Alaska July 3 - July 16 Itinerary help

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Nov 28th, 2017, 07:46 PM
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Alaska July 3 - July 16 Itinerary help

We are a couple (ages 63 & 72), will be flying in to Anchorage from east coast, & rent a car. After many months of research I have come up with the itinerary as below. Our interests in Alaska are hikes (not too difficult, scenic drives, national parks, wildlife, would love to see salmon run, bears, local culture & local food. Please check it & suggest any changes, helpful tips etc. Thanks.
July 3 - Arrive Anchorage at 11:20 pm
July 4 - We will not have a car on this day. The car rentals in downtown will be closed due to July 4th holiday. Will do the flattop mountain hike.
July 5 - will pickup rental car at 7:30 am. drive to hatcher pass (1.5 hr). hike & explore this area. stay overnight at hatcher pass
July 6 - Scenic drive to Matanuska glacier ( 1 hr), take the 11:30 am ice fall trek with MICA guide, drive back to hatcher pass. stay overnight at hatcher pass
July 7 - Drive towards Talkeetna ( 2 hr). Do the Denali flightseeing tour, then drive to Denali NP (2.5 hr). Do the entrance activities, visitor center etc. Overnight at Healy. Is this too much for one day?
July 8 - shuttle bus to wonder lake. overnight Healy
July 9 - 2nd day shuttle bus to wonder lake. overnight Healy
July 10 - Drive to Girdwood ( 6 - 7 hr). Not sure how much extra time will be needed for many stops on scenic Seward highway. overnight Girdwood
July 11 - Winner Creek Trail Hand Tram hike, Byron Glacier Trail, Begich Boggs visitor center, AWCC. overnight Girdwood
July 12 - Drive to Whittier for 26 glacier tour. drive to Seward, overnight Seward
July 13 - Tonsina Point half day Kayaking tour, exit glacier. overnight Seward
July 14 - Major Marines Kenai Fjord 7.5 hr cruise. overnight seward
July 15 - Harding Icefield hike. overnight Seward
July 16 - Drive to Anchorage. Our flight back home is at midnight. Any suggestions on how to spend this last day?
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Nov 29th, 2017, 03:58 AM
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July 4th is big in Alaska. We have not been to the Anchorage festivities but here's some info http://anchoragejuly4thcelebration.com/
We enjoyed the 4th of July parade in Kenai. If you have a chance to go to a community breakfast or supper, I would do so.
When you go to Hatcher Pass, visit Independence Mine. The restored buildings have fascinating exhibits about what life was like in a remote mining town back then.
The Forest Fair is held in Girdwood around 4th of July. This is a combination of food vendors, crafters, artists, and music. I almost saw a bear, just heard people shouting and the bushes move. The bear was attracted by the food smells. It would also be your chance to try some local food. I thought the craft fair was an interesting mix of artists as well as Girl Scouts. It was fun talking to folks and also finding some great handmade souveniers of our trip.
There will be plenty of news when salmon start running in a particular place. In late June we walked a beach near Kenai and visited with some net fishermen. Later salmon started running in the Russian River which on your way to Kenai/Seward area.

Hence, I would reverse your itinerary if you want to include the Forest Fair.

I liked Homer a lot and it's not on your list. The overlook just before you get to town is beautiful. Great view of the Homer Spit. I know you didn't like visiting gift shops but as you travel around be on the lookout for shops with interesting stories behind them. The farmers markets are also fun to explore especially if you find some homemade treats. Not your average tourist activity.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 04:24 AM
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dfrostnh, You have suggested to reverse the itinerary, however Seward has a marathon every July 4th, which is a big event. I have planned my itinerary to avoid these crowds, and put Seward towards the end of our trip. I will look into your other suggestions. Thanks!
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Nov 29th, 2017, 05:23 AM
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It isn't a marathon in Seward, it's the Mount Marathon run, basically a hillclimb. Nevertheless, it draws many, many people to Seward, compounded by the several thousand cruise passengers arriving and departing through the town most days.

I think your plan is fine, if very ambitious. I personally wouldn't commit two back-to-back days with 12+ hour bus rides to the Wonder Lake Mosquito Festival, but that's your call.

Some random thoughts and rhetorical questions. What's your rainy-day plan, particularly during the Denali part of your trip? What if the mountain is socked in, as is frequently the case?

