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Kathy450 Sep 15th, 2017 05:01 PM

Need tips for 14 day alaska trip Please help!
My husband and I are planning a 14 day Alaska vacation from July2-15 2018. I am planning the trip by myself and would appreciate any advice on itinerary, tours, attractions, restaurants and any others tips that will help our vacation run smoothly and see the best of Alaska. We are in our 60's but very active.
Day 1-Fly to Juneau arrive around 3:30-4:00 Rest of day?? Any advice?
Day 2-3 Juneau- Possible Mendeuhall Glacier/ whale tour or other tour
Skagway train trip if time permits, or ice cave tour
Day4- fly to Anchorage and rent car- arrive around 9:30
Day 5 Anchorage
Day 6- Drive (early start) to Denali -possible raft adventure, or dog sled tour
Day7- Denali- Park tour
Day8- Talkeetna-zip line tour or wilderness boat tour-spend the night
Day9- Drive to Seward-Exit Glacier park ranger tour
Day10-Seward- possible Kenai Fjord tour
Day 11-Seward-Sealife center, drive to Homer
Day12- Homer- activity advice???
Day 14- return late to Anchorage, return car at airport and late flight home
We could also add a tour in Whittier and drive to portage instead of Homer. We do want to see wildlife,whales,glaciers and would love to see salmon swimming up stream.

Gardyloo Sep 16th, 2017 05:14 AM

Have you already bought your plane tickets?

I think 2 days in Juneau will leave you unsatisfied. How would you plan to get to Skagway to ride the train? It's an expensive flight or 6+ hours on the ferry from Juneau. Plus, frankly, in July Skagway is incredibly congested - it's a town of 800 or so residents that most days hosts 3 or 4 cruise ships, each with 2000 - 3000 passengers and 700+ crew; do the math.

Personally, I'd take the savings in plane fare you'd see by flying straight to Anchorage instead of stopping over in Southeast Alaska and use it to extend your itinerary in the Southcentral and Interior parts of the state.

For example, you could turn your drive into a marvelous "loop" something like this: . This would involve driving from Anchorage to Denali NP, then north to Fairbanks and south on the Richardson Highway to Valdez (the last 100 miles of which get my vote for most scenic highway in North America) then taking the ferry across Prince William Sound to Whittier, then down to Seward and back to Anchorage. The cost of the car and two passengers is around $250, so much less than the additional cost of running around SE Alaska.

Where are you coming from? One thing I'd counsel is to pay attention to jetlag; Anchorage is 4 hours earlier from the east coast, and in early July daylight lasts until very late at night (and it really doesn't get dark at all) so be mindful of driving in twilight when you're less sharp than you might be.

An itinerary that includes Kenai Fjords, a glacier cruise out of Whittier, and Denali National Park will give you as good a shot of seeing whales and wildlife as you can get. As for salmon, this depends on where you are and when. With your timing you might see some red salmon or early pink salmon in Valdez or in the little village of Hope, off the Seward - Anchorage road, but in general early July is a bit before the big runs. It's very place-dependent.

Since you have plenty of time to plan, I'd also suggest you look into a major alternative, one that would put you in a real minority of visitors who venture off the road system.

Look at flying from Anchorage to Nome, the historic gold mining town on the Bering Sea. The round trip airfare is fairly reasonable, hotels and food are similarly priced to the rest of the state, but the experience is special. You can rent a vehicle in Nome and explore the three roads that extend from the town into the interior of the Seward Peninsula, where there's lots of wildlife (muskoxen, caribou or reindeer, moose, bears, lots of birds) an terrific scenery - tundra, fabulous mountains, interesting relics of mining going back 100+ years - - and really experience the Alaska bush. Look here:

Personally I'm not especially keen on the touristy activities like the ziplines or dogsled rides; I'd just encourage you to extend your interests to include opportunities to learn about Native life or the human side of things. Alaska is a lot more than moose and mountains.

tomfuller Sep 16th, 2017 08:13 PM

Good advice from Gardyloo. If you are arriving in Anchorage in the morning, spend a few hours walking around and then drive out to Eagle River or maybe Wasilla to get a good head start on the trip to Denali.
DW and I got a good deal on the Microtel in Eagle River.
The Fred Meyer in Eagle River has gas pumps. There aren't many gas pumps once you get past Wasilla.
I walked up to the toe of Exit Glacier but I didn't see any ranger led hikes.
If you decide you want a full day in Anchorage, do it on the last day before you head for the airport to turn in the car.

Kathy450 Sep 17th, 2017 05:31 AM

Thank you both for your wonderful suggestions. We had thought of visiting Fairbanks but didn't know that there was enough to see and do there for the extra trip. After seeing Gardyloo marvelous loop idea, I think I will revisit Fairbanks as a possibility. It sounds like the scenery would be great to see on this drive. Are there any stops along the drive from Fairbanks to Seward that would be interesting to include? How are the roads for traveling? How much time do you think I need to allow for the drive from Fairbanks to Seward? You never mentioned if you thought Homer would be worth the extra time?
I will also check into the possibility of Nome.
I think that I agree with Tom about only using one day in Anchorage. We don't have much interest in big cities.

