Day 1 – Welcome to Fairbanks, Alaska
On arrival, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the Pikes Waterfront Lodge. Settle in to your river view room and enjoy this terrific setting on the banks of the Chena River. A brief meeting with our expert Alaskan guide sets the stage for the adventures that await.
Day 2 – Exploring Fairbanks + Running with the Reindeer
Situated at the 64th Parallel, Fairbanks is very much a city of the far north. Surrounded by the imposing mountain ranges, pristine waterways and abundant wildlife of Central Alaska, it also boasts a charming downtown, thriving arts community and rich Alaska Native culture. Setting out this morning with our guide, you’ll get to know the varied facets of this vibrant river city. Heading north of town, you’ll also visit the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Viewpoint for an up-close view of this $8 billion engineering marvel. As you stand here watching this silver thread winding its way across the Alaskan wilderness, know that more than a million dollars of black gold is flowing through it every hour.
This morning, we’ll also take you for a private visit to a family farm in the picturesque Goldstream Valley. Learn about the family’s herd of reindeer as you walk with them through the towering conifers. Accompanied by one of the ranch’s owners, a lifelong Alaskan resident, you’ll learn about the natural history of this boreal forest as you follow these amazing creatures; the reindeer are domesticated but not trained, and sometimes decide to take their own route… So bring your spirit of adventure along with your camera!
This afternoon we’ll take you to the Museum of the North, located on the Fairbanks Campus of the University of Alaska. This is the only research and teaching museum in Alaska, and its highly regarded collection of artifacts and specimens showcase the biological diversity and rich cultural traditions of the North. Then it’s on to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center for a private tour led by one of the museum’s docents - followed by an exclusive talk about the Aurora Borealis and life in the 49th State. We’ll end this day with dinner in a local restaurant and then return to our hotel. Meals B+D
Day 3 – Deluxe Dome Train
This morning, we’ll take you to the Fairbanks Rail Depot to board the Alaska Railroad train bound for Denali. From your comfortable reclining seat on the upper level, you’ll have breathtaking 360º views through the full-length curved glass dome of these deluxe rail cars. A freshly-prepared breakfast will be served in the lower-level dining room as you make your way southward through the Alaska wilderness. Late in the morning, the spectacular vistas of the Nenana River Gorge signal our approach to Denali.
Step off the train at midday for a short visit to the Denali Visitor Center before lunch at a local restaurant with our Alaskan guide. We’ll then check-in to our accommodations for the next two nights, the Denali Bluffs Hotel, right at the edge of the National Park. This afternoon, we’ll visit a Sled Dog Kennel to learn about these remarkable canines, their training and how they highlight Alaska’s famous Iditarod before dinner. Meals B+L+D
[Please Note: As you may have learned, a significant landslide has cut off access to the remote interior of Denali National Park along part of the 92-mile long Denali Park Road. While the park remains open, we stay on its edge and will venture in to explore during our two-day visit.]
Day 4 – Guided Adventure Deep Inside Denali National Park
Arise this morning overlooking Denali’s wilderness. Setting out after breakfast, we’ll join a naturalist for a coach excursion into the Tundra Wilderness amidst spectacular scenery as we search for grizzly, moose, caribou, Dali Sheep and wolves. Following breaks along the way and a boxed lunch, we’ll return to the hotel in the early afternoon for your choice of one of these included activities:
A choice of a float trip on the Nenana River or a walk offered through Denali terrain, accompanied and narrated by a professional naturalist who will point out the significant geological and glacial history of this part of Alaska. The wild and natural environment is everywhere around you as you walk at a gentle pace with frequent stops along the way.
+ Front Country Walk of Denali National Park: A easy hike through the boreal forest ecosystem, led by a naturalist who will explain the artic conditions that have molded the land. It’s about three miles in length with about 12 guests and takes 2-3 hours..
+ Wilderness Scenic Raft: With outfitting provided (a ‘dry’ suit, lifejacket and ‘river’ boots and a helmet), this is a guided, two-hour scenic float trip in boats oared by the river guides. Traveling along the eastern boundary of Denali National Park, we’ll encounter beautiful scenery and some class I and mild class II whitewater.
We’ll gather this evening for dinner. Meals B+L+D
Day 5 – Deluxe Dome Train to Talkeetna
After breakfast, the morning is free with the opportunity to explore on your own before we board the Alaska Railroad once again and settle into our reclining seats with 360˚ views through the full-length curved glass dome. This leg of the southbound journey offers some of the best views of Mt. Denali itself and also takes you over Hurricane Gulch on a 914-foot-long bridge that spans a creek flowing nearly 300 feet below the train! Lunch will be served in the lower- level Dining Room.
On arrival in Talkeetna, you’ll be escorted to the outstanding Talkeetna Alaska Lodge. Set on a ridge just above this small community, our lodge offers majestic views of Denali. This evening, you can explore the quaint town of Talkeetna at your own pace or just enjoy the ambience of our Lodge, with its curated collection of Native art. Meals B+L
Day 6 – Tailor your Stay in Talkeetna
After breakfast, tailor your morning to your personal taste for adventure with one of our included guided adventures!
