Touring Southcentral Alaska during the winter has never been easier. In this fun six-day driving itinerary, outdoor adventure meets wildlife viewing, winter fishing, and maybe even a few glimpses of the northern lights on Alaska’s famed Kenai Peninsula.
Day 1 Anchorage
If you enjoy cross-country skiing you’ll love Anchorage, which features hundreds of miles of groomed trails, some of which also link into the backcountry ski terrain of 450,000-acre Chugach State Park. Believe it or not, Anchorage is also one of the best places in Alaska for viewing wild moose; the snow drives them closer to town, where both browsing and walking area easier. So, keep an eye out for Bullwinkle as you enjoy the winter tour of your choice. If skiing isn’t your speed, try guided snowshoeing, snowmobiling (or as they call it in Alaska, snowmachining) or even renting a specialized fat-tire bike to ride local trails. Spend the night in Anchorage.
Day 2 Girdwood
Rent a car and make the 40-mile drive south to Girdwood, which sports a world-class ski resort. But that’s just the start of the winter fun you can enjoy here: Other options include Sno-Cat skiing, heli-skiing, ice climbing, groomed Nordic ski trails, snowmachine adventures and snowshoeing. Take the enclosed tram to the top of Mount Alyeska for dinner and an unbeatable, sweeping view of the surrounding mountains, hanging glaciers, and the ocean far below. Girdwood is home to several excellent restaurants, so enjoy a relaxed evening dining and sampling local beers before you turn in for another night in Girdwood.
Day 3 Girdwood to Seward
Today is dedicated to wildlife. On your 90-mile drive south from Girdwood, be sure to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Here you’ll see wild animals like musk oxen, moose, coyotes, wood bison, eagles, and maybe the resident brown bears and black bears (if they’re not fast asleep for the winter). You’ll also drive through Turnagain Pass, one of Southcentral’s most popular sites for backcountry skiing and snowmachining. When you arrive in Seward, head to the Alaska SeaLife Center for close encounters with seabirds, harbor seals, a giant octopus, and touch tanks with starfish and other sealife.
Day 4 Seward to Homer
From Seward, it’s a scenic, 170-mile drive west and south to the arts-oriented community of Homer. Spend the afternoon sipping tea and munching cookies in one of several excellent local bakeries, then visiting the locally owned art galleries and gift shops that line the 4.5-mile Homer Spit, a slender finger of land that stretches into Kachemak Bay.
Day 5 Homer
Hire a guide and head out on the water to fish for Kachemak Bay’s famous “winter kings,” the king salmon that swim in the cold ocean waters before returning to local streams to spawn in summer months. Have your catch flash-frozen and shipped home to feed to your jealous friends.
Day 6 Homer to Anchorage
When the aurora borealis shines in this part of the state, it’s usually visible on the northern horizon—so consider getting up early enough to make at least part of the five- or six-hour drive back to Anchorage when skies are still dark, which gives you a much better chance of seeing the aurora. If you didn’t get lucky enough to see the northern lights on your drive, book an evening northern lights viewing tour out of Anchorage.
Optional Two-Day Add-On:
From Anchorage, make the 115-mile drive north to the sleepy little town of Talkeetna to spend a quiet couple of days watching for the northern lights, skiing on frozen rivers, and cozying up by the fire at one of several rustic lodges. Talkeetna also offers winter flightseeing tours of Denali, a one-of-a-kind way of experiencing North America’s tallest peak.