- Go dog sledding on a mountain glacier in the Chugach Mountains
- Explore the Matanuska Glacier area
- Go kayaking by the blue icebergs of Columbia Glacier
- Cruise Prince William Sound on a small boat
- Discover some of Alaska's best hiking trails
|Day 1||Arrival in Anchorage||Anchorage, AK|
|Day 2||Heli Dog Sled Tour - Glacier Viewing||Glacier View, AK|
|Day 3||Glacier View - Mat Glacier - Valdez||Valdez, Alaska|
|Day 4||Valdez - Columbia Glacier Kayaking||Valdez, Alaska|
|Day 5||Valdez - Whittier - Girdwood||Girdwood, Alaska|
|Day 6||Girdwood - Prince William Sound Day Cruise - Anchorage||Anchorage, AK|
|Day 7||Anchorage - Bear Viewing Day Tour||Anchorage, AK|
|Day 8||Anchorage - Flight Home|
Day 1: Arrival in Anchorage
Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska's biggest city and home to about half the state's population. If there's time after you arrive, head to the Anchorage Museum of History and Arts or the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which aims to educate and expand awareness about Alaska's indigenous people. Alaska is home to many fascinating and beautiful native cultures, including the Athabascan, Inupiaq Yupik, Cup’ik, Aleut, Alutiiq, and the Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people.
Other options for the day include a walk along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to see wildlife or a more strenuous hike up the popular Flattop Mt.
Day 2: Heli Dog Sled Tour - Glacier Viewing
The day starts with a drive east along the Glenn Hwy, which quickly becomes a winding, mountainous and super-scenic road. Your first destination is a secluded lodge about an hour north of Anchorage where you'll board a helicopter and go on a stunning 35-minute flight deep into the mountains. The flight ends at a glacial snowfield, where your friendly guides and even-friendlier sled dogs will meet you for the trip.
For the next hour, you'll get to tour this unique landscape aboard the dog sled, led by your professional guides. The tour ends with another gorgeous flight back to the lodge.
Continue east on the highway to follow the Matanuska River Valley, which runs parallel to the stunning snowy peaks of the Chugach Range. If you'd like to stop for a hike or visit a deserted gold mine, consider a short detour into the Hatcher Pass area, where you'll find a variety of hiking trails leading into the alpine zone.
The day ends near the Matanuska Glacier area, in one of the few remote lodges located in this beautiful corner of Alaska.
Day 3: Glacier Viewing, Mat Glacier - Valdez
Your morning begins with a guided hike on the Matanuska Glacier (no experience or equipment required). The "Mat," as it's known locally, is a 27-mile long glacier, the longest car-accessible glacier in the US. Your guides will take you to the glacier's face, where you'll don your helmet and begin the 3-hr hike. The glacier is constantly moving and shifting, creating a landscape rich with unique features such as turquoise pools, blue caves, crevasses and moulins (waterfalls emptying into the ice). Needless to say, this is not your everyday hike.
You'll be back in time for lunch, after which you'll head east on the Glenn Hwy and then south on the Richardson Hwy, following the oil pipeline to the town of Valdez. Weather permitting, you might get a glimpse at the Wrangell Mountain range - a series of dormant volcanic giants reaching an elevation of 13,000-16,000 feet above sea level. This road will take you through the mountain views of Thompson Pass and Worthington Glacier and into the steep and narrow Keystone Canyon, where huge waterfalls come down crashing the canyon walls.
Valdez itself is located at the east side of Prince William Sound, a gorgeous bay full of glaciers and wildlife. The sound earned some unwanted international attention in 1989 when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez caused a catastrophic oil spill and an environmental disaster that impacted the area for decades. Today the damage is not visible, and most species of wildlife are back to their pre-1989 population sizes, but in a community made of both oil workers and fishermen, this is still an open wound. Accommodations in Valdez.
Day 4: Valdez - Columbia Glacier Kayaking
Today is a full day of kayaking near the Columbia Glacier, one of Alaska’s largest tidewater glaciers. This glacier has been on a rapid retreat over the last twenty years or so, and the bay is dotted with a beautiful array of icebergs. The peaceful water, abundant wildlife, and magnificent views of Prince William Sound make it an ideal kayaking destination. Common marine mammals in the area include sea lions, seals, sea otters and humpback whales. This tour departs the Valdez port in the morning and returns in the late afternoon. Accommodations in Valdez.
If a day spent on the water isn't your cup of tea, a day cruise of the same area with a warm, covered boat is available as well.
Day 5: Valdez - Whittier - Girdwood
The morning starts with an early ferry ride from Valdez to Whittier, on the opposite side of Prince William Sound. Whittier is a quirky little town which is not much of a destination, but it's worth noting that virtually all residents of this town live in one apartment building (don't worry, you won't miss it!). Whittier is connected to the rest of Alaska via a narrow tunnel which is used alternately by vehicles and trains. The tunnel is very well monitored so the risk of meeting the train in the middle of the drive is not high; still, it's an interesting ride.
On the other side of the tunnel lays the beautiful and glacial Portage Valley. Stop here and check out the displays at the visitor center, or go for a walk on one of the valley's many hiking trails. After visiting the valley, continue up the road for another 11 miles to the town of Girdwood. A ski town in the winter, Girdwood is located in the heart of the mountains and boasts a great selection of hiking trails and guided activities.
Day 6: Girdwood - Prince William Sound Day Cruise - Anchorage
After a relaxed morning head back to the town of Whittier, where you'll board a 100-passenger vessel which will take you on a cruise of the west side of Prince William Sound. This is a fantastic way to soak the amazing scenery and to get close to some of the tidewater glaciers in this area. The local fauna includes huge sea-bird colonies, sea otters, seals, sea lions and of course, humpback whales. This 5-hour cruise ends in the afternoon hours, leaving you just enough time to head back to Anchorage in a leisurely fashion. The road to Anchorage runs parallel to Turnagain Arm, a narrow bay known for its panoramic views and extreme tides. This is also a great area for wildlife viewing, especially beluga whales and Dall sheep.
Overnight in Anchorage.
Day 7: Anchorage - Bear viewing Day Tour
Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks lay southwest of Anchorage, across the Cook Inlet. These two wild parks are arguably two of the best locations in the world to view bears in their natural habitat. Go on a day trip to one of these parks and spend a few hours viewing the coastal brown bears of Alaska.
The brown bear is not usually a social animal, but every summer when the salmon begin moving upstream, large groups of bears form along the rivers. These bears will spend most of the summer fishing and competing for salmon and mating rights. Since they are so focused on their own agendas, and since the bears are much more concerned with the presence of other bears, they are generally very tolerable of human presence. This does not mean you should approach them too closely, of course - these are still very wild and very big animals - but it allows for an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience.
The exact destination of the trip is determined by the local operators in Anchorage the day before (and sometimes, the day of) departure, based on bear activity observed in each area. Both Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks are not connected to the road system, so arrival at the bear viewing location is best done using a variety of small aircraft, including (but not limited to) floatplanes and wheeled planes capable of landing on the beaches during low tides. This super-scenic flight will take you over some serious mountains, glaciers and active volcanoes, and is a highlight on its own right. The tour is usually led by the pilot or by a professional guide, unless the destination is Brooks Camp, where park rangers oversee the site and direct the visitors.
Once the tour is over, you'll fly back to Anchorage. Accommodations in Anchorage.
Day 8: Anchorage - Flight home
Your last day in Alaska. Enjoy the final views of the mountains before heading home from the Ted Stevens Int'l Airport. Hope to see you again soon!