AUG 20,2010 - SEP 18,2010 (30 DAYS)
We went on our trip in the end of August, and traveled through most of September. Everyone will tell you not to go to Alaska in these months, everyone – except the locals. The people we met told us that the autumn is the best season to visit central Alaska – and they were absolutely right. The air is drier, the sky are clear (the end of august monsoon season), it’s less crowded with tourists and the autumn leaves are a sight to behold. During the whole trip we had only 3 days of rain.
We used a rented caravan for two weeks, ferry, light planes for internal flights and rented car.
We stayed in a place called Microtel Motel, which I highly recommend. The rooms were big and very clean, and staff pleasant and welcoming. The only disadvantage was the not being able to able to add an extra bed to the room.
We had a great dinner in a restaurant called “Sack’s”. I also recommend you visit “Snow Café”, where they serve tasty breakfast all day long. Another fun food experience was trying out the different Hot-Dog stand in 4th avenue.
We ordered a one day package, including a round-trip flight from Chitina to McCarthy and a trek on Root glacier. It was a scenery flight with amazing views.
The trek on the glacier was 4 hours long, and we met out first black bear of the trip… before the trek we were uncertain if a one day visit to the reservoir is a worthwhile experience, and I’m glad we decided to go through with it. The flight, the glacier and the visit to the ghost town of Kennecott made it a very special day. Even though, if I could I would add an extra day there, and maybe visit one of the local mines in the reservoir, like Bonanza or Jumbo.
In the reservoir we met another family that had rented a car from a rental agency that allows you to drive on dirt roads. They told us the road was in good conditions, but the route was less scenery that what they expected (and heard). They also took the Dalton highway to Prudhoe bay and the north pole.
To Cordova, a small fisherman town which was once connected to St. Elias reservoir by a steel railway, you can now only get by ferry from Valdez or Whittier. It seems as if Cordova is very much interested in staying isolated from the continent. We took the ferry from Valdez.
We loved Cordova. If you like hiking, you can easily spend a week in the town. The area surrounding it offers a wide verity of walking trails and paths thorough mesmerizing alpine scenery. The town itself is very attractive even for people with a little less zeal.
From our trekking experience I can recommend 2 worthwhile options:
1. Heney Ridge – This is a panoramic trail that starts in Cordova and takes you up 2,000 feet. The view of Cordova and the Cooper river delta is breathtaking, with waterfalls and slushes on the mountain side. The trail is 2 miles lone in each direction, and I would say it medium-hard. Most of the walk to the summit is, naturally, uphill, but it is really worth the climb.
2. Shariden Mountain trail – This was one of the best treks of our trip. The uphill walk isn’t easy, but the trail passes through a beautiful rain forest, by a gushing river channel and roaring waterfalls. Above the tree tops you’ll see an amazing alpine view, and the crown jam is the observation post overlooking the giant glaciers pool of the Shariden glacier, as well as Shariden itself and Sherman glacier. The trek is 4 miles long in each direction, and bear in mind it’s not an easy climb – so don’t try it unless you are a fit walker.
We drove on the Cooper River Highway to Child’s Glacier. The route was stunning and the glacier was absolutely amazing. This is one of the most active glaciers in Alaska, bursting approximately every 12 minutes. The ice roars as it cracks and crackles, and watching the large ice blocks fall in the Cooper river delta was a once in a life time experience.
The old harbor of the city is a fun place to take walk and watch the seals and lutras – which are abundant in the ferry pier.
A great place to eat in the harbor is a restaurant called “The Bus”. They serve the best taco and milkshake we ever had.
We went Kayaking near the Colombia glacier. We rowed between the giant ice blocks, it was extremely fun, and I recommend it strongly.
We took a drive on Dayville Road, and I can say for sure that you don't want to miss this trip. Along the road you can see seals on the one side, lutras and sea lions catching salmons in the fjord on the other side, as well as black bears grabbing their share of fishes on the ponds and lakes along the way. We drove on this road 3 times, and we saw at least six bears and countless seals and sea lions. By the shore there are lots of benches, and places you can stop and watch the sea animal.
On a personal note I’ll add that if you don’t like fishing, watching people fish or cleaning the fishes they caught, Valdez might not be the place for you. Fishing is what this town is about, and you can imagine the smell is accordingly...
We took the Valdez-Denali highway, planning to make the trip in 2 days. Eventually we got to Denali in one day. The weather was excellent and so was the view – clear and beautiful. Even though, it’s a long trip and you might like to divide it into 2 days after all… the drive is slow and tiring, especially in Denali highway.
The highway and the area nearby are extremely beautiful. The colors of the trees at autumn are amazing, and we also saw a great deal of caribous and the hunters going after them..
We spent 3 nights at the park at Teklanika (Tek) River Campground, and saw a wide verity of wild animals, like blonde bears, brown bears, foxes, wolves, wild goats, mooses… and most importantly, we saw Mount McKinley, with all its glory!
We spent the night at an amazing hotel. Since we came off season, the price was the same as a motel room – 130$.
The Winner Creek Tram is a hand tram that passes above the gorge and gives you a great view of the angry streams below. The kids loved the ride.
Crow Pass is an amazing trail, not very easy but worthwhile. You’ll see waterfalls along the way, a small turquoise pond at the top of the mountain where you can order a cabin to spend the night. While we were there the woods men were building another cabin. Virgin falls are another great place to visit, but it’s not easy to find them…
Katmai National Park, also known as KatmaiLand or land of bears, is like a trip within the trip, and it’s a once in a life time experience. There are not enough words to describe the wonder. We spent 2 nights in a camping tent at Brooks Falls camp and one night in a lodge – which was like an army quarters and wasn't worth the price they charge. We were sorry we didn't spent the last night in the tent as well.
Harding ice field trail is a difficult and breathtaking trail that leads you up the ice fields and over Exit glacier. On the trek we encountered black bears, but the crown joule was the observation post overlooking the ice field. Never in my life have I seen a more powerful, dramatic view of nature. Dedicate an entire day to this trek, and you won’t regret it.
Portage Pass is a trail starting at Whittier, on the left side of the entrance to the tunnel. It’s a lovely trail, medium-difficult in walking terms. The skyline lookout is another beautiful trail with a moderate climb and an amazing view of Kenai. And if you are looking for and easy but still scenery route, I recommend you’ll try the Biron glacier trail.