9 Alaska Itineraries From Anchorage (With A Car Or Without One!)

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Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, is the perfect jumping-off point for an unforgettable adventure through the Last Frontier. Whether you have a few days or a couple of weeks, this guide provides 9 curated itineraries showcasing the best of Alaska - all starting from Anchorage.

Unlike a basic road trip from the Lower 48, exploring Alaska requires some planning to make the most of your time. These carefully crafted itineraries draw from our experiences driving through the state's rugged landscapes, iconic national parks, and charming small towns.

Whether you prefer the convenience of a rental car or the nostalgic experience of winding your way through the wilderness aboard the iconic Alaska Railroad, we've got you covered.

From action-packed 3-day trips to leisurely 2-week journeys, each itinerary includes a day-by-day schedule tailored to make your Alaskan dream vacation a reality.

Are you eager to come face-to-face with grizzlies at Denali? Or maybe you'd rather chase waterfalls along the Kenai Peninsula? Our local insights ensure you won't miss the must-see highlights; we'll let you in on foodie favorites and where to spot marine wildlife.

First up, all aboard! The train itineraries allow you to kick back and enjoy Alaska's magnificent scenery at a relaxing pace.

Train Itineraries From Anchorage

If you're in the mood for a leisurely ride up the Alaskan landscape, why not take a train? These vestiges of a time gone will take you all across the state in style.

9 Alaska Itineraries from Anchorage

1. Seward (3-4 days)

Just a scenic 4-hour train ride from Anchorage, the coastal town of Seward offers the perfect intro to Alaska's rugged charms. Sit back and enjoy the views as you wind along Resurrection Bay en route to this quintessential fishing village.

Day 1

Arrive early to maximize your time in Seward. After stowing your bags at your downtown digs (we love the historic Harbor 360 Hotel), head straight for the bustling small-boat harbor.

This working waterfront offers a captivating glimpse into local life - watch fishermen offloading their catch as playful sea otters and seals bob nearby.

9 Alaska Itineraries from Anchorage (With A Car or Without One!)

Don't miss the impressive Alaska SeaLife Center, where you can view puffins, harbor seals, and more through immersive undersea viewing areas. As evening falls, tuck into fresh salmon at one of the many harborside eateries.

More about the awesome things to do in Seward.

In the evening, you can rest in an Orca Island Cabin, the Harbor 360 Hotel, or any other B&B in the area. You'll need to stay in Seward overnight to start your journey back in the morning.

Day 2

Today, you'll experience Alaska's jaw-dropping coastal scenery up close on a 6-hour Kenai Fjords cruise.

Prepare to be dazzled as you glide past calving glaciers, dense spruce forests clinging to sheer rock faces, and potentially spot whales, sea lions, and other marine wildlife frolicking offshore.

Our insider tips will help you make the most of this bucket-list experience.

9 Alaska Itineraries From Anchorage (With A Car Or Without One!)

In Seward, toast to the day's adventures over local tea and freshly shucked oysters.

Day 3

On your final morning, visit the Seward Museum to learn about the town's rich Indigenous heritage and pioneering past. Then, stroll the waterfront one last time, watching for frolicking sea otters and breaching whales before hopping back aboard the train to Anchorage.

Winter admission to the museum is free, while summer admission costs $5.00 per person. Children under the age of 12 are allowed into the Museum for free.

You can also walk down the Waterfront Park to catch a final glimpse of any whales or seals enjoying an early morning.

After a luxurious lunch, you can return to the train station and journey to Anchorage, having well-acquainted yourself with one of Alaska's beautiful cities.

2. Denali National Park (3-4 days)

Alaska's crown jewel beckons via the Denali Star train from Anchorage. Settle in for this 7.5-hour journey as you wind through spruce stands and aspen toward Denali National Park's jaw-dropping peaks and valleys.

Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the snowy 20,310-foot summit of Denali herself - the highest mountain in North America.

9 Alaska Itineraries From Anchorage (With A Car Or Without One!)

Day 1

After an awe-inspiring arrival into Denali's backcountry, orient yourself at the park's Wilderness Access Center to secure coveted bus tickets for exploring the park road over the next few days.

Next, hop on the free shuttle to the Denali Kennels for a delightful introduction to the park's hardworking sled dog teams. Watch as these mighty pups demonstrate their skills and unleash their boundless energy.

As evening falls, hike (or ride) back to the Visitor Center area for a ranger-led program illuminating Denali's natural and cultural wonders. Then settle into your cozy digs - from rustic cabins to full-service lodges just outside the park entrance.

