15.08.2009 - 20.08.2009
My Alaska Itinerary was 5 days because I was saving vacation days for trip to India. Flew in to Anchorage and drove to Seward. Went on Ididaride.com sled dog trip.
Next day took a day long boat tour to Northwestern Glacier and drove back to Anchorage that evening. Along the boat tour we saw sea lions, otters, birds. We saw glacier calving. Check on the web as to which month is good for whale watching in Alaska. I think it might be June-July.
Third day took the train from Anchorage to Denali. Train path has much better scenery than road. The Alaska railroad engineers took the trouble of creating tracks that show some great scenery. In comparison, from the bus we took coming back I couldn't tell whether I was in Alaska or Wisconsin (except Talkeetna lodge). Stayed at Crows Nest in Denali which gave a cottage atmosphere - I thought Princess Lodge would have been better organized but more like a large hotel made of logs. I'd recommend taking the train to Denali and returning by bus. The Talkeetna lodge had a spectacular view of the Alaskan mountain range.
Day four took shuttle into Denali park upto Wonder lake round trip. There is a 2.5 mile trek to the lake itself which on a clear day provides the opportunity to film your family in front of the reflection of Denali in the lake - I did not do the trek. Day Five took an early morning coach from Denali to Anchorage with a stop at Talkeetna lodge - excellent spot for some great pictures of the Alaskan range. The bus dropped us off at Anchorage Museum. After spending a few hours there we took a cab to the airport. I called Alaskatravel.com for some tips and some reservations.
The Denali (Mt McKinley) is sometimes called the shy mountain. We were told only 20% of tourists get to see it without clouds. We took the first shuttle bus into the park and were lucky to get half hour before the clouds developed. I was told early morning is the best time for clear views. You can achieve that one of three ways. (1) Camping - make reservations. (2)There is a lodge inside the park - Kantishna Roadhouse - pricey and booked about a year in advance. (3) if you are in the mood to drive a lot - rent an RV at Anchorage,
drive to Seward then drive to Denali, then further to Fairbanks. Return the RV at Fairbanks and take the train back to Anchorage. That will be a lot of driving. If you have nerves of steel you can drive the RV to the Wonder Lake RV Campground - hilly road - maintain speed limit, avoid distractions. Sleep in the RV camp, watch the mountain for a couple of hours in morning then take the shuttle out for animal watching (remember you were focusing on the road while driving the RV).
If you have more time and budget you can fly to Barrow for polar bears. Check on the web as to which months are best for that. Barrow is also the place for Aurora Borealis (Northern lights). However that is in colder months. You can't get that as well as good weather for the rest in the same trip.
In August we needed a winter jacket for the boat trip to the glacier. Until July you will need a strong mosquito repellent. Rain pants will save your vacation if you encounter rain (it is an arctic rain forest technically).
Feel free to call me if you have any questions.