Tell me about Alaska

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an_asker
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Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:39 am

I am baaaack ... with my "Tell me about" series after the success with the Paris and Berlin versions :-)

So, here we are, planning a trip to Alaska - our first and definitely not our last one to that yuuuge state! I have just under two weeks of vacation to use for the trip (and those are the critical path in planning the trip). So, let's say we leave on Tuesday/Wednesday and return the next Sunday. We've already shot down the idea of an Alaska cruise for this trip, especially because my mother would be with us (and since she's never been on a cruise before, don't know if she might get seasick). I've been reading other threads on the topic here, here and here.

I don't want to see Russia, but would really love to see Denali at least. With that being the case, let me first list what I would want us to do:

- maximum hike will likely be a couple of miles as we will have to split up (no way I am asking my soon-to-be-octogenarian mother to hike anywhere in Alaska!)

- at least have a glimpse or two of Denali

- take a coastal train ride or one in the wilderness (yes, I read White Coat Investor's description of the Denali to Anchorage train; maybe not THAT train!), maybe an hour or two each direction. Don't even know if this is going to be possible. There appear to be multiple websites listing trains that ply in Alaska, such as this one and this one - to keep costs low, we ought to be purchasing our tickets from the train operator instead of any middlemen, right? If so, which is the train operator's site (if it is not the one I shared in the previous sentence)?

- have a glimpse (definitely not more than that) of wildlife

- an excursion or two from Anchorage to nearby locations, one or more of which would be to see a glacier (never seen one up close like the photos my Alaska-returned FB friends have shared)

Questions:

- most of my friends who've visited appear to have rented RVs. Why RV and not a car? Are there any stretches of road that are so bad that cars would have a much tougher time than RVs?

- if we have the choice to decide, early July or later July? We are pretty much hemmed in to July as a result of various schedules.

- Is it possible to keep the plans pretty fluid and depend on getting last minute accommodations in Anchorage/Fairbanks/anywhere else, or is it much better to reserve the places rightaway? The reason I am asking is that if there is a chance that the weather is forecast to turn during our vacation, we might have an opportunity to reverse directions (say do A-D-C-B-A instead of A-B-C-D-A) to maximize sightseeing. Would it be difficult to get accommodations at the last minute in the places I have listed? I've the same question about taking the train(s) - is it possible to get last-minute tickets? Is the fare fixed or changeable like in Europe where they are much less expensive if purchased a few months before travel?

- I remember seeing in one of the threads (or maybe on another website) about an interior Denali excursion in a tour bus - and anyway, you cannot drive there in your car (similar to Zion National Park), Could someone share details and/or a website? When looking at google maps, I was unable to find any roads that spur off the main Anchorage-Fairbanks highway, so obviously I am missing something.

- I read about an Alaska guidebook/coupon book somewhere as well. Is it worthwhile to purchase it? If so, I am assuming the earlier I do so, the better. Right?

Appreciate your answers - I am sure I'll have more questions as we go along. I'm only just getting started. :-)

alaskantraveler
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby alaskantraveler » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:33 pm

- most of my friends who've visited appear to have rented RVs. Why RV and not a car? Are there any stretches of road that are so bad that cars would have a much tougher time than RVs?

Rental Cars and hotels are very expensive during the summer tourist season and July is the peak. Rental cars can cost over $100/day and low end hotels up to $250/night. RVs can be rented from $250-$300/day. That way you avoid having to plan hotels for your whole trip. You also have the ability to prepare some of your own food with the RV. abc motorhomes, and great Alaska holidays are the two most popular RV rental places in Anchorage. Try RVshare.com to look for a private person willing to rent out their RV for cheaper.

- if we have the choice to decide, early July or later July? We are pretty much hemmed in to July as a result of various schedules.
Anytime is July is a good month to visit Alaska. It will be in the height of the tourist season.

- Is it possible to keep the plans pretty fluid and depend on getting last minute accommodations in Anchorage/Fairbanks/anywhere else, or is it much better to reserve the places rightaway? The reason I am asking is that if there is a chance that the weather is forecast to turn during our vacation, we might have an opportunity to reverse directions (say do A-D-C-B-A instead of A-B-C-D-A) to maximize sightseeing. Would it be difficult to get accommodations at the last minute in the places I have listed? I've the same question about taking the train(s) - is it possible to get last-minute tickets? Is the fare fixed or changeable like in Europe where they are much less expensive if purchased a few months before travel?

You can keep things fluid, but expect to pay much higher prices for last minute bookings on hotels. You may have more limited options. In your case of needing multiple hotel rooms every night, it would be better to have it booked in advance. As for the train, the most affordable train option would be to do the tour from Anchorage to Whittier (2hrs) Then combined with a Glacier Day Cruise out of Whittier. I'm not a big fan of most of the train rides around here. The scenery really isn't any different than driving, the trains are expensive, and traveling to the same destination takes a lot longer in the train.


- I remember seeing in one of the threads (or maybe on another website) about an interior Denali excursion in a tour bus - and anyway, you cannot drive there in your car (similar to Zion National Park), Could someone share details and/or a website? When looking at google maps, I was unable to find any roads that spur off the main Anchorage-Fairbanks highway, so obviously I am missing something.

If you have a rental car or RV you can drive to Denali National Park. About a 5.5 hr drive from Anchorage. You can drive only a little way into the Park with your private vehicle. You take the bus tour into the park where the road extends 90 miles. Whether or not you get a clear view of Denali Mtn is up to chance. I've read only 1 in 5 who visit get a clear view. https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/bus-tours.htm



- I read about an Alaska guidebook/coupon book somewhere as well. Is it worthwhile to purchase it? If so, I am assuming the earlier I do so, the better. Right?

I don't think the price changes during the year, so it doesn't matter when you buy the book. The book could offer value if you decided to use some of the coupons. There is also the northern lights coupon book which provides decent coupons. You can buy it on arrival at Barnes and Noble.

Some ideas:

Hiking
Flat Top mountain via Glen Alps Parking Lot - near Anchorage
Turnagain Arm trail - Near Anchorage
Exit Glacier - near Seward
Lost Lake - near Seward
Winter Creek Trail - in Girdwood near Anchorage
Mt Alyeska - Hike the mountain take the tram down - in Girdwood
Hatchers Pass - Palmer Wasilla - 1.5 hrs from Anchorage
Resurrection Pass - Near Seward
Johnson Pass - near seward

From what I've heard an RV may be ideal for you. you can fairly comfortably sleep 6 adults in an RV. You have flexibility. It will be cheaper than a rental car and 2 hotel rooms every night. You can also cook some of your own food.

