The Best Alaska Itinerary for an Independent Road Trip
This Alaska Itinerary is your one-stop guide if you are planning a trip to Alaska! The Last Frontier State is huge, and it can be hard to find what exactly to see during your visit. But after more than 50 hours of intense research, distance calculations & prioritization, and have done this trip myself to test my itinerary, I am glad to share with you this Ultimate Alaska Itinerary!
I have been dreaming about visiting Alaska for many years now, and putting together the perfect Alaska itinerary is not an easy task.
Alaska is so big and vast, that it seems nearly impossible to find the perfect route. But with some research, calculations on your time and distance, and prioritization on what you want to visit in Alaska it is possible!
I had 11 days to explore, and this Alaska Itinerary is versatile and you can explore in as short as 5 days to up to 2 weeks (and even more if you are lucky). At the end of this post, you will find a whole section dedicated to Travel Planning Resources to Alaska with all the information you need to know – Also, I am providing Alaska itineraries for shorter and longer trips. Don’t miss it!
With this Alaska Itinerary, you will discover the history, see the breathtaking landscapes, enjoy the rich wildlife, explore stunning hiking trails, and drive the most scenic roads in the United States, and even in the world!
NOTE: I visited Alaska in September when it is considered the shoulder season. The pros are that you can get some discounts on hotels and excursions, fewer crowds, no bugs, fall colors, and northern lights viewing by mid-September. But on the negative side, most of the tours were not operating, many hiking trails were closed, and many businesses close for the season – including lodges and restaurants.
So, if you are dreaming about going to Alaska and wondering:
- What to see? Where to stay? What to eat?
- How many days should I spend in Alaska?
- How much a trip to Alaska cost?
- When is the best time to travel to Alaska?
- What is the best Alaska itinerary for me?
I get you, I had all these questions too and right now, I am here to share my knowledge and experience with you.
Hey…Just one last note before we jump in on this awesome Alaska Itinerary. My travel style is adventure and active. What does that mean? It means that I love the outdoors and keep moving as much as I can with long drives, hiking, and talking to locals to learn as much as I can.
So sit back and enjoy this incredible Alaska Itinerary and safe travels!
- The Best Alaska Itinerary for an Independent Road Trip
- 11-DAY ALASKA ITINERARY OVERVIEW
- ROAD TRIP IN ALASKA MAP
- BEST WAY TO GO ON A ROAD TRIP IN ALASKA
- STARTING YOUR ALASKA ROAD TRIP | ARRIVAL IN ANCHORAGE
- 11-DAY ULTIMATE ALASKA ITINERARY
- DAY 1 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exploring Anchorage and Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC)
- DAY 2 ALASKA ITINERARY: Ferry from Whittier to Valdez (option to drive)
- DAY 3 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exploring Valdez
- DAY 4 ALASKA ITINERARY: Drive from Valdez to Fairbanks (with a stop in North Pole)
- DAY 5 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exploring Fairbanks
- DAY 6 ALASKA ITINERARY: From Fairbanks to Denali then Talkeetna
- DAY 7 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exploring Talkeetna and drive to Seward
- DAY 8 ALASKA ITINERARY: Boat tour on Kenai Fjords National Park
- DAY 9 ALASKA ITINERARY: Hiking to the Harding Icefield
- DAY 10 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exit Glacier Hike & Explore Seward
- DAY 11 ALASKA ITINERARY: Returning RV (car) rental and fly home
- MORE ALASKA ITINERARY IDEAS
- ALASKA ITINERARY TRIP RESOURCES
DISCLAIMER: I do not support any activity that involves animals being used for tourism entertainment such as hunting and fishing. I follow the ethical tourism guidelines, and I DO NOT PROMOTE any activity that doesn’t fit the principles of Responsible Tourism. This DOES NOT APPLY to rehabilitation and conservation centers. To find out more about how to travel responsibly, please read this article.
11-DAY ALASKA ITINERARY OVERVIEW
|DAY ACTIVITY||OVERNIGHT LOCATION|
|DAY 1: Explore Anchorage and visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center||Anchorage|
|DAY 2: Ferry to Valdez (option to drive)||Valdez|
|DAY 3: Explore Valdez||Valdez|
|DAY 4: Drive from Valdez to Fairbanks and stop at the North Pole||Fairbanks|
|DAY 5: Explore Fairbanks & Chena Hot Springs||Fairbanks|
|DAY 6: Drive from Fairbanks to Denali and explore Denali National Park||Talkeetna|
|DAY 7: Explore Talkeetna | Flightseeing in Denali | Drive to Seward||Seward|
|DAY 8: Boat tour on Kenai Fjords National Park||Seward|
|DAY 9: Hike the Harding Icefield||Seward|
|DAY 10: Exit Glacier hike | Explore Seward town and marina||Seward|
|DAY 11: Drive from Seward to Anchorage | Departure||fly back home|
NOTE: My Alaska Itinerary covers 11-day of intense activities and it can easily be done in 15-20 days if you add more days in your favorite locations, as I am also providing additional information about the best things to do in each place! If you have less time to explore, I have prepared Alaska Itineraries for shorter trips too.
