Welcome to Anchorage, USA. Your Best of Alaska adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Located in south-central Alaska on the shores of Cook Inlet, Anchorage is a unique urban environment situated in the heart of the wilderness. If you arrive early enough, perhaps head to the Anchorage Museum.
In the morning, head north along the old Denali Highway to Denali National Park (approximately five hours). During the drive keep an eye out for caribou and other wildlife in this amazing, unspoiled environment. Your evening is then free to relax. Perhaps sit down for dinner with the group and prepare for your days of exploration ahead.
Leave early in the morning for the eight-hour bus journey to Denali National Park and Eielson Visitor Centre. A scenic bus tour (included with Denali National Park admission) take you through the backcountry of the park. Trips on the shuttle buses are quite relaxed and there will be no formal narration. The drivers provide basic park and safety information, assist you in spotting wildlife, answer questions and make restroom stops. Bring food and beverages with you, as there aren't any available on the tours. The bus will drive 66 miles deep into the park to the Eielson Visitor Centre. This epic journey is worth it, as National Park Service rangers and interactive displays provide insight and information about the park and its myriad of resources. For all fitness and adventure levels, there are a wide range of optional activities available such as river rafting, dogsled demonstrations and hiking. There's even an optional scenic flight available, with the possibility of a glacier landing.
After breakfast, head out and drive to the centre of the Alaska Range (approximately four hours). We travel on the Denali Highway, although part of this journey is on a less-travelled, unpaved road which can be quite bumpy. The Alaska range is the highest mountain range in North America and includes Mount Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), which is the continent's highest peak. Experience the area's quiet lakes while looking for wild caribou and birdlife. Take a scenic canoe trip across the lake and perhaps fish for grayling. In the evening, settle down for dinner before getting comfortable in your multi-share lodge.
Today leave the main highway for the bumpy McCarthy Road and head deep into Wrangell-St Elias National Park. This is the largest national park in the USA and is nearly six times the size of Yellowstone. Four major mountain ranges meet here, and the park includes nine of the 16 highest peaks in the USA including Mt. Blackburn and Mt. Sanford. On your way to the park, keep an eye out for an abundance of wildlife. Once you've arrived at your hotel, your evening is free. Today's driving time will take a total of around eight hours.
Today is free to explore Wrangell-St Elias National Park, but there are a whole host of optional activities to take part in (at an additional cost). Perhaps take a flight-seeing tour of the park or venture out on a glacier walk, where you can get up close to the huge chains of glaciers within the park. There's also the opportunity to do some ice climbing. If you're just looking to explore the area, head out on a hiking tour in search of moose, bears and caribou. In the evening, head back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
This morning begin your long drive to Valdez, visiting the Worthington Glacier along the way (approximately 4 hours). Surrounded on three sides by steep, snow-capped mountains, the blue-water port town of Valdez is best known as the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. On arrival into Valdez, check in to the hotel and relax for the rest of the evening.
Today is free to do what you like in Valdez. Kayaking is hugely popular here, and you can paddle among the glaciers, down the fjords through to waterfalls and with the setting of imposing mountains in the background. On land, possibly visit the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive for an interesting history of this important port city.
Today we have a very long, but very scenic drive (approx 8 hours not including stops) from Valdez to Seward. There's plenty to look at along the journey, including mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls, as well as small villages and the chance to spot Dall sheep. Seward is one of Alaska's oldest towns, as well as one of the most scenic. The town itself boasts galleries, boutique shops and a bustling harbour but it's perhaps best known as a gateway to exploring Kenai Fjords National Park.
Today is a free day. Perhaps head out on a boat tour exploring Kenai Fjords National Park. Head out among the fjords and glaciers, keeping an eye out for humpback and killer whales, sea otters, harbour seals, sea lions, and puffins. In the evening, enjoy your last night here before heading to Anchorage in the morning.
Depending on time, and the wishes of the group, there may be time for a short hike this morning before driving back to where your adventure started in Anchorage, (approx two and a half hours). Keep an eye out for wildlife on the way back, stopping off to take photos of whales, waves, and volcanoes. Perhaps head out for dinner in the evening with your group and reflect on your adventure around Alaska.
After breakfast your Best of Alaska adventure finishes. There are no more activities planned for today and you're to depart at any time.