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anchorage trip: Kenai Peninsula and Denali too much in one week?

anchorage trip: Kenai Peninsula and Denali too much in one week?

Old Dec 21st, 2004, 02:17 PM
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anchorage trip: Kenai Peninsula and Denali too much in one week?

May be going with a friend to Anchorage in early August for approx. one week. I was thinking that excluding the two days for travel, I'm left with five full days for touring - don't think this is enough time to explore both of these areas properly. Therefore, I was thinking my best bet may be to check out Anchorage, and then head down to Seward for a few days, taking one of the long glacier cruises. Also, trying to decide whether to take the railroad ( great views I've heard ) or to drive, allowing more stops and flexibility. Before heading back to Anchorage, I could spend a few days in Homer......any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated, including suggested stops on the way back from Seward to Anchorage, hotel and restaurant ideas, etc.
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 02:45 PM
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We did both Kenai and Denali (and like you are considering, opted out of the train because a car gives you much more flexibility--the roads (especially if you are from the East Coast) are amazingly nice!)

Your question prompted me to take out my itinerary and gave me fond memories of a wonderful trip.

here is what we did:

Left a hotel in Girdwood (outside Anchorage) and went to Whittier, took a glacier boat tour, then drove to Seward (which is 85 miles); spent the night in Seward; took a Kenai trip the next day; then drove to Homer which is 4 hours (remember it stays light late and I remember is was a beautiful drive); spent the next day exploring Homer (Homer is very funky); late that afternoon we drove to Anchorage which took four hours; the next day we drove to Denali and spent two days there and then drove from Denali to the Anchorage airport and flew to Seattle. At Denali, we took a Park Service bus into the Park--if you go to Denali you will find alot of advice on this site on how to best take advantage of the Park.

Reading this it sounds like a ton of driving, but it was so beautiful and there were interesting places to stop that we didn't mind (and, believe me, I live in D.C.--my idea of a car trip is to go to Baltimore!)

Hope this helps. It is such a spectacular place that you can't go wrong.

Let me know if you have specific questions.

Mary
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Old Dec 22nd, 2004, 04:32 AM
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We haven't been to Denali but loved Seward and Homer. To go to Whittier involves going thru an incredible engineering feat of a tunnel that is open to one way traffic at different times during the day. It used to be a secret military base. The history is fascinating but we didn't care for the town. If you are on limited time, I would skip it.
The drive from Anchorage to Seward pretty much follows the railroad tracks. If you are on the road during high tide, you will want to stop and look for whales. In early August, salmon were running up Bird Creek which crosses under the hwy. We spent time here watching the fishing and asking questions. The scenery is spectacular. The tram up Mt Alyeska provides an additional dramatic views plus there will probably be some snow at the top. We did not stop at Big Game Alaska but later read and heard good reports on it. It is a wildlife rehabilitation center now. There's not many choices of restaurants and hotels along the way to Seward. Then from Seward to Homer the halfway point would be about the Soldotna area. This area has a lot of stores, restaurants and hotel choices. You could make a detour to the tiny town of Hope. It gives you an idea of what Alaska used to look like and what areas were populated before the Seward highway was built. There's a small museum and a good restaurant on the outskirts. From Soldotna to Homer there aren't many places to stop. The land is flatter here but you will have an occasional view of the volcanos across the bay. We had to find the little seafood place, Ninilchik maybe, to compare Alaska clams with New England's. As you approach Homer, the scenery becomes breath-taking again. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you might want to hear Hobo Jim sing. We opted for a dinner show in Soldotna but he also plays at bars in Soldotna, Homer and Seward. The food was pretty good, the saloon "girls" a little silly, but I thought he was terrific. He is considered Alaska's balladeer. In Homer we had a good lunch at Cups. In Kenai, there's a tiny take-out place across from the visitor's center called Ski-Mos. Good fried halibut and onion rings and peanut butter shakes.
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Old Dec 28th, 2004, 02:52 PM
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Just wanted to chime in a little tiny bit in response to this topic.

