Itinerary for Trip to Alaska - Summer 2009

Old Feb 21st, 2009, 08:44 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 229
Itinerary for Trip to Alaska - Summer 2009

Alaska – Cruise on Sapphire Princess

Date Location Timing Activity
Fri. Fly to Vancouver
Sat. Vancouver Check in 1pm (Check in noon-3pm, after 1 pm quickest)
Sun. Inside Passage Scenic Viewing
Mon. Ketchikan 6:30 am-2 pm Island Wings Flightseeing Tour of Misty Fjords
Tues. Juneau 8 am – 9 pm Orca Whalewatching Tour & Mendenhall Glacier, (Mt. Roberts Tram?)
Wed. Skagway 7am-8:30 pm Dyea Dave Tour to Emerald Lake
Thurs. Glacier Bay 6 am-3pm Scenic Viewing
Fri. College Fjord 5:30-8:30 pm Scenic Viewing
Sat. Whittier Disembark

Alaska – Independent 8 Day Land Tour (Anchorage > Denali > Girdwood > Kenai > Anchorage)

Day Hotel Activity Level General Description
Sat Anchorage +++++ Disembark, PWS boat tour and train to Anchorage, pick up rental car
Sun Healy ++++ Drive from Anchorage to Denali with lunch break in Talkeetna
Mon Healy ++++ Exploring Denali national park via shuttle bus to Fish Creek
Tues Girdwood +++ Morning in Denali area, drive from Healy to Girdwood in the afternoon
Wed Cooper Landing +++ Morning and lunch at Girdwood. Drive to Cooper Landing by mid-afternoon
Thurs Cooper Landing +++++ Drive to Homer and back? or explore closer to “home”
Fri Cooper Landing +++ Drive to Seward late morning, lunch, Sea Life Center, etc.
Sat Anchorage +++ Drive back to Anchorage.
Sun. none ++++ Fly home

Day 1 – Saturday: Whittier to Anchorage (90 miles)
• Disembark from cruise ship.
• Take Prince William Sound Wilderness Explorer Glacier Cruise 11 am – 5 pm.
• Take Glacier Discovery train from Whittier to Anchorage, 6:45 – 9:15 pm.
• Pick up rental car and drive to Embassy Suites hotel.
> Overnight at Embassy Suites in Anchorage.

Day 2 - Sunday: Anchorage to Denali National Park (115 + 153 miles)
Part A: Plan 2.5 hours driving time to Talkeetna, not including stops.
• Drive the Glenn Highway northbound, connecting to the Parks Highway in Wasilla.
Tip: Buy groceries in Anchorage or Wasilla.
Have lunch in Talkeetna which can offer one of the best views of Mt McKinley.
Part B: Plan 3 hours driving time, not including stops.
• Drive through the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Denali State Park toward Denali NP.
• Visit Denali Park Visitor Center, eat dinner in this area, possible dusk drive 15 miles to see wildlife.
> Overnight in Healy at the Denali Lakeview Inn, just north of the Denali Park entrance.

Day 3 - Monday: Denali National Park (see photos of this park) (see maps of the park)
Plan on a 6-8 hour bus tour into Denali National Park.
Take 6:30 am shuttle bus into the park to Eielson Visitor Center (mile 66). Bring a lunch, water, etc.
Return to Healy and take it easy.
> Overnight in Healy at the Denali Lakeview Inn.

Day 4 - Tuesday: Healy to Girdwood (300 miles)
Plan 6+ hrs driving time, not including stops.
Spend a couple more hours in Denali area, especially if Mt. Whitney “is out.”
Go to the Denali NP Visitor Center if didn’t go before.
Head back to Anchorage and then drive another half hour to Girdwood.
Stop for lunch and at some of the scenic viewpoints between Anchorage and Girdwood.
Tip: Most of the scenic viewpoints are on the right side of road, so better to stop when driving
south than when going north (back to Anchorage).
> Overnight in Girdwood at Hotel Alyeska.