Places to visit.

Seward
Girdwood
Kenai
Homer
Talkeetna
Denali National Park

Activities:
Whale Watching out of Seward or Whitier
Zip Lining - Talkeetna
Breweries - Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna, Healy, Eagle River, Palmer
Hiking on a Glacier - Matanuska Glacier (2.5 hrs from Anchorage) or Exit Glacier in Seward

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akblizzard
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby akblizzard » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:38 pm

an_asker wrote:Questions:

- most of my friends who've visited appear to have rented RVs. Why RV and not a car? Are there any stretches of road that are so bad that cars would have a much tougher time than RVs?

- if we have the choice to decide, early July or later July? We are pretty much hemmed in to July as a result of various schedules.

- Is it possible to keep the plans pretty fluid and depend on getting last minute accommodations in Anchorage/Fairbanks/anywhere else, or is it much better to reserve the places rightaway? The reason I am asking is that if there is a chance that the weather is forecast to turn during our vacation, we might have an opportunity to reverse directions (say do A-D-C-B-A instead of A-B-C-D-A) to maximize sightseeing. Would it be difficult to get accommodations at the last minute in the places I have listed? I've the same question about taking the train(s) - is it possible to get last-minute tickets? Is the fare fixed or changeable like in Europe where they are much less expensive if purchased a few months before travel?

- I remember seeing in one of the threads (or maybe on another website) about an interior Denali excursion in a tour bus - and anyway, you cannot drive there in your car (similar to Zion National Park), Could someone share details and/or a website? When looking at google maps, I was unable to find any roads that spur off the main Anchorage-Fairbanks highway, so obviously I am missing something.

- I read about an Alaska guidebook/coupon book somewhere as well. Is it worthwhile to purchase it? If so, I am assuming the earlier I do so, the better. Right?

Appreciate your answers - I am sure I'll have more questions as we go along. I'm only just getting started. :-)


Alaska railroad is the website you need. Reservations would be good. You need to understand there is really one train route, Seward to Fairbanks. Right by Denali.

RV or car comes down to how you like to travel and overnight. Roads are fine for both. Campgrounds can get full and you might need to worry about reserving (especially around Denali) but kinda the same with hotel/motels too but probably not as bad.

Planning for July is fine. Nope, you have to bus in Denail (good place for long hikes and short hikes for mom). Similar to Zion. The only highway is the ANC to Fairbanks highway. It's Alaska dude, the last frontier.

Buy a the guide book "The Milepost". Do that now before you plan further. Use the Amazon link here and Amazon throws some money at supporting the Bogleheads site.

With the time you have, you can easily drive from ANC to Fairbanks you can see Denali park, then from Fairbanks take a more remote route back to ANC, then maybe down to Seward for some coastal scenery, a glacier hike and maybe a tour boat.

an_asker
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:49 pm

Thanks for the responses. First couple of ToDos then - buy The Milepost and the Coupon Book.

Having never driven anything bigger than a minivan before, I am a bit apprehensive about the RV. Is it easy to drive? I'm assuming that most road widths (even in Alaska) should not be a problem with the RV.

Thanks for the link to the bus tour of Denali. From what I hear, it is possible for us to do either a round-trip to Denali from Anchorage or a through trip to Fairbanks (with the stop for the bus tour in Denali) on the same day.

Are there any restrictions on where an RV can or cannot be parked? For instance, can we be parked at a parking lot overnight? As you can see, I have absolutely no idea about RVs - how about waste disposal, showers, water, etc?

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Devil's Advocate
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Devil's Advocate » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:54 pm

I've rented an RV many times on our annual Alaska adventure. The 30 footers can be a bit difficult to manouver into gas stations and parking lots. I started with a 24 footer and that is much more manageable. However with 6 people you will need a larger RV. It takes a little practice but I think it's doable.
It is a blast. Wouldn't vacation there any other way!

DA

Naismith
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Naismith » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:58 pm

One caution is that the one-way drop-off fees for car rentals were a surprise. (In my state, we can rent and drop anywhere without a drop fee.) We flew into Fairbanks, and would have loved to be able to drive down to Anchorage except for that fee. So we flew into Fairbanks, rented and returned a car there to enjoy a day, and the next morning took the train to Denali, spent two days, then train to Anchorage. But maybe with a larger group the cost-benefit would be different.

We loved the train--it was the standard train, not the cars run by a cruise ship. Very relaxing.

Had a very good experience on the bus in Denali. It was the cheap bus (school bus not tour seats), but the drivers were both great and stopped for bears and other wildlife. My favorite was the bears washing in a stream (got great video). We did see the mountain top for a short time peeking out, but 70% do not--consider a flightseeing tour.

But you will have a great time no matter what. I love Alaska, and have thought about getting a seasonal job in the hospitality industry when I retire, for one summer.

ponyboy
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby ponyboy » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:58 pm

Alaska is cold in the winter...long days/sun in the summer. Lots of mosquitoes in the spring.

an_asker
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:59 pm

Devil's Advocate wrote:I've rented an RV many times on our annual Alaska adventure. The 30 footers can be a bit difficult to manouver into gas stations and parking lots. I started with a 24 footer and that is much more manageable. However with 6 people you will need a larger RV. It takes a little practice but I think it's doable.
It is a blast. Wouldn't vacation there any other way!

DA

Still scary ;-)

How much gas can one of those RVs hold? And how long does a tank last? I am assuming that finding gas should not be a big deal. Time for RV101!!

an_asker
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:01 pm

ponyboy wrote:Alaska is cold in the winter...long days/sun in the summer. Lots of mosquitoes in the spring.

For a group from India/Florida, even mid July would be COLD, believe me!! I hate mosquitoes. Hopefully, they attain nirvana by July!

an_asker
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:04 pm

Naismith wrote:One caution is that the one-way drop-off fees for car rentals were a surprise. (In my state, we can rent and drop anywhere without a drop fee.) We flew into Fairbanks, and would have loved to be able to drive down to Anchorage except for that fee. So we flew into Fairbanks, rented and returned a car there to enjoy a day, and the next morning took the train to Denali, spent two days, then train to Anchorage. But maybe with a larger group the cost-benefit would be different.

We loved the train--it was the standard train, not the cars run by a cruise ship. Very relaxing.

Had a very good experience on the bus in Denali. It was the cheap bus (school bus not tour seats), but the drivers were both great and stopped for bears and other wildlife. My favorite was the bears washing in a stream (got great video). We did see the mountain top for a short time peeking out, but 70% do not--consider a flightseeing tour.

But you will have a great time no matter what. I love Alaska, and have thought about getting a seasonal job in the hospitality industry when I retire, for one summer.

