Tour the best of Interior and southern Alaska’s landscapes and adventures. This trip includes a chance to take to the air for vistas over rarely visited parts of the state, including the magnificent Copper River Valley and remote work camps north of the Arctic Circle.
Day 1 Anchorage
Begin your journey in Alaska’s largest city by taking a free shuttle bus from the downtown visitor center to either of the city’s two biggest cultural attractions: the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where you can tour life-size recreations of traditional village sites or see demonstrations of traditional music, drumming and crafts, or the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, which contains the prestigious Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center and an impressive planetarium. Other popular attractions include the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, a flightseeing adventure over nearby mountains and glaciers, and hiking, biking or walking the excellent trail system in and around Anchorage. There is no sales tax here, so don’t forget to spend some time browsing the downtown gift shops too.
Day 2 Anchorage to Denali National Park
Board the Alaska Railroad for a relaxing, eight-hour train ride north to Denali National Park. The views are great from any car, but for the best vistas you’ll want to book one of the glass-topped dome cars. Keep your eye out for animals like brown bears, black bears, moose, eagles and sometimes even shy wolves or lynx in the landscape around the train. You’ll get to Denali just in time to enjoy a short tour through Denali (whitewater rafting, horseback riding, hiking and dinner theater shows are all popular) and eat dinner before checking in to your accommodations for the night.
Day 3 Denali National Park
Get up early to enjoy a guided tour into the wilderness of Denali National Park. You can ride one of the narrated tour buses along the park road or book a private company that’ll take you into the park by horseback, off-road vehicle or foot. Either way, make sure you have your camera ready to capture the landscapes and wildlife sightings of a lifetime, and time your return to catch the late-afternoon train north to Fairbanks. The four-hour ride will get you there just in time to snag dinner and check in to your Fairbanks accommodations for the night.
Day 4 Fairbanks
Spend your day on one of the many excellent tours available in the Fairbanks area. Some of the most popular options include panning for gold and kayaking or riding a stern-wheel paddleboat on the Chena River. Or you can stay in town and learn all about local culture and history at the excellent Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center and the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Get a good night’s sleep so you’ll be ready for an early start tomorrow.
Day 5 Alaska’s Arctic
If you’ve ever wanted to journey north of the Arctic Circle or dip your toe in the Arctic Ocean, now’s your chance. Several companies offer tours that fly you north to Coldfoot or Wiseman (work camps north of the Arctic Circle) or all the way to Prudhoe Bay, where you’re just a short van ride from the shore of the Arctic Ocean. You can fly back or, if you’re up for a long day’s adventure, ride a van back along the famed Dalton Highway. Along the ride you’ll cross the mighty Yukon River, view the majestic Brooks Range, walk on spongy Arctic tundra, collect an official certificate for crossing the Arctic Circle, and maybe even see wildlife like caribou and bears.
Day 6 Delta Junction to Copper River Valley
Rent a car in Fairbanks and head south on the Richardson Highway. Your first stop is the gleefully kitschy Santa Claus House, about half an hour south of Fairbanks in North Pole, where it’s always Christmas. Your second stop is Big Delta State Historical Park near the small crossroads community of Delta Junction, an hour-and-a-half further south. The centerpiece of the part is Rika’s Roadhouse, a carefully restored historic building that served gold prospectors, hunters and traders in the early 1900s. Continue another two hours south to your lodging in the Copper River Valley; if you still have energy, optional adventures along the way include flightseeing out of Delta Junction (the best way to absorb the magnitude of Alaska’s untouched wild lands) or fishing for salmon in the world-famous Copper River.
Day 7 Valdez
Get an early start as you drive another two hours south to the small community of Valdez, known as “Little Switzerland” for the dramatic mountains that surround it. Some of the best sights are on the last 30 miles of road into Valdez, including the Worthington Glacier, Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls. Don’t get so distracted that you miss your chance at a tour for the day: You can see a massive, active tidewater glacier dropping house-sized chunks of ice into the sea, kayak among icebergs, or take a guided rafting tour past plunging waterfalls.
Valdez also holds several excellent museums highlighting the area’s biggest moments in histo-ry, including the Gold Rush, the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964, and the tragic Exxon Valdez oil spill. Spend the night at one of Valdez’s cozy cabins, B&Bs or hotels.
Day 8 Anchorage
You have a few options for making your way back to Anchorage and your flight home. If you’re enjoying life on the road, it’s a six-hour drive with some beautiful scenery, including a second chance to take in the waterfall-filled Keystone Canyon along the road out of Valdez. You can also take a six-hour ride on an Alaska Marine Highway state ferry, crossing Prince William Sound to the tiny port town of Whittier; from there, it’s an hour-and-a-half drive back to Anchorage. Or, if you’ve arranged for a one-way car rental, you can leave your car in Valdez and board a small commercial flight straight to Anchorage, and from there to home.