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A wildlife trip to awaken the senses. Alaska is pure pristine wilderness - discover unspoilt views of snow-capped mountains, sparkling rivers and emerald-green glacial lakes, searching for whale, grizzly bear, moose and caribou on the way. The glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park and the spectacular peak of Denali are just two highlights of Alaska's great outdoors.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple cabins
8 nights comfortable hotel
3 nights simple hotel
Trip maximum 13
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Anchorage. This modern city is the gateway to thousands of miles of wilderness, overlooked by giant snow-capped peaks and flanked by the icy waters of the Cook Inlet.
Due to the number of evening flights into Anchorage, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive at any time. Our hotel in Anchorage provides a free shuttle service to and from Anchorage International airport, which is about a 15 minute drive away, and we will give you instructions on how to take this shuttle in your final documents.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, a visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Centre will really set the scene and provide a great introduction to the many native cultures in this vast state. Alternatively, try the local beer at one of the city's many micro-breweries.
Inlet Tower Hotel & Suites (or similar)
Departing Anchorage this morning, our itinerary is dependent on the ferry schedules to Valdez, which are only published in February each year. If the ferries are operating on the day of our planned itinerary, we will drive to Whittier, at the western end of Prince William Sound, via the Portage Glacier Visitors Centre. After a short stop at the centre and a view of the dramatic scenery of the Byron Glacier Creek, we continue to Whittier and board a ferry to Valdez.
If the ferry schedule does not depart on the day of our itinerary, we will take the beautiful drive to Valdez instead, passing high mountains, waterfalls, roads winding through a rock-cut canyon and a view of the Matanuska Glacier. You may spot moose along the way.
Valdez is the terminus of the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline which begins in Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean. This astounding feat of engineering traverses the Brooks Range, crossing rivers and valleys, above and below ground, before finally feeding its oil into the waiting tankers. The economy of the town depends very much on the oil industry and salmon fisheries, and is our base for tonight.
Keystone Hotel (or similar)
Our route today takes us through some of the most spectacular scenery in Alaska, as we drive through forested hills and past cascading rivers, fed by small glaciers on the Chugach Mountains. The views are dramatic as we reach Keystone Canyon, where sheer cliff walls covered in lime green moss present cascades of crystal water tumbling over the edge to the river below. 'Bridal Veil' and 'Horsetail' Falls evocatively describe the scene. The canyon is steeped in history from the gold rush period and this was once the scene of a bloody gun battle, whilst the remains of the sled trail used in the early days are still visible.
Crossing Thompson Pass we head towards the Worthington Glacier, heading east through Chitina and onto the McCarthy road. Stopping at the Copper River, we then cross the Kuskulana River on a narrow railroad bridge high above the water and continue through a vast expanse of untouched wilderness, following an unpaved road through the remote forests. At the end of the road we reach the small town of McCarthy (population 42), which grew to serve the Copper mine at Kennicott, located 4.5 miles up the valley.
Hotel Ma Johnson (or similar)
Set amongst the wild landscapes of the Wrangell St. Elias National Park, McCarthy presents us with an ideal base from which to explore this stunning setting further. Less accessible than Denali, Wrangell St Elias contains the largest concentration of glaciers on the continent and nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States. Some 13.2 million acres of the park system have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage area. Mountain goats and Dall sheep with long curly horns can be found on the upper slopes while wolves, black bears, coyotes, bison and caribou range through the interior of the park. Note that wildlife spottings, as always, are never guaranteed, particularly given the sheer size and scale of this national park - it's the same size as Yellowstone, Yosemite and the entirety of Switzerland combined!
Today we aim to walk the Root Glacier trail, which starts from Kennicott and is a straightforward but slightly strenuous walk that takes in the magnificent panoramas of the Chugach Mountains and the Kennicott and Root Glaciers. It's a fantastic introduction to the grandeur of this area. The hike begins easily with a path of gradual undulations, and the last section towards the glacier is a steep set of switchbacks with loose gravel and scree underfoot. Views over the glacier at the end are stunning.
Today has been left free for you to enjoy at your leisure. You may like to try some of the other spectacular walks through the park, perhaps taking an optional hike along the Kennicott Glacier, or undertaking some optional ice-climbing (accompanied by professional guides). Also the powerful rivers present some exhilarating rafting opportunities, which offer breathtaking scenery.
Among the huge amount of adrenaline-filled excursions available here (including scenic overflights, with some of the most striking scenery in Alaska), if you'd prefer a more sedate alternative then you may like to explore the old mining town of Kennicott. Designated as a National Historic landmark and considered the finest remaining example of an early 20th century copper mine anywhere, the town remains a fascinating monument to a long forgotten era of America's pioneering past. For those looking for a break from Alaska's epic landscapes, the tour of the mill offers an excellent shot of history and is well worth the time spent exploring.
