family with Exit Glacier in background as part of Road Trip Alaska itinerary

My Adventurous Road Trip Alaska Itinerary

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Planning a trip to Alaska can be somewhat overwhelming; at least it was for me. I put together this road trip Alaska itinerary for my family after months of research and planning. I am hoping this will save you time and stress planning your own road trip in Alaska.

In one sense, Alaska road trips are easy to plan since there aren’t many roads in the state. But, it’s a big state — the largest state in the United States — so everything is far from everything else. A lot of towns have roads within them, but no roads leading out or connecting to other towns.

Because there are so many options for an Alaska road trip, I decided to limit myself to a small part of the state: Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula. Once that was decided, the planning got easier. This meant no Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Inner Passage, or far north. We will get to those places next time.

I got so many Alaska vacation ideas in the research for this trip and had such a dreamy trip, that I’ve decided the best way to see Alaska is on many, many trips.

fall colors in Alaska with Matanuska Glacier in the background

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world

— John Muir

Alaska Road Trip Itineraries 

We were in Alaska for fifteen days total and that wasn’t nearly enough! But not everyone has all the time or money in the world (it’s true what you’ve heard, Alaska is expensive), so I am sharing the following itineraries for an Alaska trip.

  • Alaska Itinerary 14 days
  • Alaska Itinerary 10 days
  • Alaska Itinerary 7 days

For more help planning your Alaska trip itinerary, see these posts:


Best Way to Travel Alaska

There are a lot of ways to get around the 49th State. Bus, train, airplane, boat…. we decided to rent a car. 

I found inexpensive tickets to Anchorage and booked a rental car from there. One little tip is to try different dates when renting a car. We found that by waiting until the Monday after arrived (we flew in on a Saturday evening) we reduced our car expense quite a bit. We returned the car the day before we left. 

Since we wanted to do a few things in Anchorage at the beginning and end of the trip, it worked out well for us. One of the day trips from Anchorage included transportation, so we didn’t need the car anyway.

Up To 30% Off Car Rentals At RentalCars.com

Alaska Weather

Obviously, the weather can be a little less than ideal in Alaska. That’s just part of the charm of visiting this wild and rugged place. But, it can put a crimp in your plans. We brought full rain gear and were ready to get outside in whatever the weather. 

We traveled the first two weeks of September, which is the rainiest month in the Kenai Peninsula. I was more concerned about mosquitoes and was willing to be wet and cold rather than attacked by biting bugs. 

In addition to being weather-ready, I recommend having a day or two of buffer in case you really don’t want to get out in it.

killer whale in Resurrection Bay with mountains in background in Seward Alaska

Our Alaska Itinerary 

I will start with the longest Alaska road trip itinerary and take away days. This section highlights what to do each day and the following section has the details. We had the best Alaska vacation and hope you do too!

Alaska 14 Day Itinerary

  • Day 1 – Arrive Anchorage
  • Day 2 – Explore Anchorage 
  • Day 3 – Drive to Seward (bore tide, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center)
  • Day 4 – Hike to Harding Ice Field
  • Day 5 – Kayak to Lowell Point
  • Day 6 – Whale watching and glacier cruise
  • Day 7 – Coopers Landing or Soldotna (Russian River Falls hike)
  • Day 8 – Drive to Homer (Ninilchik, Anchor River State Recreation Area, Bishops Beach)
  • Day 9 – Diamond Gulch to Bishops Beach hike and explore Homer Spit
  • Day 10 – Kachemak Bay State Park hike
  • Day 11 – Drive to Girdwood (Alyeska tram and hike)
  • Day 12 – Whittier (Byron Glacier, Portage Glacier, Whittier)
  • Day 13 – Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine Historical State Park
  • Day 14 – Matanuska Glacier walk

bald eagles on the beach near Homer Alaska

Alaska 10 Day Itinerary 

I hate to get rid of anything, but I’ve thinned it out for this 10 day Alaska itinerary. I took out exploring Anchorage, which was honestly the least interesting part of our trip. I also removed the day in Whittier and around Portage Lake and Glacier for the 10 days in Alaska itinerary. 

