But are you prepared for flight-seeing, by aircraft, to the Stairway Icefall? Or visiting a mining ghost town? Or entering the volcanic ‘Ring of Fire’? Or crossing into the wonderland beyond the Arctic Circle? Or coming face-to-face with a grizzly bear in an untouched wilderness?
From Anchorage to Cooper Landing, from Denali National Park to Fairbanks, from McCarthy to Valdez, Alaska is packed with gigantic surprises and astonishing sights.
Anchorage – Seward
You begin your self drive Alaskan adventure in style, by driving along the Seward Highway to Turnagain Arm, featuring the second highest tides in the world and the ideal place to watch for beluga whales and visit the Exit Glacier.
Seward with Northwestern Fjord Cruise
Cruise off to the far reaches of the Kenai Fjords National Park to see alpine and tidewater glaciers and the magnificent Northwestern Fjord.
Seward – Homer
Today you drive into the famous ‘Ring of Fire’ – a spectacular mountain-scape with active volcanoes and stunning scenery provided by the Iliamna, Redoubt and Augustine Mountains, not to mention the Kenai River and the coast.
Explore the self-proclaimed haddock capital of the world and take the opportunity to see whales, seals, sea otters and birds. You can even take a flight-seeing trip to meet grizzly bears, close up.
Homer – Cooper Landing
On your way to Cooper Landing you can take in Ninilchik, the oldest settlement on the Kenai Peninsula; founded in 1820 for superannuated employees of the Russian-American Company. A cruise up the Upper Kenai will show you moose, eagles, dall sheep and bears as well as a lake carved by glacial action in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Cooper Landing – Talkeetna
You loop through glorious scenery back through Turnagain and Anchorage to take the Glenn Highway to the Alaska Native Heritage Centre and on to Talkeetna. Here you’ll experience an original, 100 year old gold mining town with log cabins, clapboard storefronts, wooden sidewalks and dirt roads.
Talkeetna – Denali National Park
Drive right up to the entrance to the park, and a bus will take you on a safari; to see bears, caribou, wolves, moose, sheep and a rich variety of birdlife.
Denali Back Country Lodge, Kantishna
Here you’ll have a true wilderness experience – complete with heated log cabin. You’ll be able to take day hike into the vastness of Alaska. You can pan for gold, go on photographic ventures to Denali’s Mount McKinley, enjoy botany walks, take the shuttle to Wonder Lake, visit Fanny Quigley’s Lodge or explore the terrain by mountain bike.
Denali National Park – Fairbanks
The bus takes you back to your car, at the park’s entrance gates. Then you drive the fabulous Parks Highway to Fairbanks – passing though real Alaskan settlements like Healy, Nenana and the old mining camp of Ester.
Day 10: Time to explore this fascinating town with its opportunity to cross over the Arctic Circle, go hiking or make a sortie over to Chena Hot Springs Resort with its huge indoor swimming pool and natural outdoor rock lake.
Fairbanks – Tok
Today the Richardson Highway takes you through impressive stands of white birch and black spruce along the Tanana River. You’ll venture into the central Alaska Range, often paralleled by the Alaskan Pipeline. Tok is a great stop on your journey.
Tok – Chitina – McCarthy (by plane)
Now the Glenn highway takes you across the towering Mentasta for outstanding views of the Wrangell-St Elias Mountains, and the volcanic Copper Basin. At Chitina you’ll take a light aircraft flight alongside Mount Blackburn, over the Kennicott and Root Glaciers and the Erie Mine to the awe-inspiring Stairway Icefall. Your pilot will also act as guide, pointing out wildlife and relating the history of the area.
McCarthy – Kennicott
This is the Alaska of your imagination. The stillness, remoteness and solitude are simply astounding, whilst the scenery is poetry for the soul. The superlatives just roll along: the largest park in the US National Parks System, the greatest number of glaciers, Alaska’s tallest mountains, part of the single largest tract of protected land in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s even an old, copper mining ghost town.
McCarthy – Chitina – Valdez
Fly over the Wrangell Mountains by light aircraft to Chitina, where your journey to Valdez begins; a parade including wonderful scenery, the Chugach Mountains, Thompson Pass and the Worthington Glacier.
Valdez – Whittier – Anchorage
At Prince William Sound you can view immense alpine and tidewater glaciers as you cruise through Esther Passage. You’ll also see a wide variety of marine wildlife, including sea otters, harbour seals, bears, whales, kittiwakes and mountain goats… before returning to Anchorage via the Anderson Memorial Tunnel.