Day 5 – Wednesday: Girdwood to Cooper Landing (66 miles)
Plan 1.5 hours drive from Girdwood to Cooper Landing.
See a bit of the Girdwood area before going to Cooper Landing. Take Tram? Stop at Girdwood Bake Shop?
• Visit Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (map) – free entrance included with PWS cruise.
Take it easy in the afternoon. Could also try one of these options later in the afternoon or perhaps another day.
• Kenai National Wildlife Visitor Center in nearby Soldotna for maps & updates on wildlife.
Tip: Drive along Skilak Loop Road between Cooper Landing and Sterling and perhaps see wildlife.
> Overnight in Cooper Landing at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge.

Day 6 - Thursday: Possible Day Trip to Homer (120 miles, 2.5-3 hours driving each way?)
Option A (long day): Drive to Homer (boat trip to Halibut Cove w/art galleries; Pratt Museum, dinner, etc.)
Option B: Spend the day relaxing and/or exploring this part of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. Raft float trip?
> Overnight in Cooper Landing at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge.

Day 7 - Friday: Rest Day with Outing to Seward
Drive to Seward (60 minutes), lunch, Exit Glacier, Sea Life Center, boat tour Kenai Fjords National Park, etc.
> Overnight in Cooper Landing at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge.

Day 8: Saturday: Explore Kenai and Head to Anchorage (106 miles)
Check out by 10 am. Drive back to Anchorage with possible stops along the way.
Afternoon and evening to tour (Native Alaska Heritage Center, Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, etc.), rest, pack.
> Overnight in Anchorage area at Highland Glen Lodge.

Day 9: Sunday: Fly Home
Breakfast 7 am at Highland Glen Lodge. Fly home from Anchorage.
Sapphire is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2009, 08:53 PM
  #2  
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 229
I am posting this itinerary just in case it is helpful to anyone else planning a land tour before or after a cruise, cruising for places to stay and things to do, etc.

The folks on this forum and on Cruise Critics have been very helpful as have several guidebooks and websites.

If I were able to tweak something on this itinerary, it would be to spend less time staying at Cooper Landing (Kenai Princess Hotel) and add another day or two so that we could stay overnight in Homer for 2 nights. For a multitude of reasons, we (the 3 couples traveling together) are choosing to stay at one place for 3 nights to conserve energy for touring, etc. We will be playing it by ear as to whether to take a very long day trip to Homer from Cooper Landing. And if we don't, it will give us all the more reason to take another trip to Alaska!

Cheers.

P.S. I have a microsoft word version of this itinerary with links to various websites, if anyone is interested.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 04:12 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 25,223
From Denali to Girdwood is a long ride without stops. If you're up early you might have a late lunch in Anchorage. The Moose's Tooth is convenient to the Seward Hwy when heading south - great pizza. Not sure of places otherwise between Anchorage and Girdwood. If your stomachs are growling before you get to Anchorage, you could stop in Wasilla but ones we tried were average. I would recommend visiting Independence Mine and making it to Anchorage by supper time since your next day is pretty open.
We have not been to Halibut Cove but I highly recommend the Pratt Museum. Don't miss the Skyline drive that overlooks the town/spit but the view is also spectacular as you approach Homer. There's a pull-out area with great views. You'll find out that each town has its own personality and Homer is unique. On your way there's food and shopping in Soldotna but then nothing much until you get to Homer (about 1 1/2 hours between Soldotna and Homer). Nothing much still means lots of scenery but you might be surprised by how many miles there are between gas stations.
dfrostnh is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 05:51 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 4,469
Only my opinion, but I definately would not be staying at Cooper Landing for 3 nights, unless avid into fishing every day. "Conserving energy for touring" is going to be eaten up with boredom and excessive transits for getting anywhere. By far, there is way more to do in Homer and it definately is never a day trip in my opinion.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2009, 10:06 AM
  #5  
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 229
We are going to take another look at our itinerary and see if we can spend one of those nights in Homer. I know that two would be ideal, but that's not an option this time around.

I have just been checking availability in Homer for one of these nights - probably Friday night before we drive back to Anchorage on Saturday for an overnight before flying home. I gather that traffic heading south from Anchorage will be heavy on the weekend. Will it be OK going north from Homer on a Saturday?

