Alaska - Overview, Visit Planning and Tips

Introduction:

My thoughts: Alaska RV trip with the family was our dream for 22 years and we were not disappointed, enjoyed every single moment in this incredible state.

The only downside was the lack of enough time to relax and explore it more, need to leave something for next visit….





When? :

Most people visit Alaska between June and August. You will not be alone; this will be the busiest time of year for all travelers.

Wildlife is active during the summer months; this is also the flower blooming season.

You can expect mild temperatures for at your trip, plan for rainy and winter days but also for warm temperatures with sunshine.

 

2-3 weeks, 2 trip options:

You need to tailor your Alaska trip to what you want to see and do and how long you plan to visit.

We had almost two weeks trip, maybe additional week is better, no need to run from one place to the other and spend more days in each location.

 

From the things we did I wrote below the must visit in my view, tried to sort them according to importance:

- Seaward cruise

- Denali Park

- Matanuska Glacier

- Homer

- Russian River

Whittier

- Anchorage

 

Additional places we did not visit:

- Katmai National Park and Preserve

- Valdez

- McCarthy

- Fairbanks

- Talkeetna


 

The below first map shows the actual trip we did.

The second map is another longer option that also include ferry ride from Whittier to Valdez.




 


Links to the specific blogs:









 

Our visit itinerary (Plans vs. Reality):

 

Below is our detailed trip itinerary (June 2019), what we plan before our visit, and the last column shows what we actually did in each day

 

day

What

Sleep

Reservations

Actual

10

Mon

·                arrive, RV

·                Costco

·                Drive north

Try to go all the way up to Grand View Cafe & RV Park (looks like this is the only RV park near Matanuska

https://www.greatalaskanholidays.com/

RV reservation: CEWZWX

Type: 31K

 

 

·                 Taking RV was fast, slow driving at first, but you get used to it after short time…

·                  Went to FredMeyer, they have everything, and we do not need “Costco size”, on average we buy supply every ~3 days

·                 Went all the way to Grand View Cafe & RV Park (called in advance to see if they have available site), OK place, the highway is not busy so not so much traffic at night

11

Tue

·                MICA Guides to Matanuska Glacier

·                 

·                Drive south…

·                 

·                Hatcher Pass (side drive)

·                 

·                Thunderbird Falls Trail (on the road)

·                 

·                Eagle River Nature Center (side drive)

·                 

·                Virgin Creek Falls – place to sleep ?

 

Drive south to Homer

MICA à Cooper Landing 200mile (3:30 hr)

 

Maybe sleep at:

Virgin Creek Falls

 

Grizzly Ridge Cabins & RV

Or somewhere in Russian river (before the lake turnout)

MICA: (907) 351-7587

 

https://micaguides.com/

 

Booking #36129281

Tuesday, June 11 2019 @ 10:00am - 5:00pm

5 Adults

Does not include 30$ entrance

 

RV park - not reserved

 

 

 

·                 Excellent glacier hike, highly recommended!!

·                 we took the Advanced Trek, private tour guide for the family, overall it is a day hike activity, coming back to MICA office at 5pm; the guide adjust the trip to the group and ask what we want to see

·                 after coffee and ice-cream, we decided to go south and sleep near Palmer

·                 Big Bear Campground & RV Park, VERY clean showers 😊; near the main highway so can hear cars at night

12

Wed

·                Drive to Homer:

·                 

·                Russian River Falls Trailhead (After Cooper Landing)

·                 

·                Skilak lake road and trail ß we did this on the way back north

·                 

·                Homer, View point

 

Homer

reservation: Heritage RV Park 907-226-4500

https://alaskanheritagervpark.com/

best location RV park in Homer (did reservation because can get full)



Confirmation

F111129C-77097

Check In: 6/12/2019   

Check Out: 6/13/2019

 

·                 Drive to Homer

·                 Many viewing stops along the road

·                 Russian River Falls Trailhead (After Cooper Landing) ß this is a MUST, you see salmon fish jump over huge waterfall

