Drive across frozen plains and past massive peaks, walk across remote tundras to glacial rivers and kayak in the spectacular waters of Prince William Sound.. Look out for diverse wildlife like moose, grizzly bears, and wolves in Denali National Park, then get close to sea otters, puffins and humpback whales on an optional kayak trip among glaciers in Valdez.. See North America’s biggest collection of glaciers and some of its tallest, most impressive mountains in Wrangell-St Elias National Park – the world’s largest internationally protected area.. See both sides of the Kenai Peninsula – Homer, with remote beaches and the stunning Kachemak Bay State Park, and Seward, with accessible glaciers and marine life.
Alaska may be part of the USA, but it feels like another world. This Lonely Planet Experience gives the freedom to hike, kayak, climb or fly your way through the iconic Denali and Wrangell-St Elias national parks. It’s a big, bold landscape filled with incredible mountain ranges, diverse wildlife and shining glaciers. Delve well and truly deep into the wild before reemerging into civilisation with stops in Anchorage and Valdez, and have plenty of free time to explore this beautiful landscape at your own pace.
Breakfast Included: Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Welcome to Anchorage, the most populous city in Alaska with one of the most beautiful backdrops you’ve ever seen! Things kick off this evening with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, but we highly recommend arriving early to see the sights. This is a unique environment; a city in the heart of the wilderness. It's worth spending some time in the cafes and bars and getting to know the hardy locals who have more than a few entertaining stories up their sleeves. After you meet your fellow travellers and leader in the evening, why not join them in town for an optional group dinner.
Denali National Park
Leave the city behind this morning and venture into a world of lakes and glaciers in the epic Alaska Range. Head north along the Parks Highway to Denali National Park (approximately 5 hours), keeping an eye out for caribou as you go. Home to the highest peak in the United States known as Denali (Mount McKinley), as well as grizzly bears, wolves, moose and Dall sheep, this national park is a true wilderness with endless snowy peaks.
Denali National Park
Buckle up for an 8-hour bus safari deep into Denali National Park, visiting the Eielson Visitor Centre as you go. This scenic tour will take you through the park's backcountry, travelling 106 kilometres (66 miles) to the visitor centre. The journey is worth it as the rangers and interactive displays provide great insight and information about the park. The bus driver will help you spot wildlife while answering questions and, if needed, make bathroom stops along the way. Be sure to bring some food and beverages with you as there aren't any available on the bus.
After experiencing a Denali dog sled demonstration this morning, traverse through high alpine country as you drive Alaska's second-highest highway pass to the Maclaren River Lodge. Kick back with some music and take in the scenery, getting to know your travel buddies along the way. On arrival at the lodge, take a canoe upriver to the remote wilderness Glacier Camp, where you'll spend the night camping out beneath the stars. Explore the frosty surrounds once the campsite is set up.
Wrangell-St Elias National Park
Wake from your peaceful slumber and take a canoe back to the lodge in the morning. Today is a big travel day, with approximately 8 hours total driving time, but it's also a really beautiful drive with plenty of wildlife and some great views along the way. You'll leave the main highway and start to head deep into Wrangell-St Elias National Park: the largest national park in the USA, being almost six times the size of Yellowstone. The evening is free once you've arrived at the campsite, so take a hike and do some exploring, or just kick back and soak up the camp vibes.
Wrangell-St Elias National Park
You’re free to explore Wrangell-St Elias National Park today, and there are a whole host of optional activities to take part in. Perhaps take a scenic flight over the park, venture out for a glacier walk on the spectacular Root Glacier, or maybe try your hand at some adrenaline-pumping ice climbing. Your group leader will be able to provide you with other recommendations for the day. Alternatively, spend the day hiking and exploring the park – all 13 million acres of it. Keep an eye out for moose, bears and caribou and then, in the evening, return to the campsite for some much-needed (and well-earned) rest.
Depart Wrangell-St Elias and make tracks for Valdez, a small town on the edge of Prince William Sound. The trip should take approximately 7.5 hours, including a stop at Worthington Glacier en route. Valdez, which is surrounded by the steep, snow-capped Chugach Mountains, is best known as the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. After setting up camp, why not check out the town and grab a bite to eat?
Today is free to do as you please in Valdez. Kayaking is hugely popular here, so take a paddle on Prince William Sound among the glaciers and down the fjords, spotting some wildlife along the way. On land, you could visit the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive for an interesting history lesson of this important port city. Just like Anchorage, Valdez is framed with mountains, so wherever you look, there’s something new to see.
This morning drive back to Anchorage, which will take around 6 hours. This may be a tiring drive, but it's also a spectacular one as you cross the snowy Thompson Pass. Upon arrival, you've got a free afternoon in Anchorage. There will be a meeting at 6 pm to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure.
Journey via the Turnagain Arm (approximately 2.5 hours; 200 kilometres)to the coastal town of Seward and the surrounding Kenai Fjords National Park. There will be time to explore some of this Arctic wonderland, with its numerous lakes, glaciers and fascinating coastline. The area is also famous for its many anglers, who follow the salmon on their annual migration up the peninsula's many wide rivers. Seward is one of Alaska's oldest towns, as well as one of the most scenic. The town itself boasts galleries, boutique shops and a bustling harbour, but it's perhaps best known as a gateway to exploring Kenai Fjords National Park. Depending on your departure date, you may be camping in town or you may be jumping into a water taxi across Resurrection Bay, where you will spend the next two nights staying in a hostel. This accommodation is so remote it can only be accessed by kayak or water taxi. Our hostel in Resurrection Bay isn't your typical hostel. You may need to climb a ladder to reach your bed, and should note that bathrooms are external to the main building. It's rustic, but that's made up for by the remote location.
Enjoy a free day to soak up stunning surrounds. Maybe hire a kayak and hit the water with the majestic snow-capped Alaskan mountains looming in the background. If you do, remember to look out for porpoises and sea otters in the water. Your lodging is also perfectly situated for exploring the surrounding woodlands, so maybe head off on one of the many trails.
Today head the 125 kilometres to Homer (approximately 4 hours) to arrive at your gateway to the incredible Kenai Peninsula. Keep an eye on the water as you head south because today you might catch a glimpse of beluga whales breaching off the coast. Again, depending on your departure date, you may be camping in town or you may be jumping into a water taxi across Kachemak Bay, where you will spend the next two nights staying in a hostel.