Spencer Glacier Hike & Kayak Adventure

One rainy day in late August my family and I set out on a new adventure – a trip to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop to kayak on Spencer Lake and the chance to hike on Spencer glacier. to get to Spencer, you’ll need to take the Alaska Railroad’s Glacial Discovery train from either Anchorage or Girdwood. We traveled by car to Girdwood along the Turnagain Arm and were lucky enough to see Beluga whales in route.

ryan-glacial-talkWe parked at the Hotel Alyeska and checked in with Ascending Path at the yurt next to the hotel. In the yurt we were fitted with crampons for our walk on the glacier. The guides also made sure that we were dressed appropriately – full rain gear, many layers, hats, gloves and NO cotton clothing! Alaska weather is always an adventure and can be enjoyed as long as you are prepared. A good hiking shoe is a plus but I only had running shoes and did okay. My feet got wet due to the rain and a bit cold but the crampon attached comfortably to my shoes. The guide service, The Ascending Path, will also set you up with climbing boots to use while on the glacier. A few of us took them up on the offer, while I did not. In retrospect I should have as they were much more comfortable and warm then I was by the end of the day. (more…)

Guided Hikes in Alaska

k2-ultimateIf you are like most independent visitors coming to Alaska, you are seeking active experiences that thrust you into Alaska’s scenic wilderness. As a result, one of the most popular activities you may take part in are guided hikes into Alaska’s backcountry. Alaska Tour & Travel offers guided hiking tours in Seward, Girdwood, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali State Park, and at Denali National Park and the great news is that when surveying our past clients, we discovered that the guided hikes we offer were among the highest rated tour experiences included in packages. Hiking allows you the opportunity to “get off the beaten path” and to experience Alaskan destinations which even many Alaskan’s haven’t seen. Typically, guided hikes tend to have a smaller maximum number of participants to reduce the impact on the environment. Your safety is always the priority on any professionally guided hiking excursion. Most guiding services keep the guide to hiker ratio to less than six to one, which allows participants to not only to get to know their guides personally, but also provides the guide the opportunity to provide more interpretation about the ecosystem.

Alaska’s wild expanses result not having any two hikes being alike, which is terrific for avid hikers who want to include multiple hiking trips in their trip. Difficulty wise, hikes range from novice hikes which are little more than a walk through the woods to more technical hikes which require participants to suit up with glacial gear while hiking on accessible glaciers. Hikes also range by the means of transport it takes to “being able to hit the trail” – whether the trail head is just outside a lodges front door, a short van ride, a ride on a tram up to the top of a mountain, or by helicopter or float plane to a remote location all of these options are available. Here are a few hikes to consider including in a travel itinerary.

Anchorage

chugach-hikingRising to the east of the city of Anchorage are the Chugach Mountains and one of Alaska’s best state parks – the Chugach State Park. The Anchorage Day Hike provides visitors a chance to explore an alpine environment with beautiful vistas of the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet, and on a clear day view as far away as Mt. Denali. Transportation is included, and the name itself doesn’t do the experience justice as the best thing that the Anchorage Day Hike does is quickly transport you away from the city up into one of Alaska’s most accessible and scenic wilderness areas. Our staff loves spending time in Chugach State Park and the views from our office of the Chugach Mountains beckon us often into the mountains during summer months. Each Anchorage Day Hike is tailored to your fitness level and transportation is included from Anchorage hotels. (more…)

Major Marine Glacier Tour from Whittier

Another beautiful day to drive along the Cook Inlet; the tide was out so no chance to see the Beluga Whales, but the mud flats were interesting with many waterfalls and glaciers in the distance; had to slow down for the Dall Sheep near the roadside. Denise, my friend Carol’s sister from California, was excited. Leaving from Anchorage, our drive took about thirty minutes to get to the tunnel entrance, the only way to get to Whittier by car. Denise was a bit apprehensive driving through a two and half mile tunnel on railroad tracks. Me too; hadn’t done it for a long time. It was cool; we were in and out in five minutes but it seemed like fifteen. The tunnel had lights and nice restrooms at both ends. We arrived early so waited and watched the train have its turn. Another five minutes out of the tunnel and we were parked.

