After months and months of planning we had finally arrived, Alaska! We had two weeks of road tripping around the 49th state planned and were ready to get moving.
Abigail and I have always talked about taking a trip to Alaska together, a bucket list item for sure. When deciding what we should do for a honeymoon, it quickly made its way to the top of the list. When searching tirelessly on the internet for ideas on what to do, where to go, and what to pack, we were overwhelmed.
Here are 5 tips that will help an outdoorsy couple plan for the trip of a lifetime to Alaska:
1. See the Alaskan Coastline by Boat
We had originally talked about doing a full weeklong cruise but decided that since we wanted to maximize our time spent there, we’d look at other options. After a tip from a friend, we booked a much shorter 8 hour cruise departing and returning to Seward. We had a great day for this trip, it was a little cold but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The ship was a very comfortable ride that you could stand up at the bow and brave the wind, or sit comfortably in the warm cabin.
The ride was full of wildlife sightings: otters, puffins, sea lions, seals, Dall porpoises, killer whales, and humpback whales were all part of the show. Many large glaciers were also in view as you went around the Kenai Fjords National Park coastline. We had a very friendly crew that was eager to answer any questions the passengers had. I highly recommend spending a day on the water with one of the different touring agencies in Seward as it is well worth it.
2. Visit Mile Marker 92.5
Does 12 hours on a school bus sound fun to you? Let me rephrase that. Do you want to see grizzly bear, caribou, moose, and Dall sheep? If so, the bus ride out to the end of the road is well worth it! Although riding on a bus for 12 hours doesn’t sound that fun, it was welcomed after a couple hard days of hiking. On this ride you will get so see some awesome scenery and get to travel every mile of road in Denali.
We did the unguided ride and highly recommend it. The highlight for us was watching a grizzly and cub come running 5 yards from the bus and pull a ground squirrel out of the ground. It was incredible to see and reminds you how wild Denali really is!
3. Hike off trail in Denali
Abigail was apprehensive at first, but I finally talked her into hiking off trail with me. This is very intimidating to someone from the lower 48, but well worth it. We were both a little hesitant to leave a trail in a National Park, so we decided to ask a park ranger about a specific area where we wanted to go. Her reply was simple, “You own this land, you can go wherever you want.” We headed up on a moderately trafficked trail and veered off at the top to explore the alpine.
Once on top we sat down to soak in the views and snack on some Packaroons. After sitting for about five minutes we realized we had a group of Dall sheep about 300 yards from us feeding on a mountain side. It was incredible watching them work their way through the steep cliffs and something that we wouldn’t have experienced had we stayed on the trail.
4. Enjoy a meal in the backcountry
In my opinion, nothing beats a dinner with a view. Planning a day that involves hiking into a remote spot, relaxing, and cooking up a dinner is a great way to soak it all in. You are often rewarded with unique wildlife sightings when you just sit in one spot for an hour or so, hunters are very aware of this. We did this twice and really enjoyed it! Once in Denali, where we had a small caribou herd all to ourselves, and again at an alpine lake North of Palmer.
5. Don’t Overpack
If you’ve looked into planning a trip to Alaska, you’ve probably seen this one a few times. Rather than go on about what you shouldn’t take, I’m going to give you some of the top performing gear from our trip that saved us both space and money.
First is a water filter. We took an MSR Trailshot and we both commented on how useful it was for the trip. It is about the size of a baseball and was the most used piece of gear we brought along. Over two weeks traveling we didn’t have to buy one bottle of water!
Second is clothing choices. Dress in layers and don’t overthink it. A good puffy jacket and rain shell will cover you in most situations, depending on the time of year. By keeping our clothing options pretty simple, we were able to get away with only having one checked bag each. (We did do laundry on day 8 at our hotel)
Lastly is binoculars. We used the binoculars constantly and it let us get very good looks at different wildlife and scenery. Well worth the weight and space in your luggage.
Overall the trip was a blast and we weren’t ready to leave. Alaska can be intimidating to some people, but don’t let that stop you from planning a trip there!
I would like to give a huge shout-out to the Denali National Park staff for the amazing upkeep of the park. I have never been to a National Park that was so clean and well maintained, it should be the standard that every other park strives to match!