ROAD TRIP IN ALASKA MAP
** Click the icon at the top left of the map to see day by day route details **
BEST WAY TO GO ON A ROAD TRIP IN ALASKA
ROAD TRIP IN ALASKA WITH A RENTAL CAR
If you choose to visit Alaska on a road trip, be prepared for a lot of driving. But most of the roads are in great condition, but in some areas, you will likely encounter construction. But the driving is mostly on scenic roads, and you will be rewarded with incredible views.
You will need to decide on your Alaska itinerary and what time of year before you make a decision if renting a car and if a 4WD is necessary. If you are driving this Alaska Itinerary in the summer you can rent a 2WD. I recommend renting a 4WD if you are traveling in Alaska during wintertime.
I recommend booking your car way in advance, and you can quote below, to have access to cars from many major companies which are compared and displays the different car sizes and best prices.
If you choose any of the car rentals below, you can pick up your car at the Anchorage airport, which makes your life super easy.
ROAD TRIP IN ALASKA WITH AN RV RENTAL
I traveled in Alaska with an RV rental – since I found that this would be the best way to manage my logistics around Alaska during the time I visited. Note that at the end of September lodges and restaurants start to close for the season. Therefore, an RV made much more sense in my case.
If you are renting an RV in Alaska I recommend you have some prior experience, or you can review all you need to know about renting an RV for the first time. Also, if you are wondering how much it cost to rent an RV, you can check it here.
Also, I recommend renting your RV from a reliable source. I have rented RVs before and I highly recommend you renting either from Cruise America or RVShare
STARTING YOUR ALASKA ROAD TRIP | ARRIVAL IN ANCHORAGE
Most of the flights from the United States and Canada arrive at Anchorage Airport (ANC) and the busiest time is from 10 pm to 2 am, when most flights arrive from Seatle
If you arrive earlier, you can pick up your car at the airport and head to dinner (see recommendations for restaurants below) and head to your hotel (see recommendations for hotel below).
My flight arrived in ANC at 12:00 am, I got my luggage and took an Uber to my B&B. In the morning, I picked up my RV with Cruise America and went grocery shopping.
Anchorage is the best option to go shopping before your Alaska road trip. I recommend buying your groceries at Costco and Walmart, as the prices in big cities are comparable to the lower 48 states. When you shop in smaller towns you will notice the prices are higher.
11-DAY ULTIMATE ALASKA ITINERARY
DAY 1 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exploring Anchorage and Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC)
- DRIVING: Anchorage and AWCC
- Click here for accommodations in Anchorage
As soon as you start your driving south out of Anchorage on the Seward Highway (AK 1), you will already see the stunning mountain views. Stop at some of the viewpoints along the road to admire the views and take some great pictures.
You will see signs on the side of the right side of the road for Bird Creek. There is a nice parking lot and a very short walk with incredible views. I visited during fall and the foliage made the views even more special. You will see the views of the Turnagain Arm, with great opportunity for photos.
BELUGA POINT SIGHT
Continuing on Seward Highway, along the Cooke Inlet, and you will see signs for the Beluga Point View on the right side of the road. This is a great point to see Beluga whales and see the 180-degree views of the breathtaking Turnagain Arm. This is a great spot to visit at high tide when you have the highest chance of spotting the Belugas’ white heads popping out of the water.
If you walk along the shore, be very careful with the mudflats, as they can be more deadly than quicksand.
ALASKA WILDLIFE CONSERVATION CENTER (AWCC)
This is a must-visit during any Alaska Itinerary. At the AWCC their mission is to preserve Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, research, and education, and the animals here are treated with care.
You can buy your tickets directly at the entrance, for $17 (adult price), and here you can see moose, bears, porcupines, coyotes, wolves, wood bison, reindeers, and many other animals. This is a great opportunity to get to meet some of the most magnificent animals in Alaska. I ended up not seeing any other bears during my Alaska trip, so I appreciated the opportunity to visit the AWCC.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN ANCHORAGE
If you have more time to explore Anchorage, and if you are visiting during a season where these places are open, you can also add to your Anchorage itinerary:
- Hike Flattop Mountain: It’s easily accessible from downtown Anchorage by car or shuttle. The trail is short and steep but offers stunning views of Anchorage and the surrounding area
- Anchorage Museum: For $20 you can visit the museum and learn more about the land, culture and language of the Dena’ina people.
- Alaska Native Heritage Center: Visit this museum to learn more about the Alaska’s Indigenous people, explore their history and discover a cultural heritage still living and thriving today at the largest cultural institution in Alaska.
