Your 7-day Alaska vacation to the two most popular national parks begins with your arrival in the city of Anchorage. Feel free to take a self-guided tour of downtown. "Downtown" is the northwest corner of Anchorage with high-rise hotels, souvenir shops, restaurants, and the log cabin Visitor Information Center. On weekends, the Anchorage Saturday Market is a good choice for shopping, entertainment, and food.
The city also has an extensive trail system. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail begins west of 2nd Avenue and winds along Cook Inlet. Alternatively, you might visit the Anchorage Museum or enjoy shopping at the 5th Avenue Mall.
Overnight in Anchorage.
Pick up your rental car in Anchorage, and head south on the Seward Highway to begin your Anchorage to Seward Adventure. As you leave the city, you'll pass Potter Marsh in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. Look for migratory birds, waterfowl, and moose in the area.
As the highway winds along the scenic Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, watch for beluga whales in the water and Dall sheep on the steep mountainside. If the weather is clear, you can see volcanic Mt. Redoubt across the inlet. Use the many pullouts to stop for photos, longer looks, and to let faster-moving cars pass.
Continue around the end of Turnagain Arm and climb up to Turnagain Pass in the Kenai Mountains, an area popular with snow machiners and skiers in the winter. Enjoy sweeping views of mountains and tundra. Descend to the tiny town of Moose Pass and gorgeous Kenai Lake with its teal-colored glacial water before arriving in Seward.
Check in to your hotel, and then take a self-guided tour of the Alaska SeaLife Center. The center offers an unrivaled, up-close and personal experience with Gulf of Alaska marine wildlife. Witness a 2000+ pound Steller sea lion gliding past underwater viewing windows, puffins diving in a carefully crafted naturalistic habitat, and harbor seals resting on rocky beaches. Optional behind-the-scenes tours of the Alaska SeaLife Center are also available.
Overnight in Seward.
This morning, board Major Marine's full-day Kenai Fjords National Park Catamaran Cruise to Aialik and Holgate glaciers. Cruise through Resurrection Bay and around Cape Aialik watching for humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, seals, porpoises, otters, mountain goats, eagles, puffins, and more. Float amongst icebergs as you listen to massive glaciers crack and groan. Watch for giant slabs of ice to calve off the face of the glacier and splash into the bay.
A National Park Ranger will be on board to answer your questions and share natural history information about the landscape and wildlife. Enjoy a prime rib and salmon buffet lunch, served onboard.
After your cruise, head back to Anchorage at your leisure, return your rental car, and check in to your hotel.
Take the morning motorcoach from Anchorage to Denali Cabins, a unique property nestled in the boreal forest just south of the Denali National Park entrance.
The drive north is a scenic adventure through the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Alaska's agricultural center, up to Broad Pass in the Alaska Range and Denali National Park. You'll cross sparkling salmon streams and meander through birch and spruce forests. If the weather is clear, you'll have spectacular southern views of Mt. McKinley and other dramatic Alaska landscapes.
Check in at Denali Cabins. There are 46 cozy cedar cabins with private baths, televisions, telephones, contemporary furnishings, and the charm of an authentic Alaskan cabin.
Take advantage of free time in the afternoon to explore the area: Take a free shuttle to the Denali Park Visitor Information Center and the McKinley Village, or enjoy one of many other optional activities, like flightseeing, rafting, a jet boat safari, or glacier landing tour. Learn more about available activities in the Denali Cabins office.
Overnight at Denali Cabins.
After your Deluxe Continental Breakfast (optional), you will have free time to explore the area on your own before boarding our afternoon bus for an adventure through the national park to Denali Backcountry Lodge.
Travel the entire 92-mile, restricted-access Park Road. Witness spectacular forest, tundra, and mountain scenery and search for bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, foxes, golden eagles, and more. Our driver/guide provides entertaining and informative natural history interpretation and stories along the way.
Arrive at the lodge in time for a hearty family-style dinner, and check in to your cozy cedar cabin. You will spend the next two nights at Denali Backcountry Lodge, immersed in the wilderness experience. All activities, programs, meals, and snacks are included while at the lodge.
Overnight at Denali Backcountry Lodge.
Enjoy your day in the heart of Denali National Park. After breakfast, choose from numerous lodge activities such as hiking, mountain biking, gold panning, natural history programs, and Wonder Lake shuttles, or simply relax in the natural history lounge or one of our creekside gazebos. If weather permits, take an optional flightseeing tour over the foothills and glaciers of the Alaska Range or all the way around Denali.
After an early-morning breakfast buffet, board the bus back to the park entrance for a second chance to take in the fabulous Denali Park scenery and search for animals. The weather, wildlife, and changing light assure it's never the same trip twice.
At the park entrance, you will connect with the southbound train to Anchorage. Head through Broad Pass, the highest point on the railroad at 2,363 feet. Enjoy expansive views of sub-arctic and alpine tundra and watch for migrating caribou in the fall. Cross the 918-foot Hurricane Gulch trestle, 296 feet above the creek, and watch for bears on the gravel bars along the Susitna River. If the weather is nice, check back now and then for southern views of Mt. McKinley.
You'll stop in the town of Talkeetna, once a "bush" town with colorful mining history and now a staging area for Denali climbers. Continue south through the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Alaska's agricultural center. Cross the Matanuska and Knik rivers, watching for moose and waterfowl. The birch forests around Chugiak and Eagle River thin as you near Anchorage.
Your "Two Most Popular National Park Adventures" vacation package ends with your arrival in Anchorage late in the evening.
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
Meals (unless noted), Activities and Tours marked "optional", Gratuities, Taxes, Park Fees, Tolls, and Parking Fees (where applicable)