Didn;t realize there are whole states with no one-way drop-off fees. As far I know, those fees are a fact of life!

I agree about the shifted cost benefit depending on group size. But still, a small train excursion would sure be fun. Didn't realize that there are trains run by cruise ship companies as well.

Would you mind sharing a link to your bear videos via PM? Would be fun to see.

I like that last sentence :-)

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ruralavalon
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby ruralavalon » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:11 pm

Alaska Railroad has passenger trains, which run from Seward to Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks. http://www.alaskarailroad.com

We took the train from Anchorage to Denali and enjoyed the trip a lot. There are bus tours that take you into Denali National Park.

I also suggest some time in Seward, and a glacier tour by boat.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started

alaskantraveler
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby alaskantraveler » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:20 pm

There are gas stations all over the place. RVs have a bigger gas tank so can go about the same distance as cars before a fill up. As for driving one. The class C which is what most of the rental are have the same front end as a chevy or ford van. Just longer and wider. They are pretty easy to drive. Parking in assigned camp spots would be best, but in certain places you can just park in a lot or in a pull out and camp for the night. In Anchorage you can stay overnight in the Walmart parking lot.

If you get an RV or rental car, no need to take a tour from Anchorage. Drive yourself to Denali National Park, then get the Park Tour. Paying for the tour from Anchorage would be much more expensive.

You haven't told us how many people you are traveling with.

A few ideas of a rough itinerary.

Day 1 Anchorage - hike flat top, visit museum, brewery, Kincaid Park (lots of moose), Coastal Trail, go biking,
Day 2 Girdwood - Hike Alyeska mtn, take the tram, hike winter creek trail, hike turnagain arm trail, go biking
Day 3 Seward - Visit the wildlife conservation center, exit glacier hike, hike Tonsina Point, Sea Life Center
Day 4 Seward - Kenai Fjord Tours or Major Marine Tours and do the glacier cruise or go sport fishing (halibut or salmon)
Day 5 Seward - Lots of activities
Day 6 Kenai - Sport Fishing is the biggest attraction here.
Day 7 Homer - fun artsy town with great fishing and tourist attractions
Day 8 Back to Anchorage its a 4 hr drive from Homer to Anchorage
Day 9 Anchorgage to Talkeetna 2.5 hrs Flight seeing tour of Denali, zip lining, hiking, other tours
Day 10 Denali National Park - Go for a self guided hike
Day 11 Denali National Park - take the bus tour into the park all the way to Mirror Lake
Day 12 Denali National Park or Drive to Fairbanks
Day 13 Drive Back to Anchorage

Da5id
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Da5id » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:22 pm

Katmai National Park is hard to get to. Very hard to reserve cabins to stay as well during the salmon run (too late for this year, and probably too late for next year, they fill up on Jan 1-2 for the year before). I think it is easier to camp there, and you can also do day trips I think. If you go during the salmon run, you will see grizzlies. We saw as many as 18 grizzlies at the falls there at a single time, including 6 cubs. You can only get there by float plane. One of a kind place. People like to fish there too, but we just went to see bears.

I'd also suggest a day cruise to see glaciers. We did day cruises from Seward (Kenai Fjords Nat'l Park) and Whittier (Prince William Sound). Both were lots of fun, and we had awesome clear weather for both (not by any means guaranteed). Saw lots of wildlife (eagles, whales, otters, etc), and calving tidewater glaciers.

Denali is very nice, but we enjoyed both of the above more than Denali. Tours inside Denali are all on park shuttle, cars can't go far on the road. You can get off and hike at a number of stops.

an_asker
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:37 pm

alaskantraveler wrote:There are gas stations all over the place. RVs have a bigger gas tank so can go about the same distance as cars before a fill up. As for driving one. The class C which is what most of the rental are have the same front end as a chevy or ford van. Just longer and wider. They are pretty easy to drive. Parking in assigned camp spots would be best, but in certain places you can just park in a lot or in a pull out and camp for the night. In Anchorage you can stay overnight in the Walmart parking lot.

If you get an RV or rental car, no need to take a tour from Anchorage. Drive yourself to Denali National Park, then get the Park Tour. Paying for the tour from Anchorage would be much more expensive.

You haven't told us how many people you are traveling with.

A few ideas of a rough itinerary.

Day 1 Anchorage - hike flat top, visit museum, brewery, Kincaid Park (lots of moose), Coastal Trail, go biking,
Day 2 Girdwood - Hike Alyeska mtn, take the tram, hike winter creek trail, hike turnagain arm trail, go biking
Day 3 Seward - Visit the wildlife conservation center, exit glacier hike, hike Tonsina Point, Sea Life Center
Day 4 Seward - Kenai Fjord Tours or Major Marine Tours and do the glacier cruise or go sport fishing (halibut or salmon)
Day 5 Seward - Lots of activities
Day 6 Kenai - Sport Fishing is the biggest attraction here.
Day 7 Homer - fun artsy town with great fishing and tourist attractions
Day 8 Back to Anchorage its a 4 hr drive from Homer to Anchorage
Day 9 Anchorgage to Talkeetna 2.5 hrs Flight seeing tour of Denali, zip lining, hiking, other tours
Day 10 Denali National Park - Go for a self guided hike
Day 11 Denali National Park - take the bus tour into the park all the way to Mirror Lake
Day 12 Denali National Park or Drive to Fairbanks
Day 13 Drive Back to Anchorage

The short(?) cruise trip from Seward on to the Kenai Fjord area sure sounds good. Correct me if I am wrong, but an overcast/rainy day should not take away too much of the fun out of it, right? In the sense that you would still get to see whatever (glacier/fjords?) you are there to see, but it will be colder and/or wetter.

At this time, I am thinking we would be five total - two teens (more or less), one almost octogenarian and DW and me - but we haven't sounded out friends to see if they would be interested in coming as well. We might, or we might not! Either way, from what you said, we will likely fill out an RV on our own!

Not too much into fishing or brewery (we are vegetarians and don't drink either!). So would it be worth spending time in Homer at all? The place with the salmon run appears to be interesting, but from what someone else wrote, it might be too late even to attempt to go there? Is it too late for accommodation or too late because the parks have limits on how many tourists can enter per day?

alaskantraveler
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby alaskantraveler » Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:51 pm

an_asker wrote:
alaskantraveler wrote:There are gas stations all over the place. RVs have a bigger gas tank so can go about the same distance as cars before a fill up. As for driving one. The class C which is what most of the rental are have the same front end as a chevy or ford van. Just longer and wider. They are pretty easy to drive. Parking in assigned camp spots would be best, but in certain places you can just park in a lot or in a pull out and camp for the night. In Anchorage you can stay overnight in the Walmart parking lot.

