Alaska trip rough Itinerary for Sep 2017

Old Mar 24th, 2017, 07:11 AM
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Alaska trip rough Itinerary for Sep 2017

Hi there,

Both me and my wife planned trip to Alaska at the beginning of September.
We have booked our flights, so the plan is on and I am on to planning phase now and came up with rough itinerary below. This is our first trip to Alaska and would appreciate all of your inputs to make itinerary an enjoyable one.
We are flying into Anchorage on Sep 1st night 10 PM and flying out of Anchorage on Sep 10th 12:45 AM. So we have from Sep 2nd till Sep 9th to explore, which is 8 days.

This is the rough itinerary I came up with and would be happy to tweak it based on the inputs:
Sep 1st: Land in Anchorage PM and stay overnight in Anchorage.
Sep 2nd: Explore very little around Anchorage and drive to Seward. Night stay in Seward.
Sep 3rd: Take Kenai Fjords 8 hour cruise. 8AM tour. Explore around Seward after cruise. Night stay in Seward.
Sep 4th : Drive to Whittier in the morning and take Prince William Sound 26 Glacier cruise. After cruise, explore that area and night stay somewhere between Whittier and Anchorage.
Sep 5th: Drive to Talkeetna. Do some activities in the area like white water rafting/glacier hike.
Sep 6th: Drive to Denali national park, explore the area and visitor center. Night stay at Healy or somewhere close to park.
Sep 7th: Take Denali park 8 hour bus tour and night stay at Healy over night.
Hopefully either on Sep 6th and 7th nights we can experience Northern lights weather permitting.
Sep 8th: Morning drive towards Anchorage and take diversion on to Glen Highway. Night stay at Sheep mountain lodge on Glen highway in Sutton.
Sep 9th: Drive on Glen Highway more and get photo opportunities at leisure pace. Start to Anchorage and get to airport by 9 PM.
Our initial plan was to go to Fairbanks instead of Glen Highway but going to Fairbanks meant longer drive back on single day to Anchorage airport for departure.

Our interests include glacier hikes, hiking with park guides in Denali park, photo opportunities landscape, cruise we are taking at Seward and Whittier, if we can plan any scenic trip on Alaska rail road that would be cool.

Looking forward for opinions. Feel free to suggest activities that could be planned out each day based on the itinerary.
Happy travels...
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Old Mar 24th, 2017, 09:28 AM
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Just a few of things:

For the bus tour through Denali: Pack your own lunch. The food they give you is something that got rejected at a 1950s school cafeteria.

I was extremely unimpressed with Fairbanks, so don't feel bad about skipping it.

This is kind of touristy/hokey but we had a lot of laughs at the Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theater near Denali. It's not your usual dinner theater.
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Old Mar 24th, 2017, 09:41 AM
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On September 5 you could do the activities around Talkeetna and then go to spend the night in the Healey area.
My glacier hike was to the toe of the Exit Glacier not far from Seward.
I would encourage you to go to Fairbanks. We left Fairbanks after church and went to Delta Junction and south on the Richardson Highway to the Glenn Highway and spent the night in Palmer.
It is good that you found a good place in Sutton.
The University of Alaska - Fairbanks has a good museum which includes skeletons of small dinosaurs found in Alaska.
If you click on my profile you can read my trip report.
My profile picture is of me standing under the Alaska Pipeline north of Fairbanks.
Between Sutton and Palmer you can stop to see the Musk Ox farm.
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Old Mar 24th, 2017, 09:55 AM
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Hi John. This is a travel forum. The US is a great place for natural attractions. Start your own thread and ask your questions about what you might want to see. Don't include your phone number.
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Old Mar 24th, 2017, 10:00 AM
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Some personal views...

If you haven't already booked a car, consider booking through one of the local companies that allow their vehicles on unpaved roads (the majors don't.) For example, Midnight Sun - http://ineedacarrental.com/ - has SUVs that go for around the same price as the national companies; there are others you can google.

