Alaska is not only enormous but incredibly beautiful as well. It is so big that you can go there every year and discover new corners with every visit. The activity list of Alaska is endless. From winter skiing to summer fishing and everything in-between you are sure to have your mind blown away. You can visit Alaska any time of the year but expect a whole different experience with each different season. Planning it can be a nightmare, that is why we have taken the liberty of planning a 10-day itinerary for you.
Alaska Highway – This, not just any other highway, also known as the Alcan Highway, travelling on the Alcan highway is like an excursion through paradise. The road is long accompanied by beautiful scenery, it runs from Dawson Creek in Canada through the Yukon Territory all the way to the Delta Junction. The road was built in 1942 by the allied forces for military purposes, as the road was built during world war two it was built quickly in just eight months.
The road proved to be very useful after the war as it easily connects the Yukon Territory and southern Alaska to the rest of the world. The road is popular with artists looking for inspiration and photographers looking for the perfect shot.
Day 2, 3 and 4
Denali National Park – Visit the Denali national park in the north where you will find the highest mountain in the United States. McKinley mountain is more than 6,000 metres high and is formerly known as Denali mountain. The park itself stretches more than six million acres filled with beautiful scenery, the vastness of the park is such that one would need the whole year to explore it all. The park changes each season to a differently fascinating version.
The park is well known around the world for its fascinating scenery and wildlife so when you come here you can only expect the best. The park is open for visitors all year round offering different activities with different levels of difficulty to accommodate everyone from children to the agile youths not leaving out the older generation of explorers. The activities range from adrenaline-filled zip-lining over the tall trees to easy fishing in the calm river.
The park receives most of its visitors in the summer when it’s easier to get around in buses as the ice in the winter makes it difficult for the buses to travel, but all the more and never the less fun in winter as the terrain becomes more challenging making the winter visitors be mostly agile.
The park only has one road which the bus uses as its route in touring but you can only see so much from the road, to fully appreciate this fascinating land you will have to get off the bus and go hiking, hiking trails were established long back but you can be more daring and hike off-trail. Pack a lot of picnic food as you will have your lunch lost somewhere in the park.
Head to one of the six camping grounds the park has to offer, where you spend your night will depend on where you are when night falls but all the campgrounds are pretty great. If you are clever enough to visit the park in fall you will be in for a treat, wake up very early at dawn and witness the Northern Lights. You will need to check the aurora forecast as the Northern Lights are shy to come out to play at times.
There is no better feeling in the world than gazing at the green Aurora Borealis in a dark sky framed by trees with the cool breeze pouncing on your face. The Northern lights can also be seen during Spring and Winter but I will advise you to visit the park during spring or fall as winter are so cold here that you might not be able to brave the cold to go out and see the Northern lights.
The park is home to more than 160 bird species which will look good in any picture with the beautiful scenery as the background, it is also home to some of the biggest animals in the United States like Grizzly Bears. After spending two nights in the wilderness exploring and appreciating its beauty make a reservation with the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.
Here you can sleep your last night in the park just about a mile from the park’s exit. The lodge overlooks some great features like the Nenana river among others. Its restaurant serves the best testing dishes which you will very much enjoy after spending two nights in the wild.
If you are young or still feel your body is in great shape for adventure, then you can visit the park in winter as it magically transforms into this beautiful landscape covered in a white blanket.
Day 5 and 6
Seward – this is arguably the highlight of Alaska located on the head of Resurrection Bay. Get face to face with the Holgate Glacier which usually seems smaller in pictures but is actually very huge up-close. If you are lucky you will see glacier calving, which many of us usually see on the TV, this is when chunks of ice break off from the glacier.
Seward is home to the busiest harbour in Alaska. Here you will be met by different boats of different shapes and sizes. The ships include fishing boats, cruise liners, US Coast Guard and the US Navy. You can also see jellyfish swimming in the waters but you should have a sharp eye as they are pretty difficult to see.
Visit the Seward Community Library and Museum, where you will find all the history of the area and its surrounding. The museum has on display many artefacts and films depicting the area as it was during prehistoric times, and the not so distant history. The museum also has detailed information about the 1964 Tsunami. Local residents are documented as they narrate the ordeal of the Tsunami. The area has a children’s area where the young explorers can play and learn all the historic facts.
Have an experience of a lifetime at Miller’s landing, secluded from the rest of the bay, this private homestead is a must-see. Here you will find a lot of activities to indulge in like fishing and camping among others. The best way to enjoy your stay here is by renting a Kayak and taking it into the water for some fishing. In addition to fishing, you will be able to see some marine wildlife like otters and sea lions.
