Southcentral to Southeast Itineraries

Into the Wilderness: Experiencing Wrangell–St. Elias, 9 days

This itinerary is a great way to see an impressive amount of Southcentral, but it needs to be well planned and executed with relative precision, as much of this trip is dependent upon the departure times for trains and ferries. One mistake and your itinerary can change dramatically—which doesn’t mean a ruined vacation, just not the one you’d planned on.

Day 1: Anchorage

For this trip, you'll overnight in Anchorage and catch the train out early the next morning. Make the most of your time here by booking a room at the Hotel Captain Cook. Put on your hiking shoes and grab the Flattop Mountain Shuttle. This popular trailhead is at the edge of the city, where the Chugach Mountain Range begins. The hour-long hike to the top can be strenuous. From the summit you can see the entire city of Anchorage, the bay, and, on a clear day, you can see the Alaska Mountain Range and even Denali. Should you opt to explore only the easier portion of the trail, you won't be denied excellent views. If you still have energy after Flattop, explore the Powerline Trail; it's the left-hand path at the trailhead. These trails are used year-round for hiking in the summer and snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling in the winter. You'll understand why Anchoragites refer to their city as a great base camp.

After an afternoon of hiking in Anchorage’s backyard, Glacier Brewhouse is a nice option for dinner.

Day 2: Seward

(4-hour train ride from Anchorage)

The train ride to Seward offers stunning views that motorists miss. Once here, get situated at Hotel Edgewater.

Seward is renowned for its tremendous sea kayaking. Book a day trip with Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking. The experienced guides here can take you past pods of orcas, sea otters, and groups of seals. Afterward, dine at the locals' favorite hangout, Seward Brewing Company for some excellent pub grub and locally brewed libations.

Day 3: Valdez

(3-hour bus ride from Seward; 6-hour ferry trip from Whittier)

Book an early-morning bus to Whittier. Connect immediately with the ferry for a six-hour trip to Valdez. Know that as the weather gets colder, ferries run less frequently, so be sure to plan ahead.

Arrange a room in Valdez's Mountain Sky Hotel and Suites and rent a car with Valdez U Drive; be sure to request an SUV or a high-clearance vehicle for the drive to McCarthy, just outside of Wrangell–St. Elias National Park. If you arrived late and want to linger in Valdez, spend the next day with H2O guides on a day trip to Worthington Glacier State Park. Dine at MacMurray’s Alaska Halibut House, and be sure to try the fresh catch.

Days 4–7: Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve

(5-hour drive from Valdez)

You’ve got some driving to do and one of the most gorgeous mountains in the state to see, so you’ll want to get an early start. On the road, take care to fill the gas tank at every opportunity; gas stations here are few and far between. Summer is the only time that road construction can get done, so be prepared for delays.

Arrange your accommodations with Kennicott Glacier Lodge. After you've arrived, and if you've still got some energy, the lodge can help you book a tour of the mining ghost towns of Kennicott and McCarthy to explore the abandoned mines. The menu at the lodge is terrific, but there is also fine dining and a good-time saloon a few miles down the road at the McCarthy Lodge.

In the days to follow, get out and enjoy the park. Contact Wrangell Outfitters for a horseback-riding adventure into the heart of the preserve. The front desk at the lodge can also arrange glacier trekking, flightseeing, rafting, and alpine hiking. And the kitchen will pack you a picnic lunch.

Day 8: Whittier and Anchorage Connections

(6 hours by ferry from Valdez to Whittier; 2-hour train ride from Whittier to Anchorage)

It’s another early-morning departure. Take your car back and catch the 7 am ferry to Whittier. There are snacks available on the ferry, but once you get to Whittier, try the halibut fish-and-chips at Varly’s Swiftwater Seafood Cafe. You’ll only have a couple of hours to spare before you catch the train to Anchorage, but Whittier is small and easy to explore.

Once you’re in Anchorage, if you’re flying out the next day, book your stay at the Lakefront Anchorage Hotel, near the airport and right on the shore of Lake Spenard. Take a cab to Club Paris—it's a blast from the past and serves the best steak in the state. If you have the energy, catch a live theater show at Cyrano’s Playhouse or live music at Tap Root.

Day 9: Head Home

Say goodbye to Alaska and head for home.

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