rentaPlanning to a trip to Alaska and looking for itinerary suggestions? We got you covered with our suggested Alaska Itinerary: 10 days that will take you from Anchorage to explore some of the top attractions in Alaska.
With such a massive size, a road trip in the state of Alaska requires proper planning to make the most of your experience. We visited Alaska for two weeks in June and enjoyed every moment of our trip. Based on our experience, see below our travel tips and day-by-day itinerary for a 10 days road trip from Anchorage. f
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Alaska Itinerary: 10 Days Road Trip
See what our 10-day Alaska Trip includes, covering Denali National Park, Anchorage, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Homer, and Kenai National Park. And because Alaska is an outdoor paradise, some of the top things to do in Alaska will for sure include fjords kayaking, glacier hiking, and wildlife viewing.
- How to Choose your Alaska Itinerary
- Day 1: Anchorage
- Day 2: Drive from Anchorage to Denali
- Day 3: Denali National Park and Preserve
- Day 4: Drive from Denali to Chitina and McCarthy
- Day 5: McCarthy and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
- Day 6: Drive to Valdez
- Day 7: Glacier Kayaking and Cruising
- Day 8: Ferry to Whittier and Kenai Peninsula
- Day 9: Homer and Katmai National Park
- Day 10: Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park
- Best Time to Visit Alaska
- Alaska Travel Tips
How to Choose your Alaska Itinerary
Alaska is such a large state that deciding what you want to see and how long you have will determine your travel plans. While the longer you can stay, the better to explore and discover new places, we recommend a minimum of ten days to enjoy the region around Anchorage. However, should you have fewer days, check out our Alaska 7-day itinerary.
Notes on our Alaska road trip itineraries:
- These itineraries all start from Anchorage though we did not account for the arrival and departure time since these vary depending on where you live.
- With the weather having such an impact on the road conditions, the recommended seasons here are over the summer months of June to August.
- These road trip suggestions can be used for both self-drive independent travel and organized tours.
When reserving your car rental, ensure that the policies cover:
- Unlimited mileage: mileage adds up quickly given the size of the state
- Insurance: Most car rental insurances exclude driving on dirt roads. Since most of the Alaska roads are made of dirt, check your insurance cover these roads.
Day 1: Anchorage
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, and your gateway to the wilderness and mountains of Denali, Kenai, Talkeetna, and Chugach. While Anchorage is no New York City, a day is worth spending there to explore the top things to do in Anchorage.
Make sure to visit the Anchorage Native Heritage Center. Not only the center provides excellent information and display about the different Alaska Native traditions and language, but you might also catch one of the performances. Games, dances, music – a great way to learn more about Alaska heritage. We spent a couple of hours here, longer than we initially planned thanks to their interesting exhibits and performances. You can buy food, tasting some local meals.
Another Anchorage things to do worth checking is the Anchorage Museum, the largest museum in the state. There you can learn about the history of Alaska but also admire local art and craft.
If you want to pack on Alaska homemade products, Anchorage is also an excellent place for shopping on traditional Alaska Native art or local treats such as salmon jerky. We packed a few samples of that tasty jerky, which made for great snacks while we were on the road! Jams of local berries are a must-try! Salmonberries, lingonberries, cloudberries anyone?
- Anchorage Sail and Walk
- Price: $73.00
- Anchorage Bike and Brewery Tour
- Price: $209.00
- Anchorage City Tour with Alaska Native Heritage Center
- Price: $99.00
- Anchorage Craft Brewery Tour and Tastings
- Price: $99.00
- Talkeetna Small-Group Day Tour from Anchorage
- Price: $145.00
- Anchorage Trolley Tour
- Price: $20.00
- Private Tour: Anchorage 3-Hour Tour
- Price: $345.00
- Small-Group Tour: Anchorage Half-Day Tour
- Price: $75.00
Day 2: Drive from Anchorage
- Distance from Anchorage to Denali: about 250 miles (400 km)
- How long: About 4 hours drive, around 6 hours with stops and sightseeing
- What to see: Scenic Road from Anchorage to Denali, Denali Sled Dogs, Denali Short Hikes
Scenic Road from Anchorage to Denali National Park
To break the long drive from Anchorage to Denali, stop at these points of interest:
- Thea 200-foot (60 m) Thunderbird Falls by Old Glenn Highway, some 30 minutes north of Anchorage
- Eklutna Lake and Eklutna Village, one of the oldest settlements inhabited Athabaskan Indian continuously since 1650
- Talkeetna and Susitna River Bridge
- Denali viewpoints, including several opportunities from the Parks Highway
- Chulitna River
Half-Day in Denali National Park
Leaving Anchorage early in the morning will allow you to enjoy the park in the afternoon:
- Visit the Denali Visitor Center where you can reserve your seat in one of the park buses, book a ranger-guided hike, or get information about the park
- Go to the sled dog kennels 3 miles (5 km) inside the park, with summer hours from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Denali is the only US National Park that uses working sled dogs.
