Camping is complemented with overnight stays in uniquely northern accommodations, allowing for a wilderness experience though balanced with a certain level of "civilization". Steeped in the gold rush history that in many ways defines the North, a highlight is the time spent in the old frontier river town of Eagle, as well as the more infamous, Dawson City.
The goal of this itinerary is to depart the traveled corridors and explore the seldom-visited Alaska, impossible to really experience without leaving the road system. Seeking out the special places, people and history that make the north unique, this intimate journey through wilderness grandeur allows one to feel just how appropriate is this native name Alaska, which means, The Great Land.
Itinerary Capsule and Destinations:
- Anchorage-Paxson; cross Denali Hwy; camp near glacier.
- Gulkana-Eagle; stops: Delta Junction, Tok, Chicken; cabins.
- Eagle-Dawson,YT; historical tour; Top of World Hwy; B & B.
- Dawson-Yukon; canoe/kayak departure on Yukon; camp.
- Yukon River; paddle to gold rush ghost town of 40 Mile; camp.
- Yukon River; paddle/float through Dozen Islands; island camp.
- Yukon River-Eagle (showers!); afternoon hike; cabins.
- Eagle-Gakona; optional hike; bluff camp overlooking Wrangell Mtns.
- Gakona-Anchorage; return to Anchorage early evening.
Day 1: The adventure begins at 8AM, meeting downtown at the Snowshoe Inn. From here we'll head east through the agricultural region of the Matanuska-Susitna valley toward Palmer to pick up the Parks Highway. Turning north to follow along the west side of the Talkeetna Mountains, we'll climb steadily toward the mighty Alaska Range of mountains. Hopefully, Denali itself, the highest mountain in North America will deem to show its towering summit.
In the early afternoon we'll arrive in Cantwell to turn back east and start our traverse of the beautiful Denali "Highway", a 140 mile gravel road across wide valleys, alpine tundra and breathtaking scenery that is open only in the summer months and 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 stop along the way at a couple of the unique seasonal establishments to mingle with some of the locals, and travel through the heart of the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District, traditional hunting grounds since the time of those that crossed the Bering Land Bridge to people the Americas. After reaching Paxson, we will turn north and travel a few miles to reach our camp at the base of the imposing Gulkana Glacier. For those inclined, there is an excellent hike up to the glacier, across a swinging bridge for great views of Summit Lake and the mountains in the distance. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 2: From Gulkana we will get an early start to continue north through the Alaska Range following the Delta River to Delta Junction, and then take the Alaska Highway to Tok. Here, we'll pick up the twisting gravel road to historic Eagle, home of the early Army outpost of Fort Egbert, the army's northernmost presence until World War II.
Eagle has long served as the last supply post for the vast upper Yukon valley, providing the earliest miners and current wilderness dwellers with their link to mail delivery, telephones and the rest of the world. Its frontier nature hasn't changed much, as it is still cut off from the rest of the road system during the eight winter months of the year. We'll bunk for the evening in historic cabins overlooking the Yukon.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, one of the cabins is where the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen "wintered", after arriving in December of 1905 from mushing by dog team from his ship locked in the ice 1000 miles to the north. It was by telegraph from Eagle that he was able to notify the world of his success in finding the long sought Northwest Passage, after three years with no communication. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: After a morning historic tour of old Eagle and Ft. Egbert we'll load up the canoes and kayaks and head down the road toward Dawson City via the the "Top of The World Highway". The road follows magnificent ridge lines and descends through many old mining camps from days gone by, including the tiny outposts of Chicken and Boundary, Alaska. After crossing the Canadian border, the road descends into the Yukon River Valley and to the goal of all the Stampeders of the Great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, Dawson City.
Dawson is still a frontier town with plenty of its history evident in the old structures and dirt streets. Late afternoon will be left open to those that would like to explore on their own or get cleaned up before dinner on the town. Lodging will be in the White Ram Bed & Breakfast near downtown, after sampling a bit of the nightlife. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: After breakfast, an excellent recitation of famous works at the cabin of the poet laureate of the north Robert Service is optional but highly recommended, with the rest of the morning open for prowling around, shopping, and visiting the museums. We'll meet for lunch and then have some more free time for a last taste of "civilization", as the guide readies the equipment for us to set out on the mighty Yukon River in the kayaks and canoes in mid-afternoon.
First we'll float past a steamboat graveyard a short ways downstream, and from here continue on past the picturesque Native village of Moosehide and the site of Ft. Reliance just downstream. The fort's presence is still felt in the names of many streams and rivers in both directions, named for their estimated distance from the fort. It's about a three hour paddle/float, past rock bluffs and waterfalls to a creekside camp on the river. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Slipping into our boats after breakfast we will continue downriver to explore the abandoned homestead of Percy "Iron Man" DeWolfe, who ran the mail up and down the Yukon between Eagle and Dawson by boat in summer and by dog team during the harsh winter months, until he was well into his seventies and was forcibly replaced by the airplane. Percy's presence is still felt in the many items of his life hidden in the overgrowth and wild raspberries (delicious!) that have claimed the site since.
An afternoon stop at the wilderness homestead of Cor Guimand will give an idea of what it's like to live in the wilderness year-round, hunting and trapping with his dog team and leading a subsistence lifestyle. The evening’s camp will be at the remote abandoned gold rush town of Forty Mile with many structures still standing; including a church, store, and the log cabin headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Another day on the river past many islands, drainages and cliff walls dropping directly into the river, before lunch at Old Woman’s and Old Man’s Rock (a native legend that will have to wait for on-site explanation). We'll float through a labyrinth section called, "Dozen Islands", an excellent area for wildlife viewing.
We'll see if we can pick out any of the abandoned wood camps that supplied fuel to the hundreds of steam boats that used to ply the river until roads were built opening up the great river valleys to more economical vehicle traffic in the 1950’s. Camp for the night will most likely (depending on the weather) be on an island just shy of the US border. The views are magnificent. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: A morning departure will have us paddling back across the U.S. border and into Eagle in the early afternoon for lunch (and showers!) at the riverbank cafe. Solidly back on "terra firma", we might stretch our legs with a short but vigorous hike to the top of Eagle Bluff, long a landmark to river travelers.
The history is so palpable in Eagle, you'll probably want to spend a few hours just stolling about, maybe talking with the locals about how and why they might live in such a remote outpost with road access only a few months a year. After a sumptuous dinner, we'll again spend the night in the cabins by the river, that by now have come to feel like home. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Early in the morning we'll continue following the road back to Tok, this time taking the Tok Cut-off southward through lake country of Mentasta Pass. Passing through Slana and the old mining community of Chistochina we'll break out into the great Copper River basin and follow the western border of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, our country's largest.
Just short of the road that follows the old Valdez-Eagle Trail into the Interior, we'll abandon the pavement for a great camp on a high bluff overlooking the Copper River and the broad valley that rises to the volcanoes of the Mt. Drum and Mt. Sanford. It's a wonderful view and a spot that just begs for "glassing" with binoculars for wildlife in the valley below. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: We'll get a reasonable start in order to play a bit on our return, climbing out the Copper River Basin toward the divide, with the Talkeetna Mountains to the north and the Chugach to the south. The beautiful Glenn Highway descends to the Matanuska Glacier, with our lunch planned to overlooking. The glacier give life to the wild river of the same name and we'll follow the north side westward, arriving back in Anchorage in the early evening, somehow just a bit different than when we left, and most likely figuring out just when you can return.
This itinerary has 5 separate departures between June and August. Please contact us for this season's schedule. Single Supplement price upon request, subject to availability.
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