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Wow how time flies. This post was suppose to be done a year ago. But, life got busy, I got engaged and got married! So, the blog took a backseat over the past year. But I couldn’t abandon this post. I have been thinking about our trip to Alaska ever since. We put so much time, and effort into planning. We ended up having a once in a lifetime experience and I knew others would want to know our detailed Alaska itinerary to help plan your next trip to Mt. Denali, Anchorage and Seward.
Unlike most Alaskan travelers, we decided against a cruise. We loved the idea of being in control of our stops. And, I am so glad we did. We wouldn’t have gotten to do many of the things we did on a cruise.
Without further ado, our Alaska itinerary…
Day 1 – Arrive in Anchorage Alaska & Drive to Mt Denali for an ATV Tour
We flew into Anchorage, Alaska on a red eye, getting in at 1:00 am. We crashed at a hotel right outside the airport for a few hours, that was honestly less than stellar, and not even worth mentioning. I wouldn’t recommend the hotel we stayed, even for a few hours of sleep. There are better options. But, those few hours of sleep is what propelled us into the best day ever.
We woke up, found a breakfast joint where we got some greasy delicious food, including reindeer omelets, Alaska is so wonderful and weird. And, then hit the road!
The drive from Anchorage to Denali is beautiful. It is so rugged and up close. The mountains are right there. We saw moose, eagles, deer, and while we didn’t see any bears, it isn’t uncommon.
There is not much of anything along the way. A couple gas stations and that’s about it. Around lunchtime we pulled off the side of the road and walked to the perfect little clearing and enjoyed a picnic lunch, fueled by snacks we found at one of the gas stations, in the shadow of a mountain with wild flowers all around us. Summer in Alaska is amazing.
We checked into our hotel, Denali Cabins, where we were greeted by the most darling little one room cabin. The hotel couldn’t have been more perfect. It reminded me of a summer camp for adults. The restaurant and bar was purely delicious with fun smoked cocktails and tasty eats. The hot tub was a perfect way to unwind. And, we loved sitting around the large fire pit, drinking wine, snuggling up under blankets, and getting to know the other hotel guests.
Before we got to enjoy the hotel however, we dropped off our bags and headed to Denali ATV tours. I was first introduced to Denali ATV from one of my favorite bloggers, Carly, who went on a tour with them years ago. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous. You can sign up to ride side by side ATVs with a partner, or singles. The Handsome Hunk loves to ride ATVs and he was so excited to ride on singles. I was nervous to drive my own ATV since I have had less experience. But, before you get going they have you go through a little course to make sure you’re comfortable driving. This got my confidence up and we were off!
The tour itself was so fun, especially for those with an adventurous spirit. We screamed through the wilderness, charged up mountains, and took in the most beautiful sights.
At one point Tom sent me off to take a picture of some mountains, and he coordinated with the tour guides to PROPOSE to me at the next lookout spot. Told ya it was the best day. You can read more about our proposal story here.
Day 2- Explore Mt. Denali & Drive to Anchorage
After waking up ENGAGED wee decided to spend the morning exploring Denali before heading back to Anchorage.
We asked some locals for a good hike and they pointed us in the direction of Horseshoe Lake. After a day of riding around on ATVs the day before, we were a little sore, so this 2 mile hike was perfect. It went around Horseshoe Lake, who would have thought. And, was absolutely gorgeous. It was peaceful, quiet, and the lake was breathtaking. The area is a known spot to see beavers and moose. The crystal clear water is something out of the pages of National Geographic. We went early, really early, and suggest if you like to enjoy nature without the crowds, you do the same.
After a morning reconnecting with nature, we checked out of the hotel and started the scenic drive back to Anchorage. We drove into Mt. Denali park itself and did a little poking around along the way.
Instead of staying at a hotel in Anchorage, we decided to go with something a little more adventurous. When I saw this yurt on Airbnb I knew that was exactly what we were looking for! Glamour meet backwoods. While the yurt isn’t exactly is a hustling bustling area of Anchorage full of nightlife, it is tucked away on a picturesque property where wildlife filter past the front porch. It’s what I wish camping was.