- Alaska Conservation Center + Turnagain Arm: You can take a break from driving and take advantage of this tour to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and the drive along the Turnagain Arm Waterway, to visit the Portage Valley and the Glaciers in the Valley
- Flightseeing: is one of the best ways to explore the mountains around Anchorage
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN ANCHORAGE
- Moose’s Tooth: A popular place in Anchorage to get great pizza
- Bear Tooth: the same company as Moose’s Tooth which also has a movie theater.
- Crow’s Nest: You can book a table for dinner and stunning views
BEST ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN ANCHORAGE
- CAMPING: Bird Creek Campground is a great option, with 27 campsites with toilets and water.
- BUDGET: The Lake Front Anchorage is located on the shore of the Lake Hood with amazing views and a 24-hour shottle service from the airport.
- MID-RANGE: Historic Anchorage Hotel is lodated in the hear of Anchorage city center, with fitness center, continental breakfast and free Wi-Fi
- BEST RATED: Higland Glen Lodget B&B is rated as a wonderful by the guests, has excellent location and includes a full English/ Irish breakfast
DAY 2 ALASKA ITINERARY: Ferry from Whittier to Valdez (option to drive)
- DRIVING: Anchorage to Whittier; Ferry to Valdez
- Click here for accommodations in Valdez
DRIVE THE TURNAGAIN ARM
On my way from Anchorage to Whittier to catch my ferry, I drove the Turnagain Arm / Seward Highway, with amazing views and great pull-off areas for parking and pictures.
While driving the Seward Highway alongside the Cooke Inlet I saw 2 Beluga whales. I parked my RV to watch them when I saw a whole Beluga family together which was so unexpected and absolutely incredible.
The day before, it was low tide which is when the mudflats appear and it can be very dangerous if you step on it because it is just like quicksand and you can get stuck. But when it is high tide watch for Belugas here. There is a family of Belugas that live around this area, therefore, keep an eye here for Belugas!
MORE THINGS TO DO IN TURNAGAIN ARM
If you have more time to explore Turnagain Arm Region, you can also add the following to your Alaska itinerary:
- Portage Lake: From Anchorage head down the Sweard Hgw. go around 40 miles to visit the lake
- Portage Glacier Tour: A short boat tour to see Portage Glacier, an easily accessible glacier.
- Byron Glacier & Byron Glacier Trail: The glacier descends from the same ice field that feeds both Portage Glacier on the lake and Blackstone Glacier in Prince William Sound.
TAKE A FERRY FROM WHITTIER TO VALDEZ
The reason I have decided to take the ferry from Whittier to Valdez instead of driving it is that it gave me the opportunity to see some wildlife, as the Prince William Sound is one of the best places in Alaska to observe wildlife such as sea otters, Dall porpoises, seals, sea lions, humpback and Orcas whales. I saw many Orca whales and it was a fantastic opportunity!
The ferry takes about 6 hours – about the same time as driving. If you choose to take the ferry, it offers comfortable seating inside, with great windows for views, another seating area if you want to take a nap. It has a kitchen that offers food to buy, or you can bring your own food. The ferry also has bathrooms with a shower and a deck view on top.
My ferry departed from Whittier at 12:30 pm and arrived in Valdez at 6:15 pm.
NOTE: The ferries do not run every day, check here for the full schedule. you need to make your reservations online in advance to guarantee your spot. The ferry runs every other day in summer, once per week in the shoulder season, and does not run in winter.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN VALDEZ
If you have more time to explore Valdez, you can also add the following to your Alaska itinerary:
- Dock point trail: It is one of Valdez’s shorter and easier hiking trails, offering some of the best views of Harbor Cove, the Duck Flats wetlands and abundant wildlife in a temperate boreal rainforest. The trail is along a peninsula, and offers overlook platforms for safe viewing. Beach access is available near the trailhead.
- Valdez Lake Kayak Tour: Anadyr Adventures watches the glacier closely and runs trips on Valdez Glacier Lake daily, from roughly June through September.
- Ice hike:
- Ice Climbing:
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN VALDEZ
- Nat Shack: This is a food truck with great reviews, so I tried their haibut taco and it was fantastic!
- Fat Mermaid: Located in front of the harbor and serves great food.
BEST ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN VALDEZ
- CAMPING: Valdez KOA offering hooked up for RVs and also, cabins for rental
- BUDGET: Keystone Hotel has a great location and offers a continental breakfast
- MID-RANGE: Glacier Hotel offers free Wi-Fi and continental breakfaast, location is excellent with beautiful views
- BEST RATED: House on the Rocks is a B&B rated as a 9.5 (wonderful) by the guest, and serves daily cotninental breakfast
DAY 3 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exploring Valdez
I started my rainy day in Valdez by visiting the Solomon Gulch to learn all about the salmon hatchery and strongly recommend a visit here. You can take a self-tour and learn how important this hatchery is to the fishing industry and the local economy. It is sustainable farming for salmon and the visit is very educational.
