Explore Alaska’s highlights on this trip led by a local gay outdoors specialist. Kayak to a glacier, raft a glacial white water river, hike in Denali National Park, trek across a glacier with crampons, take a scenic bush flight, voyage across Prince William Sound and more! Traverse the wilderness: Fairbanks, Denali, McCarthy, Kennicott Glacier, Valdez, Anchorage and all points in between!
July 20 to 29, 2018 – US $4,698.00
Optional Tour Choices:
$1175 Single Supplement limited nights (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom)
$575 Day 1 Evening Flight Anaktuvuk Pass Adventure
$475 Day 2 Morning Flight Arctic Circle Adventure
9 Breakfasts, 6 lunches and 4 dinners, with wine at the welcome and farewell dinners; Accommodations: 9 nights of comfortable, eclectic lodging, with private bathrooms except in McCarthy; For our two nights in McCarthy we stay in the beautifully restored 1920’s Ma Johnson’s Hotel (McCarthy Lodge) where all rooms share a bathroom with 1 or 2 other rooms – and our dinner is prepared by a James Beard Award winning chef; All activities and transportation as described: all transportation during the trip. HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
Meals not shown as being included; Transportation to and from starting and ending points; Airport transfers in Fairbanks and Anchorage (complimentary airport shuttles are available for our hotels or you can take a taxi); Activities listed as Optional in the itinerary (see pricing below); Personal items including: alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, telephone calls, gratuities for guides.
Today we arrive in Fairbanks, Alaska’s “Golden Heart” city. With around 70,000 residents, Fairbanks is Alaska’s second largest community and hub of Alaska’s vast Interior and Arctic regions. Our hotel offers a complimentary airport shuttle upon request, or you can take a taxi.The evening is on your own tonight as you acclimate to the “midnight sun.” We are offering an optional scenic flight (Arctic Circle Anaktuvuk Adventure) which takes us to an Inupiaq Eskimo village north of the Arctic Circle in the dramatic Brooks Range and Gates of the Arctic National Park. The tour departs tonight at 7 pm and returns around midnight.
This morning is yours to relax and go at your own pace. Early risers may enjoy an optional scenic flight between Fairbanks and Coldfoot, north of the Arctic Circle in the Brooks Mountain Range. The flight provides an aerial view of the Yukon River valley and the wildflower-covered hills and tundra of the vast Alaska wilderness. Enjoy a guided ground tour to Wiseman, a remote gold mining community in the rugged Brooks Range. Departs 7:00 am; returns around 12 noon.Other guests may choose a more leisurely morning, beginning with a visit to the beautiful new Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center for an excellent introduction to life in northern Alaska. Stop in at the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race Headquarters to learn about this grueling 1,000-mile dog sled race and meet some of the dogs.
We will meet in the hotel lobby at Noon and have lunch together at a local restaurant. Then we head to the dramatic University of Alaska Museum of the North, designed by top architects to fit into its surroundings on a hillside. Next we visit the University’s research reindeer, caribou, and musk ox and see some of Fairbanks’ highlights on a brief city tour.
On our way back to the hotel we will go on a short nature hike at Creamers’ Field State Game Refuge. This evening will feature our Welcome Dinner at our guide’s favorite bistro.
Today we take a scenic 3-hour drive south to Denali. We will begin our exploration of Denali with about two hours near the Denali Park Visitor Center where you can explore the trails and visitor center, shop at the Alaska Geographic bookstore, and get lunch on your own.Next we will head deep into the wilderness of Denali National Park on a wildlife watching shuttle bus to Toklat. Virtually the only way to get into the park is via the park buses. While these are modified schools buses traveling on a gravel road, the pristine alpine scenery and frequent wildlife sightings mean this journey is often a trip highlight for visitors. Don’t forget your camera and binoculars! Dinner will be at a locally owned restaurant famous for its Alaskan seafood.
Heeding the call of the mountains, this morning we will go on an invigorating hike through Denali’s subalpine forests to a trapper’s cabin, then have lunch together.In the afternoon we will don space-suit like dry suits for an exciting white water rafting trip on the Nenana River! This undammed glacial river features large waves and class 3 to 4 rapids. We will paddle our raft through the rapids under the command of a knowledgeable river guide. Dinner is on your own this evening at our hotel’s restaurant, a pizza shop or other nearby restaurant.
