Self guided excursions in Alaska

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#1
Middle Tennessee
30 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
The best way to see Alaska on a cruise is to rent cars or taxi's for the day. Reserve taxis and rental cars early. When cruise ships unload you may have to stand in line only to find out all the cars are rented.

Katchikan - Call Yellow Taxi @ 907-255-5555 and hire a mini van. Ask for Lonnie. Share the taxi for the day for about $25 each ($150 total). He will take you everywhere and tell you about working every job from fishing, truck driving and growing up in Alaska. Totem Bight is great and free. Listen to the park rangers tell about communal family living in the lodge. Lonnie will take you on a tour of every road in town. Other than at Totem Bight you ride and stay dry in the wettest place in North America. Buy a poncho at Walmart if needed. You are in America.

Juneau - rent a car from Juneau Car Rental 866-957-7530. Thes that waye rate for a Dodge Neon is still $51.75 per day including full liability and damage waiver. Get off the boat and walk an easy mile up Franklin to their office. It's the second road from the last shopping area on that side of town. Franklin is the only road that go way.

First drive to Sheep Creek 3 miles the same way up Franklin. Park on both sides before crossing the bridge. On the left an entrance to a Gold mine air shaft is right beside a neat waterfall and under a massive tree. On the right (ocean) side walk down to the creek that runs under the bridge. I caught a spanning salmon by hand there at low tide.

Go to Mendenhall Glacier and be amaized by it's size and the waterfall just right of the glacier. If you are lucky you might see ice bergs being calved. You will see some in the water anyway. The trail behind the visitors center is very difficult. You don't see much from the trail.

You pass Walmart going to and from Mendenhall Glacier. Juneau is tiny compared to any other State Capitol. You can't get lost. The city is only four or five blocks wide. Drive around. Follow any road away from the ocean side anywhere you see a creek passing under the road. There are some neat, tiny parks by streams that come out of the mountain. Waterfalls can be seen high up in some parks.

One bridge crosses the salt water where the ship parks. Cross it and go right to the first
road left into the subdivision. Go to the top road and look at your ship. Great pictures! The houses with flowers are wonderful too. Drive to the end of the road the other way past the bridge. It's only about 10 miles. Park and look for a double wood board path. It goes about a mile to the outer banks of the peninsula. It looks like the coast of Maine. You walk through a rain forest. The trail is below the level of the road so you don't see it until you look down on it from the edge of the road.

Skagway - Drive to Emerald Lake past Car Cross (67 miles). You go much further than the train along the famous pass to the gold fields. You pass country that looks like the Alps with lakes gold miners crossed in everything from rafts to crude boats. Rent a car from Sourdough Car Rental at 350 6th St Skagway, AK 99840 (907) 983-2523. Or Avis 907-983-2247.

Car Cross was called Caribou Crossing years ago. Stop at the bakery in Car Cross and have a snack. The train costs $115 per person. You may see nothing but fog. If it's raining at the boat it may be clear high up in the mountains. A rental car is a much better deal and you can share it with two couples. Rental car offices are down town. It's a 10 minute walk or take a $3 city bus beside the ship.
#2
84,580 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
Thank you for sharing all of this.

There is really no best for everyone. This was best for you but there are certainly many other options that do not involve car rentals or taxis that are best for others.

In the end, do the homework and figure out what is best for oneself.

Keith
#3
104,794 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
Thank you for taking the time to collect all this information from your own experieinces.

For us -- renting a car -- no way. We both want to view the scenery at the same time.
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#4
Charlotte, NC
932 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Originally posted by Krazy Kruizers
For us -- renting a car -- no way. We both want to view the scenery at the same time.
I’m with you! And for some people, one of the perks of cruising is not having to drive at all for a week!
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#5
SC
331 Posts
Joined Feb 2013
Thank you for all the information. We are going on a cruise next week and renting a car from Avis in Skagway and riding up to Emerald Lake. I hear it is beautiful. I wanted to see as much as possible and be able to stop and take pictures. Renting a car was much cheaper then taking the train.
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#6
1,259 Posts
Joined Apr 2011
Originally posted by ShannonSC2
Thank you for all the information. We are going on a cruise next week and renting a car from Avis in Skagway and riding up to Emerald Lake. I hear it is beautiful. I wanted to see as much as possible and be able to stop and take pictures. Renting a car was much cheaper then taking the train.
We did this as a family of four 3 years ago and it was the most amazing drive I've ever taken! We also drove to Mendenhall Glacier and walked out to Nugget Falls. This year it's just the two of us, so I think we'll hike up to Lower Dewey Lake in Skagway and maybe rent some bicycles in Juneau.
#7
4,234 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by Krazy Kruizers
For us -- renting a car -- no way. We both want to view the scenery at the same time.
I certainly hope that when you drive you don't keep your eyes closed. Not sure how the driver can avoid seeing the scenery.

Actually renting a car and driving can be very advantageous to being in a tour bus, train etc. Never seen a tour bus or train stop for as long as I am interested in some things, much less turn around for further or better viewing!
#8
Raleigh, N.C.
11,304 Posts
Joined Jul 2002
We rented a car in Skagway on our cruise in 2010. Be sure to purchase Murray's Guide if you do this. It's available on the Internet as a PDF download.

