen, caribou and reindeer, bears, moose, lots of birds - and you'll get a real feel of the vastness of the Alaska bush. See http://www.alaska.org/destination/nome/scenic-drives and http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm...ewardpeninsula . Just a thought anyway.
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Sep 25th, 2017, 03:58 PM
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Definitely do at least 2 days in Denali. (We recently stayed 3 nights). It's magical. Go to Eielson day 1 on the first bus so you can run into the visitor center and sign up for the ranger hike (limited to about 11 people). On day 2 you can drive to Savage River trail and hike. There are also some good hikes from the visitor center. (Eat at Rose's diner and the restaurant next to the golf course in Healy, can't remember the name). In Girdwood area stop at the Park Ranger station just off the highway on the road into town for maps and assistance. Do the Portage Glacier hike for sure and visit the Boggs Begich Visitor Center. Eat at Jack Sprat in Girdwood. May want to consider kayaking in Whittier with Alaska Sea Kayakers instead of cruise since you will be on a cruise in Seward. The Kenai Fjords 8 hour cruise was the highlight of our vacation.
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Sep 25th, 2017, 05:33 PM
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We rode the bus into Denali and then opted for a small plane ride back, which we really enjoyed. We love whitewater rafting and did that close to Denali.
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Sep 26th, 2017, 01:10 AM
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I hope you will reconsider museums. The historic buildings at Independence Mine were fascinating. Once you are there and have an understanding of the distance from Anchorage, I think you get a better appreciation of what it was like to live in a remote mining town. We did not do any hiking in this area except for the mine area.

I found the Pratt Museum in Homer fascinating. There was a display about the oil spill, also about early homesteading. The Begich Boggs Visitors Center at Portage Glacier has recordings of what it was like during the great earthquake. We didn't care for Whittier but when we saw it the town seemed dominated by the old high rise military buildings leftover from when it was a secret military base. DH had to drive through the tunnel, an engineering feat. Perhaps your kids might use some of the history for future school reports.

I still remember overhearing another tourist talking to a Pratt Museum volunteer. The tourist had passed up an opportunity to work in AK at some point and still wondered if he had made a big mistake in doing so. We have friends who moved up around 1996 and it was only going to be temporary, just a couple of years. They're still there.
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Sep 28th, 2017, 04:58 PM
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Speaking of museums, the Aquarium in Seward is well worth visiting. One of the highlights of the town.
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