- Hike the Savage River area, driving first to one of these two locations: the Mountain Vista Rest Stop (Mile 13) or the Savage Rest Area (Mile 15)
- Want to relax from your long drive? Click here to check this horse-drawn carriage ride with backcountry dining
- Or looking for something thrilling to wake you up? Click here to reserve a Ziplining adventure.
Since we had left Anchorage early enough, we were able to visit the dog kennel, hike the Savage area, check the buses schedule for the duration of our trip, and even pitch our tents.
Note that the road only goes inside the park for the first 15 miles (24 km), which is roughly up to the Savage River trailhead. Beyond that point, park buses are required.
Denali National Park Lodging
- Within the park:
- Campgrounds: Book your site at one of the six Denali National Park campgrounds. We recommend you stay at the Savage River campground for your first night since the other campsites are further into the park and require you to work along the bus schedule. Doable, if you arrive early in the afternoon. You can rent tents and sleeping gear at Denali Mountain Works by the Denali park entrance.
- Lodges: Several privately-owned chalets are on private lands within the park.
- Outside the park
Head either to Healy, 11 miles north of the park entrance, or Cantwell, 30 miles south of the park entrance, for hotels near Denali National Park. In these towns, you will find accommodations for all budgets, from motels, B&Bs, and to resorts. Popular options are the Denali Grizzly Bear Resort and Teklanika Campground if the campsites within Denali are full. Each community has a range of restaurants available.
Summer months see the peak of visitors coming in, so book early to secure your room.
We loved being able to enjoy the park at night, especially given the long summer days. Indeed, we went for a stroll along the river around midnight, and did not even need a headlamp!
Day 3: Denali National Park and Preserve
If you have only one day in the park, make sure to take the first bus out. They operate from mid-May to mid-September. No reservation is required, but we recommend you do so if you have only a limited time in the park. Depending on how you want to explore Denali, choose between several types of buses: guided bus tours, or shuttles to bring you up to trailheads and campgrounds.
How to explore Denali
- A long bus ride (13-hour round trip to Kantishna, 11-hour to Wonder Lake) takes you up to Wonder Lake Campground or Kantishna, where the road ends. Though these long days don't have much spare time to explore on any hike, you get to explore the whole park.
- The Eielson Visitor Center can be an excellent spot to see Denali in its glory when the sky is clear. Otherwise, another option is to check from the road to Savage River.
- Join one of the ranger-guided activities and Denali national park tours
- If you decide to forego the full day bus, head for a short hike.
- Book your tickets to one of the several thrilling adventures around Denali: Whitewater Rafting, Ziplining, Backcountry Dining, Wilderness Exploration
We took the first bus up to Wonder Lake, where we had lunch. While this 11-hour return bus trip is lengthy, the bus takes through fantastic scenery. Keep your camera handy as changes of seeing caribou herds, coyotes, Grizzlies, and Moose, are quite high. We even saw a sow and her cub in the middle of the road. Pack your lunch and drinks because there is no food in the park. Mosquitoes are fierce, a pain really. They were so aggressive and numerous that we wore of head mosquito nets! They might not make the most dramatic selfies, but believe me, they are great!
Our bus was one of the transit shuttle buses that are green to distinguish them from the guided tour buses. Note that, while you reserve your seat and specific departure time when going into the park, the return journey is first come, first serve. Because we wanted to maximize our time in the park, we took the last bus in the afternoon, but it was full. We had to wait for over an hour at the Eielson Visitor Center for another coach to come and pick us up. Speaking about the Eielson Visitor Center, make sure to stop there. The view of the valley is incredible, and you might get a chance to see Mount Denali if the weather cooperates. You will understand why Denali is the highest mountain in North America, sitting proudly at 20,310 feet (6,190 m)!
An alternative to exploring the park on the ground is to discover Denali through a flightseeing tour. A few of the local tour operators even land the plane on the glaciers.