Finally, I removed the day at Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine State Park. If that sounds more interesting than the Matanuska Glacier walk, you could swap it out. Salmon Berry Tours does a tour to Independence Mine, too, so you could still include them in the 10 days Alaska itinerary. 

10 Days Alaska Itinerary 

  • Day 1 – Arrive Anchorage
  • Day 2 – Drive to Seward (Bore Tide, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Seward downtown)
  • Day 3 – Hike to Harding Ice Field
  • Day 4 – Kayak to Lowell Point
  • Day 5 – Whale watching and glacier cruise
  • Day 6 – Drive to Homer (Ninilchik, Anchor River State Recreation Area, Bishops Beach)
  • Day 7 – Diamond Gulch to Bishops Beach hike and explore Homer
  • Day 8 – Katmai Bay State Park hike
  • Day 9 – Drive to Girdwood (Alyeska tram and hike)
  • Day 10 – Matanuska Glacier walk

sea otters in Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park

Alaska 7 Day Itinerary 

If you only have 7 days in Alaska, you need to make the most of it. This 7 days Alaska itinerary skips Homer, Whittier, and Girdwood altogether, but you still get some exciting adventure travel around Anchorage and Seward.

7 Day Alaska Itinerary 

  • Day 1 – Arrive Anchorage
  • Day 2 – Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine State Historical Park 
  • Day 3 – Drive to Seward (bore tide, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center)
  • Day 4 – Hike to Harding Ice Field
  • Day 5 – Kayak to Lowell Point
  • Day 6 – Whale watching and glacier cruise
  • Day 7 – Matanuska Glacier walk

things to do in Alaska bear statue in Anchorage with boy

14-Day Alaska Itinerary – All the details!

This 2-week Alaska itinerary is my favorite because it allows you the most time to explore. And it is the itinerary we followed, except we had an additional day in Homer. That was our rain day and we walked around a little, but also enjoyed the very cute apartment and reading books.

We stayed in a vacation rental above a used bookshop in Homer.

Of course, I always think travel should be for as long as possible, but for an Alaska itinerary, 2 weeks is enough time to relax, explore, and whet your appetite for another visit. As with all the itineraries, the Alaska 2 week itinerary starts and ends in Anchorage.

Day 1 and 2: Things to Do in Anchorage

We arrived in Anchorage in the late afternoon and by the time we got to our hotel is was past time for dinner. That first night all we did was walk around a little and get food.

Otter Inc gift shop in Anchorage Alaska

If you have one day in Anchorage:

  • Start at the visitor center downtown. It’s a good place to get oriented and there is a lot you can do on foot from there.
  • Walk to the Ship Creek Overlook and see the spawning salmon. The Uli factory runs a free shuttle to their factory at Ship Creek if you don’t want to walk, but the easy stroll takes you past statues, the train depot, and views of the harbor. You can rent rods, catch fish, and bring them into Bridge Seafood to have them cleaned and cooked up for you. 
  • Take the 1-hour Anchorage Trolley Tour to see many Anchorage highlights including, Earthquake Park, Alaska Railroad and Lake Hood. Hear about the unique history and legacy of Anchorage from knowledgeable guides. Our guide was pretty funny and had a ton of enthusiasm. (Book at my link or get tickets in front of the Visitor Center. They do sell out, even in September, so if you want a specific time, book your tickets online).
  • Eat lunch or grab a beer at 49th State Brewery. I had a spruce tip IPA that was one of my all time favorite beers. The food was good too.
  • Browse the shops (Octopus Inc. was my favorite!), look for murals and outdoor art, pose with the dog statue at the official start of the Iditarod race, and get ice cream at Wild Scoops.
  • The Alaska Public Lands Information Center has great displays and is free. We really wanted to go to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, but it was closed on Sundays and that was our one Anchorage day.
relief map of alaska in Anchorage Alaska

Where to Stay in Anchorage

We stayed in two different hotels, one at the beginning of our trip and one at the end. There are hotels in downtown, midtown, and Anchorage hotels near the airport. 

