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…)

Experiencing the Glaciers of Southcentral Alaska

Matanuska GlacierA glacier is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as a very large area of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley or over a wide area of land – a fairly bland description of a breathtaking sight! A common Alaska definition of a glacier is a river of ice. Glaciers common to Alaska include tidewater glaciers, hanging glaciers and valley glaciers. Tidewater glaciers flow down mountains and end in the sea, hanging glaciers rest on mountain sides and only descend a part of the way down the mountain and valley glaciers fill mountain valleys.

Glaciers are one of the top Alaskan attractions. Alaska is home to 100,000 glaciers, two-thirds of all of the glaciers on earth. Whether seen from the air, from the water or on a hike, your first sight of a glacier can be an awe-inspiring, humbling experience. It is amazing how accessible these massive rivers of ice can be! Below is a guide to the glaciers of Southcentral Alaska. (more…)

50th Anniversary of The Great Alaska Earthquake – Sites to Visit

sb-earthquake-park-monumentMarch 27th marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake, the strongest earthquake to ever hit North America. This 9.2 magnitude quake was the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded, the first being the 1960 earthquake in Chile. The earthquake struck at 5:36pm and lasted over four minutes. Strong aftershocks were felt throughout the South-central Alaska region for days and weeks after the initial earthquake.The earthquake itself was responsible for 15 deaths and 124 people perished as a result of subsequent tsunamis. The tsunami death toll includes 5 killed in Oregon and 13 killed by the tsunami in California. (more…)

The Denali Park Village – More Than Just a Name Change

dpr_Village_OutdoorSince its development, the area 7-miles south of the Denali National Park entrance has been called the McKinley Village, the area’s name associated with the McKinley Village Lodge located on an arching river bank cut long ago by the Nenana River. The Village name remains in part, but the owners of the lodge have now replaced “McKinley” with “Denali Park”. This change is welcomed by those who support ridding North America’s tallest peak the name associated with President William McKinley in favor of Denali, the Athabascans’ name meaning “The High One.” The new name is therefore is The Lodge at Denali Park Village.

Denali-River-Cabins-with-KaThe Denali Park Village has expanded to include its former neighbor, the Denali River Cabins, which was purchased by Denali Park Resorts early last winter. The River Cabins, considered an economical, value property in the past with its small cabins located on the Nenana River has been re-branded as The Cabins at Denali Park Village. The Denali Park Village owners have spent the winter freshening up The Cabins’ interiors and replacing the double beds with one king bed. Other amenities include a wall-mounted television, telephone, alarm clock, hair dryer, coffee maker and complimentary Starbucks coffee. You can upgrade to a deluxe cabin that in addition to the standard room amenities also includes a bathrobe, complimentary bottled water, and feature either a wilderness or river view. (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…)

Denali’s Alpenglow Restaurant

denali-grande-restaurant-sjPart of the experience of traveling to new places is experiencing great local cuisine. With so many of travelers to Alaska visiting Denali National Park, we get many questions about what to expect when dining at the hotels. We reached out to the Grande Denali Lodge to find out what they had on tap this summer at one of Denali’s premier restaurants, The Alpenglow. The Alpenglow sits high on Sugarloaf Mountain and has the commanding views of Denali National Park’s entrance area along the Nenana River Canyon. (more…)

Here Comes The Sun – The Norwegian Sun!

norwegian-sunNew for 2013, Norwegian Cruise Line has deployed the Norwegian Sun, to what we believe is the best cruise itinerary that can be offered in Alaska – a 7-day Gulf of Alaska cruise. The Norwegian Sun’s northbound and southbound cruises do not travel to all of the same ports. The Northbound cruises from Vancouver travel to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and Hubbard Glacier before arriving in Whittier. The southbound cruises from Whittier travel to Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, and Ketchikan before arriving in Vancouver, BC.

The primary difference is that the northbound Norwegian Sun cruise includes a visit to Glacier Bay National Park whereas the southbound cruises include Icy Strait Point. Icy Strait Point is located on Chichagof Island, about 1.5 miles away from the town of Hoonah. Icy Strait showcases the local native Tinglet culture in addition to the many of the typical shore excursions found in other Alaska ports such as saltwater fishing and whale watching excursions. It’s hard to imagine beating a trip into Glacier Bay National Park on a cruise ship, but Icy Strait Point has an excellent reputation so both cruise itineraries are bound to be well received by cruisers. (more…)

Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour – Lunch or Snack?

denali-wildlife-tour-busOne of the most common questions we receive regarding the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park is if lunch is included. The Park concessionaire that operates the tour calls the meal a “small snack.” Each year we inquire what the snack includes as it can change. Often, when we advise visitors to arrange for a box lunch from their hotel before they go we later hear back from them that the snack was a lunch and why did we tell them to purchase a box lunch for the trip? The reality is that whether you will need additional food on your tour depends on your appetite and what you ate for breakfast or lunch before you depart on either the morning or afternoon tour. (more…)

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