If seeing a glacier up close is every traveler's dream, what about seeing five? That's the object of this six-day itinerary through Southeast and Southcentral Alaska, which showcases the state's prettiest, most active glaciers along with dog mushing, scenic train rides and museums.
Day 1 Petersburg
Start your trip in Petersburg, a hard-working fishing town that was founded by Norwegian settlers. It’s accessible by daily commercial jet flights, Alaska Marine Highway ferry, and small cruise ships. Petersburg is also the starting point for an exciting jet boat trip to the face of the LeConte Glacier, an unusually active tidewater glacier that's famous for its underwater calving, which sends submerged icebergs shooting up to the surface. Once you’re back in town, enjoy a delicious meal of fresh-caught seafood, visit the small but excellent Clausen Memorial Museum and look for examples of rosemaling—a distinctive Norwegian art form—on the city buildings and sidewalks. Spend the night in Petersburg.
Day 2 Juneau
Catch the daily commercial flight from Petersburg to Juneau, Alaska's capital city. You’ll arrive in good time to spend the afternoon at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, where you can choose from a selection of day hikes, go kayaking in the lake at the glacier’s foot, take a guided trek into the glacier ice caves and maybe even see a bear fishing salmon out of a nearby stream. Spend the evening browsing the many excellent, locally owned shops and restaurants in downtown Juneau. Overnight in Juneau.
Day 3 Juneau
Start your morning with a trip to the magnificent Alaska State Museum in downtown Juneau. When this facility was renovated in 2016, the exhibits were also reimagined with input from community consultants around the state. The result is a clear-eyed, informative look into some of the most challenging and transformative times in Alaska’s history. In the afternoon, take a short helicopter ride to a nearby glacier, where you’ll experience the unusual thrill of mushing across the snow in a dog sled, even at the height of the summer. End the day by catching the evening flight to Anchorage, where you’ll spend the night.
Day 4 Anchorage
Consider taking advantage of Anchorage’s many urban amenities with a rest day: Visit the Anchorage Museum and tour recreated village sites at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, or stop by the unusual Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum to learn about the outsize role small “bush” planes and their daring pilots have played in the state’s history. You can also sit and watch float planes taking off from the shores of Lake Hood, the world’s busiest seaplane base.
If you’d rather keep adventuring, you can board one of those planes for a flightseeing trip to North America’s highest peak, 20,310' Denali. Or, if you'd like to stick closer to town, rent a bicycle and pedal the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which starts downtown and ends at heavily wooded Kincaid Park, one of the best places in town for seeing a moose. Just make sure to keep your distance because these gigantic deer are famously cantankerous.
Day 5 Seward
Board an Alaska Railroad train for a scenic day trip to the port town of Seward, Alaska. Along the way you’ll pass by the Spencer Glacier whistle stop, a train-access-only backcountry area where travelers stop to kayak or raft among the icebergs cast off by the glacier. You can book your tickets to stop here, or continue on to Seward and catch a shuttle to the Exit Glacier Nature Center in Kenai Fjords National Park. Here, hiking trails take you very close to the toe of the glacier; or you can make the challenging uphill hike to the Harding Icefield, a massive remnant of the last Ice Age that splits off into some 40 glaciers, including Exit Glacier. Take the train back to Anchorage in the evening.
Day 6 Valdez
Catch the earliest regional flight from Anchorage to Valdez, another friendly Alaska port town—this time on the northern shore of lovely Prince William Sound. The wildlife-viewing, kayaking and fishing are all excellent here. But if you haven't had your fill of glaciers yet, there is one more in store: Take an all-day charter to the face of the Columbia or Meares glaciers, where you’re all but guaranteed to see chunk after chunk of house-sized ice calving into the sea.
Once your cruise returns, enjoy one of Valdez’s excellent restaurants—as you might imagine, the seafood here is excellent—then spend the night. Tomorrow, you’ll catch a flight back to Anchorage and from there, either continue exploring Alaska or start your journey home.