Areas featured range from: the Interior, with a full day heading to the heart of Denali National Park, to the alpine world above treeline in the Alaska Range, to the temperate rain forest of a micro climate in the Chugach Mountains. Other highlights include hiking in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and on the Kenai Peninsula, as well as onto the face of two glaciers.
Tour Dates of Departure:
- 8 departures between June 1 and August 31.
Day 1: Anchorage - Denali. The adventure begins at 8:00 am, meeting in downtown Anchorage at the Snowshoe Inn. From here we'll head northward with a quick stop in Wasilla at the headquarters for the 1000 mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The displays and short video here give a good insight into dog mushing in general, as well as the lifestyle and the commitment it takes to train for and run the Iditarod itself.
Pushing northward towards the beacon of North America's highest peak, Mt. McKinley or Denali, we'll enter into the great Alaska Range of mountains and cross over the divide between the vast drainages of the Yukon to the north and the Matanuska-Susitna Rivers to the south. Just north of the tiny town of Cantwell we'll duck into a gravel pit off the road to find the trailhead of our afternoon hike.
Starting in the treed lower elevations, we'll soon climb into the transition zone, with dwarf willows and patches of tundra alternating. We'll follow a bench on the south side of the valley of the Yanert River that gives great views across and up the impressive valley. Small ponds are frequent, with chances good of happening upon a moose feeding on aquatic plants. We'll return to the van when the urge hits and head back south a few miles to a beautiful and "secret" campsite on the banks of the Jack River. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 2: Denali National Park. In the morning we'll make the last few miles northward to the entrance of Denali National Park. A stop at the Visitor's Center will better acquaint us with Denali, and it is here that we will board a Park Service bus to travel into the Park, as the vast interior is closed to private vehicles. The round trip is a full day, and opportunities are some of the best anywhere for wildlife viewing.
In the late afternoon when we exit the Park, our legs will most likely demand a stretch and a variety of trails await. Should the weather be cooperating another option would be flight seeing from a nearby airstrip. It's a truly indescribable experience to witness the stark and formidable higher elevations from this perspective. Accommodations for the night are tent-cabins just north of the park entrance. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Denali - Meier's Lake. After breakfast we'll turn back south a short ways to Cantwell and pick up the spectacular Denali Highway. It is a 130 mile gravel road across wide valleys, alpine tundra and haunting 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 establishments to mingle with some of the locals.
After crossing the beautiful Maclaren River we will gradually climb up to Maclaren Summit (elev 4082 feat), the second highest point on Alaska's road system. Here we will leave the van for our afternoon hike above timberline, walking North towards the impressive Maclaren Glacier and mountains of the Alaska Range. This alpine tundra hike is spectacular, allowing for expansive views i n all directions. Numerous kettle lakes dot the landscape and the possibility of seeing migrating caribou is good.
Continuing on by road, we're now in the heart of the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District, traditional hunting grounds since the time of those that crossed the Bering Land Bridge. Physical evidence suggests that this was the principal corridor of movement southward to people the Americas. After reaching Paxson, we will turn north on the Richardson Highway 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 across a swinging bridge and up to the glacier for great views of Summit Lake and the mountains in the distance. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Meier's Lake - McCarthy. The Richardson Highway, following the old Valdez-Eagle trail, leads us southward though Glennallen to the tiny visitor center of our nation's largest National Park, the Wrangell-St. Elias. An undeveloped jewel, the park coupled with the adjoining Kluane National Park of Canada, is the largest piece of protected wilderness on the planet. We'll pick up a one-lane abandoned railroad grade at the confluence of the Copper and Chitina Rivers, that leads us 60 tortuous miles into the center of the Park and the ghost towns of McCarthy and Kennicott.
