SDAN10 Alaska’s Nature Escape Driving Tour

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This self drive tour provides travelers an in-depth view of Alaska's most scenic National Parks. The 10-day itinerary includes the wildlife and scenic glacier cruise within renowned Kenai Fjords National Park, a scenic ride onboard the Alaska Ferry across Prince William Sound, an spectacular flight over the Wrangell - St. Elias National Park to the historic ghost towns of Kennicott and McCarthy. Explore the interior of Alaska, Fairbanks and Denali National Park.

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Itinerary

Anchorage - Seward ( Driving Distance: 130 miles | Overnight: Seward )

Arrive in Anchorage during the day and pick up your rental car. The drive on the scenic Seward Highway offers incomparable vistas of fjords, glaciers and mountains as you follow the Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm. Arrive in Seward, a small fishing town at the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. Kenai Fjords is named for the numerous fjords carved by glaciers moving down the mountains from the ice field. The field is the source of at least 38 glaciers, the largest of which is Bear Glacier. This afternoon you have time to visit Exit Glacier. Short trails lead to the edge of the glacier where you can get a good photo in front of glacier ice. You may spend some time at the Alaska SeaLife Center – the world’s first cold water marine search institute. Enjoy a delicious seafood dinner at the harbor.

Seward ( Overnight: Seward )

This morning board the stable catamaran for a spectacular cruise deep into Kenai Fjords National Park with actively "calving" glaciers and magnificent scenery. Covering 110-miles, the trip is narrated by a National Park Ranger, who is highly adept at spotting wildlife and pointing out the many sights. Kenai Fjords showcase the best of Alaska’s marine world in a compact package. Sea otters float belly-up eating mussels while Harbor seals haul out on icebergs off Aialik and Northwestern Glacier. Look out for Steller sea lions on Chiswell Island as well as Humpback and killer whales. After reaching the tidewater glacier, guests witness "glacier calving" a process by which glaciers shed giant slabs of ancient ice. Included: Kenai Fjords Glacier & Wildlife Cruise

Seward - Alaska Ferry Whittier to Valdez ( Driving Distance: 90 miles | Overnight: Valdez )

Depart Seward and drive to Whittier via Portage Glacier. Enjoy the scenic cruise to Valdez onboard the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry. Prince William Sound encompasses 3,800 miles of coastline, bounded to the east and north by the Chugach Mountains and to the west by the Kenai Peninsula. Commercially important for the fishing and oil industries, the sound is also prized for its abundance of marine and coastal life, its rain forest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock, and its glacier-studded landscape. The sound contains 150 glaciers including 17 tidewater glaciers, known for dramatically calving huge ice chunks into the sea. The main attraction of Prince William Sound is Columbia Glacier, one of the largest and most magnificent of the tidewater glaciers along the Alaska coast.

Valdez - Chitina, Flight to Kennicott / McCarthy ( Driving Distance: 120 miles | Overnight: Kennicott / McCarthy )

Valdez is the gateway to Prince William Sound and provides world-class salmon and halibut fishing as well as narrated cruise tours to Columbia Glacier. Leave Valdez, drive via Keystone Canyon and stopover at Worthington Glacier. Boardwalks lead to the face of the glacier where you can take pictures. Continue to Chitina and park your car at the airport. From here take a scenic flight to Kennicott/McCarthy. You will see the Kennicott Glacier as it winds its way 25 miles to the North where it tumbles off the South East face of Mt. Blackburn. The Root and Gates Glaciers flow from ridges of Mt. Regal to join the Kennicott forming one of the most spectacular vistas in the park. Transfer to your lodge. Enjoy spectacular views of the Kennicott Glacier, Mount Blackburn and the Chugach Mountains.

