Bucket List Adventure: Visiting Alaska
A visit to Denali National Park and Mount McKinley is at the top of many Alaska visitors' "must-do" lists, but there is so much more to Alaska than one mountaintop! While a cruise to Alaska is a great way to visit Alaska, it isn't for everyone. If visiting Alaska "by land" is on your "Bucket List," don't miss these ideas for your Alaskan vacation.
While the Chugach Mountains anchor Anchorage, Alaska, Anchorage is a walking city and deserves at least one day on your visit to Alaska, although I recommend at least two days+. Put on your walking shoes and take a stroll through Anchorage. Resturants abound in Anchorage; one my favorites is the Glacier Brew House where you can enjoy a local brew and the catch of the day, but there are many options.
Located in Anchorage is the state's largest museum, which includes the Alaska History Gallery, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center and science exhibits. It offers an overview of Alaska's history and culture. Plan to spend several hours at this museum. Cost: General Admission - $15.00, although sometimes if you are traveling via rail you can get free admission. Be sure and ask about this.
During the spring and summer, there is usually an Arts and Crafts festival located in downtown Anchorage, just up the street from the railroad depot. Be sure and check this out. Local products and crafts are amazing!
Is visiting Alaska on your bucket list?
Talkeetna is just 113 miles from Anchorage, but what a difference! From big city Anchorage, Talkeetna is a short bus or train ride. Talkeetna is a small village loaded with charm. Mt. McKinley is closer to Talkeetna than to the entrance of Denali National Park thus the town is base-camp for climbers attempting to summit North America’s highest peak.
Even though Talkeetna is small, there are great shops filled with local crafts and some amazing restaurants. We stayed at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge; just the fireplace alone is worth the visit, and on a clear day, you can see Mt. McKinley. The lodge has a shuttle that goes to town several times a day. There are several other hotels and B & B's so accomodations are available.
TalkeetnaClick thumbnail to view full-size
At 20,320' tall Mt. McKinley, the roof of North America is awe inspiring! Take a bus ride along the Denali Park Road, the sole vehicle access into the heart of the park. Wildlife, wild lands, even sled dog puppies - Denali holds adventure that you don't want to miss. You can choose between several Denali tours, but the further you go into the park, the more likely you are to see wildlife.
In addition to a bus tour into Denali (no private vehicles allowed) you can take a small airplane tour or a helicopter tour. I recommend both.
Choices of accommodations are nearby and most all will transport you to the park entrance.
Seward is a small coastal town with LOTS of charm. It is the gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park. A cruise into the Kenai Fjords National Park is a must during your visit to Alaska - easy access from Seward. You can also visit Exit Glacier; it is a short trip by bus along the scenic Resurrection River to the Exit Glacier Nature Center at Kenai Fjords National Park. Here, you can witness a glacier up close.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is something you do not want to miss. Located in downtown Seward, the Alaska SeaLife Center is a marine research and rehabilitation facility. A self-guided tour allows you to spend as much time as you like. Cost - $20.00
Official State of Alaska Travel & Vacation Information
- Travel Alaska - Official State of Alaska Travel & Vacation Information
To plan your own Alaskan vacation, visit the Alaska Travel and Vacation site.
Our airplane landed in Anchorage, Alaska where we spent several nights.
Several excursions from Anchorage included:
- Alaska Rail Anchorage to Whittier Roundtrip - We enjoyed comfortable seating and large picture windows. The Alaska Railway is the way to travel! The route between Anchorage and Whittier is very scenic. We descended through the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, also known as Potter‟s Marsh. It is a good place to spot migratory birds, water fowl and moose. We traveled along the Turnagain Arm, a body of water featuring the world‟s second highest tides at over 30 feet. We saw Beluga whales and Dall sheep.
- Traveling by day from Anchorage via rail, we did the Phillips 26 Glacier Cruise: The 26 Glacier Cruise travels over 135 miles into Prince William Sound to see 26 "named" glaciers and many more unnamed along the rocky mountain sides. Marine life abounds here.
Traveling by bus from Anchorage to Seward, we stayed at the Seward Windsong Lodge. This part of our trip included a visit to Kenai Fords National Park - an absolute "must see" for glaciers and marine life. We saw the famous “Mile 0” of the Iditarod trail and walked on beautiful Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, where a short walk on a nature trail will take you right to the face of the glacier! We also visited an Ididarod Dog Sled Tour. We enjoyed a glacier cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park departing from the Seward Small Boat Harbor. We saw wildlife, a tidewater glacier and spectacular scenery.
Departing from Seward and heading to Denali via bus, the scenerary is delightful. At Denali, our activities included a mild water raft tour, a Helicopter Denali Park Excursion, and an afternoon Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour. Departing from Denail, we took the Alaska Railroad to Talkeetna.
At Talkeetna, we took a Glacier Landing Flight. This 90-minute flight took us within six miles of Mt. McKinley's summit. Minutes after leaving Talkeetna, we entered a world of rugged high mountain peaks and glacier filled valleys. Landing on Ruth Glacier was a highlight of this tour, though we didn't see bear or moose on the glacier. Later we took a Talkeetna Wilderness Jetboat tour where we were able to take a walk to explore a trapper's cabin - amazing!
We headed back to Anchorage from the Talkeetna Depot enjoying the large picture windows to take in the spectacular views of McKinley and wildlife. We saw moose, eagles, beavers, and swans. The train features a dining car - Yum!