We'll leave the van and cross over two forks of the Kennicott River to reach McCarthy, and quickly throw our bags in the McCarthy Lodge in order to get hiking. The Kennicott and Root Glaciers tower over the view as we head out on a trail less hike over the glacial moraine below where both glaciers join. Working our way back along the Kennicott river leads to dinner at the McCarthy Lodge, possibly a refresher at the old bar, and beds at the tiny Ma Johnson Hotel - the only lodging available in McCarthy and reputed to have been quite a place of "business" in the old mining days. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: McCarthy - Kennicott. A post breakfast trip up the remainder of the road four miles to the abandoned company town of Kennicott overlooking its glacier namesake, allows an almost unbelievable exploration of an entire town sitting much the way it was when the mines closed in 1938. It is almost eery to find items in the store still on the shelves, a hospital with patient records still in the attic, dozens of other buildings, and the incredible 14-story mill building itself.
Kennicott is truly a ghost town without equal, with its remoteness dictating that many things were not worth transporting out, coupled with a fortunate lack of vandalism. We'll continue onward by foot paralleling the glacial moraine to reach the face of the Root Glacier itself. If careful, it's possible to walk up onto the face for a little ways. It truly is another world. Heading back down, possibly by the manual method along the old Wagon Road, brings us back to McCarthy where we have the pleasure of returning by the same road as brought us in.
A few hundred yards down the Tok Cut-off just north of Glennallen, leads to our campsite on the edge of a great bluff overlooking the Copper River and its huge valley. The volcanoes of Mt. Sanford and Mt. Drum dominate the view, with the wide plain below just begging for binoculars to spot the wildlife movements. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: McCarthy - Gakona. Today the road leads southwest, leaving the basin of the Copper River and climbing to the divide of Eureka summit, with the Talkeetna Mountains to the north and the Chugach to the south. Our picnic lunch is overlooking the Matanuska Glacier, the run-off of which gives rise to the intense river of the same name. It's a beautiful mountain drive through to the huge valley of the Matanuska and Susitna rivers, home to most of Alaska's agricultural industry.
We'll dispatch with Anchorage quickly and continue on for the beautiful views as we round Turnagain Arm along the Chugach Mountains and onto the Kenai Peninsula. Turning off the main road and following along the south side of the Arm leads to the little end of the road community of Hope. The second oldest gold rush town in Alaska, Hope is still predominately built of log, from the tiny church to the old Social Hall, still hosting weddings, dances and community functions. It's a very special place and it is here that we'll lodge for the next two nights in cozy log cabins overlooking Bear Creek. Just out the back door a great trail leads up the creek to the high country - dinner just wouldn't taste as good without a little exertion and possibly a campfire by the creek to cap the day. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Gakona - Hope. Flapjacks for breakfast should give a good start, before heading "downtown" for a historical tour and on to the Gull Rock Trailhead. Beginning literally at the end of the road, the trail follows along the very edge of Turnagain Arm and winds through a variety of forest types with openings for great views across the Arm. The trail terminates at Gull Rock, a small peninsula sticking out into the water that with just a turn of the neck, offers wonderful perspectives up the Arm and across Cook Inlet. You'll have earned dinner by the time we return, and a leisurely barbecue is planned on the deck overlooking our cabins. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Hope. Leaving the Kenai Mountains and skirting the Chugach while winding back around Turnagain Arm brings us to Girdwood, home to the Alyeska Ski Resort situated here due to a much higher level of precipitation than even the adjacent valleys. It is a micro climate that gives rise to a temperate rain forest with flora quite different from Hope, just a couple dozen miles away. Lush ferns and undergrowth along with large spruce trees are dominate on the trail up Winner Creek to its beautiful little gorge. It might be a late lunch but worth it at the Alyeska Bakery upon return. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 9: Hope - Anchorage. Back to Anchorage in the late afternoon, each of us probably just a bit different than when we left, and most likely figuring out just when we can return and find out what's over one of those ridges spied earlier. Home departure.
Note: Please contact us for this season's schedule. Single supplement upon request as not always available.
Also see tour packages in:
USA Alaska Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking Wildlife Viewing
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