If you get an RV or rental car, no need to take a tour from Anchorage. Drive yourself to Denali National Park, then get the Park Tour. Paying for the tour from Anchorage would be much more expensive.

You haven't told us how many people you are traveling with.

A few ideas of a rough itinerary.

Day 1 Anchorage - hike flat top, visit museum, brewery, Kincaid Park (lots of moose), Coastal Trail, go biking,
Day 2 Girdwood - Hike Alyeska mtn, take the tram, hike winter creek trail, hike turnagain arm trail, go biking
Day 3 Seward - Visit the wildlife conservation center, exit glacier hike, hike Tonsina Point, Sea Life Center
Day 4 Seward - Kenai Fjord Tours or Major Marine Tours and do the glacier cruise or go sport fishing (halibut or salmon)
Day 5 Seward - Lots of activities
Day 6 Kenai - Sport Fishing is the biggest attraction here.
Day 7 Homer - fun artsy town with great fishing and tourist attractions
Day 8 Back to Anchorage its a 4 hr drive from Homer to Anchorage
Day 9 Anchorgage to Talkeetna 2.5 hrs Flight seeing tour of Denali, zip lining, hiking, other tours
Day 10 Denali National Park - Go for a self guided hike
Day 11 Denali National Park - take the bus tour into the park all the way to Mirror Lake
Day 12 Denali National Park or Drive to Fairbanks
Day 13 Drive Back to Anchorage

The short(?) cruise trip from Seward on to the Kenai Fjord area sure sounds good. Correct me if I am wrong, but an overcast/rainy day should not take away too much of the fun out of it, right? In the sense that you would still get to see whatever (glacier/fjords?) you are there to see, but it will be colder and/or wetter.

At this time, I am thinking we would be five total - two teens (more or less), one almost octogenarian and DW and me - but we haven't sounded out friends to see if they would be interested in coming as well. We might, or we might not! Either way, from what you said, we will likely fill out an RV on our own!

Not too much into fishing or brewery (we are vegetarians and don't drink either!). So would it be worth spending time in Homer at all? The place with the salmon run appears to be interesting, but from what someone else wrote, it might be too late even to attempt to go there? Is it too late for accommodation or too late because the parks have limits on how many tourists can enter per day?


Don't expect beautiful clear weather while visiting and you wont be disappointed. It rains a lot in Seward/ Whittier. You will still have a great time and see lots of wildlife, whales, puffins, seals, etc...

As for Katmai, I have never been there because I get the opportunity to see bears on a regular basis. It is an expensive trip. Here is a link to a day tour. http://alaskatours.com/day-tours/katmai ... -day-tour/ $852/person for a one day trip. You will have the opportunity to see bears in Denali or other parts of your trip. This is a really expensive day trip.

Flight seeing tours of Denali are less expensive and really awesome. http://www.flyk2.com/denali-flightseeing/index.html prices start $220/person. I think there are coupons in the Norther Lights coupon book or the Alaska Savers coupon book.

Homer is still a fun place without the fishing. Beautiful scenery. Can do Kayaking. Camping, take a shuttle boat over to Seldovia.

Da5id
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Da5id » Fri Feb 17, 2017 3:11 pm

alaskantraveler wrote:As for Katmai, I have never been there because I get the opportunity to see bears on a regular basis. It is an expensive trip. Here is a link to a day tour. http://alaskatours.com/day-tours/katmai ... -day-tour/ $852/person for a one day trip. You will have the opportunity to see bears in Denali or other parts of your trip. This is a really expensive day trip.


I've been to Katmai and Denali, twice each as it turns out. I've seen bears in both. Not at all the same though. In season this bearcam shows the live feed at Katmai from the viewing platform by the falls: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/bro ... ooks-falls. You are close, and see lots of fishing bears. We stayed there 2 nights, was a once in a lifetime thing for us (which we liked so much took our kids back 16 years after we went alone, so I guess it was technically a twice in a lifetime experience). In Denali we saw bears mostly in the distance, though on one trip they ran kind of close to the tour bus. But whether it is worth it, of course, is up to your budget and priorities. We really like bears :)

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akblizzard
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby akblizzard » Fri Feb 17, 2017 3:22 pm

an_asker wrote:[
The short(?) cruise trip from Seward on to the Kenai Fjord area sure sounds good. Correct me if I am wrong, but an overcast/rainy day should not take away too much of the fun out of it, right? In the sense that you would still get to see whatever (glacier/fjords?) you are there to see, but it will be colder and/or wetter.

Not too much into fishing or brewery (we are vegetarians and don't drink either!).


The weather is gonna be whatever it's gonna be...you just need to forge ahead with whatever you want to do. You can't really plan your activities around the weather here like you can in some other places. I was thinking you would take alaskantraveler and I out to lunch while you're here...not much point in that now I guess. :D

an_asker
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 17, 2017 3:27 pm

akblizzard wrote:
an_asker wrote:[
The short(?) cruise trip from Seward on to the Kenai Fjord area sure sounds good. Correct me if I am wrong, but an overcast/rainy day should not take away too much of the fun out of it, right? In the sense that you would still get to see whatever (glacier/fjords?) you are there to see, but it will be colder and/or wetter.

Not too much into fishing or brewery (we are vegetarians and don't drink either!).


The weather is gonna be whatever it's gonna be...you just need to forge ahead with whatever you want to do. You can't really plan your activities around the weather here like you can in some other places. I was thinking you would take alaskantraveler and I out to lunch while you're here...not much point in that now I guess. :D

If possible, it would be nice to meet up for sure :-) Heck, maybe one of you can teach me how to properly maneuver an RV!!

I was specifically referring to the Fjord areas, in the sense that yes, if Denali is covered by clouds, there is not much one would be able to sightseeing wise, as all the sights would be covered in clouds except the long road ahead! :oops: But if the same clouds were to be (up in the sky), shouldn't stop one from being able to gaze at the majesty of the fjords and glaciers and the wildlife (I mean, the visibility does not suddenly go to zero TOO often, does it?).

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby 2retire » Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:12 pm

Just to be clear about the bus tours in Denali, they are school buses not tour buses. You will be traveling on a dirt road on school bus seats (for hours at a time).

I don't actually recall there being marked hiking trails inside the park (where you have to take the buses). There are a few marked trails near the entrance of the park.

Hiking inside the park is true back country hiking, blazing your own trail. It can be difficult at times, walking through chest high willow, crossing glacier melt rivers, and up and down over peat mounds. You aren't supposed to walk single file, everyone is supposed to fan out as to not create a trail.