Gardyloo Sep 17th, 2017 07:11 AM

An alternative to Fairbanks is to drive from the Denali area across the Denali Hwy (AK Hwy 8) to the Richardson Hwy near Paxson. This is a lovely but quite slow road through some very empty country that can cut a couple hundred miles off the loop.

The issue with the Denali Hwy however is that it's mostly a gravel road, and the major car rental companies don't permit their vehicles on gravel roads. However there are a few locally-owned car rental companies in Alaska that DO allow their vehicles on these roads, so if that appeals, you might consider booking a car through one of them. Look at GoNorth for example - You also need to be sure that any rental vehicle, whether or not you're using gravel roads, is approved for taking on the ferry.

You could also do an abbreviated loop like this - - which just extends an hour or two past Glennallen to Thompson Pass and Worthington Glacier (spectacular) then returning to Anchorage via the Glenn Highway, possibly with a stop at the Matanuska Glacier en route. You could do this with any vehicle as it avoids both gravel roads and the ferry.

Kathy450 Sep 17th, 2017 10:30 AM

I was also wondering how you know on what days the ferry will be traveling to whittier from Valdez. I looked at the schedule and it did not offer any times for 2018 and 2017 only showed 2 days a week that were not always the same days. This makes it hard to book hotels ahead during a busy time in Alaska.

Kathy450 Sep 17th, 2017 10:38 AM

Just saw your second post about abbreviated loop. This will probably work better for us in avoiding gravel roads and ferry schedules. Thank you so much for all your very helpful advice.

dfrostnh Sep 18th, 2017 12:58 AM

Although our trips to AK were long ago, when I saw the dates of your visit, I wanted to suggest you consider a 4th of July event and/or the Forest Fair in Alyeska that is around that time. We enjoyed the very large and fun parade in Kenai. The Forest Faire is food vendors, crafts fair and music and was my closest encounter with a bear. The area was "swept" ahead of time but a bear was attracted by the food smells. I saw the bushes move and people hollering "bear". It was fun talking with people, enjoyed the food and music, and buying some very nice handcrafted souveniers of our trip.

Our first trip north was via the Alaska Marine Ferry from Bellingham WA to Skagway where we got off for a couple of nights so we could take the famous train ride. I agree with Gardyloo's assessment of the crowds when the cruise ships were docked. It was quite different late in the day when the cruise passengers went back to their ships. The streets emptied. Unfortunately, it was very foggy for our train trip but the history of the area is fascinating. We then drove to the Wasilla area which included an overnight in Tok.

When you're not on gravel roads, the highways are well maintained and just like we have in the lower 48. Another time we visited Independence Mine on our way to Talkeetna. Beautiful place and interesting preservation of an old mining town. Amazing to think about living in such a remote place back in the day when there was active mining.

Although you aren't interested in big cities, I was fascinated by Lake Hood where instead of boat marines there are dozens and dozens of float planes. It gives you a better understanding of how important small planes are. Liked the farmers market, too, and buying books at Title Wave which had a great selection of books about Alaska.

Loved Homer. Each town seemed to have its own personality and lots of artists live in the Homer area (is Café Cups still there?) The Pratt Museum is very interesting.

In the past I have seen a website that lists approximate times when salmon are running in different spots. When we visited late June/early July we talked with net fisherman on a river in the Kenai/Soldotna area. They were hauling in lots since they had a special license. Toward the end of our trip they were running in the Russian River. On another trip the silvers were running at a spot crossed by the Seward Highway. Traffic gets heavy on the highway when fish are running someplace.

Hope you have a wonderful trip.

sunbum1944 Sep 19th, 2017 12:44 PM

We loved Homer.

We really enjoyed taking a boat to Halbut Cove and dinner at the Saltry. There are some art studios to visit after dinner.

The Saltry is set into the rocks with a big outdoor fireplace.

I think the name of the boat we took is the Danny J.

sunbum1944 Sep 19th, 2017 12:48 PM

Link to Halibut Cove

sunbum1944 Sep 19th, 2017 12:56 PM

If you want to have dinner at the Saltry, make reservations as far ahead as you can. Books up

Kathy450 Oct 5th, 2017 11:32 AM

Have been tweeting my itinerary and have to decide on traveling from Fairbanks to Valdez, spend the night then travel from Valdez to Gridwood OR travel from Fairbanks to Glennallen spend night and drive to glacier view for Ice fall Trek (MICA) then finish drive to Gridwood. Due to time limits have to decide on which one would be best choice.

Gardyloo Oct 5th, 2017 12:55 PM

I would do as I described above. Drive from Fairbanks to see Thompson Pass and Worthington Glacier, then double back (the same day) and spend the night in either Copper Center or Glennallen. Then drive back to Anchorage/Girdwood the next day, with a stop at Matanuska Glacier if you want.

Kathy450 Oct 7th, 2017 10:41 AM

Thank you for your advice Gardyloo. Just wasn't sure if time permitted us to drive all the way to Worthington Glacier then back to Glennallen in one day.

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