The first two nights we chose a downtown hotel because we wanted to be able to walk around that night and the following day. I called around and couldn’t find a downtown Anchorage hotel that had an airport shuttle, so be prepared to get a rental car, taxi, or Lyft/Uber.

Anchorage Hotels Downtown

There is no shortage of hotels in downtown Anchorage, but there aren’t really any cheap hotels. We used points to stay at the Four Points in Anchorage and it was an ok hotel in a good location. We’ve stayed in the Four Points in Winnipeg and it is much nicer.

Here are some of the other popular hotels in Anchorage downtown.

Hotels Near Anchorage Airport

On our last night in Anchorage, we stayed at the Lakefront Hotel because they have an airport shuttle. We returned the car and shuttled back to the hotel, spent the night, were picked up the next morning for our Matanuska Glacier walk, and returned to the hotel. 

Since our flight wasn’t until 12:45 am (!) we ate dinner and hung out in the lobby until it was time to take the shuttle back to the airport. We were also able to leave our luggage there during the day.  

Anchorage Hotels Midtown 

Vacation Rentals in Anchorage

There are a bunch of Airbnbs and VRBOs in Anchorage. Just make sure you like the location because they are all over the place. This 2 bedroom vacation rental in downtown Anchorage is really nice, close to everything, and new. It’s also pretty reasonably priced.

Day 3: Anchorage to Seward 

After stocking up on food and bear spray, we left Anchorage en route to Seward. We checked the Bore Tide schedule and decided we had time to grab a tea/coffee/hot chocolate at Alyeska Resort before the water rolled in. 

bore tide wave in turnagain Arm Alaska

Bore Tide

What is the “Bore Tide?” A bore tide is a rush of water that fills Turnagain Arm after a low tide. It comes in as a wave and is easily visible along the Seward Highway. We watched from Turnout 4 at milepost 94.2. (Another great spot to watch is at the Bore Tide Cafe on the mountain above Alyeska Resort — you take a tram to get there. We didn’t have time for that on this day.)

Sometimes the wave is bigger than others. We saw it on a “surfable” day, but it wasn’t more than a foot or two. It was still really cool to see.

woman sitting in front of an empty Turnagain Arm Alaska

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

“The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education, research and quality animal care.”

Bike, walk, or drive the 1.5-mile loop through AWCC Alaska to visit the animals in the sanctuary, including wolves, woods bison, eagles, bears, moose, and more. They also offer educational and naturalist programs. Most of the animals cannot survive in the wild, which is why they are here.

We didn’t have time to visit the AWCC, but it came highly recommended.

Where to Stay in Seward

There are many hotels in Seward, but we chose to stay at a VRBO. Like many tourist-focused towns, Seward is over-visited and understaffed. Restaurants have reduced hours or are closed and wait times can be long.

If you want to stay at a Seward hotel, make sure to make reservations months in advance. 

Check out these hotels in Seward. (I like the 360 Harbor Hotel for its location and amenities. Plus, breakfast is included which makes getting going in the morning easy.) 

Or these vacation rentals in Seward. Do note that most of these places are not right in Seward, but a few miles away. We stayed in this VRBO in Seward and it was very comfortable and convenient, even with a 10-minute drive to town. It looks better in person than in the photos.

hike to a glacier in Alaska

Day 4: Hike to Exit Glacier and the Harding Ice Field

Exit Glacier and the Harding Ice Field are in Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s the only part of the park you can drive to.

Exit Glacier is an easy, one-mile accessible trail loop along the Glacier View Loop Trail starting and ending at the Exit Glacier Nature Center. From the far end of the Glacier View Loop Trail, you can continue 0.6 miles on the Glacier Overlook Trail to an overlook of the Exit Glacier Overlook.

