Alaska 2 week road trip

Old Jan 18th, 2022, 04:05 AM
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Alaska 2 week road trip

My husband and I want to fly into Alaska (not sure where in Alaska just yet) and do 2 weeks seeing the beautiful sites in August 2022. We’ve never been to Alaska and we welcome any advice or tips. Would it be best to go at the beginning of august or later in the month?
We want to see all the highlights as we probably will never get back there. We are in our mid 50’s and get around great. We love nature and just want to see all the beautiful scenery… glaciers, animals, mountains.
What would be the best place to fly into? Fairbanks or Anchorage? (We are coming from the Midwest). What are the absolute must not miss places & things? We have 2 weeks…. Thanks in advance!

Last edited by css1115; Jan 18th, 2022 at 04:29 AM.
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Old Jan 18th, 2022, 06:42 AM
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Welcome back to Fodor's! My first suggestion is to get a morning flight into Anchorage and not one that arrives after 11PM Alaska Time (many do). My DW and I arrived on a morning flight from Seattle and had our rental car within an hour of landing. Since they were out of the economy cars that we reserved, we got a Subaru Outback for the same price (4WD). We spent several hours in downtown Anchorage before heading to our first night lodging in Eagle Creek which was nicer than any of the budget lodging in downtown Anchorage. The next morning we gassed up at Fred Meyer in Eagle Creek and drove all the way to a nice B&B outside Fairbanks.
Be sure to reserve your seats on the bus trip into Denali NP. The road out to Eilson Visitor Center is closed to nearly all private vehicles except for campers.
In Fairbanks, be sure to visit the University of Alaska-Fairbanks museum. They even have some tiny dinosaur skeletons that originated in Alaska. North of Fairbanks, I did get to stand underneath the Alaska pipeline and get my picture taken.
South of Anchorage, we stayed at a nice B&B on the hill above Homer on the Kenai P. I hiked up to the toe of the Exit Glacier near Seward. Lodging in Seward is hard to come by because of all the cruise boat tourists.
We left Anchorage on a red eye flight. I took a nice sunset picture from the airport window at midnight before we got on our plane.
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Old Jan 18th, 2022, 06:54 AM
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I'm sure you will get plenty of good ideas!

We took a driving trip in Alaska at the end of August last year. Ours was by no means an original itinerary, but we had a great time. We found that timing worked well for us - and we happened to get an unexpected showing of the Northern Lights. Here is a link to our trip report, in case there is any useful information: 9 highlights from 9 days in Alaska (late August 2021)

If you are interested in Denali, check the expected status of the Denali Road. Due to a rock slide late last season, the buses couldn't go all the way to the Eielson visitor center - only to about mile 42.

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Old Jan 18th, 2022, 07:42 AM
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With two weeks you're going to have to make some tough choices, and of course this is assuming things are back to "normal" (whatever the hell that means) relative to Covid restrictions.

First, you're going to have to accept that you can't see it all, because (a) things are very spread out, (b) some things are seasonal, e.g. many bear viewing excursions have limited windows, (c) weather happens; for example fewer than half the visitors to Denali actually see the mountain because of persistent clouds) and (d) tourist facilities - hotels etc. - are very limited in some areasm and things like rental cars can be very expensive (as in eye-watering some times.)

So you need to set some priorities and live with the choices. As has been mentioned, conditions within Denali National Park, which many people view as a key site for wildlife viewing, are likely going to be sub-par this year owing to road closures. So that might have the effect of limiting potential road trip routes to other parts of the road system, e.g. south from Anchorage rather than north.

If it was me (and it's definitely NOT) I'd be tempted to take a "less is more" approach to a visit this year, and limit myself to just a couple of areas, with a flight between them.

If it was me I'd fly to Anchorage, get a car, and spend a week or so driving around the Cook Inlet country - down to the Kenai Peninsula, a cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park from Seward, a glacier cruise on Prince William Sound from Whittier, MAYBE s drive down as far as Homer, then back to town and fly south, to the Southeast Alaska "panhandle."

I'd spend a day in Juneau, then fly to Sitka for several days. Sitka would be my pick of towns for several reasons. First, it's in a drop-dead gorgeous setting, surrounded by water and islands, with a (hopefully) dormant volcano dominating the skyline. Second, it's historic, with a rich Native American and Russian colonial past. Third, it's got some terrific wildlife resources right in town, the Alaska Raptor Center and the Fortress of the Bear, both worthy conservation organizations aimed at protecting Alaska wildlife. Fourth, Sitka is skipped by most of the major cruise lines (its harbor is too limiting for the mega ships) so it's less impacted by thousands of daily cruise tourists. And fifth, there are many, many excursions available from Sitka - whale and bear viewing, fishing, hikes through rainforest or up mountains, birding... more than enough to satisfy almost any agenda. You can rent a car in Sitka if you want, or you can rely on taxis to get around - it's relatively compact and you're on an island, of course. But you wouldn't need to break camp and move around day-to-day, so there would be more time for seeing things than driving to them.

Of course this is all personal preferences, but IMO with just two weeks it might be enough to whet your appetite. I'd strongly discourage thinking this visit to Alaska might be one-and-done. It's awfully addictive.
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Old Jan 18th, 2022, 08:35 AM
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I've been to Alaska more than 20 times and I would follow Gardyloo's advice exactly. The Denali area is wonderful but is huge and time consuming for sometimes little return. As others have mentioned, the mountain is often hidden by weather and of my 3 visits there, twice the animals have been few and far between. With the road closures, it may even be more limited. Between the Kenai Peninsula and Sitka island, you will have a fine introduction to the last frontier.
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Old Jan 18th, 2022, 10:32 AM
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While planning, you'll want to keep in mind that the road system is very limited, unlike the continental U.S. Hence Gardyloo's suggestion about catching a flight from Anchorage to Juneau and the panhandle. This needn't handicap your plans, just that you will want to think of using Alaska Airways for hops here and there.

We've been a couple of times, but never an extended land-only trip. Previously we had just flown into Anchorage for time before a cruise to go to Denali for a few days or just down to Seward and the area. So we had a detailed plan for our 40th wedding anniversary that included flying into Anchorage, and then flights to Nome, Juneau, Sitka, Kotzebue, a stay at Glacier Bay Nat'l Park, etc. (renting a car in some of the places). Unfortunately, we had to cancel that due to Covid given that it would have been in July 2020. But it's still on our bucket list. Personally, Sitka and Nome are high on my wish list.

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