Upon your arrival at Anchorage, you will be welcomed at the airport and transferred to your hotel (note that there are no constraints regarding your arrival time).
You will be staying at the Lakefront Anchorage, located on the shore of Lake Spenard. The Lakefront offers a complimentary hotel shuttle.
Depending on your arrival time, you can enjoy the rest of the day at your own pace, relaxing after the long flight or exploring the city’s prominent sites, like the Anchorage Museum of History & Art or the city Park Strip.
After an early breakfast, you will meet your guides at 8 am and head north along the Glenn Highway past the mighty Matanuska Glacier(a 3-hour drive). Just past the glacier, you will stop for a short but steep hike up the Lion’s Head. The Lion’s Head is a geologic feature called a rôche moutonnée which is a rock feature created by the passing of a glacier. The views of the Matanuska Glacier and the surrounding Chugach mountains are amazing.
By late afternoon, you will check into either the Majestic Valley or Sheep Mountain Lodge where the comfortable rooms include stunning views of the Talkeetna and Chugach mountain ranges. These lodges offer an authentic Alaskan charm coupled with delicious food, and, thus, are a favorite destination for Alaskans and tourists alike. You will celebrate your first day of adventure with a delightful dinner at the lodge.
Distance: 3-8 km, Elevation Gain 150 m.
Today you will meet your glacier guides, strap on crampons and ice axes, and spend the day ice climbing on the mighty Matanuska Glacier. This glacier adventure is suitable for beginners and experts alike. Being over 27 miles long, the Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States. Originating from the highest peaks of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, the Matanuska is fed by incessant winter storms that dump more than 100 feet (i.e., more than 30 meters) of snow each year in the Chugach. As soon as you step onto the base of the glacier, expert guides will begin teaching you the basics of ice-climbing on moderate slopes, and by the end of the day, you will be scaling vertical walls of ice!
Ice climbing: 6 hours.
After breakfast at the lodge, you will drive through the magnificent Chugach Mountains en route to your next lodge in the heart of the spectacular Thompson Pass. Continuing south, views of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, the Wrangell Mountains, and the Alaska Range will accompany you, while you will also stop on the way, for a hike and a picnic near the Worthington Glacier. The Worthington, a Natural Historic Landmark, is a spectacular glacier that tumbles from the Chugach Mountains, and your hike will take you toward the toe of the glacier with stunning scenes of blue ice, crevasses, and vistas of the mighty Chugach. Continuing north, you will enjoy views of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, the Wrangell Mountains, and the Alaska Range. By late afternoon, you will check into the Valdez Harbor Inn or Totem Hotel & Suites.
Hiking Distance: 3-8 km, Elevation Gain:600-750 m.
Today prepare to spend the day sea kayaking in the Shoup Bay. After a thorough kayaking orientation and a 1-hour water taxi ride to the entrance of Shoup Bay, you will hop into sea-kayaks and paddle into this utterly protected body of water. Once inside, you will kayak past the largest Black Legged Kittiwake rookery in Prince William Sound and you will lunch near the foot of this ancient tidewater glacier as it cracks, grumbles and potentially calves massive blocks of ice into the surrounding saltwater. The floating miniature icebergs offer a fun obstacle course to test your paddling skills as does riding the swift current of the connecting stream on an outgoing tide.
In the afternoon, enjoy the cute town of Valdez, walking around the port, and checking its variety of shops.
Kayaking: 4 hours.
After an early breakfast, you will make your way down to the ferry terminal to board an Alaska State Ferry for the cruise to Whittier. The crossing of Prince William Sound will take you past Black Legged Kittiwake rookeries, near the faces of vast tidewater glaciers, and through the pristine waters of Prince William Sound. From Whittier,you will travel by van to Anchorage along the Seward Highway and the Turn again Arm of Cook Inlet - one of the most scenic drives in the world. Beluga Whales cruise the waters of the arm, and glaciers cling to the rugged mountains of the Chugach Range.
Once in Anchorage, you will head to our offices for a quick trip orientation and gear check before heading to Rust’s flying service, where you will board a float plane bound for the wilderness of Denali National Park: your home for the next 3 nights. This 1+ hour scenic flight will take you over alpine tundra, braided rivers, and cascading waterfalls, near Denali, the highest peak in North America, and finally up toward the mighty gorge of the Ruth Glacier, the deepest trench on earth!
The skilled bush pilot will then take you down to a small lake nestled in a cleft between the Ruth and Tokositna Glaciers, where you will unload your gear on a small beach and then wave the airplane goodbye. You will set up camp just beyond the lake, bask in the new-found solitude, and then take a short early evening hike before dinner.
With almost unlimited daylight, the options offered in the Denali National Park are staggering! You will head for the tundra hills above the camp, offering magnificent views of the Backside Glacier, Ruth Glacier, and if weather permits, “The Great One”, 20,310-foot Denali. On today’s hike, you will learn in practice the skills necessary to hike off-trail in the Alaska wilderness – including reading a topographic map, choosing the best route, using trekking poles, and traveling efficiently. After a full day of exploration, you will tally your wildlife and mountain peak sightings as you enjoy a filling meal in the wilderness.
Distance: 13-16 km, Elevation Gain: 450-750 m.
After a hearty breakfast, you will grab your daypacks and head out in search of adventure in Denali. Today, you will make your way up onto the Backside Glacier. Surrounded by glaciers of enormous size, you will quickly understand why this area draws mountaineers from all over the world. While not at all technical, your trek on the ice will give you the chance to see firsthand the glacial features of this frozen river of ice, the valley that bears the scars of thousands of years of glacial activity, and the more recent visual indications of climate change on the Alaska landscape.
Distance: 13-16 km, Elevation Gain: 450-750 m.
A hearty breakfast and a hot drink will fuel you for your last few hours in the wilderness. After breaking camp, and moving your kit to the lakeshore, you will wait for your ride back to civilization. As the floatplane descends on the Lake, you will depart knowing that this amazing place has made a lasting impact on your soul. You will return to Talkeetna by early afternoon, enjoy a short walk around town, and by 4:30pm will be boarding the Alaska Railroad’s train bound for Anchorage. This 3-hour trip will take you through the beautiful Matanuska-Susitna Valley, the south central Alaska’s boreal forests with small farms and homesteads, and finally, to Anchorage by 8pm.
It is highly recommended you spend this night in Anchorage, booking your return flight for the next day.
Extra night in Anchorage can be arranged at additional cost.