Last year we hiked around Skagway--to the Gold Miners Cemetery and Lower Reid Falls, the Jewell Gardens, the overlook, etc.
#9
Chesapeake, VA
1,197 Posts
Joined Apr 2006
I've been to Alaska before but my mom hasn't - so renting a car in Skagway is the perfect answer for our upcoming mom/daughter cruise.

Originally posted by geoherb
We rented a car in Skagway on our cruise in 2010. Be sure to purchase Murray's Guide if you do this. It's available on the Internet as a PDF download.
Thanks for the vote of confidence on the guide - I wasn't sure whether to order it or not.
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#10
Syracuse, New York
49,366 Posts
Joined May 2000
A car rental or taxi are alternative touring options, not what I would give a "best" description for. Depends on the person.

It is missed completely above with the reference to Totem Bight. This is simply gotten to easily via the blue city bus, and if you are there, I would also recommend you enjoy Potlatch Park, next door.

Carcross is one word. A very skewed post, I have never had "fog" the entire trip. That fog is also the same if you are in a car or train. The train route is NOT the same as the road, and may be of interest to some people. There is a train, that goes to Carcross, excellent tour. One way with a shuttle/bus the opposite. There are only 2 car rental companies in Skagway, a national brand and an independent. The SMART bus fee is round trip.

Juneau also has a downtown national brand car rental.
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#11
Philadelphia area
600 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by frugaltravel
I certainly hope that when you drive you don't keep your eyes closed. Not sure how the driver can avoid seeing the scenery.
By keeping his eyes on the road. The driver should pay attention to driving, and not to sightseeing. (At least that is is what I think KK means)

Originally posted by frugaltravel
Actually renting a car and driving can be very advantageous to being in a tour bus, train etc. Never seen a tour bus or train stop for as long as I am interested in some things, much less turn around for further or better viewing!
I am with you. I too like to drive on my own, instead of being herded about like sheeple.
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#12
Philadelphia area
600 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by Krazy Kruizers
For us -- renting a car -- no way. We both want to view the scenery at the same time.
I think that you are right, and that it is better not to rent a car in certain places, and just walk. No window between you and the scenery.

But what about places that are more than 5 or 10 miles away? How would you get there?
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#13
4,234 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by pdmlynek
By keeping his eyes on the road. The driver should pay attention to driving, and not to sightseeing. (At least that is is what I think KK means)
My point in a funny sort of way was that you can't avoid the scenery even when driving. Plus, in Alaska, good drivers never keep their eyes focused straight ahead anyway. They are constantly using their peripheral vision to scan for wildlife darting from the side into the road. So the good driver's eyes are constantly on the move, not focused just straight ahead.

Originally posted by pdmlynek
I am with you. I too like to drive on my own, instead of being herded about like sheeple.
I think people play up "the driver can't enjoy the scenery" way more than it should be. If someone said, "I just don't want to drive" that is one thing but to start dreaming up excuses for it, well
#14
3,752 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
How are the border crossings (timewise) leaving and returning to AK? Just wondering since there are time deadlines to be back to the ship. Thanks.
#15
Syracuse, New York
49,366 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by sept10dsm
How are the border crossings (timewise) leaving and returning to AK? Just wondering since there are time deadlines to be back to the ship. Thanks.
Since you are referring to Skagway, you HAVE to allow time. Twice I have been searched, at the border. You also have to gas up your car, which can have long lines, since there are only two pumps. And later in the day, all the vendors are also lined up filling their tanks.
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#16
374 Posts
Joined Dec 2012
Originally posted by sept10dsm
How are the border crossings (timewise) leaving and returning to AK? Just wondering since there are time deadlines to be back to the ship. Thanks.
Lineups getting back into Skagway have often been very long this year - I've never seen this happen before and a lot of locals are getting pretty choked about it. Half-hour is not unusual, and last week it was almost 50 minutes.
#17
Issaquah, WA
3,815 Posts
Joined Aug 2000
Originally posted by Budget Queen
Since you are referring to Skagway, you HAVE to allow time. Twice I have been searched, at the border. You also have to gas up your car, which can have long lines, since there are only two pumps. And later in the day, all the vendors are also lined up filling their tanks.
What are you doing/saying to get yourself searched?!

When we drove last year, we waited probably half an hour on the way out. They had one line for tour buses and another for cars, and they seemed to give the buses priority. It wasn't nearly as bad coming back, but we seemed to have missed the major rush of tours returning. We also got lucky at the gas station and drove right up. My guess is that the closer it is to a ship sailing, the worse the lines will be, so don't cut it close.
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#18
3,752 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Originally posted by huskyguy
Lineups getting back into Skagway have often been very long this year - I've never seen this happen before and a lot of locals are getting pretty choked about it. Half-hour is not unusual, and last week it was almost 50 minutes.
Originally posted by Budget Queen
Since you are referring to Skagway, you HAVE to allow time. Twice I have been searched, at the border. You also have to gas up your car, which can have long lines, since there are only two pumps. And later in the day, all the vendors are also lined up filling their tanks.
Guess that takes care of doing that I don't want to risk a long wait with the chance of missing our cruise THat takes the fun out. Thank you both!
#19
Wisconsin
82 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
I love to drive but some places for me it is better to let someone else do the driving.
I drove the Road to Hana in Hawaii. I would like to do it again with someone else driving.
I drove the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park and I would like a redo again with someone else driving.
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