+ Jet Boat Expedition: Fed by clear icy waters of the Susitna Glacier, this eponymous river flows for more than 300 miles through South Central Alaska. With broad tranquil stretches and narrow rushing courses, its picturesque forested shores are home to diverse wildlife including beavers and bald eagles. Capable of navigating even through extremely shallow waters, our fleet of high-tech jet boats are one of the few ways to explore this otherwise impenetrable wilderness. Accompanied by our engaging naturalist, this 2-hour adventure offers plenty of excitement, great views of the Alaska Range, and another chance to really experience Alaska’s wild and wonderful beauty.
+ Forest Zipline Adventure: Covering vast swaths of the Northern Hemisphere, mostly north of the 50th Parallel, our planet’s boreal forests are characterized by coniferous woodland of mostly pine, spruce and larch. Here outside f town, you’ll find a pristine boreal forest set on a ridge above the Talkeetna River. Setting out with an experienced guide, you’ll explore this unique biome along a carefully planned network of nine ziplines and three suspension bridges. Spectacular views of Denali and the Alaska Range are enhanced by heart-pounding adventure and a chance to learn more about the boreal forest and the formation of the Alaska Range and the area’s glacial river valleys.
After lunch in Talkeetna, the balance of your afternoon is free to explore or relax as you wish. If you wish, optional excursions are available including Flightseeing around Denali and river rafting. Meals B+L
Day 7 – Through the Matanuska-Susitna Valley to Mt. Alyeska
The Matanuska-Susitna Valley is known to historians and agriculturalists as a fertile farmland that was settled by families who came here from the lower 48 as part of the New Deal relief programs in the mid 1930’s. But as you depart Talkeetna after breakfast and travel along the celebrated George Parks and Glenn Highways into the Valley, you’ll soon discover that it’s also still a land of pure Alaska wilderness; indeed, its farms and communities are set amidst towering mountains and deep glacier valleys blessed with waterfalls, fish-filled rivers and abundant wildlife.
Your destination this morning is the Musk Ox Farm where our privately arranged visit offers a fun and educational up-close introduction to this Ice Age mammal that roamed the Earth alongside saber-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths! Today, this once-endangered animal is prized for its dense undercoat that produces qiviut, one of the world’s finest wools. Set on one of the 1930’s-era farms deep in the picturesque Matanuska Valley, this not-for-profit organization is dedicated to the preservation and domestication of the musk ox, and to the promotion of qiviut production as a gentle and sustainable agricultural practice in the Far North. With the largest herd of musk ox in the world, you’ll see frisky calves and seasoned old bulls as you explore the property and learn more about these giant prehistoric creatures.
The Valley’s colonial-era farms are not just historic, but known as well for their produce – which grow to incredible size due to the fertile soil and immense amount of summer sunlight. Taking a break from sightseeing, today’s lunch will feature this locally-sourced, farm-to-table bounty. In the afternoon, our visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center will be led by a native Alaskan eager to share their knowledge and passion for Alaska’s history and culture.
Continue along the Seward Highway, celebrated for spectacular views as it hugs the shoreline between the jutting peaks of the Chugach Mountains and the waters of the Turnagain Arm. Arrive in Girdwood and check in to the Hotel Alyeska, where your evening is free to enjoy the splendid setting of our resort. We also provide a ticket for the Alyeska Aerial Tram. Departing right from the hotel, the ride up to the 2,300-foot peak of Mt. Alyeska offers sweeping views in all directions – including the Turnagain Arm and several hanging glaciers in the Chugach Range. As you make the ascent to the summit, be sure to look down: Moose and bear sightings are common from the Tram! This evening enjoy dinner with your fellow travellers. Meals B+L+D
Day 8 – Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise
This morning’s scenic journey takes you around the eastern end of the Turnagain Arm, the site of one of the world’s most impressive bore tides. Continuing southward, we’ll make our way over the Turnagain Pass, driving through the spectacular Chugach Mountains and the 6-million-acre National Forest that was established more than a century ago. The Turnagain Pass is the highest point along the Seward Highway and offers a great place to witness the tremendous power that glaciers have had on the Alaskan landscapes.
Arriving in Seward, we’ll continue to the harbor to embark our afternoon cruise into the dramatic landscapes of Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park, home to calving glaciers and the massive 300 square mile Harding Ice Field. These waters are teeming with marine wildlife, and engaging guides are onboard to help you identify the animals - including stellar sea lions, harbor seals, Dall porpoises, sea otters and walruses. Humpback, killer and Minke whales also inhabit these waters, and the shores are home to bears and other Alaskan mammals. After this marine adventure, we’ll return to the Hotel Alyeska. Meals B+L
Day 9 – Departure from Anchorage
After breakfast, we’ll take you to the Anchorage Airport for your homeward flight. Meals B