We could drive from Girdwood to Anchorage on Wednesday instead but I think it would be too hard on some of our travel companions to have so many days in a row with a lot of time in the car (or shuttle bus in Denali). Thank you for your helpful input!
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Old Mar 1st, 2009, 06:28 AM
  #6  
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 229
We found a way to tweak our itinerary so that we will be spending 2 nights in Homer and only 1 night in Cooper Landing. I appreciate the helpful comments we've received here and on Cruise Critics.

I am going to repost our itinerary with URLs to various websites in case these are helpful to others planning a trip to Alaska. If you have any suggestions for what we may want to add or cut - especially in Girdwood, Seward,and Homer - we welcome your input. Thanks!

Cruise on Sapphire Princess

7/10 Fri. - Fly to Vancouver

7/11 Sat. – Vancouver – board ship

7/12 Sun.

7/13 Mon. – Ketchikan (6:30 am-2 pm) – Island Wings Flightseeing Tour of Misty Fjords
Websites:
Island Wings (http://www.islandwings.com/sfs.html#misty)
Misty Fjords Monument & Wilderness (http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/u...a/ak_misty.htm)

7/14 Tues. – Juneau (8 am – 9 pm) - Orca Whalewatching Tour and Mendenhall Glacier
Websites:
Orca Whalewatching (http://www.orcaenterprises.com/)
Mendenhall Glacier (http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/u...k/ice_ton1.htm)
Mt. Roberts Tram? (http://www.goldbelttours.com/travel/...neau/tram.html)

7/15 Wed. – Skagway (7am-8:30 pm) – Dyea Dave Tour up to Emerald Lake and back
Websites:
Dyea Dave (http://www.******************/index.html )
Emerald Lake photo by Murray (http://explorenorth.com/library/road..._lake-pan.html)
Link to Murray’s website showing more photos (http://explorenorth.com/library/road...e-photos1.html)

7/16 Thurs. - Glacier Bay (6 am-3pm) - Scenic Viewing

7/17 Fri. - College Fjord (5:30-8:30 pm) - Scenic Viewing

7/18 Sat. - Whittier - Disembark

Independent 8 Day Land Tour (Anchorage to Denali to Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage)

7/18 Sat. – Whittier to Anchorage – Prince William Sound boat tour, Train to Anchorage
Prince William Sound Wilderness Explorer Glacier Cruise 11 am – 5 pm.
Glacier Discovery train from Whittier to Anchorage, 6:45 – 9:15 pm.
Spend night at Embassy Suites hotel in Anchorage
Websites:
Prince William Sound Glacier Cruises (http://www.princewilliamsound.com/579.cfm)
Glacier Discovery Train (http://www.akrr.com/arrc1037.html)

7/19 Sun. –Anchorage to Denali (Healy) – Scenic Drive
Drive the Glenn Highway northbound, connecting with Parks Highway in Wasilla.
Have lunch in Talkeetna? (can offer a good view of Mt. McKinley
Drive through Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Denali State Park to Denali NP.
Visit Denali Visitor Center, eat dinner, possible dusk drive (15 miles into park) to see wildlife.
Spend night at Denali Lakeview Inn in Healy.
Website:
Denali National Park Visitor Center (http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisi...r-dvc-page.htm)

7/20 Mon. – Denali – Tour Denali National Park
Take 6:30 am shuttle bus into the park to Eielson Visitor Center (mile 66). Bring a lunch, water, etc.
Return to Healy, have dinner (and take it easy.
Spend night at Denali Lakeview Inn in Healy.
Websites:
Maps of Denali National Park (http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/maps.htm)
Ron Niebrugge’s website with photos of Denali http://www.wildnatureimages.com/Dena...ional_Park.htm

7/21 Tues. – Denali to Girdwood – Scenic Drive
Spend a couple more hours in Denali area, especially if Mt. Whitney “is out.”
Go to the Denali NP Visitor Center if didn’t go before. Consider detour to Independence Mine on the way south.
Head back to Anchorage and then drive another half hour to Girdwood. Get lunch somewhere along the way.
Stop at scenic viewpoints between Anchorage and Girdwood.
Spend night at Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood.
Website:
Turnagain Arm Scenes (http://www.alaskascenes.com/turnagain.html)