Its time to leave Denali and head to the lesser known, but equally magnificent Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. To get there, we will head east from Denali National Park and follow the pristine Alaska Range on the remote 134-mile long Denali Highway (all but 21 miles of which are unpaved) to the Richardson Highway and Copper River Valley. We’ll stop for lunch along the way.From the town of Chitina, where the Wrangell and Chugach Mountains meet, we will take a jaw-dropping scenic flight past large volcanoes and glaciers to the tiny, isolated hamlet of McCarthy. Keep your eyes out for 16,000-foot Mount Blackburn; the massive, steaming, 14,000-foot Wrangell volcano; the 5,000-foot Stairway Ice Fall (a glacier spilling over mile high cliffs); and cliff-side mines as you descend into the McCarthy/Kennicott valley, “Alaska’s Shangri-La.” Dinner tonight will be on your own in McCarthy.
Nearby Kennecott (Kennicott is the spelling for the glacier) is home to the world’s richest copper deposit ever discovered. This copper mine was developed and exploited by the Alaska Syndicate (aka. J.P. Morgan and the Guggenheims) early in the 20th century. Kennecott was the company town and McCarthy, located 5 miles away, was the independent sin city where the miners went for fun.
Are we still on planet earth? – You might wonder today as we explore the icy moonscape of the Root Glacier with crampons (foot spikes). This ancient repository of compacted snow features eerie deep blue pools, valleys, hills, surface rivers of melt water, and moulins (where the surface water pours deep within the glacier). We’ll have a box lunch to eat during our hike, then later in the afternoon you are free to hike more, explore the fascinating mine ruins at Kennicott on a National Park Service led history walk, or relax. Dinner is on your own, and performers (or those who dream of performing) in our midst can try their hand at “open mic” night (Thursdays only).
After a tasty breakfast at the McCarthy Lodge, we head out the rugged McCarthy Road, which follows the old copper railroad route to Chitina. From there we head south through the Chugach Mountains and over dramatic Thompson Pass to coastal Valdez. Near the summit of the pass, we will stop at the Worthington Glacier for a short hike to view this interesting hanging glacier. As we near Valdez, numerous impressive waterfalls line the cliffs of Keystone Canyon. Depending on the weather and on how adventurous the group is feeling our guide may offer some optional hikes today. We’ll have lunch along the route to Valdez, then you can have dinner on your own at one of the several restaurants in Valdez.
Today we actively explore Alaska’s rugged coast from the seat of our sea kayaks! We will take a water taxi from Valdez harbor out to Shoup Bay, where we enter our kayaks and paddle into Shoup’s steep mountain-lined inner lagoon. We will paddle past a noisy, cliff-side colony of 10,000 sea birds on our way to the picturesque Shoup Glacier that spills out of the rugged mountains at the head of the bay.We will have lunch ashore, then late in the afternoon our water taxi will return to take us back to town, where we’ll enjoy dinner together.
If anyone would prefer to not commit to a full, active day in a kayak, we can arrange an alternate scenic guided glacier and wildlife cruise on a touring boat for the day.
Our day begins with a short hike on the Dock Point Trail. Next we board the Alaska State Ferry for the scenic trip across Prince William Sound to Whittier. Keep you eyes out for icebergs, sea otters, sea lions, jumping salmon, and more en route. Lunch will be on your own on the ferry.Developed as a secret port during World War II, tiny Whittier is located at the end of a long foggy fjord and is weird even by Alaskan (oddball-tolerant) standards. Virtually the entire town (apartments, school, post office, bowling alley, etc.) is located in a Soviet-style 14-story building. Whittier and Valdez were two of the towns most impacted by the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake, and decades later, you can still see evidence of the destruction.
After we disembark the ferry, we will head through a one-way (at a time) railroad tunnel to Turnagain Arm and the Seward Highway (an impressive National Scenic Byway). Here the mountains rise straight out of the sea with the highway just on the water’s edge. On our way into Anchorage, we will visit the rescued wildlife at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for a chance to see bears, moose, caribou and Alaska’s other famous wild residents up close. This evening we will celebrate our exciting adventures together with a scrumptious farewell dinner in Anchorage.
We will finish today with breakfast at our hotel, which provides a complimentary shuttle to the Anchorage airport. If your flight is later in the afternoon or evening, we recommend renting a bike. The best ride is on the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Bike Trail that follows the shores of Cook Inlet to Earthquake Park.
Finally, we say farewell to new friends and look forward to our next HE Travel Adventure!