Heading north today we take the Denali Highway towards Tangle Lakes, stopping en route to see the remarkable fish wheels on the Copper River, an ingenious method of catching the abundant salmon that follow the river to spawn. Stopping at the Wrangell St. Elias Visitors Centre for a short visit, we then continue on to Glenallen, our gateway into the beautiful setting of the Tangle lakes, one of the most accessible of Alaska's wild and pristine wilderness areas. This is a region of open tundra, glacial lakes and mountain ridges, blessed with an abundance natural beauty, cultural traditions and spectacular wildlife. It will be a day of driving on a (largely) unsealed road, and on arrival we should have time to enjoy a short walk in the alpine tundra.
Maclaren River Lodge (or similar)
Continuing northwest, the highway takes us over a rugged landscape, where the views are breath taking and, weather permitting, we may get a glimpse of Denali (formerly Mt McKinley), the highest mountain in North America (6188m). The Athabascan people called it 'Denali' meaning 'the high one' and this towering pyramid of rock, ice and snow is often shrouded in a blanket of mist and cloud. Denali National Park represents one of the world's last intact ecosystems, over 6 million acres of tundra, glaciers and mountains that present a unique opportunity to observe the natural behaviour of wild animals still unaffected by the often destructive influence of man. The park provides a haven for bears, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, moose, red foxes, wolverine and over 160 species of birds, and is without doubt one of the highlights of our remarkable journey.
We'll get an introduction to the park today, and depending on timings, we may be able to see a demonstration of the park's sled dogs, which are used for patrolling in the winter season and are an integral part of the cultural traditions of Denali. They remain the only sled dogs in the entire U.S. who help directly in the preservation of the park and its wildlife.
Denali Grizzly Bear Resort (or similar)
This morning we will drive to the entrance of Denali National Park and transfer to a shuttle bus for our journey into the park itself. Established as a national park in 1917, the area was designated as an international biosphere reserve in 1976 and contains everything from 1200 pound moose to 1.5 gram shrews. In order to ensure the preservation of this wilderness, vehicle access is restricted, so these shuttle buses are the only way that visitors can enter the park. We embark on a round-trip journey through this natural treasure trove, driving along the primitive road and taking opportunities to observe and photograph the abundant wildlife, as well as having the chance to walk on some of Denali's many front country trails. The itinerary will be quite flexible today as the shuttle buses operate as 'hop-on, hop-off' style buses, giving our Tour Leader the opportunity to decide our explorations on the day, depending on the weather.
Returning to the visitors centre at the park entrance, we jump into our maxiwagon to return to the hotel. (Please note guiding is not allowed in the park - walks will be unescorted).
We drive to the town of Talkeetna, an old mining supply station and riverboat port, that since the early 1950s has seen itself become a focus for mountaineers attempting to scale the heights of Denali. Many believe that the best views of the mountain can be seen from here and this afternoon there will be time to enjoy some exhilarating optional excursions from the town. Rafting is available here, as well as numerous scenic overflights, which take in the majestic views of Alaska's most famous summit.
Swiss Alaska Inn (or similar)
Leaving Talkeetna this morning we head for the mountainous landscapes around Hatcher's Pass, where a visit to the gold mine affords us a fascinating glimpse into the pioneering heritage of this great wilderness. Roads up here are not fully tarmacked, so a trip here will depend on how much rain there has been recently in the area. Named after Robert Lee Hatcher, who established the first lode claim in Willow Creek Valley in 1906, the top of the pass is the site of the old Independence Mine, today an Historical State Park, but once the property of the Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company. At the peak of its production the mine employed over 200 men and produced nearly 35,000 ounces of gold, which at today's rates would equate to over $17 million dollars' worth a year.
We then continue south, passing through Anchorage and following the coastline of Turnagain Arm. Our destination is the town of Seward, a picturesque port ringed by a stunning landscape of mountains and glaciers, lying alongside the rich waters of Resurrection Bay. Founded at the turn of the 20th century by engineers building the railroad to the interior, it benefited from its status as an ice-free port, prospering during the early years of the Nome gold rush and going on to become the gateway port for cruises into the spectacular Kenai Fjords National Park. On arrival we will make our way to our hotel, where we will spend the next three nights amidst this majestic landscape.
The Breeze Inn (or similar)
Today has been left free for you to enjoy as you see fit, and there are a number of awe-inspiring optional excursions to choose from in Seward, including a variety of wildlife cruises, unforgettable sea kayaking experiences and dog-sledding trips by helicopter.
A cruise within the Kenai Fjords National Park is an unbeatable wildlife experience - this 580,000-acre wonderland of towering peaks, glaciers and coastline is home to a rich diversity of marine wildlife, including puffins, sea otters, stellar sea lions, orcas, humpbacks and dall porpoises. Here over 30 named glaciers plunge directly into the salt water along the coast. Different cruises are available offering half day and full day options. Sea kayaking is also possible here for those who wish to see the magnificent wildlife and glaciers close up, which is highly recommended for those seeking an active excursion filled with wildlife encounters. Alternatively, for those with some real adventure in mind, you could have the unforgettable experience of a glacier dog-sledding tour, which involves a scenic helicopter flight over Godwin Glacier, and 30 minutes of sledding in the stunning snowy landscape on the glacier.