·                 Recommend going under the viewing balcony from the right side for better & closer view…

·                 Overall, this is 3hr not difficult hike (RV need to park at the park entrance and walk additional 1.5mile to trailhead)

·                 Continue to travel south on highway 1

·                 Major car accident after Soldotna blocked the single road to Homer for 7 hr so we parked on the side of the road for the night, regular cars waited till road was open

 

13

Thu

·                Boat to Kachemak State Park

·                Grewingk Glacier Lake Trail

 

Going north

Homer ?

or

on the way north, probably on the way north… many RV sites


Lisa:

COLDWATER ALASKA, 4241 HOMER SPIT RD, HOMER, AK, 99603

Phone: 9072992346

10amà3:30pm

Drop: Glacier spirit

Pickup: Saddle trailhead

 

Did not pay yet for anything…

 

move north and sleep on the way or at Seward

 

·                 Grewingk Glacier Excellent day trip, highly recommended

·                 Went out from Homer at 10am, come back at 3:30, plenty of time to take it easy and enjoy this place, take sidetracks

·                 (can do this much faster but why to run ??)

·                 Because we missed Homer night the day before we stay for the night over there

·                 was good place to stay with a lot of birds, low tide walks along the spit and view of the mountains across the bay

14

Fri

·                On the way to Seward:

·                Doing what we did not do on the way south

·                 

·                Russian River Falls Trailhead (After Cooper Landing)

·                Skilak lake road and trail

·                Exit Glacier Nature Center

·                 

Seward

RV can’t do reservations in the site near the waterfront

http://www.cityofseward.us/index.aspx?nid=864

 

 

Must sleep in Seward because we have early boat trip

·                 Went north from Homer

·                 Skilak lake road and trail ß this is not paved road, so we took it slowly with the RV and did few stops + lunch on the way

·                 Many hike options

·                 Russian River salmon fishing viewing (hundreds of people fishing in the river), very difficult to find spot to park the RV

·                 No place at any RV parks at Seward, went to sleep 12 min drive out at Stoney Creek RV Park ((907) 224-6465)

15

Sat

·                Kenai Fjords Boat Tours

Seward or on the way out

 

XXX need to see if stay another night ?


https://majormarine.com/tour/7-5-hour-kenai-fjords-national-park-cruise/

 

(907) 274-7300

(800) 764-7300

Confirmation: 16690-33

Cruise Departures from South Harbor Office

 

 

·                 We had a winter weather + rain + seasickness, but we enjoy this VERY much, we saw both glaciers, wales, Orca, sea otters, seals, Puffins, Bold eagle .. 😊

·                 Order the 7.5 hr trip that combine the best option to see both glacier and wildlife (if they hear that there are wales somewhere in the bay from other boats, they have time to go over and adjust the trip)

·                 If it is cold day bring warm cloth & gloves, the temp on the boat can be low by 5-10c than in Seward

·                 Had a good dinner at the harbor restaurant (pricy)

·                 Went back to sleep at Stoney Creek RV Park

16

Sun

·                Seward à Whitter

·                 

·                Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center at Portage ?? not sure ß this is like a zoo so we prefer to see wildlife out in the open…

·                Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform

·                Begich Boggs Visitor Center

·                Byron Glacier Trail Head (go to Portage boats road)

·                Portage Glacier

·                Portage Pass Trail

·                 

·                Witter - people underpass tunnel

·                Ghost house

·                 

Whitter

Or start to go back…


Full moon 9:40pm – 4:12am

Can be flexible on the road and can do some on the way up to Denali

·                 Did not went to Exit glacier, we saw many glaciers already. And it was raining heavily

·                 Stormy winter weather so it rains almost all day

·                 Went to Witter through the train/car tunnel

·                 not so much to do there if not hiking to Portage Pass but it was nice 2 hr visit (see the “one building town” and the gloomy ghost house)

·                 The road is nice, as every other place 😊

·                 We took nice pictures at the people underpass walking tunnel (going under the train station between ship harbor and tone house)

·                 On our way out of Whitter we stop for a short hike at Black Bear Campground & Williwaw Creek Bridge.

