This exquisite ten day tour features both the famed Inside Passage and Glacier Bay National Park, as well as the contrasting beauty and history of the rugged Yukon and Interior Alaska, allowing a deep appreciation of two worlds that so define the Far North. From skirting the intricate shoreline of Southeast and exploring the wonders of Glacier Bay by water, to following in the overland footsteps of the great Klondike Gold Rush miners through Skagway, Dawson City and Eagle, this itinerary offers a true cross section of what makes these lands supremely special.
Hauntingly beautiful, coastal Alaska has long figured in the frontier spirit, from the first explorers to touch land to the rugged individuals that still make their lives from the sea. Ferries and special tour boats let us leisurely explore this unique world, while the inland byways and rivers allow us to experience the majestic country that held the early miners long after the gold rush. The Yukon with its glorious summers and unparalleled scenery, still draws many who wouldn't call home, anywhere else.
By featuring a variety of means of travel and staying in unique lodgings that give more than a fleeting glimpse, we promise an experience that cannot be had through more conventional offerings. This is a trip that will before it's over, have you planning a return... guaranteed.
Itinerary Capsule and Destinations:
- Juneau-Gustavus: flight to Glacier Bay; overnight in lodge.
- Glacier Bay/Gustavus: boat tour of Glacier Bay; optional hike; lodge.
- Gustavus-Juneau: optl. sea kayaking; beach walk; flight; motel.
- Juneau - Skagway: AM tour in Juneau; PM ferry; B & B.
- Skagway - Whitehorse: optional train ride; tour; hotel.
- Whitehorse - Dawson: steamer tour; Dimond Tooth Gerties; B&B.
- Dawson - Eagle: goldfields tour; Top of World Hwy; cabins.
- Eagle: Eagle historical tour; optional afternoon hike; cabins.
- Eagle - Copper Center: stop in Chicken and Tok; historical lodge.
- Copper Center - Anchorage: Matanuska Glacier; end of tour.
Day 1: The group will meet at 8 AM at the Driftwood Lodge in downtown Juneau (pre-trip lodging here can be arranged through our office). Since we'll have time to explore Juneau upon our return, we'll then head directly out of town to the office of the ferry to stow our bags before taking in the Mendenhall Glacier. Here the beautiful glacier rises back from the lake it creates, to the huge ice fields above that feed it.
There are some great little interpretive walks here to introduce to the world of glaciers, as well as a salmon spawning stream. The speedy catamaran ferry departs before lunch, crossing the Lynn Canal, descending Chatham Strait and up Icy Strait to arrive at Gustavus in the early afternoon. Situated at the mouth of Glacier Bay, and the closest community to the National Park, Gustavus is inaccessible by road and a unique haven for some of those that have found elsewhere in Alaska to be getting too crowded. From the dock it's a quick trip to the cozy Annie Mae Lodge, hidden in the Sitka spruce and marshy beach grass just over the dunes from Icy Strait. An afternoon stroll along the beach is definitely in order before a sumptuous dinner at the lodge. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 2: We'll be getting up good and early this morning to catch our boat for the tour into the far reaches of Glacier Bay. Also inaccessible by road, Glacier Bay National Park is one of the jewels of the North with its sixteen large tidewater glaciers and many smaller ones that no longer reach the sea. Beyond the whales, seals and icebergs calving thunderously from the glaciers' faces, the bay is particularly unique in that the entire 65 mile length was filled with ice only two centuries ago. It has been retreating gradually since, giving rise to a fascinating laboratory of geologic and plant succession, as the area at the mouth of the bay boasts a climax rainforest that has developed in the interim, whereas the farthest reaches have yet to even be colonized by soil bacteria in the new ground being exposed each day by the glacial retreat.