As far as seeing Denali, you best bet is to travel there via helicopter or plane. It is often covered in clouds. Unless you are staying multiple days, you may not see it (we saw it one day out of five, and that was only for part of the day).
Last edited by 2retire on Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby alaskantraveler » Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:30 pm

an_asker wrote:
akblizzard wrote:
an_asker wrote:[


I was specifically referring to the Fjord areas, in the sense that yes, if Denali is covered by clouds, there is not much one would be able to sightseeing wise, as all the sights would be covered in clouds except the long road ahead! :oops: But if the same clouds were to be (up in the sky), shouldn't stop one from being able to gaze at the majesty of the fjords and glaciers and the wildlife (I mean, the visibility does not suddenly go to zero TOO often, does it?).


Its not exactly like that. The mountains around Seward/Whittier come right out of the water and few of them are over 5000 ft tall. You may just have some clouds, it might rain a little. Doesn't mean that there wont be any visibility, infact that is pretty unlikely.

If you are wondering whether or not to use an RV. Compare the cost. 2 hotel rooms per night at $200 each for $400 per night plus a rental car at $80/day. Come to $480 per day. Get an RV and spend $250-$300 a day plus more on gas.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby trinc » Fri Feb 17, 2017 5:19 pm

I've been to Alaska many times... starting as a young airman working on radar systems for the USAF.

I really enjoyed the train to Denali & the school bus ride. :D
Our last trip, after some fishing on the Kenai, include a stay at Kennicott Lodge. What a treat !
i'll try & post a couple pics when i get home.

I would recommend having a reservation for any major activity.

Tim

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:39 pm

The airfare to Alaska has slightly dampened my enthusiasm. Wondering if these are it, or whether the fares will drop for summer. I thought we could take advantage of frequent flyer miles; however, looks like that's out of the question based on the checks I did.

I am puzzled why gas prices are higher in Alaska than in Central Florida. Is it because there are no refineries over there and gas needs to be shipped down to TX then back up to AK?

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby alaskantraveler » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:11 pm

an_asker wrote:The airfare to Alaska has slightly dampened my enthusiasm. Wondering if these are it, or whether the fares will drop for summer. I thought we could take advantage of frequent flyer miles; however, looks like that's out of the question based on the checks I did.

I am puzzled why gas prices are higher in Alaska than in Central Florida. Is it because there are no refineries over there and gas needs to be shipped down to TX then back up to AK?


What miles are you trying to use? You can use many different miles to get up here. Unlikely you will be able to get 5 saver award tickets on the same flights. As for the Gas prices, yes, no refineries here so all of the oil we produce is shipped to a refinery in the lower 48 then shipped back.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:28 pm

alaskantraveler wrote:
an_asker wrote:The airfare to Alaska has slightly dampened my enthusiasm. Wondering if these are it, or whether the fares will drop for summer. I thought we could take advantage of frequent flyer miles; however, looks like that's out of the question based on the checks I did.

I am puzzled why gas prices are higher in Alaska than in Central Florida. Is it because there are no refineries over there and gas needs to be shipped down to TX then back up to AK?


What miles are you trying to use? You can use many different miles to get up here. Unlikely you will be able to get 5 saver award tickets on the same flights. As for the Gas prices, yes, no refineries here so all of the oil we produce is shipped to a refinery in the lower 48 then shipped back.

United is supposed to be about 17.5k one way between Alaska and the lower 48. I'm being quoted 35k one way online as well as when I called in. Don't have enough for five, but I was hoping to get at least two off the miles. And the tickets I am seeing for July are in the $600+ range. Is that about the best they are in summer months?

I know I should've gotten the Alaska Airlines credit card late last year. Cannot think of why I didn't :oops:

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby blennkins90 » Wed Feb 22, 2017 4:42 pm

Alaska is BEAUTIFUL.

I did a Kenai Peninsula Tour for about a week and absolutely loved it. Also had some friends go to Denali for a few day hikes...they said it was great.

RV's are also nice, because the nearest towns can be hundreds of miles away sometimes. You could stop in random places and sleep there rather than having to push through to the next destination.

Can't wait to go back! Enjoy.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby White Coat Investor » Wed Feb 22, 2017 6:03 pm

If you want a guarantee of seeing Denali, go in the Winter.

I wouldn't discount a cruise due to seasickness issues. It seems pretty unlikely to me to get seasick in a cruise ship in the inside passage. That would have to be one heck of a storm.
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Peter Foley » Wed Feb 22, 2017 6:30 pm

alaskantraveler wrote:

Day 1 Anchorage - hike flat top, visit museum, brewery, Kincaid Park (lots of moose), Coastal Trail, go biking,
Day 2 Girdwood - Hike Alyeska mtn, take the tram, hike winter creek trail, hike turnagain arm trail, go biking
Day 3 Seward - Visit the wildlife conservation center, exit glacier hike, hike Tonsina Point, Sea Life Center
Day 4 Seward - Kenai Fjord Tours or Major Marine Tours and do the glacier cruise or go sport fishing (halibut or salmon)
Day 5 Seward - Lots of activities
Day 6 Kenai - Sport Fishing is the biggest attraction here.
Day 7 Homer - fun artsy town with great fishing and tourist attractions
Day 8 Back to Anchorage its a 4 hr drive from Homer to Anchorage
Day 9 Anchorgage to Talkeetna 2.5 hrs Flight seeing tour of Denali, zip lining, hiking, other tours
Day 10 Denali National Park - Go for a self guided hike
Day 11 Denali National Park - take the bus tour into the park all the way to Mirror Lake
Day 12 Denali National Park or Drive to Fairbanks
Day 13 Drive Back to Anchorage


I've been to Juno a couple times and to the Kenai Penninsula a few times for salmon fishing. I like the above itinerary. Personally, I'd skip Homer as it is similar to Seward. In mid July you will be at the height of the Sockeye (Red) Salmon fishing, and on the early end of the Coho (Silver) salmon fishing. Lots of competition for rooms and it may be difficult to get a room for only a night or two. Spend a day in Anchorage.

I would avoid a cruise. Many stops are small towns and you will have multiple cruise ships disgorging thousands of people for a few hours on shore. Crowded, and not a good experience if your intention is to get a "feel" for any of the cities you might visit.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Nearing_Destination » Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:28 am

OP

I'd be very unlikely to get any discount airfares this late-

I had to book 11 months in advance, with lots of work, to get frequent flier miles trip for two some years ago- it can't be any easier today with the airlines further restricting the seat availability.

