Why This Trip?
This is a great itinerary if you’re short on time, want to get off the beaten path quickly (and cost-effectively), AND see many of Alaska’s highlights (like glaciers, wildlife, and mountains). You’ll fly in and out of Anchorage, take a quick jet plane ride to the small town of Cordova, and ride the state ferry across Prince William Sound. Then you’ll spend a little time in Whittier before hopping the train back to Anchorage. (You can also use this itinerary as a warmup, then continue your Alaska vacation on the road system!)
Fly from Anchorage to Cordova
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Pick up a rental car near the Cordova airport. Most flights arrive mid- to late-afternoon—the perfect time to check into your accommodations. Once you’re settled, head into downtown Cordova. Stop first at the Cordova Visitor Center to learn about things to see and do in the area. A great first-day activity is to pick up a copy of the Historical Walking Tour and follow the route. You’ll get a great overview of the town and work up an appetite for dinner. Local seafood is easy to find, but there’s also great pizza, Mexican, and more. After dinner, head to the waterfront to marvel at all the boats bobbing in the harbor.
Day and Overnight in Cordova
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Cordova’s a small town—why do we recommend you rent a car? Because Cordova has one of the most scenic roads in all of Alaska, yet there are few people on it! So today you’ll drive that road, the Copper River Highway. And how the adventure unfolds is up to you. Here are some ideas:
- Wildlife: Mile 17, Alaganik Slough. There’s great wildlife viewing, especially in early May/June during the shorebird migration.
- Hiking: Mile 21.4. Combine the McKinley Trail and Pipeline Lakes Trail for a roughly 5-mile round-trip hike.
- Glaciers: Mile 13.7. Walk 1.5 miles on the Sheridan Glacier Lake Trail for views of icebergs bobbing in the lake, with the gorgeous glacier in the background.
- Check out more ideas for great things to see along the Copper River Highway.
Day & Overnight in Cordova
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You have another full day to explore Cordova! Some ideas:
Ferry from Cordova to Whittier
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Wake up early for the morning ferry to Whittier, arriving in Whittier early afternoon. It’s roughly a 7-hour trip; you’ll cross from the eastern side of Prince William Sound to the western port town of Whittier onboard the MV Aurora. It’s not a cruise, but it can feel like one. Maximize your chances of seeing wildlife by spending as much time as possible out on the deck. This vessel has a cafeteria, observation lounge, heated solarium, and showers (if you feel the need to freshen up)!
Arrive in Whittier, drop your bags wherever you’re staying, and start exploring. The ferry is within walking distance of everything in town. If you want to stretch your legs after your ferry ride, check out the local monuments or do the self-guided walking tour of historic buildings from WWII and the Cold War. It takes about 30 minutes to see them all.
Day in Whittier | Depart from Anchorage
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You can also choose to spend some time with your feet on the ground. For a small town, Whittier has several great hiking trails. The most popular, Portage Pass, is 4-miles round-trip, but you can cut that in half if you just hike to the top and back. And there you’ll discover amazing views of Passage Canal and Whittier on one side, and Portage Glacier on the other. Here’s a full list of trails in Whittier.
Prepare for the evening train to Anchorage that departs at 6:45 p.m. and arrives in Anchorage around 9:15 p.m.
Head to the airport to fly home (if you’re taking a red eye) or overnight in Anchorage and depart the next day. Be sure to give yourself enough time (4–5 hours) between your arrival in Anchorage by train and your departing flight.