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It's Always an Adventure...

  • Writer's pictureKrista

Visiting Alaska’s National Parks – The Logistics & Itinerary

Trip Dates: June 19th, 2019 - July 23rd, 2019

I’m on a mission to visit all of the National Parks in the United States and it’s no secret some are easier to visit than others. Alaska is home to some of the nation’s most remote lands and least visited National Parks. At the time of writing this, I was in Juneau awaiting the ferry to Gustavus, the gateway to our last National Park – Glacier Bay. I couldn’t have been happier; my Dad and I were so close to reaching my goal of visiting all eight National Parks located in Alaska. The trip had been challenging in many, many ways but the largest obstacle (aside from the price tag) was the actual planning of it! After all, five of the eight parks do not even have roads leading up to them. For those interested in doing a similar trip or for those wondering how I actually completed this massive puzzle, this blog post will focus on the logistics and itinerary. Subsequent posts will recap our time in each park. The logistics were essentially a nightmare but the memories from the trip itself will last a lifetime!!! There will be plenty more photos in the upcoming posts! Denali is in the works now!

I spent at least seven months planning our trip which is spanning 35 days (June 19th, 2019-July 23rd, 2019). We booked one-way flights to Anchorage, Alaska back on November 24th, 2018 which left about seven months to get everything planned. There were a lot of moving parts to the trip as some reservations (i.e. Brooks Camp in Katmai) became available later (typically January 5th but in actuality March 2nd due to the partial government shutdown) and I had to subsequently shuffle a few things around. I was sending emails on Christmas Day from the middle of the South Pacific Ocean (in the National Park of American Samoa!) in order to reserve a public use cabin as reservations could be made up to six months in advance of the day of request.

I built in days for “wiggle room” which were for anything from weather to fatigue to just not feeling well. I have rushed parks in the past and wanted to ensure we got an adequate experience in these parks, especially due to the once-in-a-lifetime nature of this trip and the overall cost. Speaking of cost(s), my Dad and I split the trip 50/50 and I worked my tail off to make this a dream a reality. I literally drove for Uber, delivered food with Postmates, and worked a LOT of Saturdays to get overtime for my real job. While it would have been great to stay in lodges and hotels every night, the majority of the time we were crammed in a two-person backpacking tent and the worst part was going 4-5 days between showers. The sacrifices were completely worth it to me because we got to eat some decent meals, meet amazing people, and experience awesome adventures.

The order in which we visited the parks was as follows:

  1. Denali National Park and Preserve

  2. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve - Nabesna/Slana & McCarthy/Kennecott

  3. Kenai Fjords National Park

  4. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

  5. Kobuk Valley National Park

  6. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

  7. Katmai National Park and Preserve

  8. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Below is a skeleton version of the itinerary I created for the trip. Check back soon for the details of each park and our experiences in each park. Both my Dad and I kept journals on the trip and wrote in them frequently! I’d be happy to help anyone who is planning a similar trip or has questions about our time in the parks – don’t hesitate to ask!

The "Skeleton" Itinerary:

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 – Day One

  • Dad departs Buffalo

  • Krista departs Los Angeles

  • Krista & Dad meet at the Seattle airport

  • Krista & Dad arrive in Anchorage!

  • Pick up rental car from Avis

  • Sleep at Sockeye Inn in Anchorage

Thursday, June 20th, 2019 – Day Two

  • Breakfast at Snow City Café

  • Drive to Denali National Park

  • Take photos near the Park Entrance

  • See the Sled Dog Demonstration

  • Dinner at 49th State Brewing Company

  • Camp at Riley Creek Campground

Friday, June 21st, 2019 – Day Three

  • Board the Camper Shuttle & Enjoy the ride to Wonder Lake Campground

  • Hike the McKinley River Bar Trail

  • Attend a Ranger Program with Ranger Frank

  • Camp at Wonder Lake Campground

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019 Day Four

  • Take the bus to Kantishna – the end of the Denali Park Road!

  • Attend a Ranger Program with Ranger Frank

  • Camp at Wonder Lake Campground

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019 – Day Five

  • Take the bus back towards the Park Entrance

  • SHOWER & Laundry at Riley Creek Campground

  • Eat at Prospector’s Pizzeria & Ale House

  • Attend a Ranger Program

  • Camp at Riley Creek Campground

Monday, June 24th, 2019 – Day Six

  • Drive to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

  • Hike to the Caribou Creek Cabin (Public Use Cabin)

  • Sleep at Caribou Creek Cabin

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 – Day Seven

  • Hike down to the Nabesna Road

  • Drive to the end of the Nabesna Road

  • Hike the Rambler Mine Trail

  • Hike back up to Caribou Creek Cabin, Sleep

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 – Day Eight

  • Relax at the Caribou Creek Cabin all day!

