Alaska July 12-21, thoughts welcome
Mar 30, 2021 at 6:27 pm #3707054
I just purchased tickets to alaska for July 12-21. Anchorage that is. I don’t have a plan for what to do once I arrive. Thoughts on the most scenic 6-8 day trip within a days drive of the airport by rental car (or if someone who lives there wants to do a shuttle car for less than we’d spend renting a car). I have a packraft but won’t want to go much into class 3 or more rapids.
TLDR, going stir crazy bought tickets.Mar 30, 2021 at 6:50 pm #3707056Luke SchmidtBPL Member
In a day you can drive to pretty much anywhere on the main road system. Alternatively a short bush plane fight gets you even more places.
I think the question is “what is the Alaska experience you dream of?” Then we can offer better suggestions. Packraft? Backpacking? Animals?Mar 30, 2021 at 9:08 pm #3707068
So no to bush plane for my first (and hopefully not last) trip. Trying to keep costs down.
I am interested in off trail cross country backpacking preferably above the timber line with optional light packrafting (I have some class 2 experience and a bit of class 3, my friend who is going with me has almost no packrafting experience beyond class 1, so definitely nothing not swimmable). If I get to see a bear or something that would be a cool bonus but I am not seeking out the caribou migration or something.
The 2020 Alaska Wilderness Classic looked amazing (as they usually do) except for the swampy bits and planted the seed in my mind for an Alaska trip.
Unless we can figure out a cheap shuttle or hitch-hiking in Alaska won’t risk we miss our return flight it’ll need to be a loop though.Mar 30, 2021 at 11:34 pm #3707074Luke SchmidtBPL Member
Okay so here are my ideas.
First Class II water on a big muddy Alaska river is rather different then Class II on a clear Rocky Mountain river. Something to keep in mind.
I’m thinking a Denali trip might be the best bet. You can hike, there are packraft options and easy shuttles. You could end the trip a day or two early to have margin and do animal watching. Only thing is you’ll have to figure out permits. But I think it might be worth it. Denali gives you pristine wilderness right off the road. Lots of Alaska is wild but you might have 10 miles of muddy ATV trails before you get to more wilderness areas (Talkeetnas for example). Check out trip reports of the Sanctuary River for example. That is probably a good beginner river as long as your friend can dodge log jams.
The Kenai is another good option, I imagine Dave will chime in. Its pretty and good trails. But not as wild feeling imho. I can’t think of any good packraft options there for longer trips.
My area near the Wrangles is great but a longer drive. And access is a bit trickier.Apr 27, 2021 at 6:28 am #3710501
Thanks again Luke!
My current plan is to go for Denali, still working out what units will be my top picks to apply for 14 days out.
Monday 12th 8:00pm Arrive in ANC
Tuesday 13th buy fuel/food/bear spray drive to Denali pick up permit
Wednesday 14th Hiker Bus and Start Hike
15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th Alaska!
Tuesday 20th Hike out to road and Hiker Bus drive back south
Wednesday 21st Day in ANC and or Kenai 11:40pm flight leaves ANC
Instead of trying to rent a car should we go for a shuttle bus/craigslist ride to and from Denali, the rental car would just sit from the 14th to the 20th?
Anyone have favourite units/routes?Apr 27, 2021 at 6:38 am #3710502
(Rental cars at the ANC airport seem to be about $150 a day plus tax and such)Apr 27, 2021 at 8:34 pm #3710611
Catch the train to Denali, it’s a nice experience all on its own. Not sure what the Covid schedule is like these days. Or maybe there’s bus service? Used to be. So much was different last summer that I don’t know what’s happening this year. No reason to rent a car that gathers dust.
You can get your vaccination while you’re in Alaska! Unusual tourist perk.
The backcountry permit sections can’t be reserved until 1 day ahead, I think, but call the rangers to find out for sure. Even if you can reserve, you might have to change your route last minute for a wildlife closure so have some different ideas. The backcountry desk is great; based on your skills and interests and what’s available they can help you plan something. There’s no bad route, visually speaking. Some are much harder than others. Give them a ringy dingy before they get too busy.
