A Small-Group Alaska Photography Adventure to the State’s Best Wildlife Spots!
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, we meet the rest of our small group and our Expedition Leader, who is not just 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 the highest peak in North America at 20,320 feet. Its
ice-clad summit towers over the tundra and taiga below that provides
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 peak than most visitors, especially those on organized tours, ever get. Here we have time and space to encounter and photograph the wilderness, away from hordes 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 a close eye out for moose, caribou, grizzly bears and other resident wildlife. 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 historic
village of Talkeetna, where we disembark for the night. The rustic town,
founded 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, the town's economy today thrives on rafting, flightseeing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting, and it is also the main base for climbing expeditions to Denali. After dinner
there's time to stroll the compact downtown, whose 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 explore the scenic drama of iceberg-choked Spencer Lake, then take a gentle float trip down the Placer River before returning to Girdwood. Dinner is not included the evening of Day 7, in order to give you a chance to sample your choice of restaurants in the Alyeska/Girdwood area.
Day 8: Kenai Peninsula / Fox Island
This morning we enjoy magnificent scenery on the Kenai Peninsula as we drive south to the fishing town and port of Seward. Here we board a boat to Fox Island, a private island on the edge of Kenai Fjords National Park. Our secluded location, which we enjoy all to ourselves, reveals the pristine side of Alaska most visitors miss. The region 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 as we board a private
chartered boat for a journey through a realm where the Ice Age still lingers. Our small boat allows us to approach wildlife at intimate range, and Kenai Fjords National Park provides unparalleled opportunities for photographing marine life including orcas, Dall's porpoise, a large colony of puffins and myriad other seabirds. Mighty tidewater glaciers grind their way to the sea's edge, and we may be fortunate to capture thrilling images of icebergs calving with a huge splash. The water is filled with floating bits of ice, often tinged blue, and we'll be able to get plenty of classic Alaskan shots. Following our all-day outing, our boat returns us to Fox Island for a final night.
Day 10: Seward / Anchorage
After a final morning to enjoy the wild environs of Fox Island, we weave our way back through the fjords to Seward, where we'll have lunch 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. We return to Anchorage by late afternoon where you'll have the rest of your 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 float plane to world-renowned Brooks Lodge, one of the best places to view these coastal grizzlies in their natural habitat. From the safety of platforms built over Brooks Falls, we 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 chance to photograph the bears of Katmai, we return to Anchorage arriving in the afternoon. We celebrate our Alaskan adventure at a farewell dinner with our Expedition Leader.
Day 14: Anchorage / Depart
Today, our Alaska photo safari comes to a close as we transfer to the airport for flights home.
Important note on bear viewing:
Bears are attracted to the Brooks River at multiple times during the summer, and their precise location varies depending 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.
Physical Rating: Moderate