This four-day, no-car itinerary through Southcentral Alaska balances the best of urban and outdoorsy fun with day hiking and fine dining in Anchorage, a full day in the quirky climbing town of Talkeetna, and a once-in-a-lifetime flightseeing trip around North America’s highest peak.
Day 1 Anchorage
Start today with a heart-thumping hike along Alaska’s most popular and well-known day hike: Flattop Mountain. This short, 1.7-mile trail climbs 1,280 feet from the Glen Alps parking area in Chugach State Park to the top of Flattop Mountain. Enjoy a picnic lunch atop the mountain’s broad, flat “peak” as you take in panoramic views of Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm and the city of Anchorage below. End the day with dinner and locally crafted brews in one of Anchorage’s many fine restaurants—you’ve earned it!
Day 2 Talkeetna
In the morning, you’ll board the Alaska Railroad’s northbound Denali Star train en route to Talkeetna, an artistic backcountry hamlet about 110 miles north of Anchorage. You’ll reach Talkeetna around midday, which leaves you plenty of time to explore the locally owned shops and galleries that line the town’s main streets. If weather conditions permit, you’ll also be treated to breathtaking views of North America’s tallest peak, Denali, from vantages near town. Options for lodging in the area include large, sophisticated lodges and dozens of more modest inns and B&Bs.
Day 3 Talkeetna
This morning, hop on a flightseeing tour that’ll get you up close and personal with Denali. Tour options vary, but whether you opt for a glacier landing or a looping circumnavigation of Denali’s upper reaches, you’re certain to come away with a new appreciation for the size and scale of the mountain. In the afternoon, book a zipline tour. You’ll learn about the flora and fauna of Talkeetna’s boreal forest while zipping from platform to platform and, if conditions allow, enjoying spectacular views of Denali. Spend another night in Talkeetna.
Day 4 Anchorage or Denali National Park and Fairbanks
After soaking in the charm of Talkeetna, your options include riding the Alaska Railroad back to Anchorage or continuing north by train to Denali National Park and, beyond that, Fairbanks. No matter which you choose, opportunities to hike, boat and otherwise explore Alaska’s backcountry are near limitless.