Alaska 2-3 weeks summer 2022

Old Aug 5th, 2021, 05:20 AM
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Alaska 2-3 weeks summer 2022

I have been researching ideas for a 2-3 week Alaska vacation for next summer and would like to ask a few questions so as to know where to concentrate my searches.

We are a 70 yr old couple, so will be doing minimal hiking. Interests are photography. We love the mountain scenery and of course wild life viewing would be a big plus. Which glacier should we try to see while there?

My first inclination was to fly into either Fairbanks or Anchorage, do a one way car rental and fly out of the other. Is this sensible, or is their a round trip route to one or the other that makes sense?

I have seen mention of Taking Richardson Highway and Glenn Highway for great scenery. I am just trying to wrap my head around where to start with planning and would love some pointers in how to do this.
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Old Aug 5th, 2021, 06:09 AM
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Please read my 2016 "Alaska Trip Report". The best wildlife viewing was on the Kenai. I also hiked up to the toe of the Exit glacier not far from Seward. We also saw a mother moose and her yearling from the window of our B&B on the hill above Homer. We also saw quite a bit of wildlife from the bus out to the Eilson Visitor Center in Denali NP.
With 2 to 3 weeks I would encourage you to make a circular trip returning the rental car where you rented it. You will see a lot more and avoid a drop fee.
Buy your bus tickets out into Denali before you fly to Alaska rather than waiting in line and hoping that you will get on the next bus. It does get busy. The buses are school bus types but the drivers are generally good at spotting wildlife and will stop for a minute or two so that you can take a picture from the bus. You stop at the Eilson visitor Center for nearly an hour before getting back on the bus back to the entrance where you parked your car early in the day.
You may see a picture of me standing underneath the Alaska pipeline about 20 miles north of Fairbanks. We also had a very nice B&B near North Pole AK on the banks of the Cheena River.
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Old Aug 5th, 2021, 08:23 AM
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I would recommend the loop that we did, assuming your rental car can be driven on gravel roads ( specifically Denali Highway between Cantwell and Paxson.) We didn't go all the way to Valdez or Fairbanks, but since you have more time, I would throw those in, along with a side trip to the Seward Peninsula (to take one of the glacier cruises for marine mammals and birds and sea otters).

Click on my name for this years's trip report and lodging options.

Early to mid June is excellent for wildlife. Assuming you don't mind using insect repellent, the whole mosquito thing is waaaaay overblown.

The tourism websites are excellent, and a lot of people like The Milepost.

https://www.travelalaska.com/

https://www.alaska.org/guide/denali-highway

Start making reservations now for next year.

Last edited by mlgb; Aug 5th, 2021 at 08:28 AM.
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Old Aug 5th, 2021, 09:29 AM
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One-way rental cars in Alaska are typically priced exorbitantly, and the major (national) companies don't allow them on unpaved roads. Not to worry, there are still lots of good drives with great scenery on paved roads.

Note that the Seward Peninsula is in northwestern Alaska, with Nome as the main community. The town of Seward, along with others, is located on the Kenai Peninsula. .

You might want to have a look at some locations in Southeast Alaska (the so-called "panhandle") for a very different environment than the one you'd see in Southcentral and Interior parts of the state.
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Old Aug 5th, 2021, 09:38 AM
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Correction Kenai Peninsula. Town of Seward.

And there are LOCAL car rental companies which allow travel on unpaved roads. Not to worry, you can ask about them on Tripadvisor, which has actual current Alaska residents helping. Denali Hwy was in really good condition this year and a regular passenger car could handle it with ease.

It really isn't necessary to include the panhandle on this trip. You can get a flavor of the temperate rainforest biome around Seward. I would save SE Alaska and Glacier Bay for a cruise if you think you might ever feel comfortable doing that again.

PS The drive times are not as horrific as some make them seem. Nor did we find the Denali transit bus "exhausting". It took maybe 4 hours drive time from Anchorage to the Denali Perch. We spent the rest of the day making stops between Anchorage and the Denali Perch, including picking up some supplies in Wasilla and the tour at the birch syrup place. Then had the full day at Denali on the transit us. Next day drive to McLaren Lodge, and then the next day we drove back to Anchorage. From there it was out and back to Seward with a full day for a glacier cruise.

