First time Alaska trip advice

Started Apr 13, 2013 | Discussions thread
cplittleton Regular Member • Posts: 401
Re: First time Alaska trip advice

I've done Alaska 3 times now, so I'm not a seasoned expert, but I can throw out a few ideas.

My most recent trip (about 6 weeks ago) included 3 days / 3 nites Chena Hot Springs and 3 days 2 nites Fairbanks.  Chena in the winter was lots of fun, with much to do.  Haven't been there in summer, but the brochures floating around the resort looked interesting.  The staff was courteous and the facilities nice - we would visit again.  Aurora activity is year-round, but summer is the worst time to catch them because you only get 2-3 hours of darkness at the summer solstice - your trip is only a week or two later, so I wouldn't expect a lot of dark skies to shoot Aurora against.  On our trip, one Aurora show was around 9:30 in the evening (which worked since it got dard around 6:00pm in February), and the big show I photographed was around midnight.  The midnight show might have worked in summer, but it might not.  Also, dragging a family out at midnight to see the Aurora (regardless of tolerance) is not going to happen every day without wiping folks out.

My recent trip was #2 to Fairbanks (one summer, one winter).  If you have a Christmas enthusiast in the family, make sure to visit the Santa House in North Pole, about a dozen miles south.  My wife loves these places  and even I have to admit this one is very well done.  On both of my Fairbanks visits, I found the photo opportunities somewhat lacking.  On the summer trip, large mosquitos made being outdoors uncomfortable without good bug spray.  Thick underbrush and worries about wild animals make venturing too far away from established parks & trails difficult (but not impossible).

On my frist two trips to AK, I visited Denali.  It's a National Park for a reason - enjoy the many photo opportunities.  The Parks Highway (Highway 3, Fairbanks - Anchorage) goes through some great scenery between Fairbanks and Denali - if you can, allow time for a few photo stops along this segment.  I especially liked the valley just north of the main park visitor area - rugged cliffs, a railroad, and rushing water.  Similarly, allow for some photo stops in the first segment south of Denali on the Parks Highway - about as far as Talkeetna.  After the Talkeetna turnoff, the highway begins to drop into the Mat-Su valley and the scenery falls off with elevation.

Anchorage has some fun things to do, but I never seemed to wind up with enough free time to take many pictures (my own fault).  My favorite photo trip from Anchorage is the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm (Highway 1).  I did not notice the Kenai Peninsula in your itinerary - my niece who lived in Fairbanks would drive all the way to the peninsula (day-long drive) to go camping, see the bald eagles, and otherwise enjoy the coast.  One of the neat things along this drive is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel (aka Whittier Tunnel), which serves both automobile traffic and train traffic in the same tunnel (Google it if you're interested, and to get toll info).

Hopefully this gives you a few more ideas.


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