It is this steady progression and the fact that one can graphically witness it in traveling up and down the bay, that has been drawing visitors both scientific and merely curious for many years. The day long cruise aboard the Spirit of Adventure is an experience that you won't soon forget. We'll get back to Gustavus late in the afternoon, arriving at the Annie Mae to the smells of another great dinner. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Today has a more leisurely pace, and a number of options to fill the time before our early evening flight. This is truly a unique area and if not content just to soak in the atmosphere, you'll most likely want to avail yourself of some participatory means of experiencing it. Naturalist-led nature hikes in Bartlett Cove explore the unique natural history and beauty of the area in the morning, with the afternoon open to the possibilities of hiking, exploring the area on the bikes available at the Annie Mae, or for a guided experience in sea kayaks from a local outfitter.
Sea kayaking in these circumstances is very easy, even for those with no experience and is by far, the most intimate means to wander silently the intricate maze of the coastal world. By this time you may not want to leave, but our flight beckons for the return to Juneau, this time allowing us to put it all in perspective from the air. After quick installation in our rooms, we'll hit the streets for dinner, with of course the capital of Alaska offering a bit of nightlife afterwards. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Originally a gold rush town (20 years before the great Klondike) Juneau's fortunes have long been tied to mining. Tucked on the side of a mountain, space is limited and the town has grown "up" at the same time as out. While mining, fishing, timber and tourism make up the private sector, nearly half of the town's population of about 30,000 is associated with governmental functions. The setting is absolutely beautiful and very much determined by the sea.
We'll poke about downtown with a couple of great museums open to cover the days gone by. Tours of the historic legislative building still being used are surprisingly interesting, with a hike in the mountains behind town a beautiful option. In the afternoon we'll head back to Auke Bay, this time to the Alaska Marine Highway ferry terminal for our evening trip to Skagway up the Lynn Canal, a natural fjord that is considered the end of the Inside Passage. Dinner is on board the ferry with our arrival in Skagway later in the evening to lodge in the Historic Skagway Inn --a former house of ill repute. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: A place that will always be associated with the great gold rush that founded it, Skagway is still tied closely to its history as final jumping off point for the many thousands of fortune seekers in the waning days of the last century. Last stop before the feared Chilkoot Trail, today it is headquarters of the Klondike National Historical Park, and with many of the false fronted buildings and old boardwalks dating from the early days, one can almost feel the excitement and apprehension of the throngs of would-be miners that passed through here in a few short months.
Many were away from home for the first time and far too civilized, with the unknown perils of wilderness ahead and the infamous Soapy Smith and his gang ready to fleece them beforehand. Here we'll visit the interpretive center and stroll about town, with maybe a short hike. Some might opt for the morning train ride up the famous White Pass & Yukon Route railroad for some exquisite views of the surrounding country. We'll all head up over the pass by road later in the afternoon, getting a good idea of the inhospitable country the would be miners had to endure. A stop in Carcross will give an idea of the quiet little towns of which many owe their existence to the various gold rushes of the last hundred years. We'll pull into Whitehorse in the evening and lodge for the night in a hotel not too far from the thread that unites all of this part of the North, the Yukon River. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Capitol of the Yukon Territory and containing more than two thirds of its population at only 25,000, Whitehorse too owes its existence to the gold rush as supply post and furthest navigable town upriver on the Yukon River. Here travelers regrouped or abandoned their journey, depending on how they felt about the Whitehorse rapids just upstream. It was and still is the territorial headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that brought some order to the gold rush and undoubtedly saved many lives in doing so.
