Itinerary Help

Old Jan 6th, 2024, 06:37 PM
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Itinerary Help

Wife and I are planning our first trip to Alaska. Between covid and other trips it has been rescheduled several times. We are in our early 70ís so this maybe our only trip to Alaska. We are looking to late August/early September 2025. Trip duration of 14-18 days. Would like to include an inland passage cruise and Lindblad National Geographic is a very attractive option for us. Either starting in Sitka to Juneau or the reverse. 8 day-7 night cruise

We would like to include 2-3 nights in Denali. Intrigued with maybe spending a couple nights in Fairbanks to try and capture the aurora borealis. With this in mind thinking Denali/Fairbanks need to be toward end of trip to enhance chance of seeing northern lights.

With this as framework what I need help with best way of navigating traveling from cruise end (either sitka or Juneau) to Denali, to Fairbanks and back to States. Assume Anchorage will be a hub for most of this travel . I think I would prefer to have a rental car from Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks so we can stop along the way.

Look forward to your help and suggestions to add some meat to the bones of this plan.
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Old Jan 7th, 2024, 07:31 AM
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The first thing to know is that the only road that penetrates the interior of Denali National Park is closed a bit short of the halfway point due to landslide and erosion issues. The forecast is that it won't be reopened past Mile 43 (the closure point) until mid-2026, if then. There are still sights to see on the part of the road that IS open (visited by bus, not private cars) but you might want to do some research to see if 2 or 3 nights there is the best option for you.

You can fly from Juneau nonstop to Anchorage several times per day; if you're coming from Sitka you'd just add a short flight from Sitka to Juneau to connect.

Of course, seeing the aurora is always a gamble, requiring dark and clear skies, as well as enough solar activity to make them likely. If your plan is to get a car in Anchorage and drive one way to Fairbanks via Denali, be mindful that one-way car rentals in Alaska tend to be eye-watering expensive. It would undoubtedly be cheaper to fly from Anchorage to Fairbanks, get a car there and travel south to Denali before returning to Fairbanks for aurora viewing, if that ends up being your plan.

You have tons of time to research your options; I'd suggest using it and keep an open mind as to alternatives.
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Old Jan 8th, 2024, 06:44 AM
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Note that there is a new moon is on September 2, 2024. If you can time the part of your trip where you hope to see the aurora around that date, then at least you'll have dark skies in your favor. Good luck.
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Old Jan 9th, 2024, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Nelson
Note that there is a new moon is on September 2, 2024. If you can time the part of your trip where you hope to see the aurora around that date, then at least you'll have dark skies in your favor. Good luck.
OP's planned trip is in 2025.
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Old Jan 9th, 2024, 08:03 AM
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Thanks Gardyloo, my mistake. In that case the new moon dates are Aug 22 and Sep 21. The latter would of course have more darkness.
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Old Jan 9th, 2024, 10:19 AM
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Assume Anchorage will be a hub for most of this travel
It wouldn't have to be. There's a Delta nonstop Fairbanks/Minneapolis which would work well for a lot of the country, that runs through the first week of September. United also runs a nonstop Chicago to Fairbanks that runs through the third week of September.

The panhandle of Alaska is most easily reached from Seattle, coming from the lower 48.
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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 12:52 AM
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I also was going to mention the possibility of Fairbanks as a departure or arrival airport.

Get a copy of The Milepost. Even an old one on eBay.
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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 07:58 AM
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As far as Denali, private cars can usually drive up into Mile 15 (Savage River) when snow conditions allow. Check the NPS Park website for updated information and links for bus tickets beyond Savage River. Aramark is the vendor for reservations.
Tickets for the following year go on sale Dec 1, I would imagine the same for 2025.

There are viewpoints of Denali from the George Parks Highway. The Mile Post and the Alaska.org website can tell you where to stop, but if it's a clear day you will also see the traffic jams. Often it can be seen from Anchorage and Fairbanks.

https://www.alaska.org/advice/denali...-the-great-one

BTW if you are up for driving a short way on a gravel road (and have rented from the appropriate company) the Denali Highway (Hwy 8) east of Cantwell offers spectacular views of the Alaska Range. Other than a very average dinner, I enjoyed our stay at the McLaren River Lodge (about 90 miles east of Cantwell, new cabins). You could spend a night there, or do a day trip. But with time and two drivers another option is continuing to Paxson and then the Richardson Highway and Glenn back to Anchorage. (or the reverse directions from Anchorage to Fairbanks which probably works better for you).
https://www.alaska.org/guide/denali-...b8374&id=42056
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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 12:17 PM
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Thanks everyone. Our current thought is that our cruise is last week of august and then the land portion is the first week/10 days of Sept. This puts us in Fairbanks at close to full moon. We could flip trip and do land tour first which puts us in fairbanks close to new moon. We could look at starting our trip a week/10 days later. How open are attractions/ etc from middle of september on. Dont want to base everything on "chance" to see northern lights.
Have read that many photographer like to see northern lights with full moon.
Lodging ideas in Fairbanks?
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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 03:25 PM
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https://www.alaska.org/advice/alaska-in-september
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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 08:48 PM
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Daylight:

Anchorage and Fairbanks are in the wrong time zone. The sun rises and sets an hour later than expected. For Anchorage @fall solstice: Itís pitch black at 7am, getting light by 8am, daylight till about 8pm, not dark till after 8:30pm. Mid-August would not get dark till much later, probably after 10pm.

Looking for the aurora favors the early riser, in Alaska.

In 2023, in the last week of September Denali was visible from Anchorage every day.
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