Alaska Scenic Byway Adventure
Photo Credit: ATIA, Michael DeYoung

Alaska Scenic Byway Adventure

Alaska Scenic Byway Adventure

Southcentral and Interior Alaska are full of scenic byways — both on the road and the sea. Drive and sail most of them with this six-day itinerary that starts in Fairbanks and ends in Anchorage, tracing through wild scenery and big adventures along the way.

Day 1: Fairbanks

Your trip on Alaska’s scenic byways begins in Fairbanks, an easy place to pick up a rental car and a great spot to explore. Before leaving town, check out the Trans-Alaska Pipeline viewpoint on the Steese Highway. Interpretive signs give history and technical background that will serve you well — you’ll be seeing a lot of the iconic pipeline along the drive to Valdez. You can also try your hand at one of Fairbanks’s several gold panning tours.

Day 2: Fairbanks to Delta Junction

Fifteen miles south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway is the small city of North Pole. Be sure to stop at the legendary Santa Claus House, visible right off the roadway as you pass through town — it’s much more than a toy store. As you drive on the road snakes alongside the Tanana River, one of the many braided waterways that snake through Interior Alaska. When you’re almost to Delta Junction, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks, keep an eye out for the turnoff to Big Delta State Historical Park and its centerpiece, Rika’s Roadhouse. The roadhouse was once a remote outpost for travelers on the Valdez-to-Fairbanks wagon trail. You can learn more about Alaska’s roadhouses in the Sullivan Roadhouse Historical Museum, located in the heart of Delta Junction, and get a feel for the Interior’s magnificent landscape with a short flightseeing or river rafting tour. Spend the night in Delta Junction.

Day 3: Delta Junction to Valdez

The scenic highway winds past Summit, Tangle, and Paxson lakes—all popular places to stop—on the way from Delta Junction to Valdez. The entire trip is 270 miles and take about five hours to drive, but leave yourself plenty of time for sightseeing, especially on the last 30 miles of road: the trip over Thompson Pass, through Keystone Canyon, and into beautiful, mountain-ringed Valdez is among the most scenic in the state. Worthington Glacier tumbles out of the mountains, waterfalls thunder into the Lowe River, and views stretch for hundreds of miles from the top of Thompson Pass. Spend the night in Valdez.

Day 4: Valdez

Spend the next day in Valdez, also known as “Little Switzerland” for all the snow-capped mountains that ring the area. Your tour options include sportfishing charters, day cruises to view the Columbia or Meares Glaciers and wildlife of Prince William Sound, kayaking, hiking, and exploring the town’s handful of small but high-quality museums. Overnight in Valdez.

Day 5: Valdez to Whittier and Girdwood

In the morning, you’ll board an Alaska Marine Highway ferry for the six-hour trip from Valdez to Whittier through Prince William Sound. Alaska’s ferry routes have been designated as a National Scenic Byway, mostly due to the knockout coastal scenery. From Whittier drive 25 miles north to Girdwood, where you’ll spend the night.

Along the way, consider stopping at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to view wild animals—including musk oxen, elk, wolves, brown bears, black bears, and moose—in a natural setting. As you continue north toward Girdwood, keep an eye out for small, white beluga whales in the water alongside the highway. Spend the night in Girdwood, a small ski resort town located about halfway between Whittier and Anchorage.

Day 6: Girdwood to Anchorage

Before leaving Girdwood, hike the mellow Winner Creek Trail to be engulfed in the beautiful temperate rainforest and enjoy views of the rushing Winner Creek. You can also take the pay-per-ride tram to the top of Mount Alyeska, take a helicopter ride to a nearby glacier for a dog mushing adventure, or go on a guided rock climbing trip. As you make the 40-mile drive back to Anchorage, keep an eye out for mountain goats on the steep, rocky cliffs above the road. Just before reaching Anchorage, stop at the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge at Potter Marsh. A well-maintained boardwalk through the marsh and pedestal-mounted binoculars make the perfect vantage for evening bird watching.

Optional Add-On 1 

Consider adding one of Alaska’s most iconic adventures to your trip with a fly-in bear viewing trip to either Katmai National Park or Lake Clark National Park. Both are within an easy day’s flight of Anchorage.

Optional Add-On 2

Your journey officially ends in Anchorage, but consider continuing back to Fairbanks via the Parks Highway, another scenic byway, with a stop in Denali National Park and Preserve along the way.


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