It was also a center for construction of the Alcan highway early in World War II and an important landing strip in the program of ferrying military aircraft through Alaska to be used by Russian crews against the Nazi Luftwaffe. While exploring about town we'll visit the SS Klondike, one of the few remaining stern wheelers that in former days were the backbone of commerce throughout the roadless North. Connecting Whitehorse to Dawson City by land is the scenic Klondike Highway. Goal of all the Klondikers and final stop for those lucky enough to make it that far, Dawson City was and is the definition of a gold rush town. Our lot will be a bit easier, checking in at our bed and breakfast before heading down to the old dirt streets to the Yukon and nearby dinner. The night life of course is still going strong in Dawson for those not yet done with the day. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: After breakfast we'll take our time to explore about the old town on foot. With only a few thousand today, Dawson was for a few years home to at times 30,000. The great irony was that by the time these multitudes had arrived, all of the valuable gold claims had already been staked by those in the country at the time of discovery. That did not stop them from building a town, with all the comforts and vices necessary for that many souls, some fabulously wealthy but most with only time on their hands. Today it is still a center of gold mining activity, though the fact that it was long forgotten by the outside world contributes to the great number of old buildings remaining and the gold rush atmosphere. To get a better feel for the era an excellent reading of works by Robert Service, poet laureate of the north, is an option, while the buildings themselves beckon, several of which are quite good museums.
In the afternoon we'll head out to the gold fields themselves, visiting the original Discovery Claim, learning to pan ourselves, and touring the surprisingly fascinating Dredge #4. After an early dinner, we'll head back to the US across the hauntingly spectacular Top of the World Highway, the name of which was inevitable with sweeping vistas in every direction. We'll arrive in the remote frontier outpost of Eagle in the evening, our accommodations being historic log cabins overlooking the Yukon River. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Eagle has remained an uncommercialized gem given its remote location at the end of the road. With its beginnings as the American center of commerce (and later order) in the region, Eagle is just four miles from the border and is one of the only almost untouched frontier towns of the early days. Still the hub of the Upper Yukon at only 200 persons, far fewer people inhabit the area now than in its heyday. Most structures are of log and the town's amazing historical society has done much to preserve its past, from the old buildings of Ft. Egbert to the museums and interpretive displays of a quality rarely seen in a tiny place so seldomly visited.
We'll take the walking historical tour that features many of the treasures of a bygone area and offers insight into the difficult life still sought and lived here. It's quite a unique neighborhood and you'll undoubtedly want a bit of time to wander about and take a few photos. Eagle Bluff beckons for those stout of heart and breath, with a couple of bicycles available for exploring about on two wheels. We will overnight again and dine in the historic cabins rehabilitated by us. Here the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen stayed after he made it south by dog team from his ship frozen in the ice a thousand miles north, to inform the world that he had at last conquered the long sought Northwest Passage. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: It is 160 miles of gravel road that connect Eagle with the rest of the road system, with our stop in the tiny little mining center of "downtown" Chicken on our way through, a very probable memory. In Tok we will take a look at the visitor's center with a presentation on the area and the wildfires that so recently almost destroyed Tok. Pressing on through the beautiful Mentasta Mountains our path will follow the border of the Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, our nation's largest. The towering volcanoes of Mt. Sanford and Mt. Drum dominate the park as they will our views to the east. Depending on our arrival time, we'll visit the park's headquarters if it's still open. Our accommodations in Copper Center are in a historic roadhouse, the system of lodgings that used to dot the trails now highways, each situated about a day's travel from the next and offering warmth and meals to the weary traveler. A very interesting museum is just next door, with the roadhouse proprietors often able to be convinced to open it, should there be a bit of interest. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: The road back to civilisation leads back to Glennallen and westward down the Glenn Highway. We'll follow the valley that divides the two mountain ranges, the Talkeetnas to the north and the Chugach to the south. It climbs the divide between the huge Copper River Basin and the great Matanuska-Susitna valley, and is one of the prettiest roads in the state as it follows along the Matanuska River, alternating precipitous drops and expansive views. Lunch is overlooking the Matanuska Glacier before continuing on through Sutton and Palmer towards Anchorage. At about 250,000 it is the largest city in Alaska with over half of its population. There are many things to do here and it is a great jumping off place for other adventures such as fishing, flightseeing or maybe just the flight to or from home. Includes: (B), (L).
Note: Wonderful options exist for arriving in Juneau either by air, or by ferry from Ketchikan, Washington or Vancouver. This itinerary has 4 separate departure dates June - Aug. Please contact us for this season's schedule. Single Supplement price upon request, subject to availability.
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