12 Day Alaska Highlights of Southcentral & Interior

12 Days

Season

Mid-May through mid-September

Transportation

Car

Why This Trip?

With 12 days, you'll be able to get a real flavor for many of Alaska's iconic highlights. You'll begin among the glaciers and marine wildlife of Kenai Fjords National Park and visit the artsy town of Homer. Then you'll head to the authentic pioneer town of Talkeetna before spending a full 2 days surrounded by the majesty and wildlife of Denali National Park. Finish up in Fairbanks, where you'll have the opportunity to cross over into the rugged Arctic before finishing up in bustling Anchorage.

Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive in Anchorage - Overnight in Seward


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Today you'll make the 2.5-hour drive from Anchorage to Seward, with a scenic stop in Girdwood. Along the first portion of the drive, look for Dall sheep and beluga whales. Grab some lunch in Girdwood and visit the 1898-era Crow Creek Mine, where you can pan for your own gold; go for a hike; or ride the Alyeska Resort Aerial Tramway for a spectacular panoramic view. Then drive 90 miles to the quaint seaside town of Seward. Explore the shops and galleries or go for an outing in a kayak. Either way, make time for a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center—an aquarium and research facility where you can get an up-close view of Alaska's unique marine creatures, like Stellar sea lions and harbor seals, as well as birds like puffins. Also, don't miss the unique opportunity of walking right up to the face of a glacier! Exit Glacier is just a 10- to 15-minute drive from town; a 20-minute walk brings you right up to the mountain of blue ice, where you can listen to it crackle.

Day 2

Day & Overnight in Seward


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Jaw-droppingly beautiful, Kenai Fjords National Park plays host to some of the state's most spectacular fjords and glaciers. And several great tour operators offer half- or full-day cruises that take you out to witness their majesty and experience the thrill of a calving glacier. You'll also be on the lookout for wildlife like whales and sea otters. Interested in fishing? Book a charter and head out angling for halibut, salmon, lingcod, and rockfish.

Day 3

Drive from Seward to Homer


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It will take about 3.5 hours to drive from Seward to Homer; look for volcanoes along the way, and when you reach the west coast of the Kenai Peninsula, take time to soak in the beauty. Homer is Alaska's capital of halibut fishing fishing, but this charming town offers many delights beyond fishing, including art galleries and wildlife. Go for a walk along the Homer Spit, the narrow finger of land that stretches into the bay, and keep an eye out for otters and eagles.

Day 4

Day & Overnight in Homer


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You'll have all day today to explore this town and try some of its many activities. Fishing here is both a business and a passion, thanks partly to the monster-size halibut in the nearby waters. Take a half- or full-day fishing charter to angle for them, or cast your line for salmon instead. You can also hop a scenic flight to Katmai or Lake Clark national parks, where you can experience the magic of seeing bears in their natural habitat. Love to hike? Kachemak Bay State Park has some of the state's best hiking, just a 20-minute water taxi ride away. Or take a 45-minute fast ferry to the remote and fascinating town of Seldovia.

Day 5

Scenic Drive from Homer to Anchorage


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Today, you'll drive back to Anchorage, which will take almost 4.5 hours. If you have time, drop by the 200-acre Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where you'll get an up-close view of some of the state's unique creatures. Another option is to visit Portage Glacier, where you'll often see big blue icebergs along the shore of the lake by the parking area. Take the one-hour boat cruise to get close to the glacier, or spend time at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center to learn more about this special area.

Day 6

Day & Overnight in Talkeetna


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From Anchorage, travel to charming Talkeetna by car (2 hours), train (3 hours), or bus (2.5 hours). Then explore the one-block main street, ducking in and out of the quaint shops and restaurants, like the legendary Talkeetna Roadhouse, which has been around since the early 20th century. And take a tour. You're close to Denali, so go flightseeing and check out the mountain up close; you could also take a guided walk, a rafting trip, try ziplining, or go for a thrilling jetboat ride.

Day 7

Drive from Talkeetna to Denali National Park


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Depart from Talkeetna for iconic Denali National Park, either by car (2.5 hours), train (4.5 hours), or motorcoach (4 hours). Head to the park's visitor center to start getting acquainted with this vast expanse of nature. And try an activity! Go flightseeing and get a bird's-eye view of the vast Alaska Range as well as the summit of Denali. Enjoy some river rafting, go for a guided hike, or take a Jeep/ATV tour and drive yourself over the tundra.

Day 8

Day & Overnight in Denali National Park


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Today, you'll spend all day exploring the beauty of this park. Private vehicles are not allowed beyond mile 15, so you'll explore by bus. Opt for the National Park Service's hop-on, hop-off transit bus, or take a narrated tour. Spend 7-8 hours traveling 62 miles into the park on the Tundra Wilderness tour, or take 12 hours and go all 92 miles to the end, at Kantishna. Along the way, look for wildlife and of course, North America's tallest peak.

Day 9

Day & Overnight in Denali National Park


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You have another full day in Denali! Now that you've seen the length of the Park Road, spend this day taking a tour. You've got a lot of options. Go flightseeing and get a bird's-eye view of the vast Alaska Range as well as the summit of Denali. Enjoy some river rafting, go for a guided hike, or take a Jeep/ATV tour and drive yourself over the tundra. Tonight is a great chance to experience dinner theater: It's a great meal, a fun show, and a dose of Alaskan history all at once.

Day 10

Drive from Denali National Park to Fairbanks


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Travel from Denali to the largest city in interior Alaska by car (2 hours) or train (4 hours). If going by train, you'll get in in the evening. If you're driving, though, you have the flexibility to arrive earlier. Take the extra time and check out the University of Alaska Museum of the North, where you'll get a fascinating glimpse of the cultures and wildlife that call this part of Alaska home, as well as a deep dive into contemporary Native Alaska art. You can also drive over to see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and witness this feat of engineering.

Day 11

Day in Fairbanks or Anchorage


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Today you have a choice: Spend another day in Fairbanks and enjoy more activities, or make the one-hour flight back to Anchorage. If you fly back, go exploring in Alaska's largest city. Walk or bike the dramatic, 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. And go on a city tour via trolley or bike to get an overview, or join a brewery tour and sample some of the innovative suds being brewed here.

Day 12

Fairbanks / Anchorage


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Highlights

It's your final day in Alaska, so enjoy it! If you've stayed in Fairbanks, you'll fly back to Anchorage today. If you're already in Anchorage, spend some more time exploring. Get an in-depth picture of the city and state at the Anchorage Museum, or visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center for a dose of history and culture. Don't forget to pick up some souvenirs before you depart!