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Alaska in 4 Days: Making the Most of a Short Stay in AK

Alyeska Tram

When people daydream about a trip to Alaska, it’s usually epic. There’s a cruise and a land package, a couple train rides, a few remote destinations. While these big bucket-list adventures are amazing, it’s also possible to get a taste of Alaska when your paid time off and budget don’t allow for such a long vacation. Here’s how you make the most of a short trip in Alaska.

Spend your time in one place. Alaska is vast, so traveling between major attractions can eat up your time in state. Focusing on one location keeps your time in transit, albeit quite scenic, to a minimum. As a bonus, staying in one place for a few days boosts your chance at seeing a bit of clear weather (that’s you, Denali).

Diversify your activities. And try something new while you’re at it. Choose excursions that let you experience your slice of Alaska in many ways. Think flightseeing, guided hikes, or boat trips.

Book everything in advance. There’s something to be said for waiting till you get to your vacation location to plan activities. It’s nice to get recommendations from locals, it’s fun to spontaneously pick what you’ll do for the day. But when you’re dealing with limited time, planning all activities, transportation, lodging, and trip logistics before you land means not a second will be wasted while you’re here.

And speaking of that, are you ready to start planning? Check out two of our favorite four-day Alaska itineraries for inspiration:


Trip One: South to Seward and Girdwood


Day 1: Fly into Anchorage in the morning. Pick up a rental car and start the scenic 2.5-hour drive south to Seward. Stop along the way for pictures at Beluga Point, Turnagain Pass, and Summit Lake. Check into the Harbor 360 [2] in Seward. Enjoy dinner in the city’s historical downtown.

Day 2: Spend a leisurely morning exploring the shops and galleries in the Small Boat Harbor. Return to the Harbor 360 to catch the Kenai Fjords National Park Catamaran Cruise [3] leaving at 11:30 a.m. See wildlife and glaciers up close. When you get back to the harbor at 5:30 p.m., grab a coffee for the road from Resurrect Art Coffee House. Drive 1.5 hours back north to the Hotel Alyeska [4] in Girdwood.


Day 3: Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before meeting your guide for an Alpine Hike [6] on the Alyeska Glacier at 9 a.m. You’ll ride a tram 2,000 feet up the mountain and spend the next few hours hiking in high places. Grab lunch at the top of the tram before heading down. Next, drive over to the Girdwood Airport to meet your two-hour Girdwood Glacier Dog Sled Helicopter Tour [7] at 3:30 p.m. After you touch down at 5:30 p.m., check out the Girdwood Brewing Company before you head to dinner at Jack Sprat.

Day 4: Treat yourself to a relaxing morning reading the paper by the hotel fireplace, walking trails around Alyeska, or visiting the hotel spa before returning to Anchorage.


Trip Two: North to Talkeetna and Denali [8]

[9]Day 1: Fly into Anchorage in the morning. Take a taxi or ride share to the Anchorage Museum to catch the Park Connection Motorcoach leaving for Talkeetna at 3 p.m. Arrive at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge at 5:30 p.m.

Day 2: Grab a quick breakfast and then head the Talkeetna Airport for a Denali Glacier Landing Flight [10] at 9 a.m. If the weather cooperates you’ll return at 10:30 a.m. Take your time exploring the funky town of Talkeetna before hopping on a Talkeetna Dogsled Kennel Tour [11] at 2:15 p.m. You’ll be back in Talkeetna by 5 p.m., giving you time to grab a quick snack for the road before meeting the Park Connection heading north at 5:45 p.m. You’ll arrive at the Grande Denali Lodge at 8:30 p.m.

Day 3: Pick up to-go breakfast from hotel coffee counter before heading into Denali National Park on the Kantishna Wilderness Trails Tour [12] from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. You’ll spend the day exploring the Denali backcountry. Enjoy dinner at the hotel.

Day 4: It’s another early rise for a three-hour Nenana River whitewater raft trip [13] at 7:30 a.m. After your river run the raft company will take you to the Denali Depot to catch the 12:30 p.m. Denali Star [14] train back to Anchorage.


At Alaska Tour & Travel, we specialize in building custom trips for every timeline, personality, and budget. If you’d like to have an Alaskan plan your Alaska adventure, give us a call at 800-208-0200.