Driving Alaska

Old Dec 8th, 2016, 07:55 AM
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Driving Alaska

I plan to rent a car in Anchorage this July. Two trips/loops planned; One of the Kenai Penninsula (Whittier, Girdwood, Seward, Homer) and one north. Our first stop north is Denali, but we also want to do Hatcher Pass and Palmer. We can double back from Denali to Palmer; OR, drive up thru North Pole, down to Delta Junction, south to Glenallen, then on to Palmer. Is this loop worth the effort? That is, is the trip via Delta Junction scenic enough to justify the added hours? If yes, is there an intermediate point between Denali and Palmer that makes for a good stop?

Thanks.
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Old Dec 8th, 2016, 08:41 AM
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How much time do you have?

My personal view is that the big loop you've described isn't worth the extra time if your aim is just to visit Palmer and Hatcher Pass.

But, if you had plenty of time, you could travel from Fairbanks down the Richardson Hwy past Glennallen to Thompson Pass (on the way to Valdez) - it's one of the most beautiful rides in the state. You could also stop at the Matanuska Glacier on the Glenn Hwy before Palmer.

If you feel adventurous, consider a local rental company (like GoNorth - http://www.gonorth-alaska.com ) which will allow you to take their vehicles on gravel roads, which the majors don't. That way - if you wanted - you could take the Denali Highway (AK 8) from Cantwell (near Denali NP) to the Richardson at Paxson. This is a very remote and quite scenic road, e.g. (old photo) http://gardyloo.us/denalihwy1.jpg . Or you could return from Denali back down the Parks Hwy but access Hatcher Pass via the (part gravel) road from Willow (which was once going to be the location of a new state capital.)
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Old Dec 8th, 2016, 10:02 AM
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How many days do you have for the entire trip?
DW and I covered all of this highway in early June this year.
We landed in Anchorage in the morning and walked around Anchorage for a few hours and then checked in to the Microtel in Eagle River.
We stayed at a nice B&B near North Pole and then went back to Denali early the next day.
We got back to the B&B from Denali about 9:30PM but it was still daylight.
We went to church in Fairbanks and made it to our hotel in Palmer before 7PM.
It was a bit rainy on Monday but we went to the Musk Ox farm anyway before heading south to the Kenai.
The one long dirt road we drove with the Enterprise car was the Skilak road. As long as you go through a car wash and drive slowly on the dirt roads you can get away with it.
We also stayed at a B&B on the hill overlooking Homer.
Both B&B's were off at least a half mile of dirt road.
You can read my trip report if you like.
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Old Dec 9th, 2016, 12:54 PM
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I can't advise on the question, but I can tell you the other drives you mention are very worthwhile. I can also recommend the 26 Glacier cruise out of Whittier and the wildlife cruise out of Seward.

I understand much of the drive between Anchorage and Valdez is quite beautiful (as Gardyloo affirms). Some day I want to make that drive and take the ferry from Valdez to Whittier (or vice versa). Careful planning is necessary because the ferry doesn't depart daily.

HTtY
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Old Dec 10th, 2016, 06:07 AM
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Ii have allotted 2 weeks for the entire road trip. I did not plan on Valdez, but might add it in if time permits...
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Old Dec 10th, 2016, 04:07 PM
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Alaska is for hiking, rafting, camping, fishing--things I can no longer do but I had a good time any way.

Two weeks is good for what you want to do. Loved Hatcher Pass!

Halibut fishing out of Homer seems to be "the" thing to do these days. Have fun.

Our favorite hotel was Embassy Suites in Anchorage.

HTtY
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