10 Days Traveling in Alaska

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ten days traveling in Alaska

Last summer Kurt and I crossed off one of our bucket list items and spent ten days traveling in Alaska. With a limited amount of time (you should really spend at least 2 weeks in Alaska) and a lot of ground to cover, we knew had to make the most of it and spent many nights researching the various things to do.

A trip to Alaska means different things to different people. For us, it meant spending most of our time doing outdoor activities. We wanted to hike, camp, and for me, I really wanted to sea kayak. For the couple (or family) who is looking for a true Alaskan adventure, here are our recommendations.

bears denali national park

One of several bears we saw in Denali National Park.

Visit Denali National Park

At first the idea of sitting on a bus with a bunch of other tourists didn’t sound too exciting. But after doing some research and talking with a few people, we realized this was the best way to see Denali National Park. Cars can only go so far into the park and while we love the backcountry, we didn’t want to bushwhack our way through it.

We chose to take a shuttle bus, which is different from a tour bus, to Eielson Visitor Center. Eight hours seemed to be plenty of time on a bus and we figured if we didn’t see wildlife during that time period, it probably wasn’t in the cards for us that trip.

It was rainy and cold but apparently those are the perfect conditions for seeing bears. In total we saw five bears, three of which were a mom and her cubs. It makes me smile that something as “simple” as watching a bear walk behind our bus had everyone peering out their windows. Forget those zombie shows, I’ll watch animals in their habitats over that any day.

views from kesugi ridge alaska

The Kesugi Ridge is a well-marked trail with amazing views!

Hike the Kesugi Ridge

The main reason to hike the Kesugi Ridge is to see the amazing views of Denali and the Alaska Range. There are four different access points to choose from but after doing some research, we decided to enter at Little Coal Creek and exit at Byers Lake, for a 27 mile hike.

A word to the the wise, make sure you have a shuttle arranged. We had to move some things around on our trip due to the weather, and all the shuttle services were booked, which meant we had to hitchhike. For two people who had never hitchhiked in their lives, we were pretty pathetic. No, I take that back, very pathetic, but that paid off for us and someone finally pulled over and took us to the trailhead.

We hiked the trail in 2 days because of our tight schedule. If the weather is nice, you should definitely take longer. Bring a frisbee to throw, a book to read, or simply do nothing but look at the landscape around you.

mount marathon

Hiking Mount Marathon in Seward

Summit Mount Marathon

There are two options to get to the summit: the runners trail or the Jeep trail. Me, not liking heights and not having the surest of feet, decided to take the Jeep trail. Regardless of what trail you take, the effort you put forth on the hike is worth the amazing views you’ll be rewarded with once you reach the summit.

For you adventurous types, annually on July 4th, the Mount Marathon Race is held. It began as an organized race in 1915 and each year becomes more popular. I’ve read that bloody knees and elbows are common.

Worthington Glacier

Worthington Glacier

Drive the Road to Valdez

This view on this drive is amazing. So amazing, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the passenger’s seat so you can take it all in. If you go in the summer (which you should probably do), have some patience because road construction happens during this time, leaving sections of the highway one lane.

Along the way stop at the various glaciers, take in the different mountain ranges and chat with the people you meet along the way. If you have a small bladder like I do, plan accordingly. Bathrooms can be few and far between!

Kayaks lined up in Valdez, AK

Kayaks lined up in Valdez, AK

Go Sea Kayaking

This was my favorite part of the trip. Earlier in the year, K and I had kayaked a section of the Buffalo River, which left us wanting to spend more time on the water. After doing some research, we booked the Caines Head Kayak and Hike combo sea with Sunny Cove in the Seward area.

Our kayaking trip started out just like our Denali bus tour…rainy and cold. But being the good little boy and girl scouts that we are, we were prepared with rain gear and a good attitude. We saw birds diving to catch fish, watched harbor porpoise swim with speed and ease, and my favorite, floated alongside a sea otter taking a nap on his back.

