Featuring: Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Valdez, Whittier, Girdwood, Anchorage
Day 1 - Fairbanks
This trip begins in Fairbanks, the state’s second-largest city and an easy place to pick up a rental car to begin your road trip on Alaska’s scenic byways. Before leaving town, consider driving a short distance out of the city on the Steese Highway to check out the Trans Alaska Pipeline viewpoint. Interpretive signs will give you some history and technical background that will serve you well – you’ll be seeing a lot of the iconic pipeline along the drive to Valdez.
Day 2 – Fairbanks to Delta Junction
Just south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway is the small city of North Pole, Alaska. One of the byway’s features is the legendary Santa Claus House, visible right off the roadway as you pass through town. Be sure to stop – it’s much more than a toy store! Continuing on, you’ll be driving alongside the Tanana River, one of the many braided waterways that snake through Interior Alaska. When you are almost to Delta Junction, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks, keep an eye out for the turn to Big Delta State Historical Park and its centerpiece, Rika’s Roadhouse. It was once a remote outpost for travelers on the Valdez-to-Fairbanks wagon trail. Spend the night in Delta.
Day 3 – Delta Junction to Valdez
The road winds past several large and popular lakes along the way to the second section of scenic byway on this itinerary, including Summit, Tangle and Paxson lakes. The South Segment of the Richardson Highway Scenic Byway begins in Glennallen, and you’ll soon see why. The trip over Thompson Pass, through Keystone Canyon and into beautiful, mountain-ringed Valdez is among the most scenic in the state. Worthington Glacier tumbles out of the mountains, waterfalls thunder into the Lowe River and views stretch for hundreds of miles from the top of Thompson Pass. Spend the night in Valdez.
Day 4 – Valdez
Spend the next day in Valdez, where locals refer to their town as “Little Switzerland” for all the snow-capped mountains that ring the area. Activity options include taking sport fishing charter, a day cruise to view the glaciers and wildlife of Prince William Sound, kayaking, hiking, sampling fresh-caught local seafood and exploring the town’s handful of small but high-quality museums. Overnight in Valdez.
Day 5 – Valdez to Whittier
In the morning, you’ll board an Alaska Marine Highway ferry for the approximately seven-hour trip from Valdez to Whittier through Prince William Sound. Alaska’s ferry routes have been designated as a National Scenic Byway, mostly due to the knockout coastal scenery. From Whittier, drive 30 miles north to Girdwood, where you’ll spend the night. Along the way, consider stopping at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to view tons of Alaska wildlife up close – including musk oxen, wood bison, bears, moose and much more. As you head north from there toward Girdwood, you’ll be on the Seward Highway, which is also a National Scenic Byway. It snakes up the east side of Turnagain Arm, a relatively narrow offshoot of Cook Inlet. Along either side, mountains surge skyward. At different times throughout the summer, beluga whales can be spotted in the water right from the highway. Spend the night in Girdwood, a small ski resort town located about halfway between Whittier and Anchorage.
Day 6 – Girdwood to Anchorage
Before leaving Girdwood, take the short and easy Winner Creek Trail hike through the Chugach National Forest or ride the Alyeska Resort tram to the top of the mountain. Back on the Seward Highway, you’ll still be enjoying the sights of Turnagain Arm. Keep your eyes on the steep, rocky cliffs above the roadway for mountain goats and their kids. Just before reaching Anchorage, stop at the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge at Potter Marsh. A well-maintained boardwalk through the marsh is the perfect vantage for bird watching. Your journey officially ends in Anchorage, but consider continuing back to Fairbanks via the Parks Highway, another scenic byway, with a stop in Denali National Park and Preserve along the way.