Note also that if going to Whittier from ANK you have to go through the mountain and need to insure that your RV is passable (should be, but check) There are only two places there to stay -- the high rise condo and the old officers quarters (where we stayed) -- and no overnight parking nor RV parks. The tours to the Surprise Glacier are nice , but remember that Whittier is one of the drop offs for the cruise ships and can get crowded trying to get back through the mountain to the other side (long lines and trains have priority).

Homer is OK, not necessarily don't miss, we stayed beyond there, having a plane ride over to the other side for sea kayaking and hiking; large groups might have difficulty making it at the same time.

We also had a plane trip over Denali, landing on the glacier-- just the two of us and the pilot. Plan on different days as possible trips because weather conditions limit them. They can be booked out of Talkeetna or Healy but usually must be booked well in advance in high season.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:08 am

Still working on the plane tickets. If we are willing to pay, there appears to be a lot of availability for the time we are looking at (mid July, more or less). However, rest of the family has set their collective foot (feet?) down, so NO RV!!

With that in mind, I've gone ahead and reserved our stays. Don't want to cancel them unless there is a strong compelling reason for us to!!

Day 1 - land at Anchorage near midnight (accommodation reserved in Anchorage area)
Day 2 - accommodation reserved in Anchorage area
Day 3 - accommodation reserved in Anchorage area
Day 4 - accommodation reserved right outside Denali (way north of Talkeetna)
Day 5 - accommodation reserved right outside Denali (way north of Talkeetna)
Day 6 - ??
Day 7 - ??
Day 8 - ??
Day 9 - accommodation reserved right outside Denali (way north of Talkeetna)
Day 10 - accommodation reserved right outside Denali (way north of Talkeetna)

The wild card is days 6 through 8. Friends who have been to Alaska had visited Fairbanks and driven up to the place where the Ice Road Truckers start from; they had also spent some time in the hot Springs (somewhere along Cheena River?) and a museum (or did he say a zoo? I forget). If you could give some idea (nature wise) what's there in Fairbanks that we won't see elsewhere with the above itinerary, that would help us make up our mind whether to head north, southeast or southwest from Denali on days 6/7/8. The only reason I have two sets of stays in Denali is to increase the chances of actually getting a sunny clear day or two. Does it make more sense to see if we can get four days in a row, then go up to Fairbanks for a day, the drive all the way back down to Whittier and/or Seward for a couple more days?
Nearing_Destination wrote:OP

I'd be very unlikely to get any discount airfares this late-

I had to book 11 months in advance, with lots of work, to get frequent flier miles trip for two some years ago- it can't be any easier today with the airlines further restricting the seat availability.

Based on my current experience, I agree 100%!! I was taken aback more by the prices than by the lack of award seat availability.
Nearing_Destination wrote:Note also that if going to Whittier from ANK you have to go through the mountain and need to insure that your RV is passable (should be, but check) There are only two places there to stay -- the high rise condo and the old officers quarters (where we stayed) -- and no overnight parking nor RV parks. The tours to the Surprise Glacier are nice , but remember that Whittier is one of the drop offs for the cruise ships and can get crowded trying to get back through the mountain to the other side (long lines and trains have priority).

At least the RV disclaimers can be dispensed with! :-)

Seward and Whittier are about a couple of hours from Anchorage, so we should be able to visit glaciers and go on cruises there should we want to, I assume. Could you elaborate on the trains having priority over the mountains? Aren't they on their own tracks that are distinct from the roads? And anyway, the cruisers won't be driving back to Anchorage from Whittier.
Nearing_Destination wrote:We also had a plane trip over Denali, landing on the glacier-- just the two of us and the pilot. Plan on different days as possible trips because weather conditions limit them. They can be booked out of Talkeetna or Healy but usually must be booked well in advance in high season.

How does booking on different days work? I mean, if the weather conditions are bad, do they refund the money or say that you can rebook for some other day (which is what they did when we ran into rough weather at the Great Barrier Reef last year :oops: )? If they refund, it makes sense to book for two different days; otherwise, not so much!

White Coat Investor wrote:If you want a guarantee of seeing Denali, go in the Winter.

I wouldn't discount a cruise due to seasickness issues. It seems pretty unlikely to me to get seasick in a cruise ship in the inside passage. That would have to be one heck of a storm.

Next trip in Winter, maybe :-)

You are special! Seriously though, if you saw what it took to make me absolutely seasick last year, you'd probably laugh!
2retire wrote:Just to be clear about the bus tours in Denali, they are school buses not tour buses. You will be traveling on a dirt road on school bus seats (for hours at a time).

I don't actually recall there being marked hiking trails inside the park (where you have to take the buses). There are a few marked trails near the entrance of the park.

Hiking inside the park is true back country hiking, blazing your own trail. It can be difficult at times, walking through chest high willow, crossing glacier melt rivers, and up and down over peat mounds. You aren't supposed to walk single file, everyone is supposed to fan out as to not create a trail.

As far as seeing Denali, you best bet is to travel there via helicopter or plane. It is often covered in clouds. Unless you are staying multiple days, you may not see it (we saw it one day out of five, and that was only for part of the day).

That was helpful; I see there are a few halts inside the park - the buses go into the park for about 90 miles one way. The round trip takes up to eight hours or so. And there are two options - a narrated trip where one has to stay in the same group at all times and a non-narrated trip that you can get off and get on a different bus along the way. How long does the narrated trip bus stop at each of the stopping point? When folks say that we need to reserve way in advance, is that only the narrated trip or both types of trips?

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Nearing_Destination » Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:05 pm

The "narrated " bus trip in Denali doesn't stop at each potential drop off, those planning to drop off have to show the driver their back country passes (only available at the ranger station) which lets the driver know where to stop for them. You can't just get off without a pass except at the designated stops like Eilson or Wonder Lake.

AFA plane landings, we booked with a company that had planes in both locations, as we were in a couple of different locations in our days there, and if no trips could be made they'd refund. I don't remember the company name, but from our photo it had tail number N70200 so you can look it up. We did fixed wing as it doesn't have the same restrictions.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:34 pm

Nearing_Destination wrote:The "narrated " bus trip in Denali doesn't stop at each potential drop off, those planning to drop off have to show the driver their back country passes (only available at the ranger station) which lets the driver know where to stop for them. You can't just get off without a pass except at the designated stops like Eilson or Wonder Lake.

Then I am confused how/why the bus takes so much time (eight hours?) for the round-trip. Or are all buses going at that speed? I was thinking that maybe we could hop off and hop back on at a couple of the stops (on the way back, once we have an idea of what all is out there). Of course, I am referring to the designated stop locations. Is that a crazy though, in the sense that we won't have much time at any stop if we do something like that - maybe because of the slow speed of the buses? Or is there not much to look for/observe at those stops anyway?