Kayaking is not the only activity available on the water, there are other water sports like stand-up paddleboarding, the sport is unknown in many parts of the world but is slowly gaining popularity in Alaska’s waters. Stand-up paddleboarding gives you a higher viewing point on the water compared to boating and kayaking, this has a huge advantage of giving one a wider field of view which also stretches further than one can see on a boat. There are lessons to get you acquainted with the sport as it is relatively new.
Whether you are an amateur or a professional fisher you can participate in the Seward Silver Salmon Derby which begins on the second weekend of August. The derby is the oldest in Alaska having begun in 1956. You are sure to meet fishers from all walks of life on the Eagle river all looking for the biggest catch. If you know your way around fishing you can walk away with a fat bank account but as a tourist, you will just catch what you can to participate in the fun and continue with your excursion.
Go for some horseback riding which is more fun than hiking on foot, you will find some of the friendliest horses in Seward which you can easily connect with for the smoothest ride of your life. On horseback, you can reach the most hostile terrain which you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach be it on foot or by jeep.
You will have the chance to come close to the rarities of the wild like the nests of bald eagles, or even better get a chance to watch them feed their hatchlings. Worry not for your safety as the rangers are very experienced and protective gear like helmets and more is provided.
Kenai Fjords National Park – the park encloses most of the coastline of the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage. Go on a 7.5-hour cruise tour where you will see glaciers and the whales as they effortlessly tear the waters to feel the breeze of the outside air. The cruise is luxurious with a restaurant on-board to keep your taste buds entertained while you search for the fascinating wonders.
The temperatures on the waters can be pretty hostile which is why the cruise ship has heaters to keep you warm all the way. Be sure to bring your camera with you as you are sure to meet a lot of marine birds, dolphins and otters among other animals. The park rangers will keep you informed on everything you need during the tour as well as tell fascinating stories about the history of the park and other animals.
There are a lot of cruise options to choose from. You can even choose to go on a jet boat to see all the beauty travelling at a speed best understood by the young and the young at heart. This tour only takes six passengers and this allows the tour guide to give the desired attention to each and every one of them.
Tracy Arm Fjord – Be ready to travel on the narrow waterways surrounded by sharp cliffy near Juneau. The Tracy Arm Fjord is so big stretching 27 miles filled with wonders of nature. Its inlet can be so narrow that people afraid of enclosed spaces feel uncomfortable while its cliffs rise to about a hundred metres into the sky.
During summer, from the cruise, you can see a lot of wildlife like bears, seals, whales and eagles but what you are sure to see are the beautiful waterfalls all year round. It is a great idea to bring along your camera to capture the moments from the cruise or even a pair of binoculars to see some wonders which might be at an inconveniencing distance.
Day 9 and 10
Wrangell-St. Elias – By now you should have gotten used to the Alaska factor, it is a phenomenon where you cover a lot of ground but when you look on the map you find out you just covered very little ground, that’s Alaska for you, one will need the whole year to cover every inch of it without taking a single break. The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and the reserve are one of those places where you can experience the Alaska factor.
This park is the largest in the United States featuring some of the tallest mountain peaks in America. You could easily fly over the landscape to see it all in a short space of time, this is great as you minimise the energy you use and remain comfortable during the whole journey, but if you do that you sacrifice the experience of actually being on the ground feeling the different texture of plants you meet and experiencing the all the different natural smells of the park.
The park is home to the second largest peak in the United States in the form of St. Elias mountain standing at about 5,500 metres. St. Elias is not the only high peak in this park there are a lot more, more than you would expect to find in one enclosure. The names of the mountains can be easily forgotten as they are a lot to grasp when you have a lot of other things to be excited about, the mountain peaks include Blackburn, Sanford, Drum and Wrangell. Wrangell sits on the northern interior while Chugach sits in the southern coast and Saint Elias rises from the Gulf of Alaska higher than the rest, Nutzotin and Mentasta form the northern boundary of the park.
The mountains are all volcanic with the latest eruption recorded at the beginning of the 20th century in 1900. Today all the mountains are snow-capped cloaked with icefields and glaciers, the biggest glacier to see is the Malaspina Glacier which flows out of the St. Elias range between Icy and Yakutat bays, the glacier is so large that it can easily cover the Rhode Island. Some trees manage to grow to maturity in the glacier silt. Out of the glacier flows many rivers of which the biggest is the Copper River. The river drainage is a great habitat for a lot of marine animals like sea lions and harbour seals.
The park is home to some old abandoned mines where copper used to be mined, the mines were at their peak during the period from 1911 to 1938 managed by the Kennecott Mining Co., gold was also mined in the area in the mines of Nabesna. You can explore the ruins left by previous mining activity in the Kennecott mines. If you studied Geography you will understand the relationship between wildlife and plant life. The park has sparse vegetation featuring shrubs and grasses among others. Though not so rich in plant life the park has a lot of wildlife in the form of dall sheep and dears among others.