We opted to hike to the Harding Ice Field, an 8.2-mile round trip. The trail is quite steep after leaving the Glacier View Loop Trail, but it’s worth the effort to get to the foot of the largest ice field entirely in the U.S. You need to be fit, the trail gains almost 1,000 – feet every mile for a total elevation gain of 3,250 feet. 

family in front of ice field Alaska

Bring bear spray and be prepared for all temperatures. We were hiking in t-shirts and bundled into down jackets at the top. Even if you don’t make it to the end of the trail, you get some epic views on the way up (but not quite as good as at the top). 

There are a lot of hiking trails around Seward, but for our first walk we wanted to do something iconic and I think we made the right choice. 

We used Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska by Lisa Maloney for information on the Harding Ice Field Trail, but you can just ask the ranger at the Nature Center if you don’t want to get the book. 

sea kayaking Alaska itinerary

Day 5: Sea Kayaking in Resurrection Bay, Seward

Sea Kayaking in Seward

We lucked out and got a mostly rain-free day for kayaking to Lowell Point with Sunny Cove Kayaking.

Thanks to Erin from AK on The Go for helping me organize our trip and suggesting Sunny Cove Kayaking. She also has two books that can help you plan your trip to Alaska with kids:

They offer a lot of different tours, but when we were there at the end of the season, they had stopped doing most of them. Our tour was half-day and had us paddling past sea otters, seals, and jellyfish. The paddling was really easy and the views were spectacular. Sunny Cove provided all the equipment, a hot lunch, snacks, and an excellent guide.

The tour we did would be perfect for families with smaller kids as it was short and we were all in double kayaks, so one person can paddle if the other can’t or won’t. In fact, I tried to get away without paddling, but Finn did too and our kayak wasn’t going anywhere.

I am so glad we did this, and encourage you to make sure you get one of their paddle tours on your Alaska itinerary. 

Thanks to Sunny Cove Kayaking for the media rate!

Alaska SeaLife Center 

Since we had a free afternoon, we popped into the Alaska SeaLife Center. This aquarium/ research and rehabilitation center was created after the Valdez oil spill to take care of oil-soaked marine wildlife. 

We enjoyed seeing fish, jellies, sea lions, puffins, and more and learning about them, their marine environment, and the research being done in Alaska.

Tidepool touch tank as part of the best Road Trip Alaska Itinerary

Restaurants in Seward

On our way back to our vacation rental, we stopped by Resurrection Roadhouse for a drink. We were told they had a spruce tip IPA, which they did not have, but it was a great place for a drink and appetizer to wind up the day. 

The Salmon Bake Restaurant, next door, is a don’t-miss place, but we missed it since it was closed. One of the disadvantages of traveling at the end of the season is that so many restaurants were closed. On the upside, there were a lot fewer people than in the summer, and that was more important to us than eating out.

Another Seward restaurant we wanted to go to but found closed is the Resurrect Art Coffee House in an old church building. Several people recommended it.

two people watching a calving glacier on Kenai Fjords National Park tour

Day 6: Whale Watching and Glacier Cruise

When you think about going to Alaska, you think about glaciers and whales, right? While we had already hiked to a glacier/ice field and seen mountain glaciers all around, I really wanted to see a calving tidal glacier. When the glacier creeps down to the sea and then chunks of it break off and make a big splash… that’s what I wanted to see.

Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Tour

We took the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour with Kenai Fjords Tours. The boat left from Seward, went through Resurrection Bay, and on to Aialik Bay and Aialik Glacier. We saw orcas (killer whales), pods of sea otters, seals, sea lions, birds, and a whole smack of jellyfish. Of course, the highlight was watching Aialik Glacier calve into the bay. I could have watched that forever. 

I was impressed with our Captain and crew. The Captain shared lots of information and made sure we got close enough to see wildlife without harassing the wildlife. Did I mention the glacier gazing? 

