Alaska in Summer

Anchorage(fly-in) → Seward → Seldotna → Denali → Anchorage(fly-out)

Alaska in summer is all about the midnight sun and hues of green and blue; definitely not what I  had in my mind—frozen and icy. And eight days was too short to experience it completely, but I promised to return.

We started our trip in Anchorage from where we rented a car and drove the Seward Highway to the Gateway to Kenai fjords national park—Seward.

Options to reach Seward—drive at your own pace, or take the train or a bus. Small commuter planes also connect Anchorage and Seward. Places to stop along Seward Highway can be found here.

We spent four days in the historic Bellaine house B&B in the small town of Seward with a fun and sociable host.

Things to do in Kenai Fjords national park

We spent the second day in the sea exploring Kenai fjords national park. One full day whale watching, and wildlife and glacier viewing with Alaska Saltwater lodge. With a small group of just ten people we had the whole boat to roam around and watch wildlife.

There are other tours operated by Kenai Fjord tours and Major Marine tours.

A day well spent watching Dall’s porpoises frolicking alongside our boat, sea otters lazily floating in the bay, two black bears heading into the forest, Harbor seals, sluggish Stellar sea lions, Humpback whales, pod of Orcas hunting, bald eagles, puffins, murres, and an island full of kittiwake nests—it was an action-packed fun-filled day.  We had lunch while watching the thunderous calving of Holgate glacier.

The same day we drove to Exit glacier, the only glacier in the park one can drive to and hike on. We hiked to the foot of the glacier and decided to be on the glacier the next day .

Glacier hiking with Exit glacier guides is totally recommended. Also, a sumptuous dinner at Christo’s place is something I would recommend. Loved their Cajun style spiced blackened Salmon.

Walk around the town one late evening and watch the midnight sun set across the port.

Our Alaskan trip wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Alaskan grizzly. Since we were unable to do the bear viewing trip in Katmai national park, the most well-known is the action packed Brooks river where grizzlies and occasionally black bears are on a Salmon catching spree, we took a tour to Lake Clark national park. Lake Clark national park is one of the least visited national parks in America and for a good reason. The only way to get to the park is by a bush plane.

Check out bear watching hot-spots here.

Getting a taste of Lake Clark national park

We drove the Sterling highway to the city of Seldotna, around two and half hours leisure drive from Seward. The bear viewing tour with Natron air was a little bit of everything in approximately 4 hours.
We flew over Cook inlet, above Double glacier and past two active volcanoes, saw turquoise glacial lakes and braided rivers flowing into the inlet, and landed on a beach to watch grizzles chilling and clamming. This was one of a kind experience to see this extraordinary world from a small bush plane.

A side trip can also be made to Whittier, which is around 90 miles from Seward, home to some magnificent tidewater glaciers in Prince William Sound.

Two days in Denali national park

The following day was an our-own-pace drive from Seward to Denali (Denali Highway) with two nights stay in a cabin at the Denali Grizzly bear resort.

Gold Rush dining room across the street from Grizzly resort is a good place for dinner.
Driving till the Savage river area and walking around is a good way to spot caribous.

Don’t be startled by unexpected guests at midnight—a mother and calf moose grazing just outside our cabin on our first night at the resort.

Midnight visitors - mother and calf moose
Midnight visitors – mother and calf moose

Book your Denali national park tour shuttle bus in advance.

Denali is a vast expanse of Tundra, and wildlife spotting isn’t easy like an African safari. However, we spotted a herd of caribous, moose, red fox, snowshoe hare, arctic ground squirrels, Ptarmigan, and other birds, but were unlucky with bears.

Taking the shuttle bus ride till Wonder lake and walking around increases your chance of wildlife viewing.
Wonder lake is plagued with mosquitos in summer, so bring a head net and repellents.
Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America, can be seen on a clear day from within the park or while driving to or from the park. You can also get a good view of McKinley from the small touristy town of Talkeetna on the banks of Susitna river.

After a two night stay in Denali we drove back to Anchorage with a brief stop at Talkeetna.

We spent the last day walking around Anchorage Tony Knowles Coastal trail and the downtown area.

For a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding region, hike the 3 miles round-trip trail to Flattop mountain.

(We visited Alaska in July and got a preview of  Alaska’s three spectacular national parks.)

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