This is one of my most memorable trip which I marked off successfully in my bucket list and will cherish for ever. I loved leading this 4 day and 3 nights trip during July 4th long Weekend. Summers are the best time to visit and its gonna get crowded. However, the view points and activities which we covered during our visit are way far from each other and a bit less crowded during July.I set off my trip from San Francisco with Alaskan Airlines. Flew down to Anchorage with a 1 hour layover in Seattle.
Activities: Boat Cruise, Glacier Hike, Rafting, Glacier Kayaking
Day 1: Anchorage, Seward, Exit Glacier, Boat Cruise, Crab Dinner on Fox Island, Cooper Landing Airbnb Cabin
Reached Anchorage at 2 AM and stayed at a nearby 3.5 star hotel which had the airport pickup and dropoff facilities using hotwires.com. We Checked out at 8.30 AM in the morning and left to airport to pick up our enterprise rental car. Our first destination is toward South which is Seward. Our first stop is at the 90 miles scenic road drive towards Seward.
Destination Exit Glacier – that’s the glacier you can visit in Seward where road meets the glacier ( visited by President Obama as well recently on his Alaskan Trip). It a less than one mile hike from the visitor center.
Next stop is Boat cruise for whale watching and glacier tour. It’s so close from Seward Exit glacier. We made sure to catch the Cruise in time, it starts around 4 PM (should be there 15 mins early) – It’s a 4-hour cruise ride with whale watching and glacier tour – Kenai fjords cruise service is what we have used in our budget and time frame ( should be around $89 per person, http://www.kenaifjords.com/day-cruises/fox-island-dinner-cruise/) – with dinner package included in that at Fox Island. They stop at Fox Island which is a small Island near the Kenai Seward area after whale watching for a quick dinner.
So, typically day starts at 9 AM and ends at 9 PM ( if you plan accordingly, 9 AM will be good). Lodging at an Airbnb Cabin house in Cooper Landing ( that’s on our way back to anchorage, few miles between Seward) – I reserved it at Cooper Landing because next day we have to go back from anchorage side to save some time in the morning. Host Janet LaRue made sure we had everything for breakfast and it was neat and clean. If you wanna check that in Airbnb, it can allow 5 ppl I guess. $100 for a cabin near the river outlook is the best thing I could ever wish for. Best part was the sunlight even at 12.30 AM.
Day 2: Matanuska Glacier , Glacier Hike, River Rafting
We Checked out the cabin at 6 AM in the morning and started our journey to Matanuska Glacier.(should be around ~190 miles from Cooper Landing, have to start early). Matanuska Glacier is towards Valdez, Alaska. I did plan for a combo activity which includes Glacier trekking from 10 AM – 12PM and White water rafting from 2 PM – 6PM with a break for one hour lunch. Its a package we paid for both the activities to get discounts. It includes gear and everything. Total 6 hours of activity ( strict on their timings sometimes, because its a group activity). Nova River Runners (http://www.novalaska.com) is the website I booked from. You can plan what ever you want by checking their website or can do research on similar activities. we really enjoyed the hike and rafting. The team at Nova were so friendly and made the experience so memorable. Drove back from Matanuska to Glen Allen since i reserved a cabin house from Airbnb – awesome hospitality from the host ( some 150 miles from Matanuska and on the way to Valdez, for our next day trip) . Had a great sleep.So typically our day started at 6AM and ended at 9 PM in Glen Allen.
Day 3: Valdez, Hike, Glacier Kayak
Checked out at 6 AM in the morning from Matanuska and drove to Valdez for one hell of an adventure. Valdez is around ~150 mile from Matanuska . I have been waiting for this adventure in my whole trip. I reserved a Glacier Kayak activity in Valdez from Anadyr Adventures ( http://anadyradventures.com/) Trust me you will enjoy and will have a great time during the hike and kayak. You will kayak for few miles on still river to get to a narrow closed Ice cave. It’s totally 5 – 6 hours of activity. It will start in the morning around 10 AM and ends at 4 PM with a quick lunch. I think the price per person is ~ $120 for the whole activity which includes all the equipment rental and gear. Check the above mentioned website for latest prices. Horse tail falls is near by Valdez . There should be one place called some fishery spot, where you can sit, wait and watch for Bears. Unfortunately we could not cover since we had some other things going on in mind.
I did try and shoot videos using my GoPro Hero 3+ to capture the moments when we were kayaking through the ice caves. Hardly we can paddle inside the cave, where you end up using your hands sometimes.
Booked a hotel in Valdez but we canceled and drove back to Denali park from Valdez ( It’s around 350 miles) . This is not part of our itinerary, but we decided that we wanted to enjoy the driveway. You will enjoy the road drive from Valdez to Denali – you can spot wild animals if you are lucky. We did find moose. You can also possibly have a flat tire as well since there was a gravel road for 100 miles on the way to Denali. We had a flat tire. Watch out for gas station. It’s hard to find one.We reached Denali at 2 AM . All the cabins and hotels are booked in Denali and we could not find one. We camped in our car and woke up in the morning in search of any gas stations to fresh up our selves. Luckily a young couple were leaving from a camp site and they gave us their parking tag. We parked it in the campsite slept for few more minutes and did get ready to visit Denali National Park. Be good, do good and you will find something good in return. I like those sudden surprises and tiny power naps.
Day 4: Denali National Park, Anchorage Airport
We reached the Denali visitor center and bought the 15 mile road pass permit for Denali park, where you can drive for 15 miles and watch for any wild animals like mountain goat if you are lucky. You can watch Mount McKinley from the telescope mounted near one point on the way to the park. If you wanted to watch wild life and enjoy the road trip of the whole 90-mile park, you have to purchase shuttle tickets online or at the center or there is a lottery each year in September to visit the park with your own vehicle. Since we all have our return flights in the evening from Anchorage, we had a power lunch on our driveway and drove back from Denali to Anchorage via Talkeetna river pass.
Summary – Worth the money only if you plan properly and budget it right in such a short amount of time. If you don’t want to cover much, u can stick to one trip like Seward- Denali or Seward – Valdez. In our case we did cover Seward, Matanuska, Valdez and just Denali park and that’s why we took that extra risk to drive from Valdez to Denali. We wanted to enjoy the road drive, we covered almost 1100 miles in a span of 4 days while doing the activities.
Regrets – should have covered Fairbanks as well, but not the right time for northern lights. saving it for later