Also, a friend told me about a four hour and an eight hour option. Don't know if he will remember even if I quiz him, so what could he have been talking about? A shorter round-trip vs a complete one?
AFA plane landings, we booked with a company that had planes in both locations, as we were in a couple of different locations in our days there, and if no trips could be made they'd refund. I don't remember the company name, but from our photo it had tail number N70200 so you can look it up. We did fixed wing as it doesn't have the same restrictions.

That's good to know. Let me research some more.

I had one more question about your comment on travelling between Whittier and Anchorage (in my previous reponse). Would you mind answering that one?

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Thu Feb 23, 2017 6:01 pm

Renting a "normal" car, is it a good idea to even think about driving along the Dalton Highway up to the Yukon river? I am not good with fixing cars and wouldn't be able to change tires. That is what I'm getting at - is the road petty driveable until that far in July?

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Nearing_Destination » Thu Feb 23, 2017 7:10 pm

OP
When I said "through the mountain" I meant ***through*** the mountain-- you are going through a tunnel built during the war that carried material from the more protected sound to Anchorage --- Whittier was an old army base built in the area, the ruins of buildings are still there. Train tracks are right there with you, mostly driving over part of them, as you traverse the couple of miles underground. Whittier is **small** with only a few restaurants, mostly at the pier with a couple of dives near the cannery.

Seward by comparison is much larger, almost wholly devoted to the tourist trade; it's a MAJOR drop off for tourists and you'll be unendated by people when the ships start docking. Ships drop off, giving passengers a couple of hours in town, before busses pick them up for Anchorage or farther up to dedicated tourist lodges that each cruise line has at Denali.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Hankscorpio_84 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 7:12 pm

Lifelong Alaskan here, finally a topic I feel qualified to contribute to :D

There are great options for scenery and fun in, and every which way outside of Anchorage. The museum in downtown has some amazing native artifacts and displays. There are miles of paved bike trails, the highlight being the coastal trail, best accessed from downtown or near the airport. Coho will be showing up in Ship Creek, which is right downtown.

From Anc you can ride the tram in Girdwood, visit the animal sanctuary and glacier visitor center in Portage, or go down to Seward. Nice town with opportunities to hike on a glacier or go on a wildlife tour.

Locally, there is great scenery and hiking at the Eagle River nature center, Eklutna Lake state park, or Hatcher Pass recreation area. Don't forget that Talkeetna is a little over 2 hours away. If the weather is clear it may be your only chance to see the mountain. Don't trust any weather forecast more than 24-36 hours out.

You should have time to get to Fairbanks and possibly up to the Yukon, but be careful to underestimate the time you will be stuck in a car to hit it all. The Yukon is several hours north of Fairbanks. Chena hot springs is about 60 miles from town.

Any car can get you to the Yukon. Flat tires shouldn't be a big concern, they are only a little more common on the dirt sections of the haul road than normal pavement, plus in July there will be plenty of people passing who can help. Rocks chipping the windshield is your biggest danger. If you are more adventurous, a vehicle with extra ground clearance or 4wd will really expand the places you can go, but is definitely not necessary.

Feel free to pm me for more.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby ruralavalon » Fri Feb 24, 2017 9:36 am

an_asker wrote:
Nearing_Destination wrote:The "narrated " bus trip in Denali doesn't stop at each potential drop off, those planning to drop off have to show the driver their back country passes (only available at the ranger station) which lets the driver know where to stop for them. You can't just get off without a pass except at the designated stops like Eilson or Wonder Lake.

Then I am confused how/why the bus takes so much time (eight hours?) for the round-trip. Or are all buses going at that speed? I was thinking that maybe we could hop off and hop back on at a couple of the stops (on the way back, once we have an idea of what all is out there). Of course, I am referring to the designated stop locations. Is that a crazy though, in the sense that we won't have much time at any stop if we do something like that - maybe because of the slow speed of the buses? Or is there not much to look for/observe at those stops anyway?

Also, a friend told me about a four hour and an eight hour option. Don't know if he will remember even if I quiz him, so what could he have been talking about? A shorter round-trip vs a complete one?

The roads are very rough and the going is slow.

The 8 hour trip goes further into the park than the 4 hour trip. We did the short tour without any drop offs.
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby 2retire » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:56 am

an_asker wrote:Then I am confused how/why the bus takes so much time (eight hours?) for the round-trip. Or are all buses going at that speed? I was thinking that maybe we could hop off and hop back on at a couple of the stops (on the way back, once we have an idea of what all is out there). Of course, I am referring to the designated stop locations. Is that a crazy though, in the sense that we won't have much time at any stop if we do something like that - maybe because of the slow speed of the buses? Or is there not much to look for/observe at those stops anyway?

Also, a friend told me about a four hour and an eight hour option. Don't know if he will remember even if I quiz him, so what could he have been talking about? A shorter round-trip vs a complete one?

The road through the middle of the park is one lane in each direction and made of dirt. You are riding on old school buses. Every time someone on the bus thinks they see a wild animal the bus will stop. Every time you come upon another bus that is stopped, either in front of you or coming the other direction, you'll stop (because they are probably observing something). If you aren't on one of the tour buses, you'll also be stopping to pickup and drop off backpackers and day hikers.

I don't recall how long the breaks were, but I want to say they were in the 10-20 minute range each.

Not all buses go to the end of the road in the park. The shorter bus ride is one that turns around part way through.
Last edited by 2retire on Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:04 pm

Thanks for the explanation, 2retire and ruralavalon. I do need further clarification; maybe I should call them to discuss details like that.

I'm assuming that most, if not all, folks here who went on the buses went on the narrated versions. Was that interesting enough where you learned a lot more information that you wouldn't have gotten if you were on the "plain" buses?

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby 2retire » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:34 pm

As far as I know, we only ever took the 'plain' buses as we were day hiking inside the park. I may be wrong because my friend made all of our reservations.

The bus rides weren't complete snooze fests. Although the drivers didn't have a fixed speeches, they would talk about things we were seeing and were open to taking questions. My guess is they alternated between the 'tours' and 'plain' and it felt uncomfortable for them not to talk.

Regarding reservations, I seem to recall us only booking them the day before (24 hours or less). It wasn't like we had to have them arranged before we showed up at the park. I want to say that even at Noon, you could still get a late 4PM bus for that day. Remember, it gets dark there very late. We finished some hikes at 9:30-10PM at night and it was still like hiking at dusk.