I went to Alaska in April of 2003, and when I got to Anchorage, I diiiiiiiidn't reeeeeeeeeeeeally sense that the appeal to the area was to be found IN the city itself.

It is a city of 250,000 or so, and yet, at least in early April, it played like a much smaller metropolis.

I stayed at the Hilton there and it was quite splendid, but it didn't really require much time to see a whole lot of what was around town.

My trip to Seward was one of the most impressive, surprising little side trips that I've ever stumbled into. I just chose Seward rather randomly while looking at maps, and the trip there (125 miles, was it?) afforded great contrast in water and mountain views.

Upon arrival in Seward itself I was positively stunned at the snow-capped peaks across the water, and the photographs were amazing. (partly due to the time of year, and the snow still being significant)

Someone suggested the Alaska Sealife Museum (I don't know the name of it, for sure) that is in Seward. I went there just because of the suggestion and it too was a wealth of education.

Given the timing of my response to your posting, I can't leave without mentioning prominent signs all over Seward which warn "in the event of earthquake, move to higher ground!"

In summary, I say "less time in Anchorage, and more time out exploring Alaska's natural wonders".

P.S. - I drove there, and would say that the scenery from Anchorage to Glenallen or Gulkana is quite impressive in many areas. Mountains are everywhere like you wouldn't believe.

There is a great post card "Alaska from outer space", which shows a whole state full of mountains!
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Old Dec 28th, 2004, 08:47 PM
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This is all a matter of your personal pace. If you don't mind an up-tempo vacation (some of my best have been that way) then go for it.

With five days to play with, I'd suggest something like this if you want to pack in the max.

Travel day -- Depending on when you arrive, hike the Knowles trail in Anchorage or just get a dinner in the city.

First full day -- Head out early to Talkeetna (if you're coming from the Central or Eastern time zone, it'll be easy to get an early start. Easy day. If you're ambitious, add a flightseeing trip out of Talkeetna.

Second day -- Bus into Denali and pay the price with a evening drive back to a soft bed Anchorage. Long day.

Third day -- Meander to Seward, stopping whenever it feels good. Take the tram at Alyeska if the weather's clear. Stop at Exit Glacier. Eat at Ray's in Seward.

Fourth day -- Take the longest Kenai Fjords trip available. Drive to Cooper Landing and stay at the Princess.

Day Five drive to Homer and overnight.

Travel out day -- Book an afternoon or evening flight (there are always plenty of red-eyes) and drive back from Homer.

For a less taxing trip, eliminate the Homer leg. In that case, spend a second night in Denali and add Hatcher Pass on your way south.

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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 02:46 PM
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It depends on your goals. If you want to sample Denali, Seward, and Anchorage, your plan is doable. But your plan is also hurried, and may not give you the time to enjoy Alaska's unexpected pleasures, like watching a moose by the side of the road, or spending time with locals you might meet along the way.

I'm a big believer in "less is more." In your case, I might just concentrate on Anchorage, Seward and Homer and forget Denali. While Denali has great wildlife viewing and mountain views, you'll also need to drive alot of miles (beautiful though they are) to get there, then put up with crowds at the entrance to Denali.

What about going to Seward, taking the full-day cruise into Kenai Fjords NP as you suggest (rather than the shorter half-day or two-hour cruise into Resurrection Bay which doesn't get close enough to the glaciers), then driving to Homer. Spend your first night in Homer, then a night or two in a wilderness lodge across the Bay. That will give you an opportunity to get the feel for Alaska's wilderness without having to rough it.

If this is of interest, let me know and I can direct you to a URL listing some good Homer wilderness lodges running from cheap to expensive.

Two years ago, my cousins came up for a week and visited all the places you are talking about. The wilderness lodge across from Homer was far and away the most memorable part of their trip--for what it's worth.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 05:28 PM
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Alaska Bob, what is the name of the wilderness lodge across from Homer to which you refer?
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Old Jan 6th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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to alaskabob: Your plan sounds good, a lot easier and relaxed! I'll take whatever info. you have available.

thanks
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