Part Four: Roadtrip Itineraries for One Week In Alaska- The Big Loop Alaska Roadtrip.
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It’s hard to fit the best of Alaska in one week, but you can definitely get a lot in if you’re ambitious. Of course these one week in Alaska itineraries are all suggestions and can be altered to your liking. Cheers to adventuring the last frontier!
Want more ideas of one week Alaska road trips? Read The Anchorage to Fairbanks ‘Hit the Highlights’ road trip, Off the Beaten Path Alaska- The Dalton Highway road trip, and The Kenai Peninsula road trip.
The Big Loop Alaska Roadtrip- Anchorage, Denali, Tok and in between.
This Big Loop Alaska roadtrip hits some of the highlights of south-central and interior Alaska, but is very ambitious. Keep it moving, or allot more than a week if you’d like to spend much time in each place.
Day 1: Anchorage to Talkeetna to Denali National Park.
You’ll likely arrive in Anchorage in the middle of the night as mentioned in previous posts. Grab your rental car, get some sleep art a nearby hotel or hostel and being your Big Loop Alaska roadtrip in the morning after some good rest. Provisions can be picked up before leaving Anchorage or in nearby community of Wasilla as you take off to the north. Talkeetna is a fun little Alaska town with a cat for a mayor. It’s an 115 mile, about 2-2.5 hour drive north from Anchorage. Take the Glenn Highway north from Anchorage and make sure to follow the signs as you approach the Mat-Su Valley toward the Parks Highway and Wasilla. About 100 miles north of Anchorage you’ll see signs for the Talkeetna Spurr Road turn off, take the exit to the right and follow for about 14 miles where you’ll end up in tiny, walkable Talkeetna. There’s plenty of places to camp as well as cabins an inn, and a hostel for rent, and there are several little restaurants. If you can afford it, I would splurge on the Denali flightseeing tour with one of the many air taxi companies based in Talkeetna. Many of these flight seeing trips do include a glacier landing. I’ve not personally done a Denali flightseeing tour yet, but I have yet to hear a bad thing about it from anyone who’s done it. These flights can range from $220 to $460 per person. Other activities in Talkeetna include the Denali Zipline, kayaking & rafting tours, and the riverboat trip up the Devil’s Canyon. The drive from Talkeetna to Denali National Park will continue another 2.5 hours 145 miles.
*Note: Air taxi operators will cancel trips due to unstable and/or bad weather.
Day 2: Denali National Park.
If you only have a day to afford here, I’d suggest a Denali Bus Tour. You cannot drive past the Savage River post in Denali National Park on your own (unless you opt to visit in late September and secure a Denali Road Lottery Permit in May the same year), which is only a few miles past the visitor center. The entire park road extends 92 miles to Kantishna. To go beyond Savage River by road you will need to book a bus tour, these are offered in narrated and non-narrated shuttle buses. Non-narrated buses will cost from $26.50 to $34.00 per person (kids under 15yo are free). Narrated bus tours will coast from $80.75 to $194.00 per person (kids 15yo and under range from $33.50 to $92.00 per kid). Click here to visit the park website’s info on buses and schedules. Camping sites are available fro $15.00 to $30.00 per item per nights. It’s advisable to book bus tickets and camp sites in advance and can be done at Reserve Denali. A $10 per person pass fee will be charged per visitor at the entrance of the park. National Park Pass holders just need to show their pass to get in. If going into backcountry you must obtain a backcountry pass at the visitor center- they are free.
Day 3: Healy and Fairbanks.
The Denali to Healy drive only takes 20 mins and is 18 miles away. A fun excursion to take in Healy is a river rafting trip which can be booked in Healy. Continue the drive from Healy to Fairbanks which is another 2 hours and 110 miles. Nenana is a great stop to make in between to break up the trip. One in Fairbanks you can explore the downtown area, have fun on the Chena River, or if you’re up for a little more driving you can head out to Chena Hotsprings and have a nice soak in the hot waters. The Chena Hotsprings Resort is 62 miles northwest of Fairbanks and should take roughly 1 hour 15 minutes each way. Entrance costs are $15 for adults, $12 for kids 6-17yrs (must be accompanied by a parent), and $13.00 for Seniors 60+ yrs. Several campgrounds are available around Fairbanks including one right in the middle of the city along the Chena River. Camping can also be had further outside town at Harding Lake and a number of other areas.
Day 4: North Pole and Delta Junction.
Fairbanks to North Pole is a 20 minute drive, 15 miles away. North Pole’s only attraction is the Santa Clause house which is a fun stop if you’re traveling with kids. Expect the drive from North Pole to Delta Junction to take about 1.5 hours for the 82 mile journey. There are a number of activities to explore in Delta, click here for more info. Camping is available nearby.
Day 5: Tok.
Delta to Tok will take you 1 hour 45 minutes to drive the 110 miles without any stops, but will likely take you longer as you sightsee your way down the highway. Look for camping near to to Tok for the evening. It’s a good idea to continue south from Tok to camp for the evening to take some of the drive time off for tomorrow.
Day 6: Matanuska Glacier (Glacier View).
Tok to Glacier View is a 3 hours 40 minutes and 215 miles. You’ll take a left off the Glenn Highway around Mile 102 and follow the road to a house where you’ll pay your entrance fee. Be careful on this road and go slow, it’s fairly treacherous for those not accustomed to Alaska roads. The main attraction today will be Matanuska Glacier. You can allegedly still visit the glacier on your own in the summer after paying the ‘fee’ to use the access road. In the winter months the family that owns the access road is now forcing visitors to take their mandatory $100 per person “tour” of the glacier. (The glacier sits on public land, so them forcing a mandatory fee to visit the glacier seems nonsensical). Or you can explore the glacier by a guided trip.
Day 7: Back to Anchorage, fly home.
The drive from Glacier View to Anchorage will take roughly 2 hours to travel the 105 miles to complete your Big Loop Alaska roadtrip adventure.
*Note: You can easily start and end this trip from Fairbanks, rather than Anchorage!
Want more ideas for one week in Alaska itineraries?
Check out the following posts in the ‘One Week In Alaska’ series:
Part 5: The Little Loop: Anchorage to Denali & Back, including the Denali Highway. Available after August 15.
Part 6: The Best of Wrangell St. Elias and Prince William Sound. Available after August 20.