Alaska National Parks Explorer

13 Days / 12 Nights | Anchorage to Anchorage

Highlights: Alaska National Parks | Anchorage | Seward | Homer | Talkeetna | Denali | Fairbanks | Tok | McCarthy | Valdez |

Alaska's classic route features most of the highlights and scenic wonders in the central Alaska region - Kenai Fjords, Denali and Wrangell / St. Elias National Parks. Take a flightseeing tour to Mt. McKinley, watch out for wildlife in Denali, explore Fairbanks area, visit McCarthy and the Kennicott Mine, hike to Exit Glacier and join us for a spectacular Kenai Fjords glacier cruise.

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The below itinerary is only a suggestion, we offer tailor-made personal service and solutions to help you plan your perfect vacation.

Day 1 Anchorage to Seward (204 km / 127 mi) This morning travel along the Seward Highway towards scenic Turnagain Arm. Turnagain Arm is a body of water featuring the world’s second highest tides at over 30 feet. Keep an eye out for Beluga whales chasing salmon in the bay or Dall sheep along the highway. A great stop for lunch is the Alyeska Ski Resort/Girdwood. Here you can take the tram up Mt. Alyeska (optional). Another interesting stop might be Portage Glacier and its interesting visitor centre. In Seward we suggest a visit to Exit Glacier and the SeaLife Centre.

Day 2 Seward with Northwestern Fjord Cruise (Cruise) Today we have arranged for you to take an all-day Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise. Travel farther into Kenai Fjords National Park than with any other cruise and visit the magnificent Northwestern Fjord, home to three amazing tidewater glaciers and numerous alpine glaciers. Kenai Fjords National Park boasts abundant wildlife, alpine and tidewater glaciers and breathtaking scenery. This cruise is the best way to see this pristine national park and its inhabitants. Also, visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, an island home to teeming seabird rookeries. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the untouched beauty of Alaska’s coastal waters. (A continental breakfast & deli-style lunch is included onboard)

Day 3 Seward to Talkeetna (386 km / 240 mi) Head back to Anchorage today taking in the sights of the Seward Highway as you go. Keep an eye out for beluga whales making their way towards the Cook Inlet or for Dall sheep combing the mountainsides. Continue on through Anchorage and drive the Glenn Highway north to Wasilla and on to Talkeetna. A stop should be made at the Alaska Native Heritage Centre. Talkeetna serves as a base camp for Mt. McKinley climbers; the community of 857 residents is located at the confluence of the Talkeetna and Susitna Rivers. A turn-of-the-20th-century gold-mining centre, the town has retained much of its early Alaskan flavour. Log cabins, a roadhouse and clapboard storefronts line the dirt streets, colourful locals and bush pilots stroll the wooden sidewalks, while Mount McKinley looms overhead. Main Street, the only paved road in town, begins with a “Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna” sign at the town park and ends at the banks of the Susitna River, a nice place to view the big mountain when it’s out.

Day 4 Talkeetna to Denali National Park Entrance (169 km / 105 mi) Today, explore Denali’s south side or depart early for the drive to Denali National Park. You’ll have as much time as you like to experience the majesty of Denali National Park, take in the sights of the George Parks Highway or arrive at your hotel near the park entrance to take advantage of an optional excursion or a visit to the Denali Visitor Centre.

Day 5 Denali National Park Backcountry Adventure (Coach / Bush Plane Flight) This full-day narrated coach trip explores the entire 148km /92mi of the restricted Denali Park Road on your way to the Denali Backcountry Lodge. During your journey to Denali Back Country Lodge, your experienced driver-guide will help in the search for bear, moose, caribou, Dall sheep and other wildlife while pointing out the biology and geology of the area. There are numerous stops for wildlife viewing, photography and to stretch your legs and enjoy complimentary snacks. Lunch is included on this full day journey at the Denali Backcountry Lodge and while at the Lodge you can take a nature walk or try panning for gold. You will return to the park entrance via a flightseeing tour in a small bush plane. If weather permits, you will fly close to Mount McKinley. (Lunch is included today)

Day 6 Denali National Park Entrance to Fairbanks with Sternwheeler Riverboat Cruise (198 km / 123 mi) Continue on the Parks Highway north to Fairbanks. Accompanied by incredible forest and mountain landscapes you drive through the communities of Healy, Nenana and Ester – an old mining camp. In the afternoon climb aboard the Riverboat Discovery III for an unforgettable 3-hour cruise into the Alaskan Interior; travel the Chena and Tanana Rivers on the only authentic sternwheeler riverboat operating in Alaska. This narrated tour provides background on the area’s natural history and the Athabascan Indian culture. See a floatplane take off, meet sled dogs, witness the “wedding of the rivers,” and gain insight into the ancient Athabascan Indian culture. Athabascan guides who have worked and lived in Alaska will take you on a personalized tour of the Chena Indian Village.

Day 7 Fairbanks to Copper River Area (417 km / 259 mi) Depart early this morning for an approximate 6-hour drive. For the most part, today’s drive will be through broad, meandering river valleys that are characteristic of the north side of the Alaska Range. Reaching Copper River, you will be awed by the dramatic scenery change with Mt. Drum, Mt. Wrangell and Mt. Blackburn as your stunning backdrop. A quick visit to Copper Centre is well worth the few extra miles off the main Richardson Highway; located at the confluence of the Klutina and Copper rivers it offers classic Alaskan character and some interesting sites.

