Spend two weeks exploring both the deep fjords and fishing towns of southeast Alaska along with the natural parks and scenic drives of the south-central region. Go bear viewing, glacier hiking, sea kayaking and more, as you see some of the highest peaks in North America along with wildlife, glaciers, and stretches of true wilderness.

Highlights

  • Watch the bears of Anan Creek fish for salmon
  • Take a Zodiac cruise to LeConte Glacier and Tracy Arm
  • Visit Denali and Wrangell St. Elias, two of Alaska's wildest parks
  • Go sea kayaking among the blue icebergs of Columbia Bay
  • Hike the lunar landscape of the Root Glacier

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Seattle Seattle
Day 2 Seattle to Wrangell Wrangell
Day 3 Anan Creek Bear Viewing Wrangell
Day 4 Wrangell to Juneau Juneau
Day 5 Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise Juneau
Day 6 Juneau to Anchorage & Denali National Park Denali National Park
Day 7 Denali National Park Denali National Park
Day 8 Denali Highway Paxson
Day 9 Paxson to Valdez Valdez
Day 10 Columbia Glacier Kayaking Valdez
Day 11 Valdez to McCarthy Kennicott
Day 12 Kennicott and McCarthy Kennicott
Day 13 McCarthy to Matanuska Valley Palmer
Day 14 Palmer to Anchorage & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Seattle

Summer in Seattle
Summer in Seattle

Start your trip in Seattle. If you arrive early, spend some time touring the city and check out city highlights like the famous Pike's Place Market, Space Needle, and downtown area.

Day 2: Seattle to Wrangell

Leconte Glacier, Alaska
Leconte Glacier

Start your day with an early flight to Wrangell, Alaska, a secluded town in the heart of the Alaskan Inside Passage. Take a tour through the area's towering fjords aboard an 18-seat heated jet boat, eventually making your way toward the LeConte Glacier. The blue-ice glacier is surrounded by granite cliffs and calving regularly; watch for marine wildlife floating on the icebergs in the bay.

Depending on when you travel, you may also visit Petersburg, a fishing town established by Norwegian settlers, before you return to Wrangell.

Day 3: Anan Creek Bear Viewing

Black bears, Anan Creek, Alaska
Black bears at Anan Creek

Take about an hour-long boat ride up to Anan Creek, one of the largest salmon runs in southeast Alaska. And naturally, where there are salmon, you can also find a large population of bears. Both black bears and larger brown bears live in the area, along with seals, bald eagles, and other smaller predators. Take in the scene from a viewing deck over the creek's waterfalls, where you'll stay for 4-5 hours.

Day 4: Wrangell to Juneau

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier

Fly up to Juneau, the state's capital, located on the northern section of the Inside Passage. After you arrive, the rest of the day is up to you. One of the city's most popular attractions is the Mendenhall Glacier, an extension of the Juneau Icefield that slopes down almost to the town borders and ends in a large glacial lake. Find the visitor center on the lake's shores along with a variety of hiking trails, including one up to the glacier itself.

If you'd rather take a slower pace today, ride up the Mount Roberts Tram, do a tasting tour at the popular Alaskan Brewery, or scope out downtown Juneau's restaurant scene.

Day 5: Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise

Tracy Arm, Alaska
Tracy Arm

Today takes you to Tracy Arm, considered one of the prettiest fjords in southeast Alaska. Cruise up the fjord in a small boat, taking in the landscapes and abundant wildlife until you reach the two large glaciers at the fjord's end. The full boat ride will take roughly 8-9 hours before you return to Juneau for the evening.

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Day 6: Juneau to Anchorage & Denali National Park

Parks Highway with Denali in the background, Alaska
Parks Highway with Denali in the background

Keep going with a flight to Anchorage, Alaska's largest city. Grab your rental vehicle and start heading north to Denali National Park. One of Alaska's best-known attractions, the park is named after the mountain Denali, the highest mountain in North America and seated within the park's boundaries.

Stop at the town of Talkeetna for a break along the way, roughly 2.5 hours north of Anchorage. The town is known for its vibrant social life and for being the logistical center for mountain climbers attempting to summit "The Big One." The park is another 3 hours away, with lodging available near the entrance.