In the peak months of July and August we recommend that these excursions are booked in advance. More information is in the optional excursions section of these trip notes.
Leaving Seward today, we return north through Moose Pass, so named because in 1903 a mail carrier driving a team of dogs had considerable trouble gaining right of way from a giant moose! We retrace our steps back through the Chugach Mountains and follow the railroad tracks through the Chugach Forest. We'll end in Anchorage, where we'll have a little free time to explore. We may also have time to visit the Anchorage Museum, which offers a fantastic overview of Alaskan history, wilderness and indigenous culture. We'll go out for dinner to celebrate our final Alaskan evening.
The trip ends today at our hotel in Anchorage.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Anchorage at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. Similar to your arrival, there is a free shuttle service back to Anchorage International Airport, approximately a 15 minute drive away, and we will give you instructions on how to take this shuttle in your final documents.
There are great variations in the altitude and terrain of the areas visited and this is reflected in the temperatures. Desert areas can be extremely hot in the summer months (49°), though temperatures can drop dramatically at night. The mountains are cooler and wetter especially in the north of the Rockies. At the beginning and end of the season there may still be some snow around in the high passes and it can be cold, whereas in mid-summer the day time temperatures can soar.
2 Pin Flat
There are a number of exciting optional excursions you can do on tour. These activities are booked and paid for direct with the supplier and do not form part of your Explore holiday contract. McCarthy - Glacier walk full day US$ 145, half day US$ 105; Small plane overflight US$ 250 - $395; Ice climbing US$ 165; Rafting (Grade 2) US$ 295 including bush flight back to McCarthy; Kennicott Mine US$ 29 Talkeenta - Small plane overflight US$ 220 - $475. Seward - Sea kayaking US$ 199-US$400; Glacier cruise US$ 98-US$ 224; Heli-Dog Sledding US$519; SeaLife Centre US$29.95. In Seward, the optional activities can be extremely busy in July and August, and we recommend that you book these at approximately one-two months in advance of your trip. Below you can find links to the companies that Explore work with in Seward, with all the details on each activity: Wildlife and Glacier Cruises - Major Marine Tours https://majormarine.com/all-cruises/ Sea Kayaking - Liquid Adventures https://www.liquid-adventures.com/content/ultimate-aialik Heli-Dog Sledding - Seward Helicopters https://www.sewardhelicopters.comeward-dog-sled-tours Sea Life Centre https://www.alaskasealife.org/tickets If there are other activities available that interest you, which Explore don't suggest, by all means book them! There are so many fantastic things to do in Seward that it would be impossible to mention them all. Explore's personal recommendations are to do a sea kayaking tour if you like to be active. If you'd rather cruise, then for half-day options we recommend early morning as a good time, or a full-day cruise if your budget stretches to it. All prices are per person and the price of the over-flight optionals depends on number of person on the trip and duration.
A quality waterproof jacket and trousers, a pair of gloves and a hat are essential. Include some long-sleeved shirts and warm clothing. Thermal underwear is advised for chilly nights all through the summer. Daytime temps can be hot as well, so you can bring swimwear and a sun hat if you like. Be aware that Alaska is notorious for biting insects, so you may wish to bring long trousers, long sleeved tops, and use non smelling soaps and shampoos.
Good quality waterproof walking boots, trainers and/or sandals for travelling.
Luggage is stored either in the van or a trailer on the back. Please make sure the bag is of a reasonable size and preferably soft nature rather than a hard shell.
You will also need a day pack for walking and personal items as your main luggage cannot be accessed during the day.
Bring a water bottle, (head) torch, some small dry bags to keep valuables dry, sunblock, insect repellent and binoculars. An umbrella, eye mask for sleeping and mosquito head net may also be useful.
We stay at two simple properties during the trip, both unique and perfectly in keeping with the scenery and heritage of the area. At the ghost town of Kennicott, Ma Johnson's hotel is a restored boarding house, dating to the late 1800s. Bathrooms are on a shared basis. At Tangle Lakes we use a series of cabins along the remote Denali Highway.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
When travelling to the USA, you will need the following: ESTA - Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA here - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov - you must have an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information. If you have visited Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since March 2011, or dual national of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA. In this case you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US embassy or consulate. Please note for your ESTA application you will be required to supply Point of Contact information. This will be provided in your final documentation, which you will receive 3-4 weeks before departure. Explore's USA contact information will be listed as the first nights' hotel in the US. If you are leaving for the USA before this, please call the Explore team to get this information. ETA - only if transiting via Canada Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ETA here - http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp - other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.