Day 8 Copper River Area to Chitina (vehicle) (79 km/50 mi) to McCarthy (Bush plane 30 min) Continue south along the Richardson Highway towards the tiny town of Chitina – the gateway into Wrangell/St. Elias National Park and McCarthy-Kennicott. Your flight from Chitina to McCarthy-Kennicott gives you some of the most spectacular aerial views of the national park as you fly alongside the flanks of 4996m Mt. Blackburn, over the Kennicott and Root Glaciers, past the Erie Mine and view the awe-inspiring Stairway Icefall. A flyby of Kennicott and McCarthy before landing will orient you to the area you are about to explore. Along the way your pilot will describe landforms, point out wildlife and fill you in on a bit of history of the area.

(Please note: Flying into McCarthy-Kennicott has the added benefit of saving 4-5 hours of driving on the single lane, gravel surfaced McCarthy road)

Day 9 McCarthy / Kennicott This magical location is the furthest road extension in the massive Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. With only a handful of year-round residents, the area is attracting a growing number of people looking to experience Alaska as they imagine it –as a mix of solitude and scenery. The park is the largest in the United States National Parks system and contains several of the tallest mountains in the country, as well as the greatest concentration of glaciers in North America. Combined together with Glacier National Park, and both Kluane National Park and Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in Canada, the area represents the single largest tract of protected land in the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another highlight today is a guided tour of an old ghost town outside a copper mine. A guided walking tour through the ruins of the mine is included.

Day 10 McCarthy to Chitina (plane) – Chitina to Valdez (vehicle) (194 km / 120 mi) Today fly back to Chitina by bush plane while enjoying great views of the Wrangell Mountains. From Chitina continue south where you will begin to enter the Chugach Mountains that ring the coast of Alaska from Prince William Sound. At Thompson Pass you may wish to stop at one of the pullouts for the scenery and views of Worthington Glacier before you begin the decent into Valdez. Just outside town, you’ll see evidence of the devastating 1964 earthquake. Though the quake was felt in Valdez, it was the tsunami that caused most of the damage. Dead trees miles inland show just how far the saltwater traveled up the valley! Situated at the head of a deep, stillwater fjord in the northeast section of Prince William Sound, Valdez is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains; they are the most heavily glaciated mountains in the Northwest.

Day 11 Valdez free Day Today enjoy a free day in Valdez. Take a cruise into Prince William Sound to Columbia or Meares Glacier on which you also have a chance to see Sea lions and even Humpback whales. Or enjoy a guided kayaking or rafting tour (not included). Overnight in Valdez.

Day 12 Valdez to Sheep Mountain Lodge (309 km / 192 mi)Today you will drive back north on the Richardson Highway with great views of the Wrangell Mountains as you return to Glennallen (weather permitting). Here you follow the Glenn Highway towards Palmer / Anchorage until you reach Sheep Mountain Lodge. The rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the scenic mountain views or recreational activities in the area. There are over 20 km / 12 mi of trails near the Lodge perfect for exploring. Birds and wildflowers abound. Maps are provided in each cabin for self-guided hiking.

Day 13 Sheep Mountain Lodge to Anchorage (172 km / 107 mi)Drive the Glenn Highway south to Anchorage. Highlights on today’s trip include the Independence Mine in beautiful Hatcher Pass and the many communities in the Mat-Su Valley. This valley contains many farms with the remarkable growing season in Alaska and offers beautiful views of the Chugach Range.


  • Accommodation including taxes for 12 nights
  • Full day Northwestern Fjords Cruise with lunch
  • Denali Backcountry Adventure Tour by coach one-way with flight back to Denali National Park Entrance
  • Sternwheeler Riverboat Cruise (3 hours)
  • Scenic Return Flight Chitina – McCarthy
  • Historical Kennecott Tour
  • Exclusive travel documentation package including personalized maps, itinerary and driving directions, and a Lonely Planet Guide of Alaska

Not included:

  • Rental Car
  • Road and Tunnel Tolls
  • Gratuities
  • Meals other than specified
  • Activities other than specified

Hotel Information (Moderate Grade)

  • Seward – Windsong Lodge (Standard Room)
  • Talkeetna – Susitna River Lodge (Standard Suite)
  • Denali National Park – Denali Grizzly Bear Resort (Cedar Hotel Room)
  • Fairbanks – Rivers Edge Resort (Garden Cottage)
  • Copper River Area – Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge (Standard Room)
  • McCarthy / Kennicott – Kennicott Glacier Lodge (Main Lodge – Glacier View Room)
  • Valdez – Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn (Standard Room)
  • Sheep Mountain – Sheep Mountain Lodge (Cabin)

Hotel Information (Suerior Grade)

  • Seward – Exit Glacier Lodge (Deluxe One Queen Room)
  • Talkeetna – Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge (Guest Lodge Room)
  • Denali National Park – Grande Denali Lodge (Standard Room)
  • Fairbanks – Fairbanks SpringHill Suites by Marriot (Standard Room)
  • Copper River Area – Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge (Standard Room)
  • McCarthy / Kennicott – Kennicott Glacier Lodge (Main Lodge – Glacier View Room)
  • Valdez – Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn (View Room)
  • Sheep Mountain – Sheep Mountain Lodge (Cabin)

McCarthy & Valdez accommodation is the best available in the area and considered lower end of 3 star.

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