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Exploring Alaska Off A Cruise Ship (Even Glacier Bay!)

Is Alaska on your bucket list?  That’s one of my favorite destinations and I’ve travelled all over the state in the past 20 years.   After my latest trip, I posted a 5 part series on my blog.  I’ve put links to all the posts below to make it easy to find in one place, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to take a trip to Alaska as well! 

A cruise is a great way to see the Inside Passage, but if you’ve done that and want a new experience, or you’d like to spend more time exploring the interior, then you might want to consider a land-based vacation.
  

Hiking in Denali National Park

Part 1: Gustavus: The Yummiest Pancakes in the Whole World
On the first leg of our Alaskan journey, we explored Gustavus, the only town located in Glacier Bay.   We saw glaciers, wildlife and scenery up close from a small boat, explored the coastline in kayaks, and hiked through a rainforest.  Evenings were spent relaxing and enjoying fantastic food at Bear Track Inn, a luxurious fishing lodge that made some memorable meals.  
Glaciers up close
Relaxing before dinner at the lodge

Part 2:  Juneau:  The Time We Watched Bears Eat Dinner (and it wasn’t us!)
In Juneau we rented a car so we could explore outside town at our own pace.  We visited the hatchery, where we watched salmon perform acrobatics as they worked their way up the ladder.  And Mendenhall Glacier, where we watched bears expertly scoop up salmon swimming upstream, including a momma bear and two cubs!  Then we wrapped it up with some beer tasting at the Alaskan Brewery, and wrapped the day watching the cruise ships pull away, leaving quiet Juneau all to ourselves.
Bye bye, everyone!
Can’t get fish fresher than this

Part 3:  Anchorage: More Than a Place to Wait for Your Cruise/Flight
Many travelers only spend the night in Anchorage, either on their way to or from a cruise.  But if you have a couple extra days to spare, and a rental car, there really is quite a bit to do and see.  We watched an interesting movie about the quake of ’64, visited the Iditarod headquarters, and cycled along the coastal trail.  And if you love animal babies, you have to head down to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center!
  
THE trophy
Lunchtime for ‘McKinley’

Part 4:   Talkeetna:  Living Vicariously Through the Locals
Talkeetna was one of my favorite stops.   While it was too late in the season to personally watch climbers prep for a trek up Mt. McKinley, we listened to interesting stories from the locals who host them, and learned from the park rangers just exactly what kind of mettle it takes to ascend the tallest peak on North America.  Talkeetna also boasts some of the best views of the Alaska Range.
Old vs new hiking gear
The main drag in Talkeetna

Part 5:  Denali:  The Best 11 Hours We’ve Ever Spent on a School Bus
The 92 mile long road which heads into Denali Park is filled with spectacular scenery and up close encounters with grizzlies, wolves, caribou, and more.  But unless you have a camping reservation, you aren’t allowed to drive past mile 15.  The only way to go deep into the Alaskan wilderness is on a shuttle bus.  Yes, it’s bumpy, and no, it’s not luxurious by any means (however you don’t have to ride the entire 11 hr route).  But trust me, you’ll remember this as the one of the highlights of your Alaska vacation.  Afterwards you can hop in your comfy car and visit the other cool stuff in and around the park.  
Yes, this is a 2 way road.
We lost track of the grizzly bear
count by this point
Alaska offers a lot of logistical challenges to travelers because of its size and limited services.   It’s best to plan early, a year or more is not uncommon, especially if you want to stay in a wilderness lodge.  But I have also been able to pull together great trips at relatively short notice as well.

If you’d like to have your own great Alaska adventure, just send me an email to find out how to get started!
My favorite park employees