Day 7: Denali National Park

Denali, Alaska
Denali

Spanning more than 6 million acres, Denali National Park is probably the most accessible place in the state to meet Alaska's famously charismatic wildlife. Follow the park's main gravel road to get deep into its territory, using the system of tours and shuttle buses to look for bears, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, wolves, and more, along with the dramatic mountain views and chance to see the peak of Denali.

Day 8: Denali Highway

Caribou, Denali Hwy, Alaska
Caribou on Denali Highway

Hop on the Denali Highway, which is neither within the boundaries of Denali National Park nor technically a highway. Follow the 135-mile isolated scenic road east from Denali Park, parallel to the mountains of the Alaska Range. You'll drive past rushing rivers, trees, and open tundra, with plenty of opportunities to spot caribou, moose, bald eagle, swans, and beavers. 

The road can get rough in places but is considered one of the most scenic in the state, with a few isolated lodges on the east end for when you tire of driving.

Day 9: Paxson to Valdez

Bridal Veil Falls, near Valdez, Alaska
Bridal Veil Falls, near Valdez

 

Drive south on the Richardson Highway, following the oil pipeline to the town of Valdez. If the weather is clear, you may spot the Wrangell mountain range in the distance and its series of towering dormant volcanoes. The road will take you through the mountain views of Thompson Pass and Worthington Glacier and into the steep Keystone Canyon, where waterfalls come crashing down the canyon walls. 

Valdez is located on the east side of Prince William Sound, a bay full of glaciers and wildlife that has almost entirely recovered from the catastrophic 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill that many associate with the town.

Day 10: Columbia Glacier Kayaking

Columbia Glacier kayaking, Alaska
Columbia Glacier kayaking

Spend a full day kayaking near the Columbia Glacier, one of Alaska’s largest tidewater glaciers. The glacier has been retreating for the past 20 years, but the bay is dotted with icebergs and resident sea lions, seals, sea otters, and humpback whales; the peaceful water, abundant wildlife, and views of Prince William Sound make it an ideal kayaking destination.

If you prefer to travel in a more leisurely style, you can also opt for a day cruise in a covered boat.

Day 11: Valdez to McCarthy

Copper River, Alaska
Copper River

Get back on the road toward Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, part of the largest natural reserve complex in the world and home to some of North America's tallest mountains. You're heading toward the town of McCarthy and neighboring ghost town Kennicott in the heart of the park via the McCarthy Road, a scenic, narrow gravel road

The town of McCarthy developed alongside the Kennicott copper mines, which operated at the beginning of the 20th century. The mines were abandoned in the early 30s, but the town endured, complete with its distinctive old western character and historic buildings.

Once you've made it to McCarthy, take a scenic afternoon flight over the park. The best way to see the immense glaciers and mountains in the park is by air, so you can fully take in their size and surrounding landscapes.

Day 12: Kennicott and McCarthy

Hiking the Root Glacier, Alaska
Hiking the Root Glacier

Walk from Kennicott over to the Root Glacier, where you'll meet your guides for today's group glacier hike. The 2-mile hike along the glacier will take you through the glacier’s unique landscape, with waterfalls disappearing into the ice, ice caves, turquoise pools, and clear meandering streams. There are also options available for extended tours, private guided tours, and ice climbing.

The afternoon's agenda is up to you. Wander among Kennicott's deserted buildings by yourself or on a guided tour, or head into McCarthy instead for an evening of live music in a local bar.

Day 13: McCarthy to Matanuska Valley

Matanuska River, Alaska
Matanuska River

You're in for another day of scenic driving along the Richardson and Glenn highways toward Anchorage. Take your time to enjoy the viewpoints and hiking trails along the way, especially around the Matanuska Glacier and in the Hatcher Pass area. Your ultimate destination for the evening is the town of Palmer, roughly an hour north of Anchorage.

Day 14: Palmer to Anchorage & Depart

Cook Inlet, near Anchorage, Alaska
Cook Inlet near Anchorage

Make your way south to Anchorage to end your trip. If you have time to explore in town, visit the Anchorage Museum of History & Arts or the Alaska Native Heritage Center; if you'd prefer to end with one last hike, check out the locally popular Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or head up to the Chugach Mountains for a hike up Flattop Mountain.

Regardless of your activity choice, you will eventually have to make your way to the airport to head home.

Map

Map of Alaskan Fjords and Backroads - 14 Days
Map of Alaskan Fjords and Backroads - 14 Days