Day 2

Rise early to maximize your day inside Denali's wild boundaries. You'll want to pack for a full day on your second day in Denali because you'll spend most of your waking hours in the park.

We recommend the guided transit bus deep into the park, where you'll have a good chance of spotting caribou, grizzlies, Dall sheep, and more amid the alpine tundra and glaciated peaks.

Back at the park entrance, refuel on fresh Alaskan seafood as you recount your memorable sightings. Read more about Denali National Park Tips here.

Day 3

For those with just 3 days, embark on an early morning hike along the Savage River Loop before hopping back aboard the train to Anchorage late afternoon.

This relatively flat 2-mile trail offers Denali's beauty from the valley floor, meandering past beaver ponds and through thick stands of spruce and willow.

Those with an extra day can linger for potential aurora-viewing as night falls over Denali's wilderness. Staying at one of the lodges near the park entrance puts you in a prime position.

Optional Extra Day

On your optional fourth day in Denali, you can take an early morning shuttle back into the park to get a better glimpse of the wildlife in the area. You'll then want to be on a train back to Anchorage by early afternoon.

3. Denali National Park & Fairbanks (5-7 days)

Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

If you have more time in the Denali area, take advantage of it! Families staying for a week can use the above itinerary to map out their first two days in the area. From there, though, things will start to vary.

Day 3

Spend the morning exploring the Savage River area and hiking to better see the waterway. As the afternoon comes around, head down to the train station. You're not heading back to Anchorage, though. Instead, hop back onto the Denali Star Line for a 4-hour, 121.5-mile trip to Fairbanks.

You'll want to secure accommodations in Fairbanks ahead of time so you can rest up without having to run through the semantics of securing a hotel. Fairbanks has many bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, and hotels at the ready; all you need to do is choose the most appropriate place for your family.

Day 4 & 5

9 Alaska Itineraries From Anchorage (With A Car Or Without One!)

On the fourth and fifth days of your vacation, please take the opportunity to explore Fairbanks to its fullest. You'll be able to use available public transportation to make your way to any of the following hot spots:

  • LARS (Large Animal Research Station)
  • The Museum of the North in Fairbanks
  • Georgeson Botanical Gardens
  • Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center
  • Pioneer Park
  • Riverboat Discovery

You can look at our guide to Fairbanks to learn more about all the places. Once you've tuckered yourself out, head back to your lodging of choice for the evening and prepare for the final day of your trip.

Day 6

You should spend the final day of your Alaskan vacation making the most of your time in Fairbanks. Make sure to visit some of the hot spots you missed the day before in the morning. In the afternoon, you'll want to return to the train station and prepare for the 12-hour, 356-mile trip from Fairbanks to Anchorage.

Car Itineraries From Anchorage (3-4 Days)

If you're not interested in taking the train, you can always rent a car and turn your Alaskan vacation into a road trip. Let's explore your shorter road trip options here.

1. Girdwood, Portage, and Seward

Girdwood, Alaska

Day 1

After leaving Anchorage, your first stop on this road trip will be in Girdwood. Girdwood is only 40 miles from Anchorage, courtesy of AK-1 S, meaning it'll take under an hour to get you to your destination.

Here, you'll be able to visit the Alaska Wildlife Center. Alternatively, you can spend your early morning hiking around Portage Glacier before getting lunch in town.

In the afternoon, make your way over to Seward. This drive will take under two hours, as Seward rests some 90 miles from Girdwood.

You don't have to explore Seward in the evening, but if you have the energy, you can take advantage of the gorgeous waterfront views the city boasts.

Day 2

You'll have your second day in Alaska to explore Seward. You'll need it, too. The Seward Marina and Sealife Center are both teeming with wildlife.

The local Exit Glacier area also makes for excellent mid-day hiking. Once you've worn out on the area's natural features, you can head back to town for a peaceful dinner.

Day 3

On the last day of your trip (unless you're looking for a little more time in Seward), make your way up to Lowell Point in the early morning. You can look out over the Pacific Ocean and whale watch.

Once you're finished, you can drive an hour and 44 minutes to Girdwood's Alyeska Resort, where you'll enjoy a luxurious meal and snowy ski slopes.

You can readily drive the 40-minute jaunt back down to Anchorage, where you can either settle in for the evening or head back home after a busy - but satisfying - trip.

Optional Day

If you have time to stay in Seward for an extra day, book a cruise to the Kenai Fjords!

2. Portage and Whittier

For a shorter trip, why not explore Portage and Whittier?

Stream flowing from Byron Glacier, in Portage Valley Alaska
Stream flowing from Byron Glacier in Portage Valley, Alaska

Day 1

Start your trip with a visit to the Girdwood Alaska Wildlife Center. Once you've toured and hiked around Portage Glacier, you can cross over the Girdwood Tunnel to enter Whittier. Do note that the tunnel's operations vary by season.