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:02 pm

Nearing_Destination wrote:OP
When I said "through the mountain" I meant ***through*** the mountain-- you are going through a tunnel built during the war that carried material from the more protected sound to Anchorage --- Whittier was an old army base built in the area, the ruins of buildings are still there. Train tracks are right there with you, mostly driving over part of them, as you traverse the couple of miles underground. Whittier is **small** with only a few restaurants, mostly at the pier with a couple of dives near the cannery.

Seward by comparison is much larger, almost wholly devoted to the tourist trade; it's a MAJOR drop off for tourists and you'll be unendated by people when the ships start docking. Ships drop off, giving passengers a couple of hours in town, before busses pick them up for Anchorage or farther up to dedicated tourist lodges that each cruise line has at Denali.

That sure sounds exciting. So, if we are visiting Whittier on a day trip from Anchorage, should we pack our food or is it possible to get food before the place is overrun by cruises? Could I assume that they would have one cruise docking there every day?

On google maps, I see photos of waterfalls off the glacial waters into the Prince William Sound area. Also, the glacier above it - is it reachable or is it too dangerous even to attempt (height/wildlife/slippery/...)?

Also, even with the cruise traffic, could we plan to be back in Anchorage in about, say, 2-3 hours? And later in the evening, the traffic should clear out, unless the cruise takes its folks to Denali late in the evening. That makes me think about Denali itself - are the folks from the cruises be on their own vehicle inside the park or do they also have to climb on in the rudimentary school buses?

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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby SteveKL » Sat Feb 25, 2017 5:36 pm

an_asker wrote:So, if we are visiting Whittier on a day trip from Anchorage, should we pack our food or is it possible to get food before the place is overrun by cruises? Could I assume that they would have one cruise docking there every day?

On google maps, I see photos of waterfalls off the glacial waters into the Prince William Sound area. Also, the glacier above it - is it reachable or is it too dangerous even to attempt (height/wildlife/slippery/...)?

Also, even with the cruise traffic, could we plan to be back in Anchorage in about, say, 2-3 hours? And later in the evening, the traffic should clear out, unless the cruise takes its folks to Denali late in the evening. That makes me think about Denali itself - are the folks from the cruises be on their own vehicle inside the park or do they also have to climb on in the rudimentary school buses?

Just sped-read this whole thread, so please excuse me if this has been mentioned... OP, if you're planning a day-trip to Whittier there is virtually nothing to see/do in town, unless you have a "day cruise" scheduled with one of the two companies based there that offer them: Major Marine or Phillips Cruises. If the summer, these two companies have about 8-10 boats running every day, offering 4- or 5-hour cruises in Prince William Sound that get you up close and personal with mountains, glaciers, marine life (when possible) and which offer an excellent way to get a taste of the Alaskan coastline without having to commit to a cruise ship. The larger vessels have an on-board salmon bake, or you can pack a picnic to eat on board.

The boats range from about 60 feet to around 150 feet, and several of them are fast twin-hull catamarans which are very stable and gentle even on the weakest tummies. They depart around 11 or 12, and return around 4 or 5 (remember to add an hour or 1.5 hours each way for the tunnel, and the drive to/from Anchorage; more for Seward, less for Girdwood).

In July, you can expect that a large cruise ship will be docked in Whittier about 2-3 times per week. Passengers embark/disembark on either the train, or on motor coaches. Unlike towns where the cruise ship passengers flock to shore for sightseeing and shopping, in Whittier they are either boarding for the start of their cruise, or leaving at the end of their trip, so crowds are not really an issue. That said, expect plenty of traffic (both in Whittier, and especially on the Seward Highway from Anchorage) because it's July, the salmon are running, and it is the peakest of peak tourist season in Alaska; there are just a lot of people out, doing the Alaska thing!

an_asker
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:40 am

SteveKL wrote:[...]
Just sped-read this whole thread, so please excuse me if this has been mentioned... OP, if you're planning a day-trip to Whittier there is virtually nothing to see/do in town, unless you have a "day cruise" scheduled with one of the two companies based there that offer them: Major Marine or Phillips Cruises. If the summer, these two companies have about 8-10 boats running every day, offering 4- or 5-hour cruises in Prince William Sound that get you up close and personal with mountains, glaciers, marine life (when possible) and which offer an excellent way to get a taste of the Alaskan coastline without having to commit to a cruise ship. The larger vessels have an on-board salmon bake, or you can pack a picnic to eat on board.

You are absolutely correct. I am trying to figure out whether the 26 glacier cruise is worth it compared to, say, the other two cruises offered by the same company. From the looks of it, it does appear great! Is there a science to predict glacier calving, i.e., is there a higher chance of that happening in the afternoon vs. earlier? How often does it happen anyway? Just curious - I don't think we have the time to schedule a calving even if that were possible :-)
As vegetarians though, the salmon bake and taste will be lost on us :oops:
The boats range from about 60 feet to around 150 feet, and several of them are fast twin-hull catamarans which are very stable and gentle even on the weakest tummies. They depart around 11 or 12, and return around 4 or 5 (remember to add an hour or 1.5 hours each way for the tunnel, and the drive to/from Anchorage; more for Seward, less for Girdwood).

The Phillips cruises website details the boats and the cruises and I am already exchanging emails with them as well. I need to check out Major Marine ...
In July, you can expect that a large cruise ship will be docked in Whittier about 2-3 times per week. Passengers embark/disembark on either the train, or on motor coaches. Unlike towns where the cruise ship passengers flock to shore for sightseeing and shopping, in Whittier they are either boarding for the start of their cruise, or leaving at the end of their trip, so crowds are not really an issue. That said, expect plenty of traffic (both in Whittier, and especially on the Seward Highway from Anchorage) because it's July, the salmon are running, and it is the peakest of peak tourist season in Alaska; there are just a lot of people out, doing the Alaska thing!

The traffic question I was asking was more in response to the other comment about the tunnel being busy in the evening for the return. Based on further research on the related website run by the state and discussions here as well, it appears that the issue is only at the specific time when trains need to use the tunnel and there is traffic from the cruises all happening at the same time.

Thanks for all responses :-)

an_asker
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby an_asker » Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:05 am

Nearing_Destination wrote:[...]I don't remember the company name, but from our photo it had tail number N70200 so you can look it up. We did fixed wing as it doesn't have the same restrictions.

I missed this one - what restrictions are you referring to?

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Nearing_Destination
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Re: Tell me about Alaska

Postby Nearing_Destination » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:06 am

Helo's have altitude restrictions and, if I remember, were limited in airspace versus the regular fixed wing aircraft. We were able to land on the glacier after going all around the mountain.


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