My biggest regret about this part of our trip was not having a waterproof camera. Don’t make the same mistake we did…borrow one, buy one, rent one. Whatever you do, when you go sea kayaking, make sure you can take lots of photos because the view from a kayak is pretty amazing.

flightseeing in Alaska

Landing on Ruth Glacier

Take a Flightseeing Tour

This wasn’t on our original list of things to do but after hiking the Kesugi Ridge and seeing Denali from a distance, we wanted to get even closer. Flightseeing definitely isn’t cheap, but it’s an experience that is well worth the money. We flew by the base camp area for those brave enough to climb Denali, and the coolest part, we actually landed on a glacier and walked around.

If I had it to do all over again, we wouldn’t have wasted our time in Anchorage. I expected it to have a certain vibe and never got much of a feeling from the city. We also would have added mountain biking and fly fishing to our itinerary. Next time.

Since it was only Kurt and I, we tent camped the majority of the time. It was an odd feeling trying to sleep with sunlight coming through the tent but we quickly adapted after several long days of hiking. We stayed in a couple of really bad campgrounds (websites can be very misleading) so if we were to go back to Alaska with our daughter, I’d seriously consider renting a RV to travel in.

Will we go back to Alaska? Most definitely. The state is huge and we have many other areas to explore!

Where are you traveling to next?
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About Sarah

Mom. Blogger. Runner. Hiker. Insomniac. Not necessarily in that order.

Comments

  1. robin masshole mommy says:

    I have always wanted to visit Alaska! Your pictures are absolutely breathtaking.

  2. Every picture you posted is so beautiful. I went on an Alaskan cruise once, and I’ll never forget it. It’s such gorgeous country up there.

  3. These are amazing pictures! Alaska is one place I have always wanted to travel to. Hopefully one day I will!

  4. Alaska in one of those places that is on our bucket list! Your pictures are breathtaking!

  5. I’d love to visit Alaska one day. It’s so beautiful up there. It’s also much greener than you might think!

  6. Catherine S says:

    This looks like a great vacation. A trip to Alaska is at the top of my bucket list. My next big trip is a cruise to the Bahamas.

    • That’s sounds like a fun trip! My husband has never cruised and I’d like him to try it at least one time.

  7. I went to Denali when I was 14, and thought it was beautiful. The difference in foliage that far north was striking. My brother is stationed in Sitka, which is another type of region: a temperate rainforest – in AK!

    • Juneau is an area that I would love to explore next time we visit. I would never have expected that of terrain.

  8. Alaska is definitely on our bucket list and your stunning photos make me want to plan a trip immediately. I think it is just the change I need from the typical tropical beach destination.

  9. I’d love to visit Alaska someday! My brother recently surprised his wife with a quick trip to Alaska and they had an amazing time! Maybe when all my kids are out of the house the hubby and I can dgo!

  10. Wow what an amazing 10 days! I’m not sure where we are going to vacation next but I know I’d love to go to Alaska one day.

  11. Oh wow, I didn’t know you could do all of this in Alaska! It’s so cool that you guys got to do some hiking and sightseeing in those beautiful places.

  12. We would love to visit Alaska. There’s nothing more serene or beautiful. It looks like there’s a lot to take in and do while visiting.

  13. Valerie Grey says:

    Since I can remember I have wanted to visit Alaska, and your pictures make my want to visit even more. It looks gorgeous.

  14. This looks like such a fun time, I have never been to Alaska, I really would love to visit there some day though. Loving all of the photos you shared!

  15. The views are so stunning and really overwhelming. I would like to go to Alaska someday and experience the cold freeze.

  16. What a stunning place. So many things to see.Great list of ideas too!

  17. What a gorgeous place to visit. I wanna go! Am I the only one wondering how you are wearing shorts in the snow? lol

    • Ha! What you can’t tell from that picture is I had a fleece jacket on under my wind jacket. Luckily the awe of being on the glacier was greater than the feeling of cold. As soon as we got back on the plane, I was freezing!

  18. I’ve been curious to visit Alaska. What a lot of things to see.

  19. I’ve been to Alaska before, but never saw so many amazing views like this! Love the pictures, especially with the wildlife

  20. What incredible photos! I’d LOVE to travel there!

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