Ultimate Alaska Itinerary
Our Alaska nature safari begins in Fairbanks, Alaska's "second city" and capital of the vast Interior, which retains its frontier flavor with pioneer saloons,
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 20,310 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
Return to the park entrance by road this morning, keeping an eye out for moose, caribou, Dall sheep, grizzlies and other wildlife that roams the open tundra. At midday, 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.
Day 5: Talkeetna / Girdwood
Depart Talkeetna and continue south by road, 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, surrounding 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.
Day 6: Spencer Glacier / Placer River Float
Today we board the Alaska Railroad once more, riding the train to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop to enter a spectacular tract of remote roadless wilderness. Created in partnership with the Chugach National Forest, this rail spur expands access to some of Southcentral Alaska's most beautiful coastal mountain terrain, with views of valley glaciers, waterfalls, deep canyons and dense deciduous forest on either side. Disembark to explore the sparkling tableau of iceberg-choked Spencer Lake, then take a gentle float trip down the Placer River, turbid with glacial silt, before returning to Girdwood late this afternoon. Dinner is not included this evening, 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 more dramatic scenery on as we drive south to the Kenai Peninsula, crossing Moose Pass en route to the fishing town and port of Seward. The road corridor we follow winds 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 on serene 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 on Resurrection Bay. 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. We reach Anchorage by late afternoon, with rest of the evening at leisure. Dinner is not included so 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
Day 12: Katmai / Anchorage
Day 13: Anchorage / Depart
Our Alaska wildlife safari comes to a close today as we transfer to the airport for homeward
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
Important note on Katmai accommodations:
Depending on your departure date, you will overnight on Days 10 and 11 either at Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge or Brooks Lodge. See Dates & Prices page for more details. Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge, a fly-in wilderness lodge near King Salmon, offers deluxe accommodations and includes a scenic 20-minute floatplane ride to reach Brooks Falls. Brooks Lodge is a more rustic accommodation located in walking distance from the platforms over the falls.
Physical Rating: Moderate
The activities on our Alaska wildlife adventure are diverse, requiring general mobility and fitness. The longest required walk is one mile one-way over a relatively flat wooden boardwalk to reach the Brooks Falls viewing platform from the main lodge in Katmai National Park, where we observe the brown bears. Trail surfaces for our various walks vary from pavement to uneven natural terrain. While all travelers must be able to walk at least two miles without assistance, some longer hikes are available for those who desire. Travelers may have the opportunity to participate in optional kayaking, on Fox Island, weather permitting. Though no prior kayaking experience is required, general fitness and mobility, including the ability to get into and out of a kayak, are essential. We stress that travelers are not required to participate in every activity, but all participants must be generally physically fit and have the ability to walk two miles unassisted.
Have questions about our Ultimate Alaska itinerary? Click here to view a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the adventure.
The Great Alaskan Grizzly Encounter
Photo departures available