I learned that this facility, built-in 1981, is the largest single-species salmon hatchery in North America, incubating up to 270 million Pink salmon and 2 million Coho salmon each year. And every year, adults return to the hatchery in vast numbers—some 16 million pinks and 100,000 Cohos for spawning.
Another highlight at Solomon Gulch is to see the wildlife that comes here to eat some fresh fish, such as sea lions, seals, and even bears can be seen here.
You will see a creek and a waterfall on the other side of the road, and Solomon Lake. To visit it, you can park next to the Fish Hatchery, and hike up the John Hunter Memorial Trail
OLD VALDEZ TOWN
You can visit the original Valdez, also known to the locals as Old Valdez. In 1964 the strongest earthquake already registered in North America, followed by a tsunami, devasted the original town, and they relocated 4-miles away to where it is now.
The old town was preserved as a memorial, and here you can see the signs where the buildings used to be nearly 100 years ago. You can take the Richardson Highway and follow the signs for the Old Valdez.
VALDEZ LAKE & VALDEZ GLACIER
It is an easy 0.9-mile hike and well-marked hike from the parking lot, and you can see the glacier in the distance. The views of the mountains, the lake, and the glacier are amazing here. I visited on a rainy day, and it made the landscape even more dramatic.
You can see features on the mountains that indicate past ice levels forming valleys. The glacier actually used to be visible from the lakeshore, before the ice receded enough to move it out of view. You can hike around the lake the amazing view and pictures.
Valdez is a small harbor town, and you can just park your car and walk around the harbor, visit the marina with some beautiful fishing boats, admire the cute buildings, and at the end of the day, you will see many wild rabbits enjoying some fresh grass around the town.
DAY 4 ALASKA ITINERARY: Drive from Valdez to Fairbanks (with a stop in North Pole)
- DRIVING: Today the driving is long – 364 miles in about 6.5 hours
- Click here for accommodations in Fairbanks
SEE WATERFAFALLS ALONG THE ROAD
Make sure you plan extra time for your driving from Valdez to Fairbanks, because they are a lot of awesome sights along the way.
On the way to Fairbanks, you will pass many waterfalls along the road. On the left side, you will pass the Horsetail Falls, and on your right side, the Bridal Veil Falls. If you want to admire more the waterfalls and take some pictures, you can pull off in the designated area.
NOTE: Stop along the Richardson Highway to see the duck flats. While driving North of Solomon Gutch in between Solomon Gutch and Keystone Canyon you can see many bald eagles, pay close attention when you see one, the second one will be very close.
On the drive from Valdez to Thompson Pass, you will notice that the views start to change, as you go up in the mountains and the views are absolutely stunning.
If you have more time to explore, you can find great hiking trails too. There are parking areas along the highway where you can pull off your car for better views and pictures. You will see some signs indicating photos opportunities that I recommend stopping in at least some of them.
Thompson Pass experiences 80 feet of snow accumulation per year, which makes this places the snowiest point in the United States.
NOTE: When snow the Thompson Pass may close the road, very few gas stations between so fill up the tank before you hit the road. Pay close attention to the weather conditions before you plan your driving here.
If it is not a rainy and cloudy day, you will see the Worthington Glacier from the road. The recreation site has a nice parking lot that costs $5 per vehicle. Here you can find bathrooms, a visitor center, and some hiking trails with lookout areas.
You can also normally hike to the glacier in about 45-60 min. It is a short well-marked trail and also, wheel-chair accessible to a platform overlooking the glacier. The day I visited was snowing a lot, and the hiking trail to the glacier was closed for safety reasons.
My next stop and I have to be honest that I was extremely excited, was the North Pole. I visited the Santa Claus House that is a huge gift shop with guess what? All Christmas amazing gifts, decorations, and more Christmas-themed things.
And the highlight of the visit is to see the real Santa Claus – (well, just look at my face and you will see that I really believed it). Going to the North Pole and not seeing Santa, is the same thing that going to Rome and not seeing the Pope!
Stop for a crepe and a coffee at the North Pole Creperia – it is honestly the BEST crepe and cappuccino I ever had in my life! I had the Nutella with strawberry and it was just phenomenal!
AURORA BOREALIS TOUR
I recommend at least 2 nights in Fairbanks to increase your chance to see the Aurora Borealis, if you have 3-nights, even better! I also recommend, at least the first night, to book a tour with the local experts so you can learn about the right conditions to see the lights. Plus, they will help you to adjust the right settings on your camera to capture the best shots.
I closed a tour with Aurora Lodge View and they are great – from pick up from a hotel to the facilities where you can wait comfortably enjoying some hot chocolate and fresh cookies, and it is very educational too. You can stay warm inside and they will alert you when the lights appear, or you can keep stay warm by a fire outside and gaze at the sky for that special moment. They will guide you through the experience to catch the best Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks.
You can check the Aurora tour prices and availability here!
