Alaska via ship or land???

Scott85

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Wife wants to do a trip to Alaska in 2020. What would be better a cruise or to fly inland rent a cabin and do stuff on land? What would be the best month to go? Also what are some things that are a must when we are there? I know that a lot of y’all love Alaska so I figured it would be a good place to ask. Thanks in advance and I am asking for your honey hole spot.
 

homers

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depends on what you want to do and where you want to go. Mid June - Early Sept is when most go. Fly into Anchorage, rent a car, take your camping gear and visit Homer, Seward, Kenai, then head to Denali, maybe Fairbanks and down the other side and back. Depend on your length of stay as well. Fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, etc.
 

ElkFever2

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I took a combo cruise/inland trip in August and it was a great introduction to less than 1% of Alaska in 9 days. Denali NP was amazing and worth every minute. Cruise was PW Sound and very enjoyable. Lots of wildlife, glaciers, great scenery.

On my bucket list is to return to kayak in the Sound to get closer to the land features, camp, and walk around on foot.

I'd also like to make a 1-2 week trip to Kodiak island for fishing, sightseeing, photography
 

OregonChris

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I did Alaska in 2016 rented a jeep and went where I wanted and camped, that allows u to control your trip , I grew up there and wanted to show my youngest son some big country , camped in Talkeetna on the way to Denali Np , i recommend both locations, did a zip line in Talkeetna, check out the Road house in Talkeetna and the West Rib cafe and pub 4 stars on both , the Road house has been the starting point for climbers for Mt McKinley for decades lots of history there , epic breakfasts there , lots of places to camp in Alaska, having a rig allows u to choose your destinations , a boat picks your stops for you , I plan on doing the boat trip with the wife getting married next July, here’s some pics of my trip , whatever you choose you will have a great time
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BearFoot

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A cruise is very beautiful, one of gods gifts to this world, but a very, very small part of the State. Driving option from Anchorage, is to rent a car, or an RV. In an RV, you can pull over nearly anywhere, for the short nights. In a rented RV we take family, friends on the loop. Anchorage to Wittier, hop on the ferry, cruise past glaciers, fiords. Drive off the ferry, spend time in Valdez. Head north toward Tok, could visit Wrangell's N Park. At Tok head west toward Delta Junction, and on to Fairbanks. Parks Hwy south to Denali. Wildlife viewing in Denali Park is exceptional. Bears, moose, caribou, dall sheep, chance at wolves, all good. Talkeetna, Wasilla, Palmer, on the way back to Anchorage. South of Anchorage the road ends in Homer and Seward. Each special. Can run the loop either way. Away from the towns are "roadhouses" for dinning or room. If driving get a "milepost"
https://www.amazon.com/MILEPOST-2019-Alaska-Travel-Planner/dp/1892154382
 

SD_Prairie_Goat

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Having lived there I would highly recommend against going the cruise direction, but I know for a lot of people that is an easy choice since they don't really have to plan anything, the cruise ship has it all laid out for them.

If you fly, then rent an RV in Anchorage, you can drive anywhere you can reach via a road and go see things that important to you...
 

wllm1313

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Hard pass on a cruise for me... I think they are best for the over 65 crowd.

You just get a weird perception of a place as the populations of towns like Ketchikan literally 4x for the 6 hours the ships are in port.

Not to be a millennial, but cruises just lack any semblance of authenticity it’s like if Disney land traveled with you.
 
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codycoop95

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To echo what others are saying, I would drive. So much more to see inland than from the sea. That being said, a day on the water with a fishing charter would be a great way to see some of the stuff you can't get to by car.
 

deer_shooter

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Another vote for flying in to Anchor town and exploring on your own. The wife and I have done the loop Bearfoot suggests many times. There is really too much to see and do even if going for 2 weeks, so its best to plan out what you want to see and do beforehand if possible. Anytime between end of May to end of August is good but don't discount a winter trip. We went up in 2012 for the start of the Iditarod and had a ball.
There is good fishing to be had from the road system if you are so inclined. The Highway Anger is a good resource if so and available on Amazon. There are also a number of breweries and distilleries that have popped up. Valdez is one of our favorite places if we are down that direction. If you are going next year and time it right, you can hit the Pink salmon run and catch them from shore around Allison point. We spend a lot of time around Fairbanks so if you intend to go up that far, PM me for ideas of what to do if you like.
 

BrooksRanger

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To echo everyone else, Alaska is huge so you're not going to be able to do all of it in one go. That's a good thing though, it just means more to explore on your next trip. I think renting a car or RV in either Anchorage or Fairbanks and doing the loop is a great way to see a lot of Alaska.

A few more options that you might consider if you're going to drive are to take a trip North of Fairbanks towards Prudhoe Bay. This drive is not exactly full of action, but if you've got the time and want to see some of the more remote parts of Alaska that are still accessible by road system this is where you'll find yourself. If you make it as far as the Brooks Range, you may have a chance to see migrating caribou crossing the road by the thousands, and if you're lucky a Dall Sheep or two around Atigun Pass. Another option is to take a short air tour/charter from Fairbanks to Coldfoot at the southern border of the Brooks Range with Northern Alaska Tour Company (NATC). You can then take a ride back with them in one of their vans to Fairbanks and resume your journey. This way you don't have to drive and can enjoy the scenery and get more information from the guide about what makes the area so unique.