- Denali National Park Flightseeing Tour from Talkeetna
- Price: $237.60
- Denali Heli-Hiking Tour
- Price: $570.00
- Denali Experience Flightseeing Tour
- Price: $238.70
- Denali Peak Flight
- Price: $399.00
Day 4: Drive from Denali to Chitina and McCarthy
- Distance from Denali to McCarthy: about 350 miles (560 km)
- How long: About 8 hours drive, around 10 hours with stops and sightseeing
- What to see: Scenic Road from Denali to Chitina through Paxson on the stunning Denali Highway
Be prepared for a long day, but also to meet incredible sights! The Denali Highway is unbelievably beautiful and makes for the long hours. Pack on gas, snacks, and drinks as towns are far in-between.
A couple of odd and fascinating "lodges" can be found on the road for a welcome rest, and espresso lovers will be happily surprised to see a few stands of their favorite drinks. If you wanted to stop for a night, the Denali Highway Cabins around Paxson would be a beautiful place to do so.
Both the Denali Highway and the road from Chitina to McCarthy are rough dirt roads. While they are practical, many rental companies will not cover you in case of damages, so make sure to check your insurance for coverage. On the Chitina to McCarthy section, watch for moose - the thick forest on each side of the road hide them well until they are standing in front of the car!
Where to stay in McCarthy, Alaska
While McCarthy is a small community, it doesn't lack in accommodations. We stayed at the Lancasters Backpacker Hotel which is right on the main and only street of the small Alaskan town. Other options include a campground, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, wood cabins, up to the Michelin Guide recommended Ma Johnson's Hotel.
Day 5: McCarthy and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
McCarthy is the gateway to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The area is packed with history and mindblowing landscape, so you are in for a treat, so much you might decide not to leave!
Depending on where your interests are, check the fun things to do in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park:
- Go glacier hiking Click here to book your Root Glacier hike
- Visit the old Kennicott mine on a fascinating guided tour
- Board a small plane for a bird's view of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, flying high above massive peaks and endless glaciers of the Chugach and Wrangell Mountains
- Raft the Kennicott Glacier Lake. Click here for prices and details
Day 6: Drive to Valdez
Another early morning drive leaving McCarthy behind, aiming for Valdez as your next destination.
- Distance from McCarthy to Valdez: 180 miles (290 km)
- How long: About 4-5 hours depending on how many times you stop
- What to see: Worthington Glacier from the road
After arriving in Valdez, go for a walk by the town pier, check the peaceful scenery as you watch fishermen and boats going about their daily routine. Head up to the shores, where you can admire the view of the mountains in the background. But watch for the occasional grizzly bear that might pop its head in search of salmons from the nearby creeks and salmon farms.
Things to See in Valdez
- Checking the Worthington Glacier
- Admiring the Bridal Veil Waterfalls
- Exploring the site of Old Valdez Town
Where to Stay in Valdez
We stayed at the Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn, which was fine for our one-night stay. But other options exist, like the Glacier Hotel or Tsaina Lodge.
Day 7: Glacier Kayaking and Cruising
Get ready to see some glaciers up close! From Valdez, you have the options to cruise to the Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in South Central Alaska, or kayak up to the Valdez Glacier.
We did both! Well, my in-laws went on a Columbia Glacier cruise while Bruno and I joined a Valdez Glacier kayaking trip. Different experiences but we all had a blast. Seeing these glaciers as almost touching them made us feel so small!
Day 8: Ferry to Whittier and Kenai Peninsula
Crossing the Prince William Sound on a ferry from Valdez to Whittier, admire the iconic Alaskan scenery. Passing by more glaciers, watching birds and potentially whales and orcas, you will reach Whittier for about 6 hours, depending on the sea conditions. Note that the ferry doesn't run every day so plan your trip accordingly.
From there, drive through the Kenai Peninsula as you make your way to Homer, at the very tip of the peninsula.
- Distance from Whittier to Homer: 180 miles (290 km)
- How long: About 3-4 hours depending on how many times you stop
Where to Stay in Homer
We spent the last nights of our Alaska trip at the Holland Days B&B and Cabins Homer. The cute wood cabins are a short drive from Homer and are individually set with their kitchen, terrasse, and fire grill. We had gone fishing during one of our days around Homer, and savoring the salmon we caught and grilled ourselves was a delight!
But Homer offers plenty of accommodations: lodges, bed and breakfasts, inns, cabins, you name it.
Day 9: Homer and Katmai National Park
Homer is a charming little coastal town that deserves a visit for itself. Go up to the tip of the peninsula, walk by the lovely small houses, coffee places, and restaurants - an area called Homer Spit, or walk by the shore for yet again stunning views of the Kachemak Bay and the mountains.
