Anchorage, George Parks Highway, Denali National Park, Denali Highway, Copper Valley, McCarthy Kennicott, Valdez, Prince William Sound, Glenn Highway, Anchorage
Day 1 Anchorage
Begin your journey in Alaska’s largest city where you can experience our rich culture & heritage. Rent a car, van or RV from one of the many rental agencies around the city. Your choices of things to do, places to go, great dining and meeting our wonderful people living in this special place on the planet are endless. Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Anchorage Museum of History & Art or the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. Enjoy fine dining and shopping downtown without having to pay a sales tax! You can also go flightseeing, take a day trip on a small boat cruise or explore the many trails Anchorage has to offer.
Day 2 Anchorage-Denali
Up early and driving out of town on the Glenn Highway (6th Avenue in downtown Anchorage) you will travel east through Eagle River, the Eklutna Flats, following the signs to Wasilla. There you will transfer to the George Parks Highway north through Wasilla, Willow, Cantwell and finally arriving at Denali National Park, a journey of about 236 miles ~ driving time 5 hours. Of course you will stop from time to time to photograph the marvelous vistas, rest stops for snacks or meals and view the wildlife as the opportunities present themselves. Upon arriving in Denali accommodations are found at one of many locations ranging from cabins, B&B’s, lodges, resorts, motels, hotels and RV parks. While in the Denali corridor you can enjoy a rafting trip, horseback riding, hiking, shopping at one of many gift shops, a dinner theater show or fly into a lodge in the heart of the park.
Day 3 Denali National Park
Spend the day on a guided wilderness tour of Denali National Park. Panoramic views of mountain ranges, rivers, lakes and glaciers provide the backdrop as you look for bears, caribou, wolves, marmots, ptarmigan and other animals. Overnight again at your lodging of choice and ready yourself for the next day of touring the wilderness back country along the Denali Highway.
Day 4 Denali Highway to the Copper Valley
Leaving Denali, travel south about 30 miles to Cantwell where the George Parks Highway will intersect with the Denali Highway. This will begin a scenic tour through the Alphabet Hills and some of the most beautiful country in wilderness Alaska. The road is paved for the first 10 miles and the last 22 miles. In between the road is a fair to good maintained gravel road requiring diligence in driving at speeds between 35 and 50 mph. There are a few outback lodges along the way providing food, restrooms, information and ancillary services. Take your time to enjoy the spectacular scenery, keep a look out for Moose, Caribou, Wolves, American Bald Eagles, Ravens and a host of small critters fighting for existence in this wilderness biome. This area is one of the major hunting and fishing regions for Alaskans as they prepare to stock their freezers for the winter. In late summer you will see many hunters as they peruse the hills for their winter stock.
After a journey of about 135 miles you will exit the Denali Highway at Paxson. At the stop sign, turn right and travel south along the Richardson Highway (US 4). You will find the Meyers Lake Road House about Mile 170, Sourdough Roadhouse at mile 148 and Gakona Junction Village at mile 128.5 (at the juncture of the Richardson Highway and the Tok-Cut-off). These road houses offer food, accommodations, fuel, camping and guided fishing charters on the tributaries to the world famous Copper River where you can hook into the magnificent Copper River King (Chinook) or Red (Sockeye) salmon in the Gulkana and Klutina Rivers. Another 13 miles and your trip will come to the juncture of the Richardson Highway with the Glenn Highway in Glennallen. Here you can stop at the Copper Valley Visitor Information Center operated by the Copper Valley Chamber of Commerce. A host of information about the Copper Valley, Kennicott, Valdez and Prince William Sound is awaiting you and available at no charge to help plan your trip for the next several days. Pick your choice of lodging which ranges from cabins, B&B’s motels, hotels, lodges and RV Parks.