NOTE: If the sky is clear, even if you don’t see the lights, set your camera for long exposure, and your camera may capture it – even if you don’t see it clearly with your eyes. This is exactly what I did and I couldn’t believe it. I recommend having a good camera such as a Sony Mirrorless, a tripod, and a trigger if you are really serious about capturing the Aurora Borealis.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN FAIRBANKS
If you have more time to explore Fairbanks, you can also add the following to your Alaska itinerary:
- ATV Tour (summer):
- Snowmobiling Tour (winter): This is something I really wanted to do, but it didn’t have enough snow yet. If you are visiting during witner, take advantage to go blaze through remote Alaskan mountain trails aboard a snowmobile
- Visit the Article Circle:
- Take a day trip to Delta Junction: See a lot of the Alaska interior near Fairbanks in one day
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN FAIRBANKS
- Nat Shack: This is a food truck with great reviews, so I tried their haibut taco and it was fantastic!
- Fat Mermaid: Located in front of the harbor and serves great food.
BEST ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN FAIRBANKS
- CAMPING: River’s Edge Resort is located on the baks of the Chena River
- BUDGET: Billie’s Backpackers Hostel has great reviews, with shared lounge area and sun terrace and free Wi-Fi
- MID-RANGE: Pike’s Waterfront Lodge has a great restaurant featung Alaskan cousine, and has great water-front views
- BEST RATED: A Taste of Alaska Lodge is an excellent option, with great location, delicious buffet breakfast and great sevice.
DAY 5 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exploring Fairbanks
TRANS-ALASKA PIPELINE VIEWPOINT
My first stop of the day, and it is a quick self-visit and educational too, was the pipeline. The trans-Alaska pipeline spans 800 miles to reach the refineries, crossing the Alaskan wilderness, mountain ranges, earthquake zones, and rivers – and in Fairbanks is a great place to see some of the 420 miles of the elevated pipeline.
Here you can find information displays explaining more about one of the world’s engineering marvels and an example of a pig, the device used to clean and inspect inside the pipelines. Imagine that every hour, more than a million dollars of oil flows through these pipes!
ALASKA MUSEUM OF NORTH
The next stop on this Alaska Itinerary is to visit the Alaska Museum of North. I love how they are able to tell the story of Alaska with a mix of places, wildlife, people, and culture. From the Alaska Native days and customs to the most recent days.
I was able to learn a lot about this fascinating and diverse state, so I recommend you reserve a few hours of your day in Fairbanks to visit the museum.
CHENA HOT SPRINGS RESORT
This is one of the highlights in Fairbanks and also, a must-visit! You can choose to book your lodge here, as you can find many attractions, and it is also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, or you can plan to spend half-day or a full-day visit.
The hot springs are a great outdoor pool with mineral spring water that rises from the earth at 165 degrees Fahrenheit and you will see people just soaking and relaxing here. You can pay $15 to use it, even if you are not staying at the resort.
Here you can also find restaurants, an indoor pool, many activities such as ATV and snowmobiling tours, and many hiking trails. You can also take a tour at the Chena Kennel and the guide teaches all about the Alaskan Huskies and you can also pet the beautiful dogs and play with the puppies.
You can also go on a tour from Fairbanks to the Chena Hot Springs – check prices and availability here.
AURORA ICE MUSEUM
The Aurora Ice Museum is also located inside the Chena Hot Springs Resort, and you can buy a ticket there for $15 for a tour inside the museum, where you have the opportunity to see the artists creating the ice sculptures. For another $15 you get to try their appletini served on guess what? An ice glass.
The ice museum is pretty amazing with a bar, sitting area, lots of amazing sculptures all created from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow – the tour takes about 45 minutes and it is open all year long.
Another great place to visit while in Fairbanks is Pioneer Park. I was surprised I was the only person visiting the park that day, as I thought it was pretty intriguing to learn that the 100-year-old historic village was featured with the original buildings moved from downtown Fairbanks, as well as the museums and even a Gold Rush town street.
The park opened in 1967 as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Alaska’s purchase from Russia. It is a great place to learn about history and to stroll around and imagine Alaska in the early years. Here you can also find a theme park, with a train that runs inside the park, restaurants, shops and the entrance is free.
DAY 6 ALASKA ITINERARY: From Fairbanks to Denali then Talkeetna
- DRIVING: Today the driving is 123 miles in about 2.5 hours
- Click here for accommodations in Talkeetna
DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE
Denali is one of the highlights of any Alaska Itinerary, and home to the tallest mountain in North America – Mt. McKinley. Within the park, there are lots of wildlife and vast, unspoiled wilderness with glacier rivers, and tundra and all of this is surrounded by mesmerizing peaks!
The National Park Bus Service is the best option to visit Denali, as they offer access to 92-miles inside the park, with great opportunities for wildlife views. It operates from May to mid-September. Check here for more information. Even during the summer, private vehicles have limited access to the park. The only option for going into the interior of the park is the National Park Bus Service. This is one of the ways the park is preserved in its natural state.