If you got a vehicle through one of those outfits, you could enhance your trip significantly (IMO) by using the Denali Hwy (SR 8) which runs between the Parks Hwy and the Richardson Highway through wildly beautiful and remote-feeling country. It's gravel for much of the distance but well-maintained in the summer (closed in the winter) and you'd be there when the tundra is in full fall color, blueberries for the picking (watch out for you-know-who,) snow on the tops of the mountains... fab.

The Richardson Hwy between Glennallen and Valdez is one of the most (if not THE most) beautiful highways in Alaska, maybe North America, especially near Thompson Pass and the Worthington glacier, on the way to Valdez.

So if it was me, I'd consider something like the following:

1-Sep Arrive Anchorage
2-Sep Anchorage to Glennallen via Matanuska Glacier
3-Sep Day along Richardson Hwy - Worthington Glacier, Thompson Pass
4-Sep To Denali Park via Denali Hwy
5-Sep Denali Park
6-Sep To Girdwood
7-Sep Glacier cruise, to Seward
8-Sep Kenai Fjords, overnight Seward
9-Sep To Anchorage, fly

Notice I'm reversing your plan. I'd suggest that because Labor Day weekend in Seward is likely to be jammed with cruise passengers and weekend trippers from Anchorage. Late August and early September is still smack in the middle of silver salmon fishing season in Seward, and the Seward Hwy is likely to be crammed full of RVs and elephants on parade both going and coming over the long weekend. By comparison, the Glenn Hwy toward Glennallen is likely to be much less full of people (but far from empty.)

Notice I'm eliminating Talkeetna; in my opinion (others will disagree) Talkeetna during tourist season is a triumph of marketing over substance.

I would use Girdwood as my layover point between Denali and Seward. Girdwood has the very nice Alyeska Resort hotel and aerial gondola, but also some fun restaurants and cafes, plus it puts you very close to the Whittier tunnel so including the glacier cruise on your way to Seward is very easy.

Here's a map - https://goo.gl/maps/zdFJnXcKkMS2 . Give it some thought.
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Old Mar 24th, 2017, 07:37 PM
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Thanks Gardyloo for detailed inputs on itinerary and especially regarding car rental. They are offering SUV at the same price as bigger companies offering mid size car...

Thanks Tom for your valuable inputs as well..read your trip report..looks like you had amazing time...3400 miles in 10 days, are you sure that should have been hell of a ride with a 340 mile average per day.

Thanks Vincenzo for your inputs...appreciate that...
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Old Mar 27th, 2017, 10:12 AM
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Gardyloo,

Is it manageable to drive entire distance from Valdez to Denali park through Denali Hwy(8) in one single day? Or would you recommend to split it up?
I liked your idea of reversing the plan to beat crowds in Seward during long weekend holiday. I have heard the weather in September will change in a matter of days and heard it is ideal to get the Seward/Whittier cruise trips early on in the trip(i.e., early in Sep). This is just to avoid rough weather that might affect cruise experience later on around Sep 8&9. Is that true as well?
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Old Mar 27th, 2017, 12:47 PM
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It might technically be possible to do it in one day but I certainly wouldn't; there's too much scenery along the way and road conditions on the Denali Hwy can be unpredictable. I'd plan to spend the night in Glennallen or Copper Center.

Predicting weather in Alaska is a fool's game; but I don't think a couple of days one way or another is meaningful at that time of year. The rule of thumb is to start north and work south, and this is especially the case in the interior. Salt water moderates the temperatures year-round, so Seward is likely to be slower to change than the interior.
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Old Jun 10th, 2017, 05:05 PM
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Thanks for your valuable insights.
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Old Jun 11th, 2017, 02:50 AM
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We did a very similar trip up to Day 8 several years ago (it was prior to cruise) and it was a perfect amount of time in each place. We also struggled whether or not to make it up to Fairbanks and also decided against it. Still not sure it was right or wrong decision.