Another place that doesn't get as much visitation (although it does much more than it used to) is Wrangell St-Elias National Park & Preserve. This is the largest National Park in the US and is my favorite park behind Gates of the Arctic National Park. It isn't as well marketed as Denali so it sees way less visitors, and to get into the park, you'll need to drive on a pretty rough road to McCarthy. Right now, it's dip netting season along the Copper River which is at the start of the drive. The Copper River like the Yukon to the North is an amazing sight to behold.

Finally, another option that doesn't require driving and that I'm surprised no-one has mentioned is to take a ferry trip. I spent part of a summer a long time ago working as a naturalist for the Forest Service on the ferry and can tell you that they are in no way limited to the older cruise crowd. They are full of locals and independent travelers making their way North for the summer to work or explore. The excitement you can pick up from traveling this way is contagious, and it's a blast to connect with other travelers aboard. One of the benefits to this mode vs the cruise is that you can be extremely flexible and can stay in a town long after the ferry arrives, and if you want to catch the next ferry you can just get off and stay as long as you want. I you do this, I'd recommend visiting Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Tenakee Springs, and Haines. If you stop in Juneau, you can take a quick flight out to Gustavus, and do a tour in Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.

Okay, I think it's time to wrap this up. I spent a lot of my twenties working around the state in a number of National Parks in Alaska so if you have any more specific questions feel free to PM me. There really is too much to say in one post!
 

wllm1313

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Second on the ferry trip! My family took the ferry from Olympia to Sitka? then flew over to Gustavus when I was in high school... that was the trip that got me hooked on Alaska. Like BrooksRanger said totally different experience than the cruise ship.
 

ajricketts

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I did an Alaska cruise last year with my parents, wife, and 3 kids. It was great for what it was, a super relaxing way to see some beautiful country and show the kids some of God's most beautiful creation and small peek into a different way of life. That being said, for someone who knows better, you know that you're not really getting an honest feel for all that Alaska has to offer during the short stops in port. But I still loved every second of the trip. That might be more true for me since I currently live in south Florida and really miss seeing mountains and country like that. Also, there is something to be said for paying one price that covers the whole trip: food, stay, travel, etc. The only other costs are souvenirs and extra excursions if you desire. For my family, the trip was great and worth every penny.

Now, when the kids get a little older and ready for something else, and my wife is ready, lol, I'd definitely lean towards what others are saying.
 

BigHornRam

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On a 2001 Yukon hunt I camped and drove all the way up and back with my newly retired parents. While I was hunting they went over to Alaska west of Dawson City and did some sight seeing over there. Don't overlook visiting the Yukon in your hurry to get to Alaska. Exceptional, uncrowded country. The Dempster highway should be on every outdoor persons short list of spectacular country to visit.

We traveled through Banff and Jasper, then cut over to the Cassiar Hwy going up and returned on the Alaska hwy through Edmonton and Calgary on the way back. All new country to me. I had the first edition of this book that I found very helpful. Would imagine the second edition to be more up to date.


Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.
 

BigHornRam

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Dempster Highway is my "honey hole". End of August or first part of September when the fall colors are in full display, the bugs are not bad, and the day's are still long would be the perfect time to visit.


Up for a little backpack trip off the highway? Check out this little known gem.

 
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Dave N

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Did the cruise/land tour combo 6 years ago mainly to get the wife to agree on going to Alaska. She didn't want to go, but the cruise part helped. By the 2nd day she loved it! Yes, the ports are tourist traps. Get past that and it's beautiful. Our tour guide for the land portion was a walking encyclopedia and we ended up exchanging email addresses. Her and her husband are now some of our closest friends. We've gone up 5 more times since then, driven around for THOUSANDS of miles, and last month we bought a chunk of property that we're improving with the intent of flipping and upgrading to a permanent retirement home. Whichever way you decide to go, it will be a great trip.
 

Scott85

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Thanks everybody for the comments so far. We are going to do the land trip. We plan to tent camp most nights. I like all the suggestions so far. Seems like it’s going to take a lot of planning to make sure we hit all the must see spots.
 
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BrooksRanger

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I have to say Big Horn Ram is quite right. Whenever I used to point to maps and explain how wild it was in Alaska, I always used to say when you want even more wilderness and isolation go check out the Yukon, Nunavut, or Northwestern Territories. They are still territories for a reason. I love the Yukon!
 
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Guy

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Couple of years ago I booked a grizzly hunt in the Brooks Range.

I'd been to Alaska many times, starting in 1979 or 1980 - not sure which anymore - but I always flew up then hiked, camped, backpacked, fished... But I'd never hunted. This time I had the time and drove up and back… Wow... There's a whole lot of beautiful country along the way.

Last fall I flew up again to fly fish the silver run outside of Cordova, in September. Wow... Again an amazing trip. There is so much Alaska to see and experience. Enjoy your trip. I will be up there again someday, likely within the next few years.

Take a good camera with a telephoto lens and a good pair of binoculars. :)

Guy
 

BrooksRanger

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Hey Guy, Yep the Brooks Range is like nowhere else. It feels prehistoric.
P.S. You gotta keep Cordova off the radar, haha! .... :)
 
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