Jan 19, 2021 at 9:25 pm #3694628lisa rBPL Member
I’m going to be in Fairbanks at the tail end of a Brooks Range trip in early July. I’m considering spending a few extra days sightseeing and doing some light hiking before flying back to OR. Wondering if anyone has suggestions for places to see and things to do? I’m considering renting a car and driving to Valdez and then either driving or ferrying to Anchorage for return flight, but I’m wondering if the route at that time will be full of RVs and tour busses clogging up the works? On previous trips I’ve traveled between Haines and Ketchikan and Anchorage-Kenai-Cordova. I’ve barely scratched the surface of any of those places but would enjoy getting a little taste of something new as well. AK’s a big place – I’m open to suggestions!Jan 19, 2021 at 10:53 pm #3694639David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Even in a normal year, sure, there are more RVs on the highways, but while they rarely go 65 mph, they do move at 45-50 mph and there are more and more passing lanes bring built, so you eventually get where you’re going. Summer road construction is the other reason that I allow an extra 30-60 minutes from Kenai to Anchorage in summer compared to the quicker trip in winter.
Wrangall-Saint Elias NP would be on the way while driving east from Anchorage to Valdez.
Do check rental car rates before commiting to that plan. I often see $500-600/week in the summer (versus $29/day in winter).
The Alaska Marine Highway (“State Ferry”) is a great way to get out on the water and see the same mountains, glaciers, whales and otters that the fancy cruise ships see at a fraction of the cost. Walk-ons are cheap. Vehicle passage isn’t too bad over that route. Vehicles get spendy coming all the way up from Bellingham, WA (like $3000 for a small car).
6-hour trip, Valdez to Whittier, this April, one person: $79
Same trip, one person and 15-foot compact car: $212
Their website isn’t showing sailings for the summer yet. They do congestion pricing so there’s the potential for it to be 30% higher.
From Whittier (out of which there are day sightseeing cruises, sea kayak rentals, sea kayak tours, or we’ve had a water taxi drop us at USFS cabins further out in Prince William Sound), you drive through the (world’s only single-lane, bidirectional, rail and vehicular) tunnel and then another 50 miles to Anchorage (or turn left and come down here to the Kenai where I can offer more suggestions – you’d be pretty close already to the northern end of the 80-mile Resurrection Trail in Hope).Jan 19, 2021 at 11:40 pm #3694640Luke SchmidtBPL Member
Couple options. It might be smarter to pick one and focus on it.
Drive to McCarthy and check out the Kennecott mines. Then hike out to the Root Glacier for a day trip or overnight. Here is a report with pictures
After that drive down through Thompson Pass to Valdez. See if you can arrange a kayak trip to Shoup Bay or one of the coastal glaciers.
Drive to Seward and hike up to see Exit Glacier and the Harding Ice Field. Go on a day trip to see the coastal wildlife if you haven’t already done that. For a fun day trip check out Mt. Marathon. The Kenai and Denali are probably the most “touristy ” but the glacier hike is amazing.
If you really have money burning a hole in your pocket arrange to fly out with one of the bear viewing outfits. I’ve never done it because I see bears on my porch but I’ve heard it can be amazing.Jan 20, 2021 at 12:44 am #3694643David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
The high-yield bear opportunities would be Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park or NcNeil River State Game Sanctuary. Both are fly in, I think NcNeil River is big lottery in advance to get in.
Another fly-in spot, but a private one, is Silver Salmon Creek near Tyonek. Or Smokey Bay Air out of Homer flies people to a couple of spots. Spendy. $700/person, minimum of two, for a day trip. We’ve taken the in-laws when we end up with tickets from a charity auction.
The day cruises out of Seward are a nice options. Eagles, goats, puffins, otters and an assortment of whales are pretty much gauranteed. I’d suggest the trips that go further out rather than the ones that off-load everyone at a lodge for a surf&turf buffet. All their websites will try to induce you to book in advance but DON’T DO THAT. You can always show up that morning and find a spot on several different boats. They are huge boats and they never turn away paying customers. That way, you can check the sea conditions and bag it if it’s a rough day (unless you have an iron stomach) and go to the SeaLife Center Aquarium, Exit Glacier, etc and try the day cruise another time when the sea is calmer.
McCarthy and the Kennicot Mines are interesting, but weren’t open much (or at all?) last summer due to covid. It’s a long drive on a 1.5-lane gravel road and some people would find it unenjoyable tense – never sure who/what would drive out from around the next corner.Jan 24, 2021 at 9:49 pm #3695450lisa rBPL Member
Thanks for the suggestions. I’m pretty intrigued by the idea of going to McCarthy, but it seems like it might require waiting until fairly last minute to know if anything is going to be open, so that might not work. I was in Seward briefly a few years ago but didn’t get to see very much since it was still early season. I’d love to go to a brand new place, but it would also be nice to check out some of the sights I didn’t get to see last time. Is Valdez itself worth a stop? How about the drive between Fairbanks and Valdez or Anchorage – worth it or better to fly? I’m sort of intrigued by the fact that Valdez isn’t a major tourist stop but perhaps there’s reason for that…I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed the ferrying I’ve done in AK so tempting to ferry from Valdez. Much to think about…Jan 24, 2021 at 11:23 pm #3695455Luke SchmidtBPL Member
There is nothing wrong with Valdez its just not set up as a tourist town as much as others, and its a bit out of the way.
All that said the drive over Thompson Pass to Valdez is scenic and its on the way to a ferry ride. You can do some nice easy hike in Thompson Pass. The ferry from Valdez to Whittier might be fun if you’re into such things. Fairbanks to Valdez to Whittier to Anchorage makes a logical loop.
<p style=”text-align: left;”>McCarthy and Kennecott were semi open this summer. You could ride a shuttle up to Kennecott. The Potato was open in McCarthy and the tour guides where wearing masks and taking tourist out on the Root Glacier. The main thing that was closed were the mine tours and I think the gift shops. I imagine it will be open enough to be fun IF you’re up for the road trip to get there.</p>
All the above options amount to a pretty long road trip. If that’s not your thing I’d head staight for the Kenai.
Actually I might just camp out in Seward. You’ve got pretty much every cool activity right there.
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