8-Day Road Trip Across Alaska
We finally visited Alaska last May! There are many options for a road trip around Alaska, but since our vacation time was limited, we stuck to Anchorage, Denali National Park, and Seward. Most people visit in the May to September time frame; we opted to visit in May during the start of the summer season. Going at this time of year offered several benefits: the roads were clear of snow and there were few tourists, but the tour companies were starting to operate again. Here's how we spent our 8 days in the Last Frontier!
Day 1-2: Arrive into Anchorage, Drive to Denali
After arriving into Anchorage and picking up our rental car, we stopped by the "Welcome to Alaska" greetings mural and spent the night at Goldenview B&B, which was located about 20 minutes from the downtown area. Goldenview B&B was fantastic; we particularly liked the hot tub with views overlooking the nearby mountains. The next morning, we picked up groceries at a local supermarket and started the 5-hour drive towards Denali National Park.
Day 3-4: Denali National Park
The majority of Denali is not accessible by private car; you can only drive along the first 15 miles before the road is closed off to private vehicles. The only way to tour the rest of the park is by the bus operated by the National Park Service. Prior to our trip, we booked tickets for the Tolkat River Transit Bus. This six-hour bus tour goes 53 miles into the park and costs $34 per adult. You're free to get off the bus at anytime to do some hiking and then get on the next bus driving by (you just have to flag it down). On our tour, we saw two grizzly bears, plenty of dall sheep, some grazing caribou, a baby moose, and lots of beautiful scenery across Denali's vast wilderness!
There are several hotels around Denali where most tourists stay, but we opted for a less traditional route and booked a stationary RV through Airbnb. The RV set-up was perfect; we had two twin beds, running water, and camping chairs to relax and take in the surrounding views. On our second day in Denali, we grabbed lunch at 49th State Brewery and took a 2.5 hour ATV tour across the countryside, which was operated by Denali ATV Wilderness Adventure.
Day 5-7: Seward
After spending two days in Denali, we began the 7 to 8 hour drive to Seward. Along the way we stopped by Talkeetna and stopped at various points to view Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America. We checked into Bell in the Woods B&B in Seward. It was by far the best B&B we've ever stayed at - our room was extremely comfortable and our hosts Chrissy & D made us the most delicious 3-course breakfast each morning. The week we arrived, our hosts had also opened up a food truck in downtown Seward called "D's Dinner Bell in the Woods," which serves Alaskan fusion foods. We were lucky enough to be taste testers for their classic strombolis and reindeer sausage rolls. We highly recommend staying with them and trying their food truck!
Hike Harding Icefield Trail
During our first full day in Seward, we visited Exit Glacier and hiked Harding Icefield in the Kenai Peninsula. The 700-square mile icecap is one of four major icecaps in the United States. President Obama visited the receding glacier with Bear Grylls in 2015 to highlight the effects of climate change. We were extremely underprepared for the hike as we did not expect the trail to be covered with snow. Towards the end of the trail, we trekked through several feet of snow and passed by an avalanche warning sign. Looking back, we probably should have turned around, but we were determined to make it to the top!
Boat Tour of Kenai Fjords National Park
After the long hike, we decided to spend the next day doing a whale watching tour. There are several large boating companies in Seward that tour Kenai Fjords, but we followed the advice of our B&B hosts Chrissy & D and booked a tour with a local boating company called Seward Ocean Excursions. Our wildlife watching tour was amazing - we saw several pods of killer whales, a humpback whale, plenty of sea otters, and a walrus!
Seward is best known for its halibut. We went to The Cookery, one of the best seafood restaurants in town for dinner, and tried the fresh oysters, sea scallops, and Alaskan halibut. It did not disappoint!
Day 8: Drive to Anchorage, Fly Home
On the 2-hour drive from Seward to Anchorage, we stopped by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, an animal sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska's wildlife through conservation, research, and education. Most of the animals came to the center after being orphaned or injured. We drove the scenic 1.5-mile loop around the center and saw many different animals, including moose, bison, reindeer, and several bears. The drive from Seward to Anchorage is also incredibly scenic and we saw a ton of bald eagles during our drive. In downtown Anchorage, we went to Snow City Cafe, a popular brunch spot. The cinnamon rolls and eggs benedict were some of the best we've ever had! After a great road trip around Alaska, it was time to head back home!