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Best Road Trips in Alaska
Explore the Natural Wonders of Alaska by Road, Rail and Boat
Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime on a road trip or tour through the achingly beautiful last frontier of Alaska. From dramatic coastlines to towering mountains, abundant wildlife and uniquely preserved small towns, there’s a story to every sight and a sense of accomplishment when embarking on this remarkably enriching excursion. Gone are the days of dirt roads rendered with potholes; in fact, other than a few gravel stretches, most of Alaska’s highways are now paved and well-maintained roadways. If you are looking for guided expeditions or tours, there are plenty of those as well.
Begin your trek in the central capital city of Anchorage. Besides being steeped in everything Alaska, it’s easy to rent a car and maneuver navigation from its Southcentral location. There are several day trips that can be taken by road from Anchorage.
Road Trip from Anchorage to the South
For an exploration of breathtaking scenery within minutes, head south. The Seward Highway caresses the beautiful shorelines of Turnagain Arm and follows the crisp path of the Chugach Mountain Range. Spend part of the day at Chugach State Park, where you can pick wild berries, pan for gold or go horseback riding. Just to the south of this 495,000-acre park, the Seward Highway gives way to Portage, a now ghost town that was sunk in the earthquake of 1964. Today, the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center draws in plenty of visitors with its state-of-the-art exhibits on the Chugach National Forest and Prince William Sound. Eat lunch at the cafeteria then hop on a boat for a close-up encounter with the mammoth-sized Portage Glacier and a guided tour of Portage Lake.
Road Trip from Anchorage to the North
Hatcher Pass, to the north of Anchorage, is a three-hour round-trip drive through the Talkeetna Mountains and a favorite with the locals. In the summer, hiking trails are laced with colorful wildflowers and you just have to look up to glimpse wonderful bird species like marmots, falcons and golden eagles. During the winter, adventurers can find deep powder and prime skiing conditions on trails that were once the training ground for the US Junior Olympic ski team at Independence Bowl.
Anchorage to Fairbanks
The legendary 323-mile Parks Highway is a dream come true for the serious road-tripper. Passing by some of the most sought-after scenery in the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’, the 7-hour route between Anchorage and Fairbanks winds around the eastern border of Denali National Park and offers breathtaking vistas of the majestic Mt. McKinley. Dotted with quirky little towns like Wasilla and Talkeetna, wide stretches of the George Parks Highway, open up to unparalleled views of moose and caribou in Alaska’s interior.
North Pacific Scenic Route
The Nome-Teller Highway in the Far North region of Alaska is a 72-mile scenic route along meandering creeks and meadows on the western side of the Kigluaik Mountains. Putting visitors close to the Bering Strait, the highway follows the path of some of the earliest mining towns in the country, ending in the historic town of Teller that was once part of the gold-rush boom. Along the way, you may spot reindeer grazing in the tundra and can pull off at many natural wonders like Pilgrim Hot Springs and Salmon Lake.
Alaskan Rail or Boat Tours
Of course, some of the most popular ways to explore the sprawling magnificence of Alaska are by rail or boat. The Alaskan railway connects over 350-miles of top parks and sites along each of its two spectacular routes and the Alaska Marine Highway System encompasses more than 3,500 miles of the Gulf of Alaska’s beautiful waters.
The Denali Star Rail Tour
The Denali Star route follows a north-south path between Anchorage and Fairbanks. It offers panoramic views of the Alaskan range as it climbs the peak of Mt. Denali, stopping at Talkeetna and Denali Park, before traversing the spectacular headwaters and steep canyons of the Nenana River canyon gorge.
The Coastal Classic Rail Tour
The Coastal Classic Rail Route runs south from Anchorage to Seward, following the gorgeous coastline along the Turnagain Arm before entering the glacier-lined Placer River Valley. Glimpse Dall sheep on the rocky cliffs of Kenai Mountains as you make your way to the port of Seward on the marine-rich Resurrection Bay.
Alaska Ferry Tour
The Alaskan Marine Highway System is a ferry service operated by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. Beginning in Bellevue, Washington, the vast route stretches along the coast to Alaska’s Dutch Harbor on Amaknak Island in the Bering Sea. Travelling much of the way along Alaska’s stunning southern coast, the ferry passes through Prince William Sound, near Kodiak Island and offers 30 memorable stops along the way. Book the whole tour or disembark at any of Alaska’s charming port towns. Get a good night’s sleep at a Best Western before continuing on your way.