If you visit the park during shoulder season or wintertime, access to the park is VERY LIMITED! Don’t get me wrong, the park is still worth a visit, and the views are absolutely awe-inspiring. I was able to drive the single road 15-miles inside the park for some amazing views. I did the Mountain View hiking which is easy with stunning views.
NOTE: Make sure you plan your visit to Denali in advance, considering that what you will see and do, will depend on when you are visiting it, so you don’t set your expectations so high. I visited it during a shoulder season, which means, I couldn’t drive more than 15 miles inside the park, and the bus service was not operating – therefore, the access was very restricted with only a few access to the hiking trails.
HIKE THE HORSESHOE LAKE TRAIL
Just inside Denali Park, I did the Horseshoe Lake Trail hiking, which I really recommend too with a beautiful trail overlooking a lake.
The trail is only 2 miles and takes about 2-hours and the most exciting part for me was near the mid-way point, on the east side of the loop, you can hike a short spur to overlook a beaver dam. This was the first time I saw a beaver dam!
DRIVE TO TALKEETNA
On the drive from Denali to Talkeetna, make sure to stop at the North View Point and then, the South View Point on Parks Highway (AK 3) to see the highest peak, Mt. Denali – both locations are a must stop and the views are breathtaking and very different landscape. Each of these viewpoints has telescopes to take a close-up look at the mountains on the horizon.
After a full day of exploration in Denali, plus the mesmerizing driving with a few stops along the road for pictures, I got to Talkeetna for some delicious dinner and drinks at the Denali Brewpub.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN DENALI NATIONAL PARK
If you have more time to explore Denali, you can easily spend at least 2-full days here, as you you can also add the following to your Alaska itinerary:
- Take a bus tour: This tour bus is narrated by a trained naturalist, with a very informative trip into the park.
- Go on a backcountry safari: You can go on a 3.5-hour off-road 4-wheel safari adventure in Denali National Park
- ATV Adventure: This tour gives you the chance to get dirty and ride for 3.5-hour in Denali National Park
- Camping inside Denali Nationla Park: If you are feeling adventurous, you can camp inside the park
- White-water rafting: I didn’t do it, but I wish I did after I visited the Nenana river and see how awesome this adventure should had been.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN TALKEETNA
- Denali Brewpub: their hamburguer is to die for! I Also recommend their Hot Totty
- Latitude 66: It is agreat option for breakfast, and their biscuits and gravy is really good!
BEST ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN TALKEETNA
- CAMPING: Talkeetna Camper Park offers a full service for RV set up, with 35 camping spots
- BUDGET: Meadering Moose Lodging is located on a very beautiful setting with dry, and they are pet friendly
- MID-RANGE: Talkeetna Roadhouse is a classic in Talkeetna, with excellent location
- BEST RATED: Willow Cabin is just WOW! rated as Exceptional with 10 stars by the guest, this vacation home is a dreamy place to stay in Fairbanks
DAY 7 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exploring Talkeetna and drive to Seward
- DRIVING: The driving from Talkeetna to Seward is long – 237 miles in about 4.5 hours
- Click here for accommodations in Seward
EXPLORE TALKEETNA VILLAGE
Talkeetna was not really in my Alaska Itinerary, but since I was able to explore Denali in a day, I decided to head to Talkeetna and it was the best decision! Talkeetna is situated just outside Denali National Park, and it is a classic artsy Alaskan village with great views of Mt. Denali (if you are at the right place and time!). This is one of the best places to catch a plane ride to explore the nearby glaciers and mountain ranges!
Also, walk around the village and take pictures of the historic buildings, and grab a coffee at one of the cute cafes, walk by the river for outstanding views and visit the local shops and galleries. I just love the vibe and the laid-back lifestyle in Talkeetna, and I think you will too!
TAKE A PLANE TO DENALI MOUNTAINS
I normally do not book very expensive tours when I travel, but since I didn’t get the chance to see much of Denali National Park I thought it would be a great opportunity to visit Denali’s highest peaks from above, and it was AMAZING!
I booked a flight with this tour and it was worth every penny! being able to wind between the Denali peaks and feeling so small, is an experience of a lifetime. I booked a private flight, so I could really take advantage of getting the best window in the house and ask tons of questions from my pilot.
For 1-hour I could fly over rivers, glaciers, icefalls, and snow peaks of the Susitna Valley and the highlight was to get so close to the summit of Mt. Denali – it was just WOW!
You can check the Denali flightseeing price and availability here.
DRIVE TO SEWARD
The drive is long, but don’t you worry! This is another scenic road, with great views of mountains and the coast. You may even want to make some stops along the way for some pictures.