Lunch was included, while beer/wine. hot cocoa, coffee, tea, etc. could be purchased.

Thanks to Kenai Fjords Tours for hosting us!  

mural in Seward of salmon, woman, raven

Day 7: Coopers Landing and Soldotna 

After four nights, it was time to leave Seward and move to our next destination. As with everywhere we went in Alaska, we could have spent many, many more days exploring.

Seward Murals

We started the morning in Seward. While Henry did a City Walk, the boys and I walked around looking at murals. Seward calls itself the “Mural Capital of Alaska,” and there are a lot of murals there, though we saw a lot in Anchorage, too.

spawning salmon in the Russian River Falls

Russian River Falls Hike

We really wanted to see bears while we were in Alaska. We thought about taking a bear tour where you fly to Brooks Falls or Katmai National Park, but no one was doing tours while we were there. You can read more about seeing bears on my Day Trips from Anchorage post.

Instead, we walked out to Russian River Falls near Coopers Landing in an effort to see bears. We were a little late in the season (do you see a trend here?) and didn’t see bears, but did see salmon flinging themselves up the rocky cascades and falls. 

It’s an easy hike – 4 flat miles round trip – and worth the effort even without seeing bears. 

We used Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska by Lisa Maloney to find the Russian River Falls Trail and other trails on the Kenai Peninsula and around Anchorage and the Matanuska–Susitna Valley. 

a woman watching spawning salmon as where to go in Alaska

Soldotna

There are places to stay in Coopers Landing if you are looking for something a little wilder than the town of Soldotna. The Coopers Landing area is known for fishing, rafting, and lodges.

We needed to do laundry and go to a grocery store, so it was Soldotna for us.

We didn’t do much there, besides the aforementioned laundry and grocery shopping, but we did eat dinner at St. Elias Brewing Company. The pizza and the beer were delicious.

heron on a beach with volcano across the water

Where to Stay in Soldotna

We stayed at the Angler’s Inn in Soldotna, It was clean and comfortable and Henry and I enjoyed the basement bar while the kids watched TV in our room.

Day 8: Soldotna to Homer 

After a leisurely morning, we drove to Homer, stopping along the way at several Kenai Peninsula landmarks, which enhanced our itinerary for Alaska trip. One of the best parts about visiting Alaska by road trip, rather than train or bus, is that it allowed us to check out whatever caught our interest. Even the best Alaska itinerary needs a little space for exploration.

Kenai Peninsula itinerary includes russian orthodox church Ninilchik

Ninilchik

Ninilchik is a tiny village along the west side of the peninsula. There is a gallery and a place to walk along the beach, but it is most known for its Russian Orthodox Church. The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel is on a hill above Ninilchik. It wasn’t open when we were there, but it was lovely to walk around the outside and the view across the water to snow-capped volcanoes is incredible.

We stopped by The Buzz Espresso just past Ninilchik for decadent hot chocolates, tea, and coffee. They also had pastries and cold drinks, but the best part was the two men who owned it. They were super friendly and had great advice about what not to miss on our Kenai Peninsula itinerary. 

teens on a beach in Alaska with volcano in the background

Anchor River State Recreation Area

Our next stop was a walk along Anchor River State Recreation Area beach. There was no one else out there except for bald eagles and other birds. Again, the view of the volcanoes across Cook Inlet was mesmerizing. Apparently, Captain Cook lost an anchor at Anchor Point, giving it its name.

If you like roadside attractions, as you turn off Hwy 1 to go down to Anchor Point, look for a sign on the left reading “ Anchor Point AK, North America’s most westerly highway point.” 

Bishops Beach

After we checked in to our rental apartment and had a beer on the deck, we wandered down to Bishop’s Beach for an evening stroll. I love that we stayed in this part of Homer, rather than on the Spit or elsewhere because it was so close to the beach, and easily the most charming part of Homer. 

airbnb in homer alaska

Where to Stay in Homer

We stayed in a charming apartment above the Old Inlet Bookshop and Mermaid Cafe in Homer. It was a lovely basecamp for Homer adventures and we could browse the used bookstore to our heart’s content.