·                 On the way to Anchorage saw the Bore tide wave at Turnagain Arm

·                 Went up to Denali direction and sleep on the road at some RV park, we arrive late so not sure about showers just hookups - Trapper Creek Inn & RV Park

·                  no-vacancy at any Talkeetna RV parks (people that planning to be there must reserve prior the day or park somewhere else)

17

Mon

·                Whittier à Denali Riley Creek Campground

·                 

·                Portage Pass Trail (can do this at the morning)

·                 

·                Try to arrive early and set the bus trip for tomorrow

Denali

Itinerary: 30001S50P

 

Res. Number: 32X4GR


Full moon 10:59pm – 5:03am

Witter Denali Overall 300m 5:30hr drive

 

If we are going out late than at Beluga Point at 3:38 there will be a bore tide viwing

 

Early bus trip need to see if can do ticketing day before…if we arrive early

 

·                 Drive to Denali

·                 Rainy morning all the way to noon

·                 No visibility to mount Denali, see Moos on the roadside

·                 Arrive Denali at early noon, went to visitor center

·                 Got bus tickets (at transportation center) for Tuesday 7:30 trip and got the RV site (reservations)

·                 The rain stopped so we went to few hikes near the campground

·                  

18

Tus

·                Denali bus tour

Denali

Bus:

Res Num: 3B1819

4+1


Full moon 12:00pm – 5:47am

 

Trip Start 7:30 – 4:30

Eielson Transit bus

·                 7:30 bus (better go out early at the day)

·                 All the way to Eielson (4hr), few stops along the way, this give opportunity to do hikes (in any stop) and take back a later bus

·                 At the first ~2 hr we did not saw any animal, it was nice but not exiting but later it was amazing (Bears, Caribous, fox, mountain goats,)

·                 The view from the road is also very nice (we had winter day with low cloud so couldn’t see any high mountain top…)

·                 At Eielson the kids hike up to Thorofare Ridge Trail (~2.5hr) and I went off-trail to picture bears from closer distance

·                 On the 4hr drive back we saw many more animals (now bus drivers know where they are located…)

·                 Sleep at Denali RV

19

Wed

·                Savage River Loop

·                Many short trips near the camp

·                 

·                Talkeetna, take Air flight ???

Denalimaybe cancel and move south ?


XX – maybe skip that night and start south ?

·                 Tried to do the Savage River Loop trail but the parking was full (very small), we did the Savage Alpine hike (out and back), also very nice uphill hike, we saw Moos on the way down…

·                 On the way south of the park, the weather was cleared, we manage to see Denali mountain top from both north and south viewpoints along highway 3

·                 Sleep at big bear again (called to reserve a place for our late arrival, it was full for the night)

 

20

Thr

·                Drive south

·                Return RV

·                Anchorage

·                Full day…

·                 We do not have any specific plans…

·                 

Anchorage hotel

Sheraton Anchorage Hotel & Spa


401 East 6th Avenue Anchorage Alaska 99501 USA

+1-907-276-8700

 

·                 Short 1hr ride to Anchorage

·                 We stop and hike (short one) at Thunderbird Falls Trail

·                 Returned the RV and went to Anchorage hotel

·                 Spend all afternoon + night at Anchorage

·                 Nothing was planned; Just walking and finding interesting things to do

21

Fri

·                Anchorage

·                Half day…

·                 We do not have any specific plans…

·                Flight at night (1am)

 


 

·                 Did not plan anything for that day – we had 1am night flight

·                 went to see Salmon fishing just nearby (recommended): Ship Creek Overlook Park, this is 500m from downtown just across the train station (people are coming to fish only when there is high-tide so check timing), you can rent a gear and try to catch something…

·                 This was the longest day of the year so almost no night at all (sunset at almost 12 at night 4am sunrise, no dark night at all)

·                 Went to Anchorage Museum, interesting and fun activity center + we had time to spend (3 hr )

·                 Can also rent a bike (long and nice water-front bike trail) or escape-room …

·                 Go to airport at night…

22

Sat

·                Arrive home at 9am

 

 

 

 

 

Trip Planning Tips:

- The tourist popular summer season in Alaska is short, late May to early September.