Kennicott / McCarthy ( Overnight: Kennicott / McCarthy )

Explore the Kennecott Mine with it's white-trimmed red buildings that stand out against the dramatic mountain-and-glacier backdrop at the actual mine site. In recent years, the National Park Service has restored many of the mine buildings and a guided tour of the huge mill building, bunkhouses and train depot is available. The entire area is for sure a photographer’s dream. Get ready today for a 1/2 day Root Glacier Hike. The hike is most likely the best day hiking trip in Alaska, and almost certainly the best glacier hike! After meeting your guide, you'll start out on the 1.8 mile hike to the "white ice" of the Root. Once on the ice you will explore other-worldly formations: blue pools, crevasses and moulin holes drilled hundreds of feet deep into the ice by the flowing meltwater. Included: Root Glacier Hike

Kennicott / McCarthy - Flight to Chitina, Copper Center ( Driving Distance: 60 miles | Overnight: Copper Center )

This morning join the guided tour of the Kennecott mill. Around 1908 across from the Kennicott Glacier copper mines were established. The Copper River & Northwestern Railway carried its first car load of ore from Kennecott to Cordova in 1911. From 1908 until its closure in 1938, $200 million in ore was extracted from Kennecott, making it the richest concentration of copper ore known in the world. After the mines closed both McCarthy and Kennicott became ghost towns. In the last few years the towns have come to life again offering visitors a glimpse of Alaska's history. Late afternoon fly back to Chitina and check into your hotel at Copper Center. Optional: We can arrange a van transfer from Kennicott to Chitina if you would like to travel on the McCarthy Road. Included: Kennecott Mill Walking Tour

Copper Center - Fairbanks ( Driving Distance: 250 miles | Overnight: Fairbanks )

Leave Copper Center on the Richardson Highway. Known as a paradise for anglers and rafters searching for big fish and whitewater adventure, Gakona, Copper Center and Glenallen are great jump-off points during the famed Copper River Red Salmon runs. Continue to Paxson with it's many sled dog kennels and further on to Delta Junction - a telegraph station established in 1904. The intersection, marked by an oversized white milepost for Mile 1422 of the Alaska Highway, is known as the Triangle. Delta Junction is home to the 90,000-acre Delta Bison Sanctuary, which was created to contain a free-roaming herd of more than 500 animals. The area features spectacular views of the Alaska Range and the Delta River. On clear days the panoramas of Mount Hayes, Mount Moffit and other peaks are stunning.

Fairbanks - Denali National Park ( Driving Distance: 130 miles | Overnight: Denali Village )

Known as the Golden Heart City of Alaska, Fairbanks is tucked into miles of unexplored wilderness only 120 miles from the Arctic Circle. It enjoys almost 24 hours of daylight during summer months. You are invited to explore the local gold rush history, its vibrant traditional native cultures as well as fantastic scenery. This morning you may visit the renown Alaska University Museum featuring Alaska's natural history best collection, Alaskaland or take an authentic sternwheeler on a scenic 20-mile roundtrip cruise down the Chena and Tanana Rivers. Enjoy lively narration, stop at a reconstructed Athabascan Indian Village to learn about native hunting and fishing techniques and watch a dogsled demonstration. Leisure drive to Nenana - known for its Alaska Ice Classics - to Denali National Park.

Denali National Park ( Overnight: Denali Village )

Denali National Park offers excellent wildlife viewing and spectacular sceneries. Pick up your tickets, board the bus and watch out for grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolf and fox moving along the ridges and river beds. Your driver informs about the history of Denali National Park, its diverse wildlife and flora. Once an animal has been spotted the bus will stop that everyone can watch and take pictures. The bus turns around at Eielson Visitor Center - 66 miles one way/8 hours round trip. You can get off the bus anytime to go for a hike. Return to the Denali Park entrance anytime during the day. Optional: We can extend the transit bus tour to Wonder Lake or exchange to the Tundra Wilderness Tour, Kantishna Wilderness Trails or Backcountry Lodge Tour. Included: Denali Transit Bus to Eielson Center

Denali National Park - Anchorage ( Driving Distance: 240 miles )

Spend the morning at Denali National Park and watch a sled dog demonstration presented by the park ranger or join an exhilarating rafting trip on the Nenana River. Return to Anchorage via the Parks Highway and take a break in Wasilla - Home of the Iditarod Trail Headquarter. The museum features historical displays of the "Last Great Race on Earth". Stopover at Eklutna Indian village which is an Athabascan Indian settlement. It houses a unique cemetery, in which each grave is surrounded by a small, decorative burial house. Alternative Routing: From the Parks Highway drive via Hatcher Pass Road to the Independence Mine Historical Park - operated from 1938 - 1941 by one of the largest gold producers in the Willow Creek Mining District. Return the rental car at the Airport or in downtown Anchorage.