For the nature lover or Northern America, Alaska will be the holy grail destination. It is because you have mountain, seascape and top it with glacier. But, for most tourist, they visit Alaska by boarding one of the cruises from Los Angeles, Seattle or Vancouver, which visit most of the coastal city like Juneau or Sitka and sometimes include the mainland Alaska like Anchorage, Seward and Denali. It is good with this way of travelling Alaska, but the main attraction that one can witness is actually in the Mainland of Alaska. Start your journey by flying in to Anchorage where it has an airport that serve most commercial aircraft from domestic or international carriers (Delta, Alaska, United, American Airlines, and Air Canada to name a few).
The best time to visit Alaska will be around the summer time, since it has the longest daylight hours and the weather are milder and the wildlife go out and collect food for their upcoming winter hibernation. So, you have plenty of chance to encounter the wildlife. To navigate around in Alaska, you can rent the car from plenty of rental car company at the airport. One of the best hotel to choose during your stay in Anchorage will be Sheraton Anchorage hotel. This is because when weather is good and clear sky, you can see Denali from the comfort of your room because Denali can be spotted from Anchorage as long as you are high enough.
Try to visit Alaska Wildlife Conservation center to see how the people in AWCC provide help and care for ill or injured wild animal here. Or you can visit Anchorage Zoo if you bring kids with you. For history and art buff, you can go to Anchorage Museum of History and Art which featured extensive collection of local art and Alaskan History.
The talk of the town in Alaska is Denali National Park. Drive your way 240 miles (386 km) North of Anchorage, and you can always stop along the way for the great landscape view for your photography purpose or stop at the town of Talkeetna for your lunch stop or just stretching your muscle after a long drive. Please don’t forget to purchase or reserve your Shuttle or Tour bus. Shuttle bus is the choice if you are thinking of day hike and more flexible trip by hop on and off the shuttle bus (Keep track of the shuttle bus schedule though). As for the Tour bus, this is more suitable for traveler that just want to visit the park without doing hiking and the whole tour are being narrated by the driver (In most cases, the shuttle bus driver will narrated during your ride, since they are also the lover of this park and passionate about their work). Please visit here for more information about the bus.
Don’t forget to bring your own food and beverages since there will be no place to purchase food after you venture in the park with the bus. There are many stops that the shuttle bus made for the whole length of the road in the park, but you can always get off and re-board from anywhere in the park base on availability of the seat in the bus. The bus stop at these destination: Toklat River, Eielson Visitor Center, Wonder Lake and Kantishna. And all based on which type of ticket destination you purchase. Stay as many days as possible to higher your chance to see the Mt. McKinley without the obstruction of the cloud. I was lucky enough to have one of the day where everything is clear. Local said that you only have 25%-33% chance to see clear Mt. McKinley without the cloud. So, plan properly and give yourself enough days to explore this huge and vast land of National Park. As for the overnight accommodation, your only choice will be staying at the park entrance area (Grande Denali Lodge) or at the Kantishna (such as: Kanthisna Roadhouse) which is at the end of the road of the Shuttle Bus route.
Another great reason why you have to stay longer here is also to higher your chance to encounter the real Denali wildlife such as: Grizzly Bear, Black bear, fox, wolf, Moose, caribou, Ptarmigan, lynx, etc.
There is also a dog sledge show in Denali National Park. The Park Ranger will explain and demonstrate how dog sledge are important for them during the winter season since travelling to remote location is impossible with any vehicle, so dog sledge is the only option.
After done with the nature, now drive North of Denali around 120 miles (193 km) and arrive at the city of Fairbanks. But along the road you can again stop for photo and beside the nature you can also see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline that transport oil from Prudhoe Bay down to Valdez.
During the summer time, there are several tour that worth to do in Fairbanks such as: Riverboat Discovery Tour which traveling along Chena river and experience the real Alaskan. But, the real activities in Fairbanks will be during winter month, which you can see the dog sledding, Northern Light and Ice Alaska. If you are adventurer type, you can always drive through the Dalton Highway to reach the Arctic Circle.
This is also the chance for you to experience the real Alaskan way of life experience by staying at the many Bed and Breakfast in this town. ‘A Moose in the Garden’ (http://www.amooseinthegarden.com/) is one of them which you will stay with the owner (Kathy) and have the best and freshest breakfast that she made every morning you wake up. And don’t forget to join the ‘Moose Ears’ and ‘Hot Pink Shoes’ club while you are at it.
After done with all the mountain landscape experience, you might want to make the trip to the South where the small port city of Seward was located. The drive from Anchorage to Seward is also one of the most scenic byway. You will pass-through coastal area which consist of scenic destination like Chugach State Park, Chugach National Forest, and Turnagain Arm with several scenic overlook. You can also stop at any creek along the way and witness the Salmon run during the summer. And another great stop point will be around Potter Marsh where the bird sanctuary located which you can do wildlife viewing especially wild birds.
Take one of the cruise tour to Kenai Fjord National Park by (Major Marine Tour) to visit Resurrection Bay into Kenai Fjord National Park. During the course of the tour you if you are lucky enough, you might catch wildlife such as Orca, Whale, Puffin or any kind of birds. All of the tour was narrated by the National Park Ranger. So, you can definitely get an answer for any kind of questions you might have during your tour about the area and the wildlife. You will also visit several active tidewater glacier (Holgate, and Aialik Glacier) and don’t forget to open your ears and listen to the glacier calving which ice was broke off and crashing to the sea.
Besides the Glacier at the Kenai Fjord National Park, there is one glacier that is accessible by the road called ‘The Exit Glacier’. You will pass the dense forest from Seward to this area where you can come close to the glacier itself.
Similar to the city of Fairbanks, you can choose to stay at local Bed & Breakfast which can make you feel at home and experience the real Alaskan house. One of them is Bear’s Den B&B (http://www.bearsdenalaska.com/). Please don’t forget to try the Alaskan Salmon, because this is the place where Salmon dish is at its best because of the location at the coast where seafood are easy to get. To complete the experience one can board one of the Alaska Railroad train and take Gold Start Dome class to enjoy the view from the viewing platform which give you 360 degree view. It makes a stop to Seward, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Wasilla, Denali national Park and Fairbanks. For more information please visit here.
For more information, please leave a comment below and I will try to answer as much as I can.
Please check back later for my next trip or project. If you are interested in licensing for publication purposes of the photos here, just contact me here!