- If you are going to main attraction locations you will not be alone. You can find your “special places” where you will be with less people, but this probably won’t be a major attraction location.

- You can do many outdoor adventure attractions, all depend what you want to do, time you have and money you are willing to spend.

- During summer, the days are very long. You can find yourself looking for supermarket at 10pm because you hiked until late that the day.

- During our visit we had some very nice warm and sunny days, but we also had cold rainy days so bring warm cloth with you.

- For most of your Alaska hikes: Make sure that you are “bear aware”. Simple precautions include hiking with bear bells and bear spray (carry it in accessible place and make sure that you know how to use it), be aware of your surroundings.

- Keep a safe distance from wild animals, Bear danger is clear but also moos can be very territorial or protecting a cab and can be extremely dangerous.

- You may want to have bear spray with you if you hike, you will need to buy it in Alaska and leave it there before you fly back home.

- Mosquitoes: are known to be an issue during summertime. We did not suffer much from them at our visit, but it is always good to bring/buy mosquito repellent with you (some will also use mesh net hats). Use long sleeves shirts and pants.

- Sunscreen: it can be sunny with blue sky during your visit, bring sunscreen with you.

- if you are into fishing so you reach paradise ! Endless fishing opportunities everywhere....


 

RV - Tips:

- This was our first RV experience and we highly recommend it.

- We rented our RV from https://www.greatalaskanholidays.com/ , we got recommendation from friends and we also recommend them. Taking and bringing-back the RV process was efficient. Looks like they are benoughogh company to provide roadside help if needed (we did not had any issue with the RV so we do not know...).

- You will need to chose RV model that fit your needs and family size. We were 5 adult (Kids age 13,18,23) and rent the Winnebago Minnie Winnie 31K, overall it was OK from sleeping arrangements or any other aspects.
- When taking the RV you will get safety and operational education (i.e. how to drive, and operate the RV like, water fill-up and drainage, generator, ...)
- as part of your RV ordering you can also rent many accessories like chiers, ice-box, BBQ oven, fishing rod and more.

- RV is completely changing your trip, you do not need to unpack/pack every night, you have your comfortable setting, flexible with where to park and extend your visit without being worry about where to stay or eat, cooking diner together and having fun.

- When planning your trip and where you want to visit and you plan to take one of the following dirt road check in advance with your RV company if it is OK to drive them: Denali Hwy 8 (connect between hwy 3 to hwy 1), Hatcher Pass Road (lead to Independence Mine State Historical Park), Skilak Lake road (hwy 1 south near the Russian River).

- Usually with RV you cook and eat your meals, you can stop at Costco for food or at any other big supermarket, we went to nearby Fred-Meyer (no need for big packages of everything).

- Rent/Buy additional large ice-cooler with you, you may need it to store food that can’t get into the RV small refrigerator.

- Have a small gas grill with you (can be rented along with the RV), we used it for preparing dinners at nights, the same is for folding chairs so you can eat outside.

- Bring eye-cover for night sleep, Alaska has sunlight for most parts of the night, it can be dark only for few hr at midnight (sunlight can be until 12:30am and sunrise at 5am).

- You can take large carton packages and cut them to cover the RV windows to reduce the light inside, usually the RV windows shade do not prevent light.

- Try to level your RV for the night, you need it to be leveled for refrigerator, and you will sleep better.