We did fly to Nome (Seward Peninsula) after that but I don't think most people would find it worthwhile.

Last edited by mlgb; Aug 5th, 2021 at 09:55 AM.
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Old Aug 5th, 2021, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
I would recommend the loop that we did.
What was the loop you did? I looked up your trip report, but did not find info on the loop.
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Old Aug 5th, 2021, 10:47 AM
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We drove north from Anchorage to Denali Perch Resort (between Cantwell and Healy on George Parks Highway) using that as a base for Denali. Then back to Cantwell to turn east on Denali Hwy (Alaska Route 8) with an overnight at Mclaren River Lodge, continuing the next day east to Richardson Hwy (Alaska Route 4) then south to Glenallen "the HUB" and finally west on Glenn Hwy (Alaska Route 1) back to Anchorage. We then drove out and back to Seward after a night in Anchorage.

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Old Aug 5th, 2021, 11:48 AM
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Thanks, I will check out that route.
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Old Aug 5th, 2021, 12:12 PM
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[QUOTE=Gardyloo;17269942]One-way rental cars in Alaska are typically priced exorbitantly, and the major (national) companies don't allow them on unpaved roads. Not to worry, there are still lots of good drives with great scenery on paved roads.

After a little more poking around, it looks like a round trip Anchorage is a better option. With a rental car concentrating on Kenai Peninsula visiting maybe Homer,? Whittier for glacier cruise, Seward and over to Valdez take the Richardson Hwy to Glennallen and the Glen Hwy back to Anchorage.

I know I left out Denali, but is that a must when visiting?

If contemplating an RV, which companies are reliable and are these roads doable?

Our time frame is around 3 weeks, but not set in stone. We can add if needed to explore more.

Thanks for the feedback so far.
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Old Aug 6th, 2021, 05:17 AM
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Check out the musk ox farm in Palmer
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Old Aug 6th, 2021, 05:30 AM
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[QUOTE=louky52;17270029]
Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
One-way rental cars in Alaska are typically priced exorbitantly, and the major (national) companies don't allow them on unpaved roads. Not to worry, there are still lots of good drives with great scenery on paved roads.

After a little more poking around, it looks like a round trip Anchorage is a better option. With a rental car concentrating on Kenai Peninsula visiting maybe Homer,? Whittier for glacier cruise, Seward and over to Valdez take the Richardson Hwy to Glennallen and the Glen Hwy back to Anchorage.

I know I left out Denali, but is that a must when visiting?

If contemplating an RV, which companies are reliable and are these roads doable?

Our time frame is around 3 weeks, but not set in stone. We can add if needed to explore more.

Thanks for the feedback so far.
With a morning flight into Anchorage, our car rental reservation in 2016 was for an economy car. Since they were out of them, we had a choice of larger cars. We chose the Subaru Outback 4WD. I did drive it on the Skilak road (good gravel) on the Kenai Peninsula. I drove about 20-25 mph on the gravel road and didn't drive any of the side roads. I did take the car through the car wash before taking it back to turn in. In the northern latitudes in the summer, the days are long. We got back from our day trip to Denali at 10PM and it was still daylight. I took a sunset picture from the ANC airport at midnight the night we flew out going back home. 10 days was enough to see Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks, Homer, Seward and Palmer. We did stop to see the muskox near Palmer. I enjoyed the B&B's a lot more than having to drive an RV.
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Old Aug 6th, 2021, 05:46 AM
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Yes I recommend Denali but it is not that hard to reach from Anchorage. But only if you can get the tickets on the transit bus (the cheaper one). There is also the TWT but the transit bus gives a little more flexibility. So you would need half a day as a travel day from Anchorage to Healy, including stops. And a full day for the bus, plus a travel day back.

As I mentioned, about 4 hours drive time between Anchorage and Healy, allow another hour or two for stops (especially if the weather is clear and you can see Denali, there are several viewpoints along the road).

