Alaska’s Iron Dog Race

iron-dogOne event that my family and I look forward to each year is the Iron Dog sled race. The Iron Dog race is the world’s longest snowmobile race. This is a uniquely Alaskan event that takes place each year just before the Iditarod race. It is 2000 miles and the most difficult and challenging off road snow machine race in the world. It starts at Big Lake just north of Anchorage off the George Parks highway. This year we saw just about 40 teams depart for Nome. The trail follows the coast up to Nome, Alaska and then they turn around and head back to the finish along the Tanana/Chena Rivers into Fairbanks, Alaska. The current record for the race is 37 hours and 19 minutes in 2009.

Drivers compete in two man teams and are required to take three six hour breaks on their way from Big Lake to Fairbanks with a mandatory 48 hour rest in Nome as well. Racers endure temperatures as cold as -57 below zero and that’s not with the wind chill factored in. It’s so cold that the racers will put duct tape around their eyes to prevent frostbite as they are going at rather high speeds. Past racers have described the race and trails as a grueling bone-numbing, face freezing charge North. (more…)

Kenai Fjords National Park Day Cruise Options

aialik-glacierOne of the most popular national parks in Alaska is Kenai Fjords National Park. Located about 130 miles south of Anchorage, it is easily accessible by car, bus or train. Seward is the small coastal community located at the entrance of the park. From Seward you can take a day cruise out to see all the park has to offer. Kenai Fjords National Park is known for great marine wildlife viewing, such as whales, sea lions, otters and more! Also, not to be missed on these cruises are the glaciers.

There are two types of cruises offered out of Seward: “National Park” cruises that go 110-120+ miles round trip and shorter “Resurrection Bay” cruises that go about 55 miles round trip. It is important to understand that the longer the cruise the better chance you have to see wildlife as well as additional tidewater glaciers. It is also helpful to know that two companies operate Kenai Fjords National Park and Resurrection Bay cruises – Kenai Fjords Tours and Major Marine Tours. Both companies have good reputations so choosing what company and what cruise to take really comes down to identifying which cruise is best for you based on your own preferences and schedule. (more…)

Top 5 Asked Alaska Travel Questions

We receive dozens of calls and emails daily from folks planning a trip to Alaska asking terrific questions. Here are a few of the most common questions from visitors who are in the BEGINNING stages of planning their vacation -

#1 What currency do I need to bring to Alaska?

Answer: U.S. currency of course! Alaska joined the United States in 1959 and is the 49th State. ATM machines are readily available in all larger towns such as Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks and credit cards are accepted in most tourism associated businesses. Keep in mind though that if you are planning on traveling remotely by plane or by car that you’ll want to carry additional cash because outside of the major cities internet access needed to process credit cards isn’t available. (more…)

Dining on the Alaska Railroad

ARR-WildernessexplorerMost visitors who explore Alaska’s South-central and Interior travel at least a portion of their vacation by Alaska railroad. The railroad provides a quality means of transportation from Seward to the south, to Fairbanks in the north with Anchorage, Talkeetna and Denali being the primary destinations in between. While the railroad is likely the most memorable means of transport in Alaska, it isn’t known as being “bullet train” fast so due to the distances involved you will likely be eating at least one meal on board each of the rail segments that you travel on. It’s good then that dining on board is such a fantastic way of passing time while enjoying the Alaska scenery. (more…)

Things to Do in Denali Park

Denali National Park is the most popular National Park to visit in Alaska. Covering over 6 million acres it is home to Mt. McKinley and provides spectacular scenery and wildlife viewing. With over 400,000 visitors each year it is not surprising the range of activities varies as much as the weather!

thingstodoindenaliblog2The most popular way to see the park is by a Denali bus tours. Three different fully guided, narrated tours are available during the summer season. The shortest tour is the Denali Natural History Tour; this tour is 4-5 hours in length and travels 17 miles into the park focusing mainly on the history of the park. If you are looking for wildlife you can take either the Tundra Wilderness Tour or a Kantishna Tour. The Tundra Wilderness Tour is 6-8 hours and travels 53 miles into the park. This is the shortest tour you can take to get a good chance to see wildlife. These tours have morning and afternoon departures, which make them easy to fit into any schedule! To really see everything the park has to offer I recommend either the Kantishna Wilderness Trails Tour or the Kantishna Experience Tour. These tours travel the full 95 miles of the park road and are 13 hours in length. They both offer exceptional narration and lunch with a stop in Kantishna for an hour or so. (more…)

Things to Do in Anchorage For a Day

There are some great Alaska adventures that can be done as day trips from Anchorage. Depending on your interests, you can take a glacier cruise, take a flight over Mt. McKinley or go on a dog sled ride and be back in your Anchorage hotel by bedtime.aialikglacier-cruisingThere are two fantastic options for glacier cruises from Anchorage. The cruise out of Seward offers a variety of wildlife and glaciers and the cruise from Whittier focuses more on glacier viewing. To visit the Kenai Fjords National Park from Anchorage in a day, I recommend the following itinerary. Depart Anchorage by rail at 6:45am. The Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward offers some spectacular scenery which includes the Turnagain Arm and Spencer Glacier. Arrive in Seward at 11:05am. Depart on the 11:30am glacier and wildlife catamaran cruise. Major Marines offers a terrific salmon and prime rib buffet while cruising Kenai Fjords during which you will enjoy six hours on the water. Return to Anchorage via the Park Connection motorcoach which departs Seward at 6:30pm and arrive back in Anchorage by 9:30pm. The first half of the bus trip does not parallel the rail belt so this combination of train and bus offers the chance to see more Alaskan scenery. (more…)

Alaska Wildlife “Guaranteed” Viewing!

Alaska CaribouMy family recently took a trip to three Southwest United States National Parks during which we drove about 1200 miles in 10 days. We were impressed with the amount of wildlife that we observed both in the National Parks as well as along the highways. I admit, our two “Alaska born and raised” kids were probably more excited to see grazing cows, sheep, and horses then they were the Mule Deer, Coyotes, and even Big Horn Sheep but that is probably because at home its relatively common for them to see Alaska Moose, perhaps a bear or fox among other wildlife near where we live. But a cow on a ranch was a whole new thing! Our Alaskan kids become jaded due to often seeing so much wildlife in their own “backyard”. I recall a recent soccer game being played at Anchorage’s Kincaid Park where a large, roughly 1300-pound, Bull Moose wandered onto the soccer field during a game and the 22-kids continued playing unfazed. Only the coach, who had recently arrived from Japan, was alarmed and sprinted across the field through the girls who soon razzed their new coach about his response. (more…)

Anchorage – Worth Including in Your Alaska Package

Anchorage, for most visitors to Alaska is simply a launching point for adventures to Denali National Park or the Kenai Peninsula but I believe that Anchorage has a lot to offer visitors. Visitors can enjoy great museums, biking, back-country hiking and of course, the best shopping and dining in Alaska.
A great way to start your visit in Anchorage is with a morning city tour. This two hour tour gives you a great orientation to the city and also gives you the historical highlights of Anchorage. When I travel to a new city, I like to go on a guided, local tour because it helps me orient to my new surroundings and I learn a little about the local history, visitor attractions, and geography.

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