The tunnel is open in the summer between May 1 and September 30. In the Winter, you can cross the tunnel depending on the weather.

The drive from Girdwood to Whittier takes 41 minutes, as you only travel 23.5 miles. Even so, research ahead to ensure you can easily cross the tunnel. Once you have, you can settle into a Whittier hotel for the evening.

Day 2

You'll be able to spend the second day of your trip exploring all of Whittier's attractions. These include the Prince William Sound Museum, which will appeal to children and adults alike.

You can also spend your day hiking on Whittier's local trails or familiarizing yourself with the sights down at the Whittier Harbor. Make sure you've booked your hotel for two nights, as you'll be bunking in Whittier again.

Day 3

On the last day of your trip, you'll cross through the tunnel to return to Girdwood. Here, you'll be able to spend the day enjoying all of the attractions available to you at Alyeska Resort.

Grab a meal in town at the end of the day before driving the 40 miles back to Anchorage.

3. Denali Road Trip From Anchorage

Day 1

Make the 4-hour, 237-mile drive from Anchorage to Denali courtesy of AK-3 N. Once settled, visit the National Park's dog kennels via shuttle to watch a sled dog show.

From here, you can hike to the park's Visitor's Center to learn more about the area. Book a hotel near the park to make the next morning's travel easier.

Day 2

Take a shuttle from your Denali hotel into the National Park. You can spend your day hiking, re-visiting the kennels, and enjoying the many other attractions in the area.

Day 3

Take the morning to hike the Savage River area outside the National Park.

Once you've wrapped up your morning, hit the road to make the 4-hour drive back to Anchorage, where you can either spend the night or catch a plane back to your hometown.

Car Itineraries From Anchorage (5-7 Days)

Want to spend a little more time on the road? You can take a few longer road trips that'll expose you to all of Alaska's natural secrets.

9 Alaska Itineraries From Anchorage (With A Car Or Without One!)

1. Kenai Peninsula Road Trip

Day 1

The trip from Anchorage to your first stop, Girdwood, will take 48 minutes. In those 40 miles, look for bears, puffins, and other Alaskan wildlife. Once you're in Girdwood, you'll be able to find these creatures more readily at the Alaska Wildlife Sanctuary.

After exploring with the animals, you can go to Portage Glacier and eat lunch by the glacial lake. Once you've finished, all that's left is a 1 hour, 15-minute drive to Cooper Landing, where you'll spend the night. Here, you'll have your choice of hotels and B&Bs to rest up in.

Day 2

Spend your next morning hiking around Cooper Landing. Once you've got your boots muddy, you can drive the 45 miles and 52 minutes to Soldotna. Soldotna is a smaller Alaskan city, but you can still stretch your legs on local trails after grabbing lunch.

After resting in Soldotna, you can go onto AK-1 S for the last 2 hours and 20 minutes over to Homer, AK. Homer is 120 miles away from Soldotna and full of urban energy.

If you're up for a late-night adventure, you can spend the evening exploring the many restaurants in the area.

Day 3 & 4

After settling into your lodgings in Homer, you can explore the city's many attractions for the next two days. These hot spots include:

  • The Homer Spit
  • Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center
  • Kilcher Homestead Living Museum
  • Pratt Museum
  • Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
  • Kachemak Bay State Park (boat tour available)
  • Bishop's Beach Park
  • Hallo Bay Lodge Bear Viewing

There are also ample hiking opportunities available in the Homer area. Spend these two days of your trip making the most of this Alaskan city, and you'll appreciate the area all the more.

The Homer Spit
The Homer Spit

Day 5

Leave Homer early in the morning and make your way over to Seward. The 3-and-a-half hour, 168-mile drive will let you and the kids rest before another day of exploration.

In Seward, you can visit the Seward Marina and Sealife Center, where you can go whale-watching and learn more about Alaska's aquatic wildlife.

If you want to spend the night in Seward, you can (and arguably should)! However, if you're going to get back to Anchorage ASAP, you'll need to complete the drive on the fifth day of your visit.

This drive lasts 2 and a half hours and will take you past 127 miles of Alaskan wilderness.

The Homer Spit

Optional Day

If you want more time on the road, you can pre-book a cruise to Kenai Fjords from Seward Marina. This 6-hour tour will let you explore the area's gorgeous waterways up close and personal.

There are also additional hiking opportunities near Seward and Portage Glacier. If you want to take the extra time to dig your heels into Alaska, spend the night in Seward and watch the sunrise over Alaska's chilly hills.