And keep an open mind; things change constantly in Denali. Go with the flow. Sit on a windy hillside and watch the storm come in, so beautiful! If things don’t go as planned, do something else! So much to do, so little time.Apr 28, 2021 at 7:19 pm #3710729
Thanks for the train recommendation. I would much rather save money and have a better trip to the park.
I am confused about permits, some pages on the NPS website say up to 14 days out by email others seem to say one day out in person only. I’ll have to call the rangers.
I think a route up one drainage and down another would be great.Apr 29, 2021 at 7:39 am #3710770
Another question for people with Alaska/Denali experience.
Should I use my ursacks and aloksaks or use the loaner hard bear canisters?Apr 29, 2021 at 9:20 am #3710784
Denali requires bear canisters. Please don’t violate this one! Denali NP has a long and mostly untarnished history with bears and humans, and it would be a shame to see something happen.Apr 29, 2021 at 10:38 am #3710794
Thanks for that update. The ursack website says they are approved in Denali but that may be out of date.Apr 29, 2021 at 11:49 am #3710802
You are right; they do approve the Ursack. So you do have that option. I have both of those, but in Denali bears are thick as thieves. I have seen bears almost every backcountry hike. I would still opt to bring a bear canister, but regs are regs!Apr 29, 2021 at 2:49 pm #3710822Ken LarsonBPL Member
@kenlarsonLocale: Western Michigan
BRFCs Approved for Use in DenaliApr 29, 2021 at 3:00 pm #3710823
I have info from one Denali NPS official who shall not be named, that Bearikades are actually fine too, but because they are using the Interagency testing and authorization they aren’t listed on the website. Don’t quote me on that because I cannot divulge sources. This person would know what is actually safe to use and believes that indeed, Bearikades are fine too. Complicated situation. I’d sure rather have my Bearikade that an Ursack in Denali.Apr 29, 2021 at 3:07 pm #3710824
Thanks for the confirmation of approved storage devices from both of you. I’ll ruminate on ursack vs bearikade or other canister.Apr 29, 2021 at 3:54 pm #3710844David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Pre-Covid, Denali NP had bear canisters for rent (or free loan?) then they didn’t when everyone was concerned about surface transmission of Covid. Maybe they do again?
Denali is never the wrong answer for one’s first Alaska trip. It’s more daunting than most other options because it’s all off-trail and there aren’t obvious loops or transits to make and the park personnel are famously vague in their suggestions (they try to disperse backpackers throughout the park). But if you’re ready to bash through the bushes and get your feet wet, it’s a fabulous destination.
In addition to a BPing trip there, I’d seriously consider reserving the park bus to Eielson Visitor’s Center and back (which could be part of getting dropped off and picked up for your trip – you’ll see more critters over those miles than in 4 days on foot (but animals seen on foot will really get your heart pumping).
I concur that if you can avoid paying $100+ per day to park a rental car in Denali, you’ll come out ahead. Also, the Alaska Railroad? Those observation cars windows are 20 feet above the terrain so you see A LOT more scenery than from your rental Kia Forte rental car. I’d definitely only make a cancel-able reservation because other options may well be better.
I’d suggest NOT bringing a pack raft on your first trip. 35F fast moving water and a lack of other people around makes packrafting in Alaska a whole different endeavor than 48-state packrafting. One little mishap and it’s suddenly a survival situation. Scout out rivers and ponder future trips, but also wade in up to your balls and you may reconsider.
There are definitely LOTS of things to do here on the Kenai Peninsula and if you want a sampler-pack of activities (hike on trails, raft salmon rivers, moutain bike, world-class canoeing, fat-tire on the beaches, day cruises for whale watching, get up above or onto glaciers, catch halibut and salmon, or get above treeline and then go and go off-trail for miles along the ridge lines).
If you want one, big, iconic backpacking trip and are feeling up the rigors of Denali, go for that. If you want to do a very different thing each day, or want a easy-to-moderate-difficulty long backpacking trip, then there are lots of options on the Kenai Peninsula and you can just GO. No permit. No reservations. No bear canister if you don’t want, etc. Or bring a .338 Lapua if you want (I woulnd’t). The only 20,320-foot mountain is 250 miles away (and visible in clear weather) instead of 20 miles away, and it IS very impressive from 20 miles away, but it’s rarely “out” in July – it’s usually cloud covered 25 days of each summer month and only out for a few hours on those lucky clearer days.
