Not only is Alaska the largest state in the United States, it's home to the largest National Park, the largest National Forest, the largest piedmont and tidewater glaciers in North America, and the tallest peak on the continent. This itinerary will take you to all of these grand places which can be explored on your own; just rent a bicycle, kayak, or surf board and immerse yourself in the wilderness that is Alaska. Fly to Yakutat to begin your adventure. Depending on where you live, this could add an extra day to your itinerary. Yakutat receives daily jet service with connections to Anchorage, Juneau, and Seattle.
Yakutat — The Place Where the Canoes Rest (+)
Yakutat — The Place Where the Canoes Rest (-)
Located on the scenic Gulf Coast of Alaska and surrounded by Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (the largest National Park) and the Tongass National Forest (the largest National Forest), Yakutat attracts a variety of outdoor enthusiasts to hike beaches, climb mountains, view glaciers, and surf remote breaks. Rent a surf board and gear at the local surf shop and catch some waves. There is no overcrowding and you shouldn't have too much problem finding someone local to show you the good spots. The big surprise to most first-time Alaska surfers is that the water temperature can get into the mid-60s in the summer. A 4/3 mm suit and booties are generally sufficient for surfers from the Lower 48.
Malaspina Glacier (the largest piedmont glacier in North America) and Hubbard Glacier (the largest tidewater glacier in North America) are easily accessible from this magnificent destination. Sea kayaking is an increasingly popular method of viewing the area's dynamic geology and unique wildlife. You can rent one from a local shop to explore the natural beauty of the bay and enjoy the view of towering mountains while you watch for wildlife along the shores. There are also numerous well-kept trails in the area for those who wish to go for a hike. Or, for the more adventurous, explore the backcountry. There are no maintained trails on National Parks Service wilderness lands so be prepared to follow game trails, natural drainages and beaches. Animals will often choose these paths as well, so stay alert.
Take the Ferry to Whittier — Gateway to Prince William Sound (+)
Take the Ferry to Whittier — Gateway to Prince William Sound (-)
The Alaska Marine Highway (the only marine route with the designation of National Scenic Byway and All-American Road) offers service between Yakutat and Whittier twice per month in the summer, so be sure to schedule the rest of your trip around the departure of this ferry. Board the ferry in the morning for your cruise across the Gulf of Alaska to Whittier. Reserve a passenger cabin if you would prefer some privacy. For the more adventurous, set up your own tent on the back deck. Step outside for some fresh air, the covered solarium is heated and provides spectacular views of the passing landscape. Food and beverage service is available, including hot and cold options.
Explore Whittier and Take the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage (+)
Explore Whittier and Take the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage (-)
Arrive in Whittier in the morning and spend the afternoon exploring the gateway to Prince William Sound. The Sound is made up of many deep fjords with tidewater glaciers that calve before your eyes, and islands around every turn. Go on a day cruise, take a kayak tour, or rent your own, to see these magnificent glaciers and wildlife. Go scuba diving or hike in the vast wilderness of the Chugach National Forest. In the evening, board the Alaska Railroad for a two and a half hour train ride to Anchorage.
Anchorage — Big Wild Life (+)
Anchorage — Big Wild Life (-)
Spend a day exploring Anchorage where metropolitan luxuries mix with unrivaled natural wonders to make this an unforgettable destination. Activities abound in the area, go flightseeing, golfing, hiking, biking, four-wheeling, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and much more. Anchorage has it all, so whatever you decide to do you will be sure to love it. Four National Parks are accessible from Anchorage. The glacier-filled Kenai Fjords National Park is a mere two hours south, or other day trips include Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and Katmai National Park. But be sure to save the best for last, and explore Denali State Park and Denali National Park & Preserve in-depth.
Denali State Park & Denali National Park & Preserve (+)
Denali State Park & Denali National Park & Preserve (-)
In the morning, board the Alaska Railroad for the seven-and-a-half-hour train ride to Denali. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as moose, bear, wolves, caribou, Dall sheep, and abundant waterfowl along the way. Then, enjoy the next couple of days exploring Denali, home of Mt. McKinley (the tallest peak on the continent). Adventures of varying levels of physical activity can be found during your visit. Beyond mile 15 the road is closed to private vehicles, so you'll need to be on a bus, bicycle, or on foot to access the full length of the Denali Park Road. In the summer, daily bus trips are offered along the 92-mile road from the park entrance to the old mining community of Kantishna. There are also shuttle busses and camper busses available that allow you to take day hikes, take your bike into the park, or go camping. Activities in the park include, sightseeing, birding, sled dog kennel visits, flightseeing, mountaineering, biking, hiking, and backpacking. Choose your own adventure in Denali and get the most out of your time in this spectacular setting.
Anchorage & Homeward Bound (+)
Anchorage & Homeward Bound (-)
After lunch, depart on the Alaska Railroad for the trip back to Anchorage. Take one last look at Mt. McKinley as you depart Talkeetna and continue south. Arrive in Anchorage after dinner and settle in for the evening. Then, fly back home the next day. Twenty three domestic and international passenger destinations are served from the Anchorage Airport. You'll return home with a grand feeling of accomplishment for having thoroughly explored the Great Land.