2. Denali & Anchorage

If taking a train up to Denali doesn't excite you, then it's easy enough to turn the itinerary mentioned above into a road trip.

Day 1

On the first day of your visit, you'll want to quickly stop in Talkeetna, AK. Talkeetna is a two-hour, 113-mile drive away from Anchorage. Here, you can stretch your legs while exploring the local river walk.

Talkteena, after all, rests at the crossroads of three glacial rivers, making it the ideal spot to have lunch and enjoy the sound of running water.

From Talkeetna, it's a 2-and-a-half hour, 152-mile drive to Denali. If you have the energy after your drive, you can hike the Savage River Area before checking into your hotel for the evening.

Day 2

We recommend spending your second day in Denali at Denali National Park. Take a shuttle into the park in the early morning and spend the rest of your day hiking or enjoying the park's many attractions.

If you're visiting in the fall, stay in the park through the evening. You may catch a glimpse of the auroras overhead.

Denali at Sunrise

Day 3

If you didn't visit the dog kennels at Denali on the second day of your trip, you need to visit them today. Here, you can watch sled dogs play and test their strength. You may even be able to take a ride on a dog sled!

After visiting the Visitors' Center and saying goodbye to the dogs, head back onto the road and drive to Fairbanks. This 2-hour, 123-mile drive will set you up to spend two-and-a-half days exploring the Fairbanks area.

Day 4 & 5

Similarly to the Fairbanks visit described in the train itinerary, you can spend your fourth and fifth days on vacation exploring the many attractions in the Fairbanks area, including:

  • LARS (Large Animal Research Station)
  • The Museum of the North in Fairbanks
  • Georgeson Botanical Gardens
  • Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center
  • Pioneer Park
  • Riverboat Discovery

On both nights, make sure to stay within the city limits. You'll be able to explore the city's nightlife and seasonal attractions more readily if you do.

Day 6

On the last day of your visit, spend your morning visiting one or two of the attractions you missed on the previous days of your trip. Then, hit the road and head back to Anchorage.

On average, the drive takes 6 hours, as you'll have to make your way across 360.6 miles of Alaskan highway.

Two-week Alaska Itinerary From Anchorage By Car

If you have more time, this two-week Alaska itinerary will take you around the state's most popular spots.

Days 1-6

You can use the Kenai Peninsula Itinerary to schedule the first week of your Alaskan vacation.

Days 7-11

Take care to divide the next five days of your trip between Denali and Fairbanks, as you would if following the itinerary mentioned earlier.

Day 12

You'll want to prepare the kids for the twelfth day of your trip. This day, you'll be heading to the North Pole. A 17-minute, 13.5-mile drive away from Fairbanks, courtesy of AK-2 E, you'll be able to do more than see this natural wonder in its beauty.

You'll also be able to dive into the history of St. Nicholas and Santa Claus.

If you can get the kids to calm down, eat lunch in Delta Junction, and take advantage of the thematic boutiques in the area. You can return to lodgings in Fairbanks or settle in the distant Glenallen.

If you want to head out of Fairbanks, Glenallen is a 4-hour and 13-minute drive away via AK-2 E and AK-4 S. Driving these extra 248 miles will help you jump on the next day's activities.

Day 13

Views from Glenn Hwy between Palmer and Glenallen, Alaska
Views from Glenn Hwy between Palmer and Glenallen, Alaska

If you haven't already made your way to Glenallen, today is the day to do it. On your way, you can drive the McCarthy Road, which takes you to the gates of Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

Do note, however, that McCarthy Road is a dirt road. You may want to forgo this visit if you've rented a car for your trip.

Instead, you can drive over to Valdez. This scenic drive will take you through Alaska's varying ecosystems, exposing you to as many chilled tundras as it will glistening forests.

After your 2-hour, 120-mile drive, you can visit the Solomon Hatchery, among Valdez's many other local attractions.

Day 14

At last, with the kids tuckered out, you can start your drive back to Anchorage. Head down the scenic Glenn Highway to glimpse America's last frontier.

The drive will take 5 and a quarter hours over 300 miles, but the views you'll get are worth the time spent on the road.

Take Your Time and Enjoy the Beauty of Alaska

As you can see, there are many great options for creating a memorable trip to Alaska, and she has everything she has to offer.

Take your time to appreciate the gorgeous land in all its glory!

9 Alaska Itineraries From Anchorage (With A Car Or Without One!)

9 Alaska Itineraries From Anchorage (With A Car Or Without One!)

9 Alaska Itineraries From Anchorage (With A Car Or Without One!)

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