Don't know your budget, but again - *if it was me* - I'd think about swapping a couple of activities and maybe revising your plans slightly.

For example, you expressed an interest in seeing bears and salmon runs. Nowhere on your itinerary will that be likely, but you could swap the Talkeetna flightseeing (and frankly, ditch Talkeetna altogether) for a bear flight experience out of Anchorage. Rust's, a prominent floatplane operator out of Lake Hood in Anchorage, offers several bear viewing trips - http://www.flyrusts.com/bear-viewing/index.html - that you could take. Cut a day off your car rental and reduce your Denali days to one, and you might offset the higher flight costs.

Or regarding your interests in local culture, what about a short visit to a bush community. I sometimes recommend a "night" (it won't be) in Kotzebue, an Inupiat Eskimo village north of the arctic circle as a way to get a sense both of the scale and the diversity of the state. Round trip flights from Anchorage to Kotzebue cost around $330, but hotel costs are comparable, and you'll come back with memories of 24 hour sunshine, dipping a toe in the Arctic Ocean, learning about this extraordinary way of life...

The point being, trying to get off the road system is - in my mind - very important and extremely rewarding, worth the planning effort it might take.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 06:05 AM
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After riding the shuttle bus into Denali, you probably won't want to ride it the next day. We took the shuttle bus out as far as Eilson Visitor Center and back (8 hours total) in a school bus. You can buy the tickets in advance (Google it).
If Seward is too busy on your dates, try Homer for a night.
On the way to or from Homer, drive the Skilak road. It is dirt but you drive it at about 20-25MPH and you'll be fine. You have a fair chance of seeing some wildlife including a moose.
If you get the chance to visit Fairbanks, you might enjoy it more than Kotzebue.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 07:30 AM
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Smart move. The accommodations in Seward cost 2-3x regular summer rates during the Mount Marathon Race.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 09:43 AM
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I can't find the 2018 for the Forest Fair but it seems to be held the Friday thru weekend following the 4th if the 4th is during the week so I'm guessing in 2018 it will be July 6, 7 and 8. The Mount Marathon Run looks like it's always on July 4. You have already planned to be in Anchorage on the 4th. I don't know if Seward will still be crowded on the following weekend. You are very apt to see moose in the Kenai/Soldotna areas even near homes and we saw a lot of eagles in the Homer area. I loved the Pratt Museum in Homer.

DH had developed a problem with sea sickness but we lucked out simply choosing a good weather day to take the boat trip out of Seward. The ocean was very calm that day so we lucked out and boat wasn't very full either. We weren't paying attention to cruise ship schedules so we lucked out. We were in Skagway another trip the same time as cruise boats and it was extremely crowded.
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Dec 4th, 2017, 01:17 AM
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Thank you all for your input.
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Dec 11th, 2017, 04:55 PM
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My wife and I are your ages , we travelled to the region in August, 2017 with our children and new son in law. Can't wait to go back.

Couple quick thoughts

We took the bus in Denali to Eielson and hiked with the ranger from there. (Sign up limited so do so as soon as you get off the bus). Instead of getting back on the bus second day I would drive to Savage River trailhead and hike from there. Your Talketna day is overly ambitious as the visitor center in Denali may be closed bthe time you get there.
Don't miss the hike to Portage Glacier.
We had a similar flight to yours out of Anchorage, we stayed in Seward, went to the Aquarium (not to be missed) and drove to Anchorage in time to have dinner and get to the airport. Kenai Flords trip is superb. We kayaked in Whittier and I was glad we did not take the cruise also since two cruises is a little much.
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Dec 11th, 2017, 04:56 PM
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My wife and I are your ages , we travelled to the region in August, 2017 with our children and new son in law. Can't wait to go back.

Couple quick thoughts

We took the bus in Denali to Eielson and hiked with the ranger from there. (Sign up limited so do so as soon as you get off the bus). Instead of getting back on the bus second day I would drive to Savage River trailhead and hike from there. Your Talketna day is overly ambitious as the visitor center in Denali may be closed bthe time you get there.
Don't miss the hike to Portage Glacier.
We had a similar flight to yours out of Anchorage, we stayed in Seward, went to the Aquarium (not to be missed) and drove to Anchorage in time to have dinner and get to the airport. Kenai Flords trip is superb. We kayaked in Whittier and I was glad we did not take the cruise also since two cruises is a little much.
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