Tom, who is in the Navy, travels to Anchorage fairly regularly for work. So, he has a few favorite spots that I have been hearing about for years. One such spot is Moose’s Tooth Pub. It is a pizza institution in Anchorage and an absolute must stop for any beer and pizza enthusiast who comes to the final frontier. Basically, it’s just good. Really good.
Day 3- Hike Portage Glacier & Drive to Seward
The next morning we woke to sunshine streaming in through the large windows in the yurt’s loft. Packed up our bags and headed off to our next adventure, hiking a glacier.
We don’t exactly take restful vacations. We take vacations that we need vacations from after because they are so jam packed with fun and adventure. This is just how we like it.
One of my best tips for traveling is to wake up early. We decided to hike Portage Glacier on a whim. Looking back now, I can’t remember if Tom had looked it up the night before, or if we just headed out early to see what we could find to do that day. This is the problem with writing this post a year late, sorry guys. Either way though, the early bird gets the worm. Or in this case, the hike.
One thing living in the rainy Pacific Northwest has taught me is that, no matter the weather, get the right gear, and go. So, it was early, and the weather was less than stellar. Even though it was August, it was raining, and fairly cold. We decided to throw on our rain gear and hike anyway.
This turned out to be one of the best decisions of the entire trip.
The hike itself isn’t too long, 4-5 miles round trip, depending on how much extra exploring you do, there and back. The first mile is straight uphill. Straight uphill, in the rain, completely alone, and it was magical. Because of the early hour and the weather, Tom and I only encountered one other group of hikers the whole trip on this usually very busy touristy hike. There were salmon jumping in the stream, and while we didn’t see a bear, the group we ran into did.
We felt like we were on an expedition to the final frontier.
By the end of the hike, we were tired and soaked. We immediately stripped out of our wet clothing, not caring if another car pulled up and saw us. There is something about being that cold, hungry, wet, and tired. You just don’t care. It’s so freeing.
It ended up being a highlight of the trip.
Warmed up and dry, we munched on trail mix, hopped back in the car, and drove the rest of the way to Seward.
One of the perks of Tom’s military career is that we have access to military resorts, often in cool locations, with discounted rates. We stayed in one such resort while in Seward.
There is nothing particularly spectacular to write home about the Seward military resort other than it’s clean, decent, and a great price.
We then decided to give Seward nightlife a try. One of our favorite things to do in a new city is play musical bar chairs. This gives us the ability to check out a bunch of new places, and really get a feel for a town.
We will go to one spot for a drink, then somewhere else for an appetizer, move on to the next spot for dinner, then a new place for dessert, before finally ending the night with a late night drink at a final location.
One of our highlights of the night was Seward Brewery. It had great beer options and some tasty bites. Another spot, which despite my reservations ended up being a lot of fun was Yukon Bar. From the outside, it looks like a dive. But, once you get inside, you realize, yeah, this is a dive. It smells like stale beer, and there was a random dog wondering around. The dog is really what won me over. It ended up being the perfect spot to shoot some pool and end our evening.
Day 4 – Fishing Charter in Seward
The military resort on Seward isn’t just good for a hotel room, but also halibut charters! We were able to get an all day charter at a half day rate. Which is a huge bonus!
Tom loves to fish. It’s one of his passions. If you want to make him happy, take him out on the water. While I don’t share his exact love of fishing, seeing his eyes light up is one of my favorite things in the world. So, we do a lot of fishing together. And, over time I have learned to enjoy it as well. But, what I really loved about our fishing charter, apart from the freezer full of halibut afterwards, was the scenery.
Alaska can look like something out of a different world. While we were taking the boat out to deep sea, we went past the coast. And, I kept commenting about how it looked like a landscape from a science fiction movie set in a far away land. Full of wildlife, sea lions, bears, and eagles.