You can take a look at this vacation rental in Homer here.

Overlooking Homer Alaska with pink flowers in the foreground and mountains in the back

Day 9: Beach Hike and Homer Spit

Diamond Gulch to Bishops Beach Hike 

This is a fun through-hike along a beautiful beach. We took a taxi to the trailhead at the end of unpaved Diamond Ridge Road and then walked the 7 miles to Bishops Beach. From there it was just a couple of blocks to our apartment above the bookstore.

Along the way, we saw so many bald eagles that we lost count, sea otters bobbing in the bay with a mountainous backdrop, seals, and only two other people.

The trail starts in the forest and drops 0.6 miles to the sandy beach.

beach and mountains on Homer Alaska

Make sure to time this hike when the tide is going out, otherwise there isn’t a lot of room to walk. This part of the world has very dramatic high and low tides. Additionally, be sure to stay on the sand – the glacier till mudflats can act like quicksand. We had such a lovely walk, and even with lots of stops to look at wildlife, eat snacks, and take in the view, we didn’t have any problem completing the hike well before the tide came in.

We used Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska by Lisa Maloney to find this Homer trail and other trails on the Kenai Peninsula.

bald eagles on the beach near Homer Alaska

Homer Spit

After our beach walk, we changed into dry clothes at our Homer vacation rental and drove out to the Homer Spit. Even though a lot of the shops and restaurants on the Home Spit were closed during our visit, I am glad this was part of our Alaska vacation itinerary as I could picture how cute and bustling it would be in summer.

We popped into the Salty Dawg Saloon, which isn’t really kid-friendly but is sort of famous. It’s a place where locals and tourists go, which is a nice mix when you are on vacation.

wooden fisherman and halibut on homer spit

There are a bunch of gift shops, restaurants (we heard from several people that Captain Pattie’s Fish House was one of the best restaurants in Homer), and tour offices. Homer is known as the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World” and there are a lot of fishing charters that leave from the Spit. This is also where we caught our water taxi to Kachemak Bay State Park the next day.

While we were there, I met up with Carlie Shaw who runs Let It Flow AK. She rents stand-up paddleboards in Homer, has SUP yoga classes, and does guided SUP tours on Kachemak Bay, plus other offerings. If she hadn’t closed for the season, and it wasn’t cold and rainy, I would have loved to do this! The Let It Flow shop is located in the hut behind La Baleine on the Homer Spit. She doesn’t have a website yet, but you can find Let It Flow on Instagram.

woman holding glacier ice at a hike in Homer Alaska

Day 10: Kachemak Bay State Park Hike

Kachemak Bay State Park is located across Kachemak Bay and provides a backdrop for much of Homer. Most of the hiking trails near Homer are in Kachemak Bay State Park and the only way you can access them is by boat.

A boat may be the best way to visit Alaska, so we were excited to hop on a water taxi to begin and end our hike to Grewingk Lake. Like seemingly everything in Alaska, the water taxi is not cheap ($80/person, $60/12 and under), but it is the only way, and a really fun way, to access the hike. We saw several sea otters on the trip across the bay, including one with a baby on her stomach.

woman hiking through the rainforest in Alaska

We walked the popular Glacier Lake Trail to Saddle Trail and stopped at Grewingk Lake. The trail is perfectly flat to the lake and has a little up and down after. We had the water taxi drop us off at Glacier Spit and pick us up at Saddle for a 4.5-mile through-hike.

Grewingk Lake is at the base of Grewingk Glacier and is filled with icebergs. It’s no wonder this spot is so popular in the summer; it is beyond gorgeous. We all gasped audibly upon first seeing it. 

On the hike out we saw 24 piles of bear poop, so make sure you take your bear spray.

