Day 1 Anchorage
Spend the day exploring the highlights of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. Start by renting a bike and cycling the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, where you have a good chance of seeing a moose in the wild. Next, take a free shuttle bus from the downtown visitor center to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where you can learn about Alaska's eleven distinct indigenous cultures, followed by the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. Finish the day with a walking tour and a dinner of fresh-caught seafood in one of Anchorage's fine restaurants.
Day 2 Anchorage
Anchorage makes a wonderful home base for exploring Alaska's wilderness. Choose a full-day trip that suits your wildest dreams: You can take a helicopter ride to a glacier for a dog-sledding adventure, ride a train along the shoreline of Turnagain Arm on your way to a glacier- and wildlife-viewing cruise in Prince William Sound, or hire a naturalist guide for a hiking or rock climbing adventure. Turn in early to one of Anchorage's excellent hotels or B&Bs; you'll need an early start tomorrow.
Day 3 Denali
Head north to Denali National Park and Preserve, home to North America's tallest mountain peak and some of the world's most spectacular scenery and wildlife sightings. You can get there in about five hours by car, or eight hours aboard an Alaska Railroad train. That leaves you time for a short day tour—think whitewater rafting, ziplining, or a flightseeing tour around the dramatic peaks of the Alaska Range. For dinner, try an authentic salmon bake or sample the ales at one of the state’s fantastic breweries. Overnight at one of the many lodging options near the Denali park entrance.
Day 4 Denali to Fairbanks
Spend the morning checking off one more adventure on your list in Denali, such as an ATV tour, a bus ride into the park for photo opportunities, a guided hike, or a visit to the National Park Service's only working sled dog kennel. If you’re traveling during late August or early September, you’ll be treated to Alaska’s vibrant autumn colors as the tundra turns deep shades of orange and red for a few brief weeks before winter sets in. Then it’s on to Fairbanks, either by car or back aboard the Alaska Railroad.
Day 5 Fairbanks
Located in Alaska’s Interior, Fairbanks has a rich cultural and gold rush history. Get to know this warm-hearted city with a stop by the University of Alaska Museum of the North, one of the top ten attractions in the state, where you can view impressive exhibits on the gold rush, the northern lights, and Alaska Native culture. Follow that up with a gold-panning tour and a visit to the viewing area for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, one of the greatest engineering feats in the state's history. If you're still feeling energetic, cap the day off with a paddle, float or riverboat trip down the Chena River, which flows straight through downtown Fairbanks. Depart for home from the Fairbanks International Airport, or return to Anchorage via the Alaska Railroad (requires an additional day).