If needed you may want to spend another night in Anchorage on the way back toward Whittier/Seward. The drive from Healy to Seward is about 6 hours but can take extra time with traffic and the tunnel. If you stay in Girdwood for Whittier cruises that is an hour less and certainly doable. Not 'exhausting'.

You don't even need a 4WD for the Denali Hwy. Restrictions on gravel roads are there so they don't have to come and get you. It was really more like decomposed granite than gravel. Check the road conditions as your dates near.


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Old Aug 6th, 2021, 05:09 PM
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We have rented an RV twice from Great Alaskan Holidays, the first time we went from Anchorage to Fairbanks and back. The second time we went from Iow and spent most of the time in Alaska in the Kenai. Enjoyable
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Old Aug 10th, 2021, 12:33 PM
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Thanks so much for the help so far.

After doing much more research, I still only have a vague plan in place, but would love to hear feedback and suggestion on my proposed route.Fly into Anchorage 1 night pick up rental car.

Drive to Denali 2 nights take bus tour

Drive Denali Hwy, maybe spend a night at a lodge along the way.

Drive Richardson Hwy to Valdez (how long and what to explore ?)

Valdez to Whittier for Glacier cruise (should we stay in Whittier overnight or longer?)

Whittier to Seward for wildlife cruise (how long in Seward?)

Seward to Homer, maybe a wildlife tour here? (how long to enjoy this area?)

Drive back to Anchorage and overnight before flying home.

Any thoughts on this plan? Things I should include or exclude? Any hints on how long in each are to do it justice?

Thanks again for the replies so far.

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Old Aug 11th, 2021, 06:43 AM
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I found that lodging in the Homer area was cheaper than other places on the Kenai Peninsula. We drove to Seward and visited Exit glacier as a day trip from our B&B on the hill above Homer. Depending on when your flight arrives in Anchorage, you could stay in Eagle River instead of downtown Anchorage. We really liked the MicroTel in Eagle River. If you are a Costco member, the cheapest gas prices in Anchorage are at the Costco on the east side of the city.
Spend a day or two in the Fairbanks area. We really enjoyed the University of Alaska-Fairbanks museum. Pioneer Park is also interesting with a small train that runs around it. Next to Pioneer park is a great salmon bake place. Our B&B in the North Pole area, was on the banks of the Cheena River.
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Old Aug 11th, 2021, 08:07 AM
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Another option we are considering is driving down to Haines from Fairbanks (of course we plan stopping overnight along the way) to see the bears at Chilkoot Lake before going to Valdez and then back to Anchorage.

It would look something like this. https://goo.gl/maps/Q4puGf3g9VQygBWL7

Can you take a rental car across the Canadian Border?
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Old Aug 11th, 2021, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by louky52 View Post
Another option we are considering is driving down to Haines from Fairbanks (of course we plan stopping overnight along the way) to see the bears at Chilkoot Lake before going to Valdez and then back to Anchorage.

It would look something like this. https://goo.gl/maps/Q4puGf3g9VQygBWL7

Can you take a rental car across the Canadian Border?
That's an awful lot of driving for 2-3 weeks. You'll need to check with the rental car company if they'll permit transiting Canada; of course the Canadians have only recently (2 days ago) allowed fully vaccinated US residents to enter Canada, but who knows what the case will be next year? As an aside I'd take Google's time estimates with some degree of caution. There can be construction delays, even congestion at times, on some of the stretches of highway you propose taking.

Just a personal view, but I don't find driving the Alcan between Beaver Creek (Tok, really) and the Haines Junction to be all that inspiring. Kluane Lake is scenic, and the road from the border down into Haines is very scenic, but you'd have to weigh the time requirement against other possible uses of those days. I haven't personally been to the improved bear viewing area along the river (but did have to skedaddle once when fishing on the lake above the viewing area when a couple of bears showed up.) I gather it can be fairly crowded at times. You might look at the benefit/cost numbers of extra car rental days (this year, they're very high, next year, who knows?) vs. something like a bear viewing trip over to Katmai or the Lake Clark area.
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