Day 5 and 6 Copper River Valley (Gakona-Glennallen-Copper Center)
Once you have arrived in the Copper Valley a myriad of activities are available to keep you busy for days. You can pick from guided King and Red salmon fishing charters on the Gulkana and Klutina Rivers (tributaries to the world famous Copper River), flightseeing over the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, visits to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Headquarters and Visitor Center and Ahtna Heritage Museum or the Copper Center Museum in Historical Copper Center or the Copper Rail Depot with a diorama of trains and the city of McCarthy – Kennicott and Cicely (make believe city from the TV show, “Northern Exposure”). It is good to take your accommodations for at least two nights as your travels and activities will be dynamic and a good rest will be needed before you travel on.
Day 7 and 8 Valdez-Prince William Sound
After a good night’s sleep, and an early breakfast continue to travel south along the Richardson Highway where you will climb from 1600 feet above sea level to about 2800 feet over the next 90 miles. Along the way at mile 28 you will come to the Worthington Glacier on your right. It is spectacular and after parking in the public lot you can take a leisurely hike up into the glacier where you can take great photos, look for ice worms and rest as you enjoy a snack or lunch. Continuing on you will exit the Copper Valley at a cut in the mountain at the 2800 foot level and before you will lie the Chugach Mountains and the valley into which you will descend to sea level in just 3 or 4 miles through Keystone Canyon with 800 foot waterfalls, white water rivers and possibly a sighting of black or brown bear on the mountainsides. Proceed on into Valdez, the home of the Alyeska Pipeline terminus, and east Prince William Sound. With flightseeing and cruises to the Chugach Mountains, the Columbia and Mears Glaciers, fishing charters in Prince William Sound, good restaurants, museums and the Alyeska Terminus, Valdez is a definite two day destination. Choose accommodations from hotels, motels, RV parks, Cabins, and a myriad of B&B’s you will find your overnight experience to be equal to any region in Alaska
Day 9 and 10 McCarthy-Kennicott Mine
Today you will leave Valdez and Prince William Sound behind as you move back up the Richardson Highway to mile 82.6 where it junctures with the Edgerton Highway (US 10). Turn right and travel east and then southerly to the little historical town of Chitina where the old buildings from the early days of the Kennicott Copper mine still are evident. You can overnight at the old and renovated Hotel Chitina or just stop for a rest, food and drink and then continue on up to McCarthy via the McCarthy Road, a 60 mile gravel highway along what was the railroad bed during the days of the copper mine. At the end of the road you will park and walk across the bridge where you can take a van into McCarthy or travel on another 5 miles to the Kennicott Copper Mine. Both communities have comfortable, clean and well-appointed hotel rooms, B&B’s and cabins along the way are also available for the adventurer. McCarthy was, in the mining days, the place for relaxation, entertainment and excess, accommodating the needs of the miners on their limited time off. Today the buildings have been renovated and the town is still fun and entertaining, if not as excessive as in the past. Kennicott offers a unique opportunity to visit a once operating copper mine that, over a period of about 27 years, took the largest amount of premium quality and quality ore ever mined in the world before or since it was in operation. A full day of hiking, ground tours, flightseeing and other ancillary activities will take most of the day.
With an overnight at either Kennicott or McCarthy you will be ready to begin your return trip to Anchorage, leaving in mid-afternoon.
Day 11 and 12 Mat-Su Valley Palmer
Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end but the end is still some distance off. Today is the beginning of the trek back to Anchorage. After traveling back down the McCarthy Road and with an overnight stop at Chitina or Glennallen you will begin the day, after breakfast, traveling west along the Glenn Highway toward Palmer, about a 140 mile drive. Along the way are several road houses at Eureka, Glacier View, the Matanuska Glacier and the scenery is not rivaled by many anywhere along the highways of Alaska. As you approach Palmer you can stop at the Musk Ox Farm where, every year, several newborns are there to welcome you. Also, just a few short miles from downtown Palmer is the Reindeer Farm with a heard of animals that reach upwards of 100 plus moose, horseback rides and guided tours.
After a day of touring and driving, you will return to Anchorage and check into your lodging of choice, enjoying a relaxing night of dining, movies, and plays or just recuperating and preparing for your journey home. You will have memories that will last a life time and very well may begin to plan your next Alaska adventure even before you arrive home.