We came back to Seward after a day of fishing, feeling a little shaky, with 4 halibut (legal limit of 2 each), and a few rockfish each. Our deck hands fileted our fish for us, and then we headed to Captain Jack’s to have them freeze and ship our bounty back home.
After a much needed shower and rest, we decided to get a nice dinner. The day before, while exploring Seward, we saw The Cookery, but it was packed and we decided not to make it part of musical bar chairs. I am so glad we didn’t because some places should be savored all on their own and The Cookery is one of those places.
The ambiance was incredible, the menu full of local ingredients was out of this world, and the drinks were fresh and fun. Tom went for the day’s special, chicharron crusted halibut. Wow! It was incredible.
If you’re in Seward, driving through, or hell, even just within driving distance, do yourself a favor and go have dinner at The Cookery.
Day 5 – Exit Glacier Hike & Drive to Anchorage & Anchorage Pub Crawl
After our adventure hiking Portage Glacier, we were on a glacier kick and wanted another experience. So, the following day, we decided to hike Exit Glacier on the way out of town.
It seemed fitting.
Now, I will say, “hiking” Exit Glacier might be a stretch of the word hike. It was not the ruckus adventure that Portage Glacier was. But, Exit Glacier was jaw dropping in its own right. But, not for the reason you might think.
In fact, Exit Glacier is pretty unimpressive. I may catch some internet heat for his, but Exit Glacier is small, kind of dirty, and all around a blimp on the vast impressive wilderness that is Alaska.
But, do not, I repeat, do not, scratch it off your list. Exit Glacier is important for everyone to see. Because it’s what you don’t see that is so jaw dropping.
Along the path up to the glacier, there are markers of where edge of the glacier use to be. We passed the year my grandmother was born, the year my mother was born, and then the year I was born. You can’t even see where they he glacier is now, from where it was when I was born. Alright humans, we need to get our act together. Now, maybe flying in an airplane, traveling to Alaska, then renting a car and driving to the glacier is in fact part of the problem. I don’t know what we do about it. But, I do know that it was incredibly moving. This is something that our children may not get to experience.
After that sobering experience, we rolled into our Airbnb in Anchorage and decided we needed some drinks.
The pub crawl was a blast and needed its own post. I highly suggest playing a game of musical bar chairs while in Anchorage. While Anchorage itself is an incredibly large city geographically, downtown is very walkable. And, we made sure our Airbnb was walking distancee to it all.
Day 6 – Float Plane Tour & Anchorage Fine Dining
We made sure to hydrate during our Anchorage Pub Crawl so that the next morning we were ready to take a sea plane tour! Tom flies, not only for work with the Navy, but also for fun. In fact he soloed for his pilot’s license at 16. So, he was so excited to get in the sky and see Anchorage from the air.
It was such a cool experience. 10/10 must do if you are visiting Anchorage. And, these pictures, do not do it justice. I didn’t have the right lens for the camera to really capture how wild and beautiful our flight was. We saw a pod of beluga whales, giant bull moose, eagles, and coyotes. Or, maybe it was a fox, or perhaps a wolf. We searched for a bear, but couldn’t find one that day.
We got to see the mountains up close, and all of the beautiful late summer foliage. Old fishing huts, little lakes, and so much more. It was a perfect way to round out our trip.
Later that night, we decided to try Simon’s, an Anchorage legend in fine dining. To be honest, we found it a little uninspired, but also delicious. Classics are classics for a reason. The table had flowers to celebrate our engagement, and the staff was excellent. Next time, I think I would like to dine at The Crow’s Nest. But, be sure you pack an appropriate outfit.
Day 7 – Breakfast at Fire Island Bakery & Fly Home
For our last morning, we took a stroll to Fire Island Bakery. A sweet neighborhood spot in a residential area near our Airbnb. It was recommended by our hosts, and couldn’t have been more perfect or delicious.
And, that was all the time we had in Anchorage.
Are you planning a trip to Anchorage? What are you most looking forward to? Have you you been to Anchorage? What did you love?