Post any Qs about the Kenai if that’s of interest. I’m off to teach math now, back later.Apr 29, 2021 at 9:00 pm #3710886
I’ll check on rental loaner bear can availability. I’d like to avoid purchasing those as I already have the ursacks. And we aren’t packing a gun we couldn’t buy ammo if we wanted to right now.
Definitely want the iconic wilderness backpacking trip so would only be interested in one or two days in Kenai at the end.
Are reservations required or recommended for the train? If we don’t get a car is it feasible to arrive in ANC at night, sleep, get up, buy fuel canisters, bear spray and such in ANC, and get to the train station? And I see that the train doesn’t really save money over a rental car sitting at the backcountry office. $1328 for two vs $1400 plus tax and gas for a car. Slightly cheaper and a better experience if the logistics work out but not a slam dunk on price.
In Denali how feasible is up one drainage, over a pass, and down another drainage? Also if I go in set on certain units how likely are they (or everything) to be taken?Apr 30, 2021 at 8:51 am #3710936
Wow, I had no idea the train prices had skyrocketed so much. I used to ride flag stop in the winter (goes one way each week, literally) and it was much cheaper than driving. Not the tourist price for summer, apparently. I agree with David, it is a really nice ride. But yikes, that’s a lot of dough. There used to also be a regular bus service, maybe cheaper? But not as cool, not as interesting.
You can definitely go up one drainage and down the other, and you’ll have to figure out which passes allow you to get through between them; some will turn into cliffs. If you’re really good at topo maps, that’s an option. There’s also a guide book that isn’t sold in stores here and the NPS would prefer you not know about – Denali Guidebook by Ike Waits. Order it from his website. Lots of good suggestions on routes and it gives a better sense of how difficult they might be than a topo map will. People think they can do 20 miles a day, but the terrain is more challenging than most are used to, plus there aren’t established trails. In many places there are social trails, because like any animal, humans will follow the path of least resistance. And that’s better than pounding out new social trails.
How likely is your chosen section to be available? Only the rangers can give you a sense of what is happening this season. Last year there was so much available! This year will be busier but not as busy as “normal.” But you really can’t go wrong – take sections that are available and there’s beauty to be had no matter which you get.
You have a fair bit of time, which lets you get more remote than most hikers. You will be totally on your own. If you get injured you will have to wait a while before help arrives; be prepared. The further you get from the road, and the further west you go in the park, the more remote you will be. Super fun!Apr 30, 2021 at 8:25 pm #3711057
I’ll price out buses as well, and thanks for the book recommendation.
Ike Waits book says sold out on his website. He recommends title wave books in Anchorage but when I call their press zero to speak to someone just disconnects you. I emailed them instead. Crossing my fingers Title Wave has it in stock.Apr 30, 2021 at 10:39 pm #3711066John ZBPL Member
Amazon.com lists multiple bookstores with used copies of the book for about $80.Jul 8, 2021 at 7:58 am #3721321
Family funeral next week so the trip is postponed.Jul 8, 2021 at 11:31 am #3721329David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Russell, postponed a little or a lot? I ask because we’ll have a car parked at ANC July 10-31 (and I can put bear spray, DEET, butane, chainsaws, guns, whatever, in the trunk).Jul 8, 2021 at 3:19 pm #3721344
Thank you David! But postponed a little too much and not sure it will work out. Right now we are looking at the 30th or 31st of July till the 9th of August.Jul 9, 2021 at 9:56 am #3721419
New Flights arrive in ANC at ~7 pm on 31 July and leave ANC at ~9:30 pm on 10 Aug.Jul 22, 2021 at 4:28 pm #3722806
Got a room at the Ingra House hotel for the night we arrive, it is close to the Egan center where the bus leaves from at 6:30 am the next day. We’ll get to Denali about noon and stay at riley creek campground at least the night of the 1st.
Anyone know the best place to buy fuel and bear spray at 8pm-ish on a saturday in Anchorage?
Would we be better off trying to buy it at the campground store inside the park?
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