Whittier is totally Alaskan. I don’t think it’ll ever grow up. I love to watch the diversity of humanity enjoying their independence; doing what they like to do best near the most beautiful stretch of water in all America. Boats everywhere-such a sight. I’ve never seen so many boats, all kinds: little dinghies, huge beautiful private cruise-like boats, floating in the water or parked on lots near where we parked our car. A few more steps and we were on the ramp shaking hands with the smiling crew as we boarded our own beautiful boat, Major Marine Tour’s Emerald Sea. (more…)

Fourth of July at the Kenai Princess Lodge

Kenai Princess Wilderness LodgeMy family and I were fortunate enough to sneak in a quick camping trip over the recent Fourth of July weekend. By way of disclaimer, or perhaps confession, I should elaborate on my family’s idea of “camping”. First we load up the RV with roughly half of the contents of our Anchorage home and head south on the Seward Highway towards our favorite “camping spot” in Cooper Landing. Even with holiday traffic, and the obligatory stop at the Girdwood “Y” bakery for apple fritters, we made the trip in right around two hours. Okay, another confession, this “camping spot” I am talking about is really in the driveway of my brother-in-law’s house who manages and lives next door to the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge. (more…)

Copper River Princess Lodge, A Base Camp for Adventure

copper-patio-bwOne of my favorite areas of Alaska is the Copper River Region. This area lies on the east side of the Chugach Mountain Range that surrounds Anchorage. This lesser visited area of Alaska is about a five hour drive from Anchorage. The Glenn Highway, an American Scenic Byway, passes through beautiful remote country with few populated areas. In preparation for the road trip, I make sure to put together a picnic for my traveling companions to enjoy on one of the various scenic turnouts overlooking the mountain glaciers along the highway. A great place to pick up delicious picnic supplies in Anchorage is the New Sagaya City Market in downtown Anchorage.

The Copper River Princess Lodge is a gracious and comfortable lodge conveniently located close to both Wrangell St Elias National Park and Valdez on the Prince William Sound. The Lodge is situated on a bluff overlooking the Copper River Valley that borders Wrangell-St Elias National Park. There are expansive views of the Copper River and the spectacular mountains of Wrangell St Elias from the lobby of the lodge. On my trips to the Copper River Valley I always make it a point to take time to sit out on the deck and enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the grand views of the mountains in the park. (more…)

Matanuska Glacier

matanuska-glacier-hikeMatanuska Glacier, located on the East side of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, is the largest road-accessible glacier in Alaska.  The glacier is easily seen from several locations along the Glen Highway which runs for 189 miles between Anchorage and Glenallen, Alaska.    The Glen Highway, a National Scenic Byway, is one of Alaska’s most beautiful highways and is well worth the time to experience for those who are touring Alaska by car on a self-drive itinerary and want to include such destinations as Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Valdez, Alaska.  The Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site is located at mile 101 and provides some interpretive signage along with a short nature walk on a ridge above the Matanuska River.  The recreation site is well worth the stop to stretch your legs as it’s near the half way mark between Anchorage and Glenallen.  (more…)

Alaska Live Steamers & Museum of Alaska

atm-museum-facilityRecently one Saturday afternoon we decided to visit one of our favorite hot spots the Alaska Live Steamers and the Transportation Museum of Alaska.  Both are located in Wasilla, about a 40 minute short drive from Anchorage.  Their location on the Parks highway at mile marker 47 makes it a convenient stop enroute to Talkeetna or Denali. 

If you’re a railroad fan then the Alaska Live Steamers is a must stop while visiting Wasilla.  The sound of train whistles and diesels engines will bring back memories for you and kids love them too.  Alaska Love Steamers is supported by a local group of railroad enthusiasts who build miniature scale replicas to scales.  When you first arrive you check in at the Alaska Central Railroad depot.  The ride is a modest $4.00 per person (2009 price).  Once you get your tokens you then board the train parked out front.  They can accommodate people with disabilities if called in advance.  (more…)

Whittier Cruise Port

The small town of Whittier, Alaska is the Gateway to Prince William Sound and home to southcentral Alaska’s newest cruise ship terminal. Princess Cruises currently uses the Whittier Cruise Terminal as the northern hub or “turn” operation for their 7-day “Voyage of the Glaciers” cruises. Whittier is set on scenic Passage Canal and is surrounded by the Chugach National Forest. The community is home to about 300 residents and several small boat harbors which serve as the home to the local fishing fleet as well as charter and day cruise operators that provide service into Prince William Sound. (more…)

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