There are a lot of other hikes in Kachemak Bay State Park, which we would have loved to explore had we more time. I also wanted to go to Seldovia, but I guess that just means we need to take another trip to Homer.

three people picnicking on a beach with iceberg floating in a lake with a glacier in the background

We used Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska by Lisa Maloney to find this Homer trail and other trails on the Kenai Peninsula.

Day 11: Girdwood and Alyeska Resort

After a slow morning packing and getting top-notch pastries at Two Sisters Bakery in Homer (go there!) we drove to Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. 

Alyeska Resort

This mountain town is about 3.5 hours from Homer and an hour from Anchorage off the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet.

We checked in and then took the Alyeska aerial tram 2,300 ft to the top of Mt. Alyeska, the Bore Tide Deli and Bar, and the (free) Roundhouse Museum and gift shop. After snacks and beers at the Bore Tide Bar, we walked two miles back down the mountain. (If you walk up, you can ride the tram for free.)

eating in a cafe on a mountain with mountains out the window

The Bore Tide Deli and Bar is a great place to watch the bore tide on Turnagain Arm. The bore tide is essentially a very dramatic tide and the water goes way out into the Cook Inlet, leaving the Turnagain Arm very shallow and even drained in places. When the tide comes back, it comes in as a rolling wave which you can watch for miles. Sometimes Beluga whales follow it in. 

Check the Bore Tide Schedule and see if you can coordinate your Alyeska Resort aerial tram ride with it. 

Even without seeing the bore tide, the view from the top of the tram is worth the ticket price. Alyeska Resort also has mountain bike trails, yoga classes, a spa, and restaurants.

After our walking and changing into dry clothes, we had dinner at restaurants in the hotel both nights and were delighted with our dining options.

hiking down from Alyeska tram in Girdwood

Girdwood

For other things to do in Girdwood, consider the hiking trails in the Chugach National Forest. It’s a steep, but beautiful walk to Crow Pass or an easy three-mile boardwalk and dirt trail through rainforest to a hand-powered aerial tram over Glacier Creek starting from the Winner Creek Trailhead.

We enjoyed tasty beers at the Girdwood Brewing Company. They had a food truck outside with ridiculously large (and yummy) plates of nachos.

Thanks to Alyeska Resort for hosting us!

Day 12: Whittier 

While there was some rain most of the days we were in Alaska, this was a very rainy day. Some might say “torrential.” We still got out, but not as much as we would have if the rain had been a little lighter.

Whittier is known as the “weirdest place in Alaska” and one of the rainiest towns in Alaska. We definitely experienced the rain.

The first few stops are on the Turnagain Arm side of the Whittier Tunnel. The Whittier Tunnel is a one-way tunnel with traffic going toward Whittier passing on the half-hour and traffic coming from Whittier on the hour. Unless a train is using it, then you just have to wait.  

Byron Glacier Trail in the rain alaska

Byron Glacier Trail

The Byron Glacier Trail is short, flat, and very family-friendly. It’s 2.8 miles round trip to the viewpoint of the glacier. You can go past the obvious end of the trail and scramble over the moraine to get a better view of Byron Glacier.

We used Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska by Lisa Maloney to find the Byron Glacier Trail and other trails on the Kenai Peninsula and around Anchorage and the Matanuska–Susitna Valley. 

Portage Lake in the mist with Portage Glacier in the back

Portage Lake Area

We were so drenched from our Byron Glacier walk and the visitor center was closed, so we skipped the next several items on our Alaska itinerary, but if we go back, I will do these. 

Begich Boggs Visitor Center

Begich Boggs Visitor Center has information on the local flora and fauna of the Chugach National Forest – the most northern National Forest in the U.S. You’ll also get great views of Byron and Portage Glaciers and the Portage Valley.

Portage Glacier Cruise

Portage Glacier Cruise on Portage Lake gets up close to Portage Glacier where you can watch the ice fracture and crash into the lake. It operates daily mid-May through mid-September.

These are some of the things you can do on the Whittier side of the tunnel.

