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 Richardson Highway

Best of Alaska: Two Week Southcentral & Interior Road Trip

Best of Alaska: Two Week Southcentral & Interior Road Trip

Alaska is worth the time for a longer visit, and we recommend ten days to two weeks as a good length of stay. With an area more than double the size of Texas, fewer than a million residents, eight national parks, and rich and varied Indigenous cultures, you could spend months exploring its peaks, valleys, towns, and cities. We’ve compiled some “Best of Alaska” itineraries, each taking about two weeks and covering a couple of regions. You can add on or mix and match to your delight; they’re meant to be flexible.

This two week Southcentral and Interior road trip visits some of the top sights along Alaska's road system while allowing you the freedom to get off-the-beaten-path with your own vehicle.  

Day 1: Anchorage 
Start and end in the state’s biggest city, Anchorage. The Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center are two great places to learn about Alaska’s Indigenous cultures, natural history, state history, and art to prepare you for the sights ahead. Overnight in Anchorage. 

Anchorage Museum
Learn about Alaska Native culture and more at the Anchorage Museum

Day 2: Girdwood
Take your time driving the stunning Seward Highway to Girdwood, 40 miles south of Anchorage. You’ll drive alongside the Turnagain Arm and if you time it right you can see the bore tide rushing forward in one swoop. Look for Dall sheep on the cliffs above and beluga whales in the water below. Once in Girdwood, enjoy one of the area's beautiful hikes, ride the Aerial Tram up Mt. Alyeska, or treat yourself at Alyeska Resort’s Nordic Spa. Overnight in Girdwood.

Alyeska Aerial Tram
Alyeska Aerial Tram

Days 3 & 4: Whittier & Valdez
Continue driving the Seward Highway south for 15 minutes for a morning visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to view Alaska's amazing animals up-close. Then, head down Portage Glacier Road for another 15 minutes to the longest road/rail tunnel in the country (2.6 miles) to drive to Whitter, a small town tucked on the coastline Prince William Sound (note that the Whittier Tunnel is open one-way on a set schedule). Grab a lunch of fresh seafood at one of Whittier's harborside cafes.

Board your car in the afternoon onto the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry to Valdez. It's a long ride at 6 hours, but once onboard you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the views along the way, including mountains, glaciers, and possible whale and wildlife sightings. Spend two nights in Valdez, a coastal community ringed by dramatic mountains. The end of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Valdez has no shortage of beautiful sights and fresh seafood. Spend your full day in Valdez exploring Prince William Sound on a glacier & wildlife cruise or kayaking tour, or take a hike in the surrounding mountains. 

Bear at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Get up-close views of wildlife at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Day 5: Valdez to Fairbanks
Today is a driving day, with lots of stops for sights along the way. The journey is 360 miles (about 6.5 hours driving time) through rugged wilderness, rolling through the magnificent Chugach Mountains, Wrangell Mountains, and the Alaska Range. From Valdez, drive north up the Richardson Highway, past Keystone Canyon’s waterfalls, and over Thompson Pass. Stop to stretch your legs at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitor Center in Copper Center to learn about the country's largest national park and local Ahtna Athabascan culture. Continue on for a quick lunch in Glennallen, a roadstop hub. Then, head to Delta Junction, the official end of the Alaska Highway, to grab a snack and take in some local history at the Visitor Center or at Big Delta State Historical Park just beyond town. Just before Fairbanks you’ll pass through North Pole, where it's Christmas every day of the year. Overnight in Fairbanks.

Bridal Veil Falls outside of Valdez
Bridal Veil Falls in Keystone Canyon outside of Valdez. Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Ben Prescott

Days 6 & 7: Fairbanks
Spend two days in Fairbanks to recharge under the midnight sun after several days on the move. Learn about the area's natural and Indigenous history at the University of Alaska Museum of the North and the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center. Take a scenic riverboat ride, go on a dog sled tour, or take a hike at Creamers Field or Chena River State Recreation Area. Drive out to Chena Hot Springs to feel the bite of winter at the Aurora Ice Museum and thaw yourself after with a soak in the natural hot springs. For a big adventure, join an Arctic day tour that brings you north of the Arctic Circle by road or plane. Overnight in Fairbanks for two nights. 

Chena River State Recreation Area
Hiking at Grapefruit Rocks north of Fairbanks. Photo Credit: @athabascan.adventures

Days 8 & 9: Denali National Park 
Drive a couple hours south to Denali National Park, where you’ll stay for two nights. A variety of accommodation options are available at the entrance to the park in an area known as Denali Park, and in the nearby communities of Healy and Cantwell. After your arrival, walk around the Park Village on its myriad of accessible walking paths. Check out the Denali Visitor Center, operated by the National Park Service, for details on tours, a film about the park, and ranger-led activities, and visit the Denali Sled Dog Kennels to meet some canine rangers. 

The next day, embark on natural history and wildlife bus tour into the heart of the park. Only tour buses are permitted on the Park Road, so take the opportunity to venture deep into the sweeping glacial valleys and mighty hills. This is a great chance to spot grizzly bears, caribou, moose, and other wildlife. 

Bus tour in Denali National Park
Bus tour in Denali National Park. Photo Credit: istockphoto.com, ovidiuhrubaru

Day 10: Talkeetna
Continue south about 2.5 hours to Talkeetna, a small but lively town that is the jumping off point for climbers embarking on summiting Denali. Soar to the heights of Denali for yourself on a flightseeing trip - some of which include glacier landings right on the mountain. In town, marvel at the wide and swift Susitna River, on the banks of which you might stay all day and stare at Denali on a clear day, or take a thrilling jet boat river trip. Enjoy the town's quaint Main Street, with a fun assortment of shops, restaurants, and a brewery. Overnight in Talkeetna.

Views of Denali from Talkeetna
Jaw-dropping views of Denali from Talkeetna on a clear day. Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, @traveling_newlyweds

Day 11: Mat-Su Valley
Drive south along the Parks Highway for a two hour drive to Hatcher Pass, a stunning alpine area nestled high in the Talkeetna Mountains. Here, you'll find a wide variety of hiking options along with the fascinating gold mining history of Independence Mine State Historical Park. You have two options to get here: if you want to stay on the beaten track, head from Talkeetna to Wasilla and then on to Hatcher Pass via the Wasilla-Fishhook Road. If you're looking for a little more adventure, take a left at the town of Willow to connect to the rugged Willow-Fishhook Road that heads through rolling mountainous terrain and over the pass to Independence Mine. This section of road is narrow, unpaved, and steep in places, and is only open seasonally (typically July through mid-September) - so make sure that you and your vehicle are up for the adventure.

After a day of alpine sights, head down to the town of Palmer for a good meal and an overnight at uniquely Alaskan accommodation options including cabins, yurts, glamping, B&Bs, and more (you'll find hotels here, too). Located in the heart of the Mat-Su Valley, Palmer is an agricultural community with plenty of visitor services, restaurants, and activities. 

Independence Mine State Historical Park
Learn about gold mining history at Independence Mine State Historical Park

Days 12 & 13: Return to Anchorage, where you can lean into all the comforts of city living after your big expedition. Enjoy the city's thriving culinary and local brewery & distillery scene, do some shopping, and take advantage of the miles and miles of multi-use trails found right in town. If you haven't had enough of the mountains, head to Chugach State Park for hiking or take a flightseeing trip

Food in Anchorage
Dive into the culinary scene in Anchorage

Want more trip ideas? Check out our Two Week Itinerary from the Inside Passage to the Arctic by Plane and Two Week Itinerary from Anchorage to Kodiak by Road & Ferry. 

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