Alaska is a top bucket list destination for many travelers. The beauty, nature, and wildlife in Alaska is amazing. The people are friendly, and the regional food is outstanding.
Last week, I focused on day trip ideas using Anchorage as a base. Today I'll share three 5-7 day road trip options, perfect on their own or added as a pre/post trip to an Inside Passage cruise.
Highlights of the Interior
(Anchorage – Talkeetna - Denali National Park – Fairbanks – Delta Junction - Glennallen – Anchorage)
This itinerary provides perfect highlights of the interior of the state. Alaska scenery is just spectacular, and you’ll get plenty on this route. From Anchorage, you drive north on the Parks Highway to Fairbanks, with overnight stops in Talkeetna and Denali. Talkeetna is about halfway to Denali, and it is a popular stop for fishing, river rafting and flight seeing excursions (some of the best in all Alaska). Talkeetna is also known for its quirkiness and real Alaska flavor. An option is a short stop in Talkeetna and head straight up to Denali. I highly recommend 2-3 days in the park area. At minimum you need one day to take the bus tour into the park. Drive time between Denali and Fairbanks is under 3 hours, which gives you more time to experience the Denali area or plenty of time to see Fairbanks highlights.
From Fairbanks take the Richardson Highway to Delta Junction. Be sure to stop in North Pole just outside of Fairbanks. As you might guess, it is Christmas year round there! The Richardson Highway is very scenic, with magnificent mountain and glacier views. This route also offers views of the Trans-Alaska pipeline, which is really fascinating.
From Delta Junction you continue south to Glennallen, where you can have some of the best barbecued salmon in Alaska. From Glennallen you get on the Glenn Highway to Anchorage. Staying overnight in Glennallen will give you plenty of time to see Matanuska Glacier, about 100 miles outside of Anchorage.
This route can be done in 6-7 days. It is flexible based on what you want to experience. Think about adding a few days if you want more time in Denali or Fairbanks. If time is tight, you can drive or take the train between Anchorage and Fairbanks (or reverse).
Seward and the Kenai Fjords
(Anchorage – Girdwood – Whittier - Seward – Anchorage)
The distance between Anchorage and Seward is less than 130 miles, but with many scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities, it's best to take your time.
From Anchorage, take the Seward Highway along the beautiful shoreline of Turnagain Arm to the resort town of Girdwood. This area offers skiing in the winter and plenty of outdoor activity in the warmer months. For special views of the Chugach Mountains and Turnagain Arm, take the gondola up to the top of Mount Alyeska.
From Girdwood, continue on the Seward Highway to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Portage Glacier, one of the most accessible glaciers in the area. The visitor center is about 5 miles off the road. The glacier itself is about 10 stories high and miles long and sits at the end of Portage Lake. It is only accessible by boat (about a 1 hour tour). Continue on to Whittier, the gateway to Prince William Sound. Here you can go sea kayaking or take a day cruise where you can see glaciers, whales, and other wildlife. One thing to note is that the only way to get to Whittier is through Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – a one lane tunnel used by both cars and rail. Check the traffic schedule for times.
From Whittier, head back to Portage and take the Seward Highway to Seward, a seaside town full of history, nature, and wildlife experiences. Explore the trails or nearby Exit Glacier where you can go fishing, take a boat trip, or just go shopping in the quaint shops. One of the top experiences is a Kenai Fjord boat tour, which is a great way to see plenty of bird and marine life and tidewater glaciers. For something very special, stay a night or two at the Orca Island Cabins.
From Seward head back to Anchorage. This itinerary can be flexible, depending on what you want to see and experience. There is plenty to do in all the suggested overnight stops. Your itinerary could be as short as 4 nights, but I suggest at least 6. This is also a perfect itinerary for cruises that start and end in Seward.
Fishing Alaskan Waters
(Anchorage – Seward – Kenai/Soldotna – Homer – Anchorage)
From Anchorage, head to Seward on the Seward Highway. Seward offers far more than fishing, but on this itinerary, we’ll focus primarily on the fishing opportunities. Salmon and halibut are the top catches in Seward, with different species of salmon spread across the summer months. You can fish from the beaches, but most people charter a boat for the day or even a couple of days.
From Seward, head back to Moose Pass and go west to Soldotna and Kenai. Sport fishers head to the Kenai River for king and sockeye salmon. A variety of trout species also provide popular fishing opportunities. For an extraordinary time, consider a stay at an all-inclusive fishing lodge with expert guides to show you all the best spots. Kenai is also a great place from which to take bear viewing flights.
From Kenai, continue along the west coast of the peninsula to Homer. Homer is known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of Alaska, but this charming town is also one of Alaska’s best small towns and known for its eclectic group of artists. Consider a stay at one of the area’s wilderness lodges. From Homer, head back to Anchorage. Give yourself a full day, as it’s about a 6 hour drive.
These are just a few samples of what you can experience. Although these are self drive road trip ideas, plenty of options are available if you'd rather not drive yourself. If you'd like help planning or customizing one of these itineraries, reach out to Vacations256! We'll create something customized to you and your budget!