This morning travel along the Seward Highway towards scenic Turnagain Arm. Turnagain Arm is a body of water featuring the world’s second highest tides at over 30 feet. Keep an eye out for Beluga whales chasing salmon in the bay or Dall sheep along the highway. In Seward we suggest a visit to Exit Glacier and the SeaLife Centre.
Today we have arranged for you to take an all-day Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise. Travel farther into Kenai Fjords National Park than with any other cruise and visit the magnificent Northwestern Fjord, home to three amazing tidewater glaciers and numerous alpine glaciers. (A continental breakfast & deli-style lunch is included onboard)
Continue your self-drive journey and follow the Sterling Highway - a desig- nated scenic highway covering miles of spectacular landscape with snow- capped mountains and its many active volcanoes known as the “Ring of Fire” with Mt. Iliamna, Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Augustine, deep ocean bluffs, excellent salmon fishing opportunities along the Kenai River and a magnificent coastline
Homer (“Halibut Capital of the World”) provides you with truly incredi- ble panoramic views of mountain ranges, white peaks, glaciers and the famous Homer Spit. Use the day to explore the area - kayak to a remote cove, take a scenic cruise and spot wildlife including whales, seals, sea ot- ters and many shorebirds. If you prefer to observe Grizzly bears up close, take a scenic flightseeing tour to the Katmai Coast (not included)
Leave Homer for a scenic drive to Ninilchik - the oldest settlement on the Kenai Peninsula. The Russian-American Company established Ninilchik in the 1820s for its elderly employees, who could not endure the long jour- ney back to Russia. Other settlers soon congregated there, and in 1901 they constructed the community’s Russian Orthodox Church. Continue to Cooper Landing - located at the world famous Kenai and Russian River and enjoy a two-hour float trip on the Upper Kenai River. Have your cam- era ready as you keep a keen watch for moose, eagles, Dall sheep, salmon and bears as your guide navigates you through the snow-capped moun- tain scenery. The tour ends on the shores of a glacier-carved lake within the heart of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Continuing north towards Talkeetna you will be able to view the magnificent scenery back to the Kenai Peninsula across Turnagain Arm. Pass through An- chorage and drive the Glenn Highway north to Wasilla and onto Talkeetna. A stop should be made at the Alaska Native Heritage Centre. Talkeetna serves as a base camp for Mt. Denali climbers; the community of 857 residents is located at the confluence of the Talkeetna and Susitna Rivers. A turn-of-the- 20th-century gold-mining centre, the town has retained much of its early Alaskan flavour. Log cabins, a roadhouse and clapboard storefronts line the dirt streets, colourful locals and bush pilots stroll the wooden sidewalks
Drive the Parks Highway north to Denali, passing by incredible forest and mountain landscapes. Leave your vehicle at the entrance to Denali National Park and transfer by bus deep inside Denali National Park to your Lodge. Look out for different animal species such as bears, caribou, moose, sheep, wolves and a variety of birds as you travel within the park. (Dinner is included today)
Nestled in a snug valley, the Denali Backcountry Lodge is a true wilderness experience, with your own heated cabin. The lodge is located at the end of the restricted 148km/92mi Park Road with just a small bush airstrip and the vast interior of Alaska beyond. You can experience activities such as: day hikes (casual, moderate, or extreme), view and photograph Denali (Mount Denali), gold panning, botany walks, shuttle to Wonder Lake and mountain biking. You can also visit Fannie Quigley’s Cabin, home of one of the original miners from early in the twentieth century. Meals are served in the main two-story lodge and are included. (Breakfast, lunch & dinner included today)
Return by bus to the Denali National Park entrance area. Then drive the Parks Highway north to Fairbanks. Accompanied by incredible forest and mountain landscapes drive through the communities of Healy, Nenana and Ester - an old mining camp. (Breakfast is included today).
In Fairbanks you have the unique chance for an optional day tour to cross the Arctic Circle and to visit the vast interior. Another option is to drive along Chena Hot Springs road (watch out for moose!), go on a hiking trip and visit Chena Hot Springs Resort. Here you can relax in the large heated indoor pool or the natural outdoor rock lake
Heading south, the Richardson Highway passes through stands of White birch and Black spruce, often photogenically close to the Tanana River. Soak up the raw beauty of the drive into the central Alaska Range, often paralleled by the Alaska pipeline. Tok’s role in the world has never expanded much beyond being a stop on the road. The town has built an economy of gas stations, gift stores, cafes, and hotels to serve highway travelers.
This morning travel to Chitina for your bush plane flight to Kennicott. Travel south on the Glenn Highway to cross Mentasta, the highest point of the highway, where you will begin to see splendid views of the Wrangell – St.Elias Mountains. These ancient volcanic cores form the southern boundary of the Copper Basin which you will descend to arrive in to Chitina. Flying from Chitina is the best way to get to McCarthy-Kennicott and the flightseeing that is included in the trip makes it a great value. On the way to McCarthy fly along- side 16,000’ Mt. Blackburn, over the Kennicott and Root Glaciers, past the Erie Mine and view the awe-inspiring Stairway Icefall. A flyby of Kennicott and McCarthy before landing will orient you to the area you are about to explore. Along the way your pilot will describe landforms, point out wildlife and fill you in on a bit of the human history of the area.
This magical location is the furthest road extension in the massive WrangellSt. Elias National Park. With only a handful of year-round residents, the area is attracting a growing number of people looking to experience Alaska as they imagine it – a mix of solitude and scenery. The park is the largest in the United States National Parks system and contains several of the tallest mountains in the country, as well as the greatest concentration of glaciers in North America. Together with Glacier National Park, and both Kluane National Park and Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in Canada, the area represents the single largest tract of protected land in the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another highlight today is a guided tour of an old ghost town outside a copper mine. A guided walking tour through the ruins of the mine is included.
Today fly back to Chitina by bush plane while enjoying great views of the Wrangell Mountains. From Chitina continue south where you will begin to enter the Chugach Mountains that ring the coast of Alaska from Prince William Sound. At Thompson Pass you may wish to stop at one of the pullouts for the scenery and views of Worthington Glacier before you begin the descent into Valdez.
Time for a visit of the southern terminus of the Alaska Pipeline Terminal or enjoy some kayaking or a short hiking trip. The Prince William Sound is one of the few places left in the world where a concentration of glaciers can be found in such abundance. During the comfortable ferry trip cruise through Esther Passage, view majestic alpine and tidewater glaciers covered with ancient ice (Columbia Glacier) from a distance and may observe a large variety of marine wildlife. A US Forest Service Ranger will point out interesting sites along the way. Watch for playful sea otters, harbor seals, kittiwakes, bears, whales or mountain goats. Drive from Whittier through the Anderson Memorial Tunnel to end in Anchorage. It is longest shared rail and car tunnel in North America and it operates on a one-way basis with a schedule.