You will pass through Anchorage and take the scenic Seward Highway once again. Drive along the Cooke Inlet and Turnagain Arm – don’t forget to keep an eye for Belugas 😉
Following this itinerary, you will arrive in Seward in the later afternoon or early evening.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN SEWARD
If you have more time to explore Seward, you can also add the following to your Alaska itinerary:
- Alaska SeaLife Center:
- Kayak Trip: Go on an amazing kayak trip on the Resurrection Bay
- Helicopter Tour: See from above the amazing Keani Fjords National park and land on Godwin Glacier
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN SEWARD
- The Cookery: It is one of the best restuarants in Seward with a farm-to-table style
- Sweard Brewing Company: Make reservations for dinner, with a very unique menu
BEST ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN SEWARD
- CAMPING: Seward KOA is where I stayed and loved it! Great facility and amazing location!
- BUDGET: Exit Glacier Lodge is located near the Exit Glacier with free WiFi, and a restaurant and a bar.
- MID-RANGE: Artic Paradise B&B has great location with a full Alaskan breakafast served in the room
- BEST RATED: Glacier Creek Lodging is the best rated accommodation in Seward, with great breakfast included
DAY 8 ALASKA ITINERARY: Boat tour on Kenai Fjords National Park
BOAT TOUR ON THE KENAI PENINSULA
A visit to Alaska is not completed if you don’t take a boat tour on the Kenai Peninsula. This was also one of the highlights of my Alaska Itinerary. The landscape here is so unreal, and something you can truly only see in Alaska.
The whole tour takes about 6-hours in the Fjords, where we could see lush forests to towering walls of rock, icebergs, glaciers, and very abundant wildlife such as whales, seals, sea otters, sea lions, and a large variety of birds.
Lunch is included on the tour, and there is a cafeteria where you can buy hot chocolate and coffee (and cans of beer). The staff is very helpful, and the captain did an amazing job explaining all about the Fjords and wildlife – I found this was a great opportunity for not only an amazing tour but also, to learn more about the Kenai Fjords.
Check here for the Kenai Fjords tour for prices and availability
DAY 9 ALASKA ITINERARY: Hiking to the Harding Icefield
- DRIVING: 1 hour
- Click here for accommodations in Seward
HARDING ICEFIELD HIKE
If you also choose to hike the Harding Icefield Trail, reserve the whole day for this activity.
The round-trip hike is 8.2 miles with 1,000 ft of elevation gain per mile, summiting at 3,512 feet. It may take less time depending on the conditions of the hiking trail. But I did the hiking in a little over 7 hours considering that I got a lot of mud, ice, snow and the hiking path was not well-market because it was covered in snow.
My advice to you? Please do this hike! It is insanely beautiful, and honestly one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done in my life. Wear good hiking boots and layers. Alpine poles are recommended to deal with the snowy, icy and muddy sections of the trail.
The Harding Icefield is located in Kenai Fjords National Park, and the views from any point of this hike are just incredible! I didn’t see many people during my hike, and you can really feel the peace and solitude of the mountains. But just be Bear Aware! I didn’t see any bears, but the day before, a solo female hiker saw a black bear just 10 ft from her.
There is 1 trail to the top and the same trail on the descent. You can choose how far you go and you can turn around at any time.
If you choose not to hike all the way to the Harding Icefield, you have 2 other options:
- Marmot Meadows: A little over 1 mile into the trail, this offshoot will path take you to little platform areas where you can see Exit Glacier
- The Cliffs: is the halfway point to the Harding Icefield. It offers fantastic views of Exit Glacier and the tongue of Harding Icefield.
After hiking, I was exhausted, and I just went straight to have dinner in town and crashed for the evening, dead tired but exhilarated.
NOTE: If you choose not to hike the Harding Icefield hiking, you can choose many other awesome activities to do in Seward, that I have listed above.
DAY 10 ALASKA ITINERARY: Exit Glacier Hike & Explore Seward
EXIT GLACIER HIKE
The hike to Exit Glacier is short and easy, starting from the Parking lot you will see the National Park Visitor Center, and the trail is very well marked.
You will see signs with numbers along the road and during your hike – the numbers are a reference to the year the Exit Glacier terminated. Exit Glacier is retreating very quickly and before visitors were able to get very close to it, but now, the end of the trail takes you to the closest point…
The views are still spectacular but it is sad to learn how fast it is melting.
EXPLORE SEWARD DOWNTOWN
Seward is my favorite town that I visited in Alaska. It is small, located on the gorgeous Kenai peninsula, and it offers great views from the mountains and the shore from different parts of the town.
Park your car and just stroll around the old downtown, visit the many local shops, breweries, and cute cafes. Walk by the Waterfront Park.
DAY 11 ALASKA ITINERARY: Returning RV (car) rental and fly home
- DRIVING: The drive from Seward to Anchorage is 127 miles in 2.5 hour , but can take longer with road construction.
DRIVE BACK FROM SEWARD TO ANCHORAGE
On this last day, enjoy the scenic drive from Seward to Anchorage, and opt to stop at different places if you have time. If you prefer, you can visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center today.