Thursday, June 27th, 2019 – Day Nine

  • Hike down to the Nabesna Road

  • Drive the McCarthy Road

  • Shuttle to Kennicott

  • Eat dinner in McCarthy at The Roadside Potato

  • Sleep at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge

Friday, June 28th, 2019 – Day 10

  • Breakfast at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge

  • Mill Town Tour with St. Elias Alpine Guides

  • Hike the Root Glacier with Wrangell River Tours

  • Eat dinner at Kennicott Glacier Lodge

  • Attend Ranger Program

  • Sleep at Kennicott Glacier Lodge

Saturday, June 29th, 2019 – Day 11

  • Shuttle back to McCarthy

  • Drive from Wrangell-St. Elias to Anchorage

  • Sleep at the Microtel Inn & Suites

Sunday, June 30th, 2019 – Day 12

  • Drive to Kenai Fjords National Park

  • Attend Ranger Led Hike to Exit Glacier

  • Camp at Miller’s Landing

Monday, July 1st, 2019 – Day 13

  • Kayak & Hike Caines Head with Miller’s Landing

  • Complain about Miller’s Landing

  • Camp at Miller’s Landing

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 – Day 14

  • Drive back to Anchorage

  • Eat at Snow City Café

  • Run errands

  • Return Rental Car

  • Fly to Fairbanks

  • Do laundry and SHOWER!

  • Sleep at the Alaska Heritage House

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 – Day 15

  • Fly to Bettles!

  • Meet "Uncle Jeffy"

  • Village Van Tour with Bettles Lodge

  • Ranger Program at the Gates of the Arctic Visitor Center

  • Sleep at Bettles Lodge

Thursday, July 4th, 2019 – Day 16

  • Fly to & Land in Gates of the Arctic National Park & Kobuk Valley National Park

  • Sleep at Bettles Lodge

Friday, July 5th, 2019 – Day 17

  • Float the Koyakuk River

  • Sleep at Bettles Lodge

Saturday, July 6th, 2019 – Day 18

  • Fly back to Fairbanks

  • Visit the Museum of the North

  • Fly back to Anchorage

  • Fancy dinner at Marx Bros. Café

  • Stay at Ingra House Hotel

Sunday, July 7th, 2019 – Day 19

  • Fly to Port Alsworth with Lake and Pen Air

  • Explore Lake Clark National Park Visitor Center

  • Camp at Port Alsworth Campground/Tulchina Adventures

Monday, July 8th, 2019 – Day 20

  • Explore Port Alsworth

  • Read and relax on Lake Clark

  • Attend a Ranger Program

  • Camp at Port Alsworth Campground/Tulchina Adventures

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 – Day 21

  • Read, rest, relax on Lake Clark

  • Camp at Port Alsworth Campground/Tulchina Adventures

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019 – Day 22

  • Charter flight from Port Alsworth to King Salmon with Lake and Pen Air

  • Fly from King Salmon to Brooks Camp with Katmailand Air

  • Attend Bear School at Katmai National Park

  • Ranger Led Cultural Walk

  • Hang out with Bears!

  • Eat dinner at Brooks Lodge

  • Attend a Ranger Program

  • Camp at Brooks Campground

Thursday, July 11th, 2019 – Day 23

  • Eat breakfast at Brooks Lodge

  • Tour to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes

  • Watch bears!

  • Shower!

  • Attend a Ranger Program

  • Camp at Brooks Campground

Friday, July 12th, 2019 – Day 24

  • Watch bears all day!

  • Attend a Ranger Program

Saturday, July 13th, 2019 – Day 25

  • Watch salmon, watch bears

  • Camp at Brooks Campground

Sunday, July 14th, 2019 – Day 26

  • Eat at Brooks Lodge

  • Last chance to see the bears and salmon

  • Fly from Brooks Camp to King Salmon to Anchorage to Juneau

  • Receive word the Mendenhall Campground is flooded

  • Do laundry! And sleep at Frontier Suites Hotel

Monday, July 15th, 2019 – Day 27

  • Alaskan Brewing Company

  • Whale Statue

  • Explore Juneau

  • Eat at SALT

  • Sleep at Frontier Suites Hotel

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 – Day 28 (Today)

  • Sleep in, relax

  • Eat at Sandpiper Café

  • Work on blog post

  • Do laundry

  • Return rental car

  • Sleep at Frontier Suites Hotel

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 – Day 29

  • Take Alaska Marine Highway (ferry) to Gustavus

  • Take shuttle to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve!

  • Camp at Bartlett Cove Campground

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 – Day 30

  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

  • Ranger Program

  • Explore Inter-Tidal Zone

Friday, July 19th, 2019 – Day 31

  • Boat Tour of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Saturday, July 20th, 2019 – Day 32

  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

  • Ranger Programs & More

  • Sunday, July 21st, 2019 – Day 33

  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

  • Hike

Monday, July 22nd, 2019 – Day 34

  • Ferry back to Juneau

  • Sleep at Frontier Suites Hotel

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019 – Day 35

  • Find + Buy Xtra-Tufs!

  • Fly Juneau to Seattle

  • Depart Seattle for Buffalo

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019 – Day 36

  • Arrive in Buffalo!

  • Try to put the trip into words!

Many more photos coming soon with upcoming posts - check back often!

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