Why This Trip?
This itinerary offers you a glimpse of several different wilderness areas, all truly special and unique. You'll visit an old mining town and America's largest national park before heading to the coast and experiencing the magic of Alaska's glaciers and marine wildlife. It finishes up in the adventure-filled town of Girdwood before giving you some time to see Alaska's biggest city.
Arrive in Anchorage - Overnight in McCarthy / Kennicott
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Today you'll make the long (about 7 hours) but incredibly scenic drive from Anchorage to McCarthy / Kennicott. The final portion of your drive is on the gravel McCarthy Road. Not all rentals allow for travel on gravel roads so be sure you rent from a company that allows it, like Alaska 4X4 Rentals or Alaska Overlander. If there's time along the way, check out the Musk Ox Farm, where you can visit the Arctic's oldest living species, the musk ox; around 80 of them live here. Or drop by the Reindeer Farm, where you'll have the chance to pet a reindeer. At the end of the McCarthy Road is the footbridge into McCarthy. Cars aren't permitted in town, so park your vehicle and walk across.
Day in McCarthy / Kennicott and/or Wrangell St. Elias National Park
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With just a short time here, you'll only be able to explore a tiny section of this vast national park, but it's as fascinating as it is beautiful. Start with a tour of the Kennecott Mine, an abandoned copper mine established in 1903. Then try some activities. Have the unique experience of going for a guided hike on the Root Glacier; you can even try ice-climbing here. Enjoy some rafting, either on a placid glacial lake or speeding along a river, propelled by whitewater. You can also choose to go on a guided hiking or flightseeing tour in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
Scenic Drive from McCarthy / Kennicott to Valdez
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Today you'll make the almost 5-hour drive through gorgeous scenery on your way to the seaside town of Valdez, situated on the shores of Prince William Sound. As you get closer to your destination, check out Worthington Glacier, which you can take in from a viewing platform; or get a different perspective on it by doing a two-mile hike. And stop by the spectacular steep cascade of water known as Bridal Veil Falls; there's a great overlook about a mile down the trail.
Day & Overnight in Valdez
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Valdez sits along spectacular shimmering waters and is surrounded by mountains, with wildlife and glaciers galore. So get out there! Take a day cruise out to see those glaciers and look for sea otters, puffins, whales, and bald eagles. Or grab a paddle and take a kayaking tour to explore icebergs and even paddle into a glacial cave.
Drive from Valdez to the Matanuska Valley
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Depart Valdez and begin your drive to the Matanuska Valley. First stop in Glacier View (3.5 hrs). There's no actual downtown here, but it's a great place for adventures. You'll find the two fastest ziplines in Southcentral Alaska here, as well as great opportunities for rafting and hiking on the mighty Matanuska Glacier, one of Alaska's few roadside glaciers. Then drive an hour more to spend the night in the Palmer / Wasilla area.
Dive from the Matanuska Valley to Girdwood
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If you're an early riser, wake up and take a scenic drive into Hatcher Pass. Hike the trails and explore Independence Mine State Historical Park, where you'll see relics from the old mining days. hen make the 2-hour drive to Girdwood. Look for Dall sheep and beluga whales along the way. Once there, 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!
Day or Overnight in Girdwood
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Take another day to explore this gorgeous area. In addition to gold panning and the tram, you'll find all sorts of cool adventures, like rafting, flightseeing, and mountain biking. You could even take a day trip to Spencer Glacier, only accessible by The Alaska Railroad! Plus, there are tons of hiking trails just waiting to be explored.
Day in Anchorage
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Today, you'll make the 40-mile drive back to Anchorage for your final day in Alaska. Explore its great shops and pick up some hand-crafted souvenirs to take with you. There's also still time to 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.