Staying each night in lovely and unique accommodations and dining in restaurants, this tour still retains a very definite spirit of adventure in the places and people we visit. If longing to see some of the real Alaska, but don't care to camp, then this is the tour for you.
Day 1: Our first day will begin at 8:00 am, meeting downtown at the Snowshoe Inn. We'll take a quick trip to Earthquake Park, site of extensive damage in the 9.2 quake of 1964 and take a peek at Lake Hood, the world's largest seaplane base before heading north, traveling the Glenn and Parks Highways for lunch in the charming village of Talkeetna. An old mining town, Talkeetna now serves as the principal staging point for expeditions to North America's highest peak, Mt. McKinley.
Flight seeing tours of the mountain are available in Talkeetna and are very highly recommended - sliding between towering peaks and over monstrous glaciers. Late that afternoon we'll return to the Parks highway, entering into the great Alaska Range of mountains for dinner just outside Denali National Park at a local salmonbake with a feast of halibut, salmon, chicken, ribs, sourdough and more. Lodging for the evening is in the Historical Healy Hotel, a rather utilitarian establishment from the days when Healy was a major stop on the railroad. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 2: After an early breakfast, we'll take a guided wildlife trip into the interior of the Park. Chances are good to see bears, caribou, moose, Dall sheep and possibly even wolves in the wide open vistas. Returning by the same route, we'll leave the Park in the early afternoon and have lunch before turning back south to reach Cantwell, the western terminus of the beautiful Denali Highway. A 130 mile gravel road across wide valleys, alpine tundra and breathtaking scenery, the Denali "highway" is open only in the summer months and is the only road through this remote area.
Crossing glacial river and lake country, wildlife viewing opportunities abound in this large stretch of wilderness inhabited year-round only by the occasional trapper and wilderness hermit. We'll cross the Susitna River and follow the winding road over ancient glacial eskers and through the Tangle Lakes Archeological District, thought to be the principal corridor through which the earliest peoples passed to populate the rest of the America's after making their way over the Bering land bridge from eastern Asia. Overnight is at the Tangle River Inn next to a lake, above treeline. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: After breakfast, we'll turn south on the Richardson Highway following one of the earliest trails connecting the Interior with the coast. Passing through Glennallen and Copper Center we'll stop at the office of our nation's largest national park, the Wrangell-St. Elias, for an introduction to this noncommercial jewel more than twice the size of Denali. The scenic Edgerton Highway leads from here to the old railroad town of Chitina at the confluence of the Copper and Chitina rivers. From here we will travel through the abandoned railroad grade 60 miles through the mountains back to the McCarthy town in the heart the Wrangell-St. Elias.
At the end of the gravel railroad grade we leave the van and have the pleasure of crossing two forks of the Kennicott River to reach the near-ghost town of McCarthy on the other side, the only means of surface access in the months when the river isn't frozen. Excellent flight seeing tours of the area are also available from the McCarthy airstrip that give an incomparable overall perspective. After exploring about the old buildings and having dinner at the McCarthy Lodge, the night will be spent in the comfortable "Old Ma Johnson" Hotel. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: A trip up the remainder of the road four miles to the abandoned company town of Kennicott overlooking its namesake glacier, allows an almost unbelievable exploration of an entire town sitting much the way it was when the mine closed in 1938. Kennicott is truly a ghost town without equal, due to its remoteness and fortunate lack of vandalism. Then will be a short hike to the Root Glacier. Lunch is overlooking the glacier before descending and again crossing the footbridges to the van for the beautiful trip to Valdez across Thompson Pass and through the Keystone Canyon. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Boarding the ferry will be at 6:15 am for the beautiful seven hour ride across Prince William Sound. We will see many local creatures including murres, puffins, and sea otters, with a good chance of humpback and maybe even orcas or killer whales. Here we will take the train through the mountain tunnels to reach the highway at Portage which will lead us through the Kenai mountains to the town of Hope on Cook Inlet. Far older than Anchorage, this first gold rush community in Alaska is still a place of log buildings and an atmosphere that can only be experienced. Lodging is in cozy log cabins on the edge of rushing Bear Creek. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Bright and early we'll head down the road to Seward and board the tour boat to head out into the Gulf of Alaska for the spectacular Kenai Fjords National Park, passing through the Chiswell Islands Refuge. Here we will view calving glaciers up very close in our small vessel and cruise the rugged coastline to view a tremendous concentration of wildlife including killer and humpback whales, sea otters, sea lions, porpoises, eagles, and many different kinds of sea birds.
Returning in mid afternoon we'll take a look around Seward before heading north through the mountain lake community of Moose Pass and back to Hope. If the weather's conducive we'll have a campfire and contemplate a walk to the historic Seaview Bar down on the waterfront to meet some of the local "wildlife". Or, you might just like to poke around the old settlement and see the magnificent views of the mountains bordering Cook Inlet, before lodging again for the night in the creek side cabins of Discovery Lodge. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: After breakfast at the Discovery Cafe, the social crossroads of quiet Hope and principal commercial establishment, we will follow the road to the small town of Girdwood, home of the world-class Alyeska Ski Resort. Here there is an option to take the tram ride to the summit if the clouds permit for a spectacular view of the surrounding Chugach Range and Cook Inlet, while others might opt for a short hike through the rain forest. Depending on the earliest departures, we'll return to Anchorage in late afternoon and officially end seven incomparable days of your adventure. Includes: (B), (L).
Note: Option available to spend time in Denali and join tour first day. This itinerary has 13 separate departure dates from May to September. Single Supplement price upon request, dependent on availability.
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