7/22 Wed. – Girdwood to Cooper Landing via Seward
Decide whether to take the tram or visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Drive to Seward (about 2.5 hours?). Eat late lunch in Seward, visit Sea Life Center and Exit Glacier.
Drive to Cooper Landing (45-60 minutes).
Spend night at Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge.
Websites:
Girdwood Tram http://alaska.org/girdwood/ride-mt-alyeskas-tram.jsp
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center http://www.awcc.org/home.html
Seward http://www.sewardak.org/visit.htm
Sea Life Center http://www.alaskasealife.org/
Exit Glacier http://www.nps.gov/kefj/planyourvisit/exit-glacier.htm

7/23 Thurs. – Drive to Homer
Explore Cooper Landing area in the morning, perhaps driving along Skilak Loop Road?
Drive to Homer (2.5-3 hours), stopping by the Kenai National Wildlife Visitor Center in Soldotna for maps & updates on wildlife.
Spend night at Alaska Beach House.
Websites:
Homer http://homeralaska.com/

7/24 Fri. – Full Day in Homer
Explore Homer area: walking, around driving scenic roads, and possibly taking a boat trip.
Tour options include Pratt Museum and boat trip to Halibut Cove.
Spend night at Alaska Beach House B&B.
Websites:
Boat trip to Halibut Cove http://homeralaska.com/Stories/halibut-cove.shtml
Pratt Museum http://www.prattmuseum.org/kachemak/index.html

7/25 Sat. – Drive North to Anchorage
Drive from Homer to Anchorage with a couple stops along the way (4-5 hours).
Pick one or two things to see in Anchorage, such as the Native Alaska Heritage Center.
Spend night at Highland Glen Lodge.
Websites:
Anchorage http://www.anchorage.net/
Native Alaska Center http://www.alaskanative.net/

7/25 Sat. – Fly Away Home
Breakfast 7 am at Highland Glen Lodge. Return Rental Car. Board plane for (2) flights back to Philly.

Two websites with great photos of Kenai and Denali:

Janet Zinn: Landscapes http://www.jczinn.com/North%20Americ...s/naindex.html
Birds on the Kenai http://www.jczinn.com/North%20Americ...s/naindex.html

David Hoffman: http://www.davidhoffmann.com/001/ind...nchor_name_top
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Old Mar 1st, 2009, 06:42 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 651
Maybe I missed something here but just wondering why you are not exploring the Kenai when you arrive in Whittier rather then first going to Denali? Seems like a lot of extra drivng to me.
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Old Mar 1st, 2009, 08:56 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,597
I absolutely agree with Barb - it would be better to tour the Kenai Peninsula BEFORE heading to Denali when you're already in Whittier. However, I assume you're trying to avoid the one way car rental charge of $250 through Avis?

Your itinerary is much better with the nights in Homer rather than Cooper Landing. I spent two nights at the Kenai Princess and even though we were there for fishing, we were bored early into the stay. We really enjoyed Homer and regret we can't make it there during our two trips to Alaska this year.

We are staying at the Denali Lakeview Inn in June so will post a trip report including it when we return.
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Old Mar 1st, 2009, 09:21 AM
  #9  
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Posts: 229
We are heading to Anchorage first because of needing to pick up a large enough vehicle for 3 couples (and luggage) in Anchorage and because our group wanted to see Denali first. I had originally planned it as you are both suggesting, but the transportation wasn't working out as we had hoped.

We originally booked 3 nights at Cooper Landing because of the 2 for 1 pricing and because it seemed that we might be driving 3 couples around in a minivan. But we now have the option to use an extra long Ford Expedition or a large passenger van, and the Alaska Beach House was within our budget. I really wanted to go to Homer so I am very happy that this worked out for us.

Hope you enjoy your stay at the Denali Lakeview Inn. We are very happy to have been able to get 3 rooms there!

Any suggestions for what are "must dos" in Homer?
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