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First time in Alaska


gilliansp
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Planning our first trip to Alaska for Sept 2022, cruise combined with DIY one week, approx, land tour. Flying into Anchorage and cruise leaves from Seward. So much to see and so much distance between everwhere! Was thinking of a couple of days in Seward before cruise, and maybe Denali, Girdwood. But not sure if I should be focusing on other things. Don't think we can fit in more than 1 night/2 days at Denali - is it worth it? We are interested in seeing the wildlife on land and at sea and glaciers. I know there are the husky dogs and gold mines to visit - but are they very touristy? We like to go at our own pace, so no organised trips, train, bus etc. Was thinking of renting a car. Should I be be booking everything as much as 12 months in advance as I  read that car hire can be difficult? As this will be during the first fortnight of September I know that the weather may not be at its  best to view everything which is why I want to plan correctly. Not much point in going all the way to Denali if we won't be able to see anything. Help please!!!

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Posted (edited)

September will have shorter days and fall colors.  Rain is common during any season.   If you want to see Denali National Park you need two nights so that you have at least one full day.  There is a lot of Alaska travel information online.  At the top of this forum is a review Alaska trips that others have enjoyed.  Also check out Trip Advisor.  You are wise to travel first, then cruise.  Which cruise line have you chosen and what is your cruise itinerary?

 

www.nps.gov is the website for our national parks.  There are several in Alaska.

Edited by oaktreerb
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I would plan on renting a car in Anchorage for a few days and do Denali/Talkeetna for a couple of days. Yes, Denali is worth it but, due to weather, only about 30% of visitors get to see the peak. You will most likely see wildlife on the bus through the park. A little flexibility might help you out. From Anchorage, you can drive down to Girdwood (the town itself, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center) or Whittier (26 glacier day cruise on Prince William Sound). The drive down the Turnagain Arm is lovely. It may take you 2 hours to go 40 miles if you take advantage of all the scenic turnoffs.

 

Car rentals in Anchorage in 2022 should be fine (2021 is sold out) and I would plan on a round trip rental from Anchorage. One ways  to Seward are limited and have expensive drop off charges.  You can either take a shuttle to Seward (it can include a stop at the wildlife center in Girdwood) or the Alaska Railroad. Getting around Seward without a car is pretty easy as they have a free shuttle plus a lot of the town is very walkable. I'd definitely plan a Kenai Fjords cruise in Seward for both wildlife and glaciers. They are well scheduled around the train and cruise schedules so you can do it all in a day.

 

As to the touristy nature of the the sled dog tours, I think they are only modestly so. These are real Iditarod mushers and their dogs and they would be out running them anyway. They found a way to make a little extra money and promote the sport while training the dogs. It's a win - win for them. (For the real experience, come in the winter.)

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8 minutes ago, kennystwin said:

 

I would plan on renting a car in Anchorage for a few days and do Denali/Talkeetna for a couple of days. Yes, Denali is worth it but, due to weather, only about 30% of visitors get to see the peak. You will most likely see wildlife on the bus through the park. A little flexibility might help you out. From Anchorage, you can drive down to Girdwood (the town itself, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center) or Whittier (26 glacier day cruise on Prince William Sound). The drive down the Turnagain Arm is lovely. It may take you 2 hours to go 40 miles if you take advantage of all the scenic turnoffs.

 

Car rentals in Anchorage in 2022 should be fine (2021 is sold out) and I would plan on a round trip rental from Anchorage. One ways  to Seward are limited and have expensive drop off charges.  You can either take a shuttle to Seward (it can include a stop at the wildlife center in Girdwood) or the Alaska Railroad. Getting around Seward without a car is pretty easy as they have a free shuttle plus a lot of the town is very walkable. I'd definitely plan a Kenai Fjords cruise in Seward for both wildlife and glaciers. They are well scheduled around the train and cruise schedules so you can do it all in a day.

 

As to the touristy nature of the the sled dog tours, I think they are only modestly so. These are real Iditarod mushers and their dogs and they would be out running them anyway. They found a way to make a little extra money and promote the sport while training the dogs. It's a win - win for them. (For the real experience, come in the winter.)

Thanks so much, really helpful info. Was thinking of hiring car in Anchorage, driving to Denali via Talkeetna. 2 days Denali. Visiting Matunska Glacier, either day trip from Anchorage or on return to Anchorage. Then shuttle bus to Seward, visiting Girdwood on the way. Couple of days in Seward before cruise. Is that to ambitious for only one week? 

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1 hour ago, gilliansp said:

Thanks so much, really helpful info. Was thinking of hiring car in Anchorage, driving to Denali via Talkeetna. 2 days Denali. Visiting Matunska Glacier, either day trip from Anchorage or on return to Anchorage. Then shuttle bus to Seward, visiting Girdwood on the way. Couple of days in Seward before cruise. Is that to ambitious for only one week? 

Just remember it's like a 4-6 hour drive from Anchorage to Denali one way

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If you go to Denali you really need two nights.  It’s a long drive and you will want to stop along the way.  One day to get there, one day in the park, one day back to Anchorage.  A bus trip into the park takes a minimum of 6-8 hours.  You may want to take a rafting trip or see the working dogs of the park.  There is a lot to do.  Fly into Anchorage, rent a car from a downtown location (cheaper than airport). Drive to Denali, maybe stop in Talkeetna (?), a day in the park, drive back to Anchorage,  The rest of your time could be around the Turnagain Arm area.  Alyeska Resort is beautiful in Girdwood, then to Seward and the Kenai Fjords and much more.  There’s a lot of research to be done.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, gilliansp said:

Thanks so much, really helpful info. Was thinking of hiring car in Anchorage, driving to Denali via Talkeetna. 2 days Denali. Visiting Matunska Glacier, either day trip from Anchorage or on return to Anchorage. Then shuttle bus to Seward, visiting Girdwood on the way. Couple of days in Seward before cruise. Is that to ambitious for only one week? 

 

A shuttle bus to Seward is not going to allow you to visit Girdwood.  A visit to Girdwood would not be high on my list of places to visit and things to do on a one week trip.

 

kennystwin provided good advice for you, I think.  Early September, and by 2022, the rental car scarcity in tourist locations ought to have been resolved.  My advice as to renting a car is to do much shopping online.  Price differential for the same type of vehicle was an eyeopener for me when I compared different companies in 2019.  

 

oaktreerb's information and recommendation just posted is excellent as well.  

Edited by rkacruiser
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