The community is also a hub for flightseeing tours to the Katmai National Park, where you can wander the grounds together with brown bears and watch them catching salmons at the famous Brooks Falls. A must-do while in Alaska, we can't recommend the experience enough!
If you don't fancy seeing one of the largest bears in the world too close, Homer offers other interesting things to do in the area:
- Go salmon fishing in one of the Kenai Peninsula rivers
- Board a boat to fish in the ocean
Day 10: Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park
Early morning on the last of your Alaska Itinerary 10 days road trip, head to Seward and the opportunity to explore another top Alaska attraction: Kenai Fjords National Park.
- Distance from Homer to Seward: 170 miles (270 km)
- How long: About 3 hours depending on how many times you stop
The Kenai Fjords National Park is famous for the massive Harding Ice Field from which about 40 glaciers emerge. One of the most popular is Exit Glacier, which can be accessed from the north of Seward. Drive up to Exit Glacier to admire the glacier up close, or even go on one of the nearby hiking trail, including the Glacier Overlook Trail.
Explore the Kenai Fjords National Park:
- Board one of the boat tours that cruise along the waters around Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay, and spot sea lions, whales, and seals.
- Kayak the Kenai Fjords, though the icy and the changing conditions make it more recommended for experienced kayakers.
- Go on one of the ranger-guided programs
- Glacier hike: Besides the moderate Glacier Overlook Trail, another more strenuous and challenging trail is the Harding Icefield Trail, which takes at least 6 to 8 hours. Click here to book a guided hiking tour to the Harding Icefield.
- Take a flightseeing tour to admire the mountains and glaciers from high up
- Exit Glacier Ice Hike in Seward
- Price: $133.90
- Small-Group Kayaking in Resurrection Bay from Seward
- Price: $139.00
- Bear Glacier 30-Minute Helicopter Flight from Seward
- Price: $319.00
- Seward to Skilak - Backcountry Adventure Day Trip
- Price: $379.00
- Seward Wilderness Hiking
- Price: $108.00
- Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise from Seward
- Price: $176.84
- Bear Glacier Private Flight Tour from Seward
- Price: $178.62
- Private 1-Hour Wildlife Flight Tour from Seward
- Price: $358.62
It's time to leave Seward and drive to Anchorage to complete your Alaska trip. It will be a long day, but this allows you to see the famous Kenai Fjords National Park. One option to avoid the two drives on the final day is to leave Homer the night before and stay in Seward the night before.
- Distance from Seward to Anchorage: 90 miles (150 m)
- How long: About 2 hours
Best Time to Visit Alaska
The peak season to visit Alaska is from mid-May to mid-September. The temperatures vary from 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 25°C) and even higher. Alaska weather can change rapidly within the day. While we were there end of June, we experienced snow and ail one day, to be in a short-sleeve t-shirt a couple of days later.
Thanks to its position in the Arctic Circle, days are extra long, and you can still experience twilights at midnight at the end of June.
Mosquitoes can be problematic in June and July when the grounds are still wet from the snowmelt. Come August; the soils have dried, the insects are fewer, which makes for an enjoyable time to go hiking.
Alaska Travel Tips
- The days tend to be long in Alaska in summer, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the area, and drive around. However, note that it will disorientate you, as it will be 9 pm or 10 pm when you think it’s 5 pm.
- Mosquitoes in Alaska are infamous, and not a legend! Bring strong mosquito repellent. A face mosquito net will come in handy, especially in the Denali area
- Weather change rapidly - again, not a myth. You can experience 4-seasons in one day. So layer up.
- A good waterproof jacket, fleece, hoody, and gloves will be useful
- If you are planning on hiking, gaiters and hiking poles might be of value as you travel through potentially muddy and slippery trails
- Consider traveling with an RV, an exciting way to discover Alaska at your leisure
- Do not feed animals and please, please watch for bear safety measures. Not only for your safety of course, but also for the bears and other wild animals. They will smell your garbage bags, your snacks, and leftover. The closer they come to human food and human interaction, the less scared they are, and thus the more likely of attacks from the animals to the humans. When this happens, the animals will pay for human carelessness. Rangers and wildlife service might decide to kill the animals to prevent further attacks. So please please, pack it out, pack it tight, and leave the wild animals be wild.
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Interested in road trips? Check our Alaska Itinerary 7 days road trip, or driving over the ice road of the MacKenzie River to Tuk, or top destinations for car camping in the US.
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