You can also visit Portage Lake and the Chugach State Park – located in Southcentral Alaska mostly within the Municipality of Anchorage. The park contains approximately 495,000 acres of land and is one of the four largest state parks in the United States. Here you can find many hiking trails to explore.
MORE ALASKA ITINERARY IDEAS
5 DAYS IN ALASKA ITINERARY
Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage and explore around
Day 2: Anchorage | Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Day 3: Take the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali
Day 4: Day in Denali
Day 5: Train to Anchorage, fly home
10 DAYS IN ALASKA ITINERARY
Day 1: Fly to Anchorage
Day 2: Pick-up hire car, food shop, drive to Seaward (Portage Pass hike en-route)
Day 3: Harding Icefield hike
Day 4: Kenai cruise
Day 5: Kayaking/ shorter hike
Day 6: Lost Lake/another hike
Day 7: Driving day – Seward > Denali (lunch-stop in Anchorage)
Day 8: Denali (entrance and hike)
Day 9: Denali (coach trip)
Day 10: Drive back to Anchorage (hike at Hatcher Pass en-route)
TRAVEL INSURANCE: SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
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World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover their trip essentials. Especially if you are like me, travel insurance is ideal for adventurous travelers.
Travel smarter and safer – You can do your quick quote below and find out how little you can pay for the essential benefit of Travel Insurance for your next trip!
ALASKA ITINERARY TRIP RESOURCES
PLANNING A TRIP TO ALASKA
If you are going to travel to Alaska, pre-planning, research, and understanding what you are looking for in a destination will help make your travels far more successful and safe. Here is some further information I think you might need to plan your trip to Alaska.
HOW MUCH IT COST TO TRAVEL TO ALASKA?
I have to start by saying that Alaska is not a cheap and budget-friendly destination, and how much a trip to Alaska will cost will vary a lot. It depends on your travel style and the season that you visit Alaska.
The first thing to plan your budget for your Alaska Itinerary, plan the length of time you will need to visit Alaska and use the table below for cost estimates:
|ESTIMATED COST/ PER DAY|
|FLIGHTS TO ALASKA||$400 – $700 – per person|
|LODGING||$200 – $400 – per night|
|CAMPING SITES||$30 – $50 – per night|
|CAR RENTAL||$110 + per day|
|RV RENTAL||$134 per day|
|GAS||$3.60 – $4.00 per gallon|
|FOOD AT RESTAURANT||$20 – $35 – per person|
|COOK YOUR OWN MEALS (GROCERY ESTIMATES)||$10 – $20 – per person|
TOURS AND ATTRACTIONS: Consider that you will also want to do some tours in Alaska, you can spend a little more or a lot more if you choose to go on activities such as helicopter flight, airplane, private tours, etc.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ALASKA
Are you wondering when is the best time to visit Alaska? It depends…
First, you need to know what are your priorities so you can determine when is the best time to visit Alaska – here are some things to consider:
- Summer Season: from May 10 to September 15 with average temperatures in the 60’s to low 70’s, 16–24 hrs of daylight, leaves and flowers in bloom, rushing rivers, and the best wildlife viewing.
- Peak season: from June to August. By mid-June, it’s as warm as it’s going to get. All summer activities are available, including The Denali Park Road (opens second week in June).
- Cruise Season: is also May through September. Small ship cruises start as early as mid-April.
- Shoulder Season is May (early season) and September (late season), with 10-25% discounts on some hotels, tours, and cruises.
- Wildlife Viewing: from May to September is the best time to see wildlife in general. Fly-in bear viewing begins mid-June but is best in July. You can see Moose year-round. Gray whales migrate up in March/April; humpbacks are here from May to September; orcas are here year-round.
In short, the best time to visit Alaska is from June to August, because this is when you will get the best weather with more sunny days and less rain and warmer temperatures. But keep in mind, that this is also the most crowded season to visit Alaska.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ALASKA
You need to plan the right packing for your trip to Alaska. Make sure you are prepared, considering the season and the activities you are planning to do. I prepared a whole article on What to pack for Alaska in summer and winter, plus you can find an awesome Printable Packing List here too, but just some quick tips:
- Pack layers is the best you can do!
- Pack rain gear – you don’t want to get soacked wet while exploring
- A hat, gloves, and scarf can’t go wrong, even in summer.
- Bring a good quality sturdy hiking shoes.
- Leave your fancy shoes and cute dresses at home. You won’t need them in Alaska 😉
PACK SMART ALERT!
If you are planning to carry a backpack for your trip to Iceland, I have compiled a very detailed review of the Best Backpacks for Travel in the market today –
Also, I recommend bringing a good and warm jacket a waterproof jacket for your trip, check my complete review guide on the Top Jackets for Travel
Bring some warm pants, you can check the best Warm leggings in the market – especially because they are a great option for layers too.
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