A Small-Group Wilderness Photography Adventure to Alaska's Most Coveted Wildlife Locales
Day 1: Fairbanks, Alaska
Our Alaska photography adventure begins in Fairbanks, Alaska's thriving "second city" that retains its frontier flavor with pioneer saloons, paddlewheelers
and mining camps on the edge of town. This evening, meet your fellow travelers and Expedition Leader, who is not only an expert naturalist but an accomplished nature photographer, specializing in Alaska's legendary wildlife.
Days 2–4: Denali National Park
Denali National Park, larger than the state of Massachusetts, is one of the world’s great wilderness preserves. Denali, which means "The Great One," is the native Athabascan name for this 20,320-foot mountain that is the highest peak in North America. Its ice-clad summit looms over the tundra and taiga below that provide habitat for grizzlies, wolves, moose and
caribou. Every photographer who travels to Alaska wants photos of the elusive mountain, and we position you for the best odds of getting them. From our lodge base 90 miles inside the park, we are much closer to the mountain than most visitors ever get, especially those on standard bus tours. Deep within the Denali wilderness, we have time and space to encounter and photograph these dramatic landscapes, away from throngs of other people. Hiking, nature walks, biking, fishing and optional flightseeing—a must for photographers—are available. The climate and environment of Alaska's interior at this latitude is harsh much of the year, and it takes a vast amount of habitat to sustain animals. Wildlife encounters thus tend to be fleeting, though always thrilling.
Day 5: Denali / Alaska Railroad / Talkeetna
Depart for the park entrance this morning by road, keeping an eye out for moose, caribou, grizzly bears and other resident wildlife often visible from the road. At midday, we board the Alaska Railroad for a classic train journey through Alaska’s rugged Interior. Our route through the Alaska Range climbs above tree line over Broad Pass, then descends to follow the Susitna River to the historic village of Talkeetna, where we disembark to spend the night. This rustic town, founded over a century ago as the district headquarters for the new railroad, sits at the confluence of three rivers and enjoys a striking panorama of Mt. Denali and adjacent peaks. An outdoor recreation mecca, Talkeetna today has an economy that thrives on rafting, flightseeing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing and
hunting. It is also the main base for climbing expeditions to Denali. After dinner, there's time to stroll the compact downtown, whose old log buildings dating to the early 1900s have been designated a National Historic Site.
Days 6 & 7: Talkeetna / Girdwood
Leaving Talkeetna, we continue south, eventually reaching the coast and following Turnagain Arm to Girdwood and Alyeska Resort, Alaska’s premier ski area, where a host of exciting summer activities is also available. Set in a lush glacial valley in the Chugach Range southeast of Anchorage, Alyeska offers nature and luxury in tandem. Explore the northernmost temperate rain forest in North America that surrounds our deluxe accommodations at the Hotel Alyeska, or choose an optional tram ride to the alpine summit with vistas of the ice-bound peaks and inlet far below. On Day 7 we'll photograph iceberg-choked Spencer Lake, then take a gentle float trip down the Placer River before returning to Girdwood. Dinner is not included on Day 7, to give you a chance to sample your choice of restaurants in the Alyeska/Girdwood area.
Day 8: Kenai Peninsula / Fox Island
This morning's drive showcases the magnificent scenery of the Kenai Peninsula as we drive south to the fishing town and port of Seward. Once we reach the harbor, look for floating sea otters—frequently spotted here—as we prepare to board a boat to Fox Island, a private outpost on the edge of Kenai Fjords National Park. The island's secluded location reveals a pristine side of Alaska that most visitors miss. The waters around our lodge offers excellent sea kayaking, and an easy paddling excursion late this afternoon is likely to reveal some of the area’s prolific marine life. Keep your camera handy during paddling breaks to capture possible shots of Steller sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals and black bears wandering ashore.
Day 9: Kenai Fjords National Park—Private Cruise
Iconic images of Alaska are on display today aboard a private
chartered yacht cruise as we weave our way through a marine realm where vestiges of the Ice Age still linger. Kenai Fjords National Park provides unparalleled opportunities for photographing marine life, and our small boat allows us to approach at close range. Common sightings include orcas, Dall's porpoise, a large colony of puffins and myriad other seabirds. Towering tidewater glaciers grind their way to the sea's edge, and we may be fortunate to capture thrilling images of blue icebergs calving with a huge splash, leaving floating bits of ice drifting in the fjords. Following our all-day outing, we return to Fox Island for one more night in the peaceful seclusion of the Kenai wilderness
Day 10: Seward / Anchorage
After a last
morning in the wild environs of Fox Island, we cruise past waterfalls and icy peaks to reach Seward once more. In this lively port town, we'll have lunch on arrival and visit the Alaska SeaLife Center on Resurrection Bay. While primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the center also features a public aquarium and is the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state. From Seward, we retrace our route northward, with the mountain ranges of the Kenai Peninsula rising one after another as we traverse Moose Pass and cross some of Alaska's richest salmon rivers. Returning to Anchorage by late afternoon, we have the rest of the day and evening at leisure. We've opted not to include dinner so you can choose one of the many outstanding offerings available in Alaska's largest city. Consult your Expedition Leader for suggestions.
Days 11 & 12: Katmai National Park—Brooks Falls
It's hard to imagine that anything could top all we've experienced so far, but for most wildlife photographers, today is the ultimate highlight of our Alaskan adventure. Katmai National Park is home to the world’s largest population of brown bears, and it takes some effort to get here. We fly by small plane to King Salmon, then by floatplane to world-renowned Brooks Lodge, one of the very best places to view these coastal grizzlies in their natural habitat. From the safety of platforms built over Brooks Falls, photograph this classic wildlife spectacle at close range. On our June and July departures, when the salmon are running upstream to spawn, we may get photos of bears vigorously fishing, attempting to catch salmon as they leap from the boiling falls into giant waiting jaws. Later in the summer, we're likely to see even more bears in the area, though not primarily in the falls catching fish.
Day 13: Katmai / Anchorage
After one more opportunity to photograph the famous bears of Katmai, we fly back to Anchorage, arriving in the afternoon. At a farewell dinner this evening, join our Expedition Leader to celebrate our Alaskan adventures.
Day 14: Anchorage / Depart
Our Alaska photo safari comes to a close this morning as we transfer to the airport for homeward flights.
Important note on bear viewing:
Bears are attracted to the Brooks River at various times during the summer, and their precise location depends on seasonal movements. More bears (and fewer tourists) tend to be on view in late August and September than in late June and July, and they are found throughout the area rather than primarily atop the falls, where they congregate earlier in the summer.
Physical Rating: Moderate