Portage Glacier Trail

The Portage Glacier Trail is a 2-mile round trip, moderate hike to an overlook of the lake and Portage Glacier as well as western Prince William Sound and Whittier. You’ll get a different view on the Portage Glacier hike than from the Portage Glacier boat tour.

Whittier Fishing Charters and Wildlife Cruises

Fishing charters leave from the Whittier Marina as do glacier and wildlife cruises.

As the name says, you’ll see 26 glaciers on the Phillips Cruise 26-Glacier Tour, which leaves from Whittier. Rather than cruising in Resurrection Bay, this boat tour that explores Prince William Sound.

whittier and horsetail falls

Whittier

The Lazy Otter Café offers coffees, beers, and food (I had their “world famous salmon spread” on a bagel and it was delicious). They also offer boat tourswater taxis, and kayak rentals.

There are a few shops and restaurants around the marina that can be fun to pop in and out of.

Horsetail Falls Trail

Horsetail Falls can be seen from the marina and the trail begins just south of Whittier. The 2-mile round trip trail gains 700 feet in elevation and winds through alders and meadows to a view of the stunning falls before the viewing platform. Once you get to the viewing platform the view of the falls isn’t as great, but the view over the Portage Valley and Whittier is.

All of these hikes near Whittier can be found in Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska by Lisa Maloney

We spent another night at Alyeska Resort enjoying the dining options, the lovely view of the mountain from our room, and the comfy bed.

Day 13: Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine Historical State Park

When we left Alyeska Resort for Anchorage we realized we didn’t need to turn in our rental car until late that night. I had been hearing about Hatcher Pass/Independence Mine and decided to check that out.

The autumn colors were stunning when we visited and Independence Mine State Park was very interesting. Hatcher Pass has a rich history of gold prospecting, claims, and active mining. We walked around the site, reading interpretive signs and asking questions in the visitor center.

Alaska State Park Independence Mine

After touring the gold mining site, we hiked up to Gold Cord Lake and things got even more stunning. The trail is 2-miles round trip and gains 480-feet of elevation. The lake is nestled in a couloir and doesn’t reveal itself until you are practically on top of it.

alpine lake with snowy mountains

Beyond Independence Mine State Park is Hatcher Pass. Hatcher Pass offers access to extraordinary mountaineering terrain, beautiful mountain scenery, berry picking, hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the summer. It also offers mountain skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in the winter.

We used Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska by Lisa Maloney to find Hatcher Pass trails. 

family on a glacier in Alaska

Day 14: Matanuska Glacier Walk

Matanuska Glacier

Since our flight home was at 12:45 am the following morning (later that night?) we opted to walk on the Matanuska Glacier with Salmon Berry Travel and Tours. Our guide picked us up at the hotel and drove to the Matanuska Valley, stopping along the way to get out and admire the fall foliage and learn about the area. 

We were able to leave our luggage at the Lakefront Hotel Anchorage and use their lobby to hang out in before our flight.

Once we arrived at the glacier — and let me tell you, this glacier blew me away; it was more magnificent and otherworldly than I expected — we got a little safety talk, strapped microspikes to our boots, and followed the guide out onto the ice.

All four of us kept pointing at crevices, turquoise pools, and fractured ice in awe. It was a really special experience.

kid surfing on a Matanuska Glacier Alaska

Right now you can’t go out on the glacier without a guide or special permission. Our tour had 12 people and two guides, which felt like a very reasonable number. You know we like to ask a lot of questions and we were able to do that.

After the glacier walk, we ate lunch (included) at the Long Rifle Lodge with a view of the glacier and golden trees that made it hard to concentrate on the food.

For most of Salmon Berry Travel and Tours day trips, Anchorage is the base, but they also run tours all over the state. In fact, they have so many tours, I could write a whole post on the options.

Thanks to Salmon Berry Tours for the media rate!


That about wraps up this road trip Alaska itinerary. Let me know if you have questions!

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