We did the 12 hour Denali bus thing. Way too much time on an old school bus and while it was scenic, I think 8 hours is fine.

You could also leave Anchorage earlier in the day for Seward - best Alaska travel quote I heard. "The best thing about Anchorage is that it is really close to Alaska"
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Old Jun 11th, 2017, 04:05 PM
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After the cruise at Whittier, we drove to Wasilla and stayed at the Lake Lucille B & B. It is very nice and gets you through Anchorage and a bit closer to Talkeetna. Yes, Talkeetna is a tourist trap, but we enjoyed stopping there for a few hours. On our last visit it was a beautiful day and the views of Denali were stunning. We ate at the Talkeetna Roadhouse. Lots of food for the price. Yummy desserts to take along.

While visiting Denali the 2nd time we stayed in Healy at the Denali Park Hotel. It's not a hotel - it's an older motel. It was very clean and the price was very reasonable. An easy drive into the park. It was much better than our first trip when we stayed at the Denali Bluffs Hotel.

We have taken the bus tour both times we were at Denali. We booked through the park, which uses old school buses. Both trips were great, but the 2nd time the weather was perfect. Can't plan for that. Have to take what you get. Both times we went to Eilsen & back. That was long enough for us in a bus. Both times we were there was in late August and the fall colors were gorgeous. You should see the same in early Sept.

On our last trip we went to Fairbanks. The drive from Denali to Fairbanks is very boring. We enjoyed the boat trip at Fairbanks, but again the weather was perfect. Didn't get to do other things we had planned as DD got sick.

On the morning we left Fairbanks we stopped at North Pole and then spent the day driving the Richardson Highway to Copper Center. It rained off and on all day, but was still a great drive. Lots of views of the pipeline. We spent the night at the Princess Lodge at Copper center. It is nice. Stopped at the Wrangle-St Elias visitor's center. It was very interesting. Too rainy to do anything more.

We left Cooper Center in the rain on the way back to Anchorage, but in a short while the rain stopped. What a spectacular drive. We were lucky to get to do some amazing drives and see such wonderful scenery during this trip to Alaska.
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Old Jun 13th, 2017, 11:04 AM
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Thank you Gail and mlm59 for sharing your valuable insights and experience. Appreciate your time.
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Old Jun 13th, 2017, 11:32 AM
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Gardyloo and others,

I have heard from others to avoid Denali Hwy 8 during 1st week of September I am travelling as it is the hunting season in Denali.
I would like to drive this route mainly to see landscapes for photography and not much to view wild life. Pretty sure wild life would be almost nil due to hunting going on.

One more question that I have is with regards to Northern Lights:
If I decide to drive on Denali Hwy, we are going to skip Fairbanks.
We plan to stay around Healy to explore Denali park, is Healy an option to view Northern lights?
Given that Fairbanks is the northern most place to visit in my plans, thought that was the best option to view northern lights. If I get to see Northern lights from Healy then I would skip Fairbanks.
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Old Jun 13th, 2017, 12:01 PM
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Re Denali Highway: There are various open dates for hunting in the area; Sept. 1 is the opening for moose. You'll be okay, just try not to look like a moose. Here are the ADFG rules for the area: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/r...pdfs/gmu13.pdf

Northern lights: It doesn't matter if you're in Denali, Healy or near Fairbanks. You need three things: Dark enough skies (including little light pollution from city lights), aurora activity (can be iffy) and of course clear skies. In September it ought to be dark enough late at night, but the other two items are hard to predict. Luck helps.
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Old Jun 13th, 2017, 12:55 PM
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Thanks Gardyloo.
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Old Sep 20th, 2017, 01:57 PM
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Thanks everyone on this thread for inputs especially Gardyloo.
We just finished our trip to Alaska and it is one of the most memorable trips for us so far. I will put together a trip report in coming few weeks.
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