- You will drive slower, Plan your trip accordingly.

- You will cook your food so this may take longer (best to plan for big late dinner at the campground).

- For a location you are spending few days: Unless your day activity is within walking distance (like at Homer, Seward, Denali) you will need to pack everything and drive to your day activity, sometimes coming back at night to the same campground.

- It is much more difficult to find parking spot with RV, plan to park in remote places and walk to your destination.

- Valuable stuff: when going outside for your activity you will leave you RV with all your belonging. Try to take with you all your important documents (passports) and expensive belonging, try to hide stuff that is expensive (like laptop, iPad,…)

- Know your RV length, you may need it when reserving campground or ferry (different price).

- Before starting to drive walk around the RV, make sure water, electricity or sewage pipe are not connected or that forget your levelers under the RV or any other stuff behind.

- Buy a package of disposable gloves for the gray& black water drainage.



 

RV Campsites, Reservations and Trip Schedule:

- Alaska is RV friendly with endless options.

- Usually in every RV park there are nightly rates for dry camping and/or full hookups.

- Dry Camping: There is no water, electrical or sewer hookups available at any of these sites (Seward city RV parks, Denali).

- Full Hookups: provide electricity and running water + dump site.

- Most RV parks have central amenities include WiFi, cable TV, laundry, restrooms and showers (save RV water and drainage). For short RV trip this is the best and most recommended way to park for the night.

- At RV park you will probably will not be alone but rather surrounded by many other RV’s campers.

- Plan for $50 – $75 per night for a full hookup campground.

- Best to reserve places in advance in specific popular locations (Homer, Seward, Denali) although in most other places you can find something day before or even at same-day noon time.

- It is good to plan your schedule but do allow some feasibility in your plans. You may want to stay more in some place for additional attraction or may driver/progress slower than expected. For us it was accident in front of us on hwy 1, this block the road for 5-7 hr so we had to park on the side of the road for the night and move our schedule by one day (our reservation “anchor” that we can’t change was Denali Park).

- Must book RV parking at Denali Park and committed to this day, if you can reserve bus ride in advance this is highly recommended.

- Day activity end late at the evening, check RV park office open hr, call in advance and check what about after office hr check-in (most of not all RV parks have such option).

- In Alaska, as long as there is no specific sign stating you can’t, you can park for the night anywhere you want. Many are doing this, find a quite place for the night, no many other people around and it cost 0 $.

- Another less prefer option is at Walmart parking lots.

- If you are not hook to electricity (or have solar panels) nearly every RV runs a generator at some point in the day. Follow the “Generator hours” time at RV campground.

- Dump Station & Potable Water: Additionally, there is a modestly priced dump station that offers potable water in addition to dumping sewage (can be 5$). You can also check this option in most of the RV camps (pay just for dump and filling water) and gas stations.

- Showers: If you are looking to save water, these campgrounds also share several coin-operated shower rooms. You will need to have a few single bills handy to put into the machine that will then spit out a token. Each shower token will provide around 8 minutes of hot water. 



 

 

Few RV Driving/Safety Tips:

- Before you start to drive anywhere - adjust all your mirrors.

- Drive slowly and take your time, you are not in a harry and all locals know you are a tourist RV

- Large turn radius, plan your rout ahead.

- Understand Your Tail Swing: Make sure you are watching the rear end of the RV, it will “pop outside” when you take a turns.

- Whenever you are going revers have someone to spot your back, RV has lot of dead area.

- If you see an animal on the side of the road and you want to stop, look first in your mirror and see no one is right behind you, if you can slow down and slowly get off the road.

- Know where you are going (google map) and plan your right/left turns in advance. If you miss your exit do a turn around only where you can do it, simple U turn is usually impossible, it can block the main road for long time.

- Make Sure Everything Inside Your Motorhome is Secure before start driving i.e., that there is no cooking pot is on the gas plate 😊

 

Pictures:


































































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