Why This Trip?
The dazzling aurora borealis—or northern lights—have mesmerized people for millennia. This itinerary offers several chances to see them as you travel to the authentic pioneer town of Talkeetna, world-famous Denali National Park, and gorgeous Fairbanks—while seeing the colors of autumn leaves along the way.
Arrive & Overnight in Anchorage
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Welcome to Anchorage! Take today to explore Alaska's largest city. 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. Then 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. Of course, you'll also want to experience the city's fantastic bars and restaurants.
Day & Overnight in Talkeetna
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Travel to charming Talkeetna by car (2 hours), train (3 hours), or bus (2.5 hours), checking out fall colors along the way. 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. And ask at your hotel if they do wake-up calls when the northern lights appear. If not, tune in to a forecast of the aurora to see if they're expected.
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. As in Talkeetna, ask your hotel for an aurora wake-up call.
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.
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. By now, you'll be used to asking your hotel for an aurora wake-up call.
Day & Overnight in Fairbanks
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It's your last full day in Fairbanks, and you'll want to take full advantage of being in a place where the aurora borealis so often appears. So sleep in today; that way you'll be ready to stay up later and have the best chance to see the lights. Take the afternoon and enjoy an activity. Then get your camera charged up so you're ready for an evening tour to look for those magical lights dancing across the sky.