See More of the Last Frontier on Our Small-Group Wilderness Immersion
Day 1: Fairbanks, Alaska
Our Alaska nature safari begins in Fairbanks, Alaska's "second city" and capital of the Interior, which retains its frontier flavor with pioneer saloons, paddlewheelers and
outlying mining camps. Meet your Expedition Leader at a welcome dinner this evening.
Days 2 & 3: Denali National Park—Kantishna
Travel south through boreal forest and along the Nenana River to Denali National Park. At 6 million acres—larger than the state of Massachusetts—Denali is one of the world’s great wilderness preserves. The park's namesake is the highest peak in North America, towering 20,320 feet over the tundra and taiga that provide habitat for wolves, grizzlies, moose and caribou. Formerly known as Mt. McKinley, its Athabascan Native name—Denali—means "The Great One." From our remote base 90 miles inside the park, we have time and space to encounter genuine wilderness. Hiking, nature walks, mountain biking, fishing and optional flightseeing over the glaciers of Denali 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 4: Denali / Alaska Railroad Dome Car / Talkeetna
Depart for the park entrance by road this morning, keeping a close eye out for moose, caribou, grizzly bears and other wildlife that roams the open tundra. At midday, we board an Alaska Railroad dome car 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 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 Denali and adjacent peaks. An outdoor recreation mecca, Talkeetna's economy today thrives on rafting, flightseeing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting, and it is also the main base for climbing expeditions on 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 5 & 6: Talkeetna / Girdwood
Leaving Talkeetna, we continue south, eventually reaching the coast to follow Turnagain Arm to Girdwood and Alyeska Resort. Alyeska is 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 6 we'll explore the scenic tableau of iceberg-choked Spencer Lake, then take a gentle float trip down the Placer River before returning to Girdwood. Dinner is not included on Day 6, in order to give you a chance to sample your choice of restaurants in the Alyeska/Girdwood area.
Day 7: Kenai Peninsula / Fox Island
This morning, revel in magnificent scenery on the drive south to the Kenai Peninsula, as we cross Moose Pass en route to the fishing town and port of Seward. The road corridor we follow takes us through the Kenai Mountains–Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area, a designation that recognizes the area's unique cultural, geographic and historical features. Once we reach Seward's small boat harbor, look for sea otters that are frequently seen bobbing among the yachts and docks. Here, we board a boat for the journey to Fox Island, a lushly forested private island in Resurrection Bay 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 is famed for its sea kayaking, and an easy paddling excursion late this afternoon is likely to reveal some of the area’s prolific marine life.
Day 8: Kenai Fjords National Park—Private Cruise
Iconic images of Alaska are on display today from our private chartered vessel as we voyage through a realm where vestiges of the Ice Age still linger. Our small boat allows us to approach wildlife at close range, and Kenai Fjords National Park provides excellent opportunities for viewing humpback and orca whales, porpoises, sea otters and a large colony of puffins. Glaciers pour from the jagged mountain heights into the sea, and we may observe icebergs calving with a thunderous crash from a glacier's towering blue face. Following our all-day outing, our boat returns us to our secluded lodge on Fox Island for another night of peace and solitude in the wilderness.
Day 9: Seward / Anchorage
After a last morning in the serene environs of Fox Island, we weave our way back through the ice-dotted fjords to Seward, where we'll have lunch and visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, located on Resurrection Bay. While primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the renowned 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, sourcing some of Alaska's richest salmon rivers. Reaching Anchorage by late afternoon, we have the rest of the evening at leisure. Dinner is not included so that you can select your choice of the many outstanding offerings available in Alaska's largest city. Local seafood is always a highlight! Tap your Expedition Leader for recommendations.
Days 10 & 11: King Salmon / Katmai National Park—Brooks Falls
Fly west by small plane this morning to King Salmon, then by floatplane to Katmai National Park and world-renowned Brooks Falls, one of the best places to view giant Alaskan brown bears in their natural habitat. Katmai is home to the world’s largest population of these enormous coastal grizzlies, with some 2,200 individuals inside the park. As many bear populations around the world decline, Katmai's 4 million acres of wilderness provides some of the last pristine habitat
for these magnificent animals.
Inside the park, scientists are able to study bears in their natural environs, visitors enjoy unparalleled viewing opportunities, and the bears live largely undisturbed. Nurturing this delicate relationship between people and bears is the key to Katmai's success as the world's preeminent place to observe brown bears in the wild. From the safety of platforms built over Brooks Falls, we get a close look at this iconic wildlife spectacle, which very few visitors to Alaska have the privilege of seeing. At close range, watch bears stand in the rushing whitewater, jaws gaping, trying to catch the salmon that leap up the falls once spawning season starts. Our June and July departures will have a good chance to see fishing bears,
since this is when the salmon are running, but bear viewing is excellent in August and September, too, with even more bears in the vicinity. During each full day with the bears, we'll take a break to relax over lunch at world-famous Brooks Lodge, an easy walk from the falls.
Day 12: Katmai / Anchorage
After a last
round of bear viewing in Katmai, we fly back to King Salmon, then on to Anchorage. Tonight our Expedition Leader hosts a farewell dinner to celebrate our Alaskan adventures.
Day 13: Anchorage / Depart
Our Alaska wildlife safari comes to a close today as we transfer to the airport for homeward flights,
or ongoing travel for those who have booked extensions.
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 intimate experiences with bears (due to fewer tourists) tend to happen in late August and September versus late June and July, when bears are found throughout the area rather than primarily fishing atop the falls.
Important note on Katmai accommodations:
Depending on your departure date, you will overnight on Days 10 and 11 either at Brooks Lodge or Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge. See Dates & Prices page for more details. Though very rustic, Brooks Lodge offers exceptional proximity to the bears, with viewing platforms over the river accessible via a relatively short walk. Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge, a fly-in wilderness lodge near King Salmon, offers more deluxe accommodations and includes a scenic 20-minute floatplane ride to reach Brooks Falls.
Physical Rating: Moderate