Julie Itinerary, United States 16 Comments

There are many ways to plan your “perfect Alaska itinerary,” depending on your interests. Cruise the fjords, go glacier hiking or ice climbing, soar over the snow-capped mountains on a flightseeing tour, see Denali in all her glory, watch brown bears feeding on salmon, and drive through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the USA.

If it is your first time planning a trip to Alaska, it can feel overwhelming. Alaska is enormous with a very long list of things to do.

We want to make that easier for you.

In this guide, we list three different ways to spend 10 days in Alaska. These are great starting points for planning your trip, and they can be easily modified if you have more or less time.

About these Itineraries

Each of these itineraries are done as a road trip. And they each include at least two of Alaska’s national parks. You won’t see Gates of the Arctic, Kobuk or Glacier Bay National Parks in this guide, since they are either very remote or best seen on a cruise.

For each of these itineraries, you will need to rent a car. A standard vehicle is fine, unless you plan to do Alaska itinerary #2, which includes Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. With a 4×4, you can drive to McCarthy, which is the gateway into Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. Alternatively, you can also fly into McCarthy, but this increases the price of your trip. More on this later in this guide.

The best time to do these itineraries is from May through September. That’s a short window of time, but for most of the year, the national parks are snow covered and inaccessible. Even May is a bit early, and some tours won’t start operating until June or even July.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Before setting your travel dates, confirm that tours are operating for the time that you plan to visit Alaska.

If you plan to visit Katmai, the best time to go is July. If you want to do more than just a day trip, you will need to apply for the Brooks Lodge lottery, which occurs in December a year and a half before your trip (for example, the December 2021 lottery awards tickets for summer 2023). If you don’t get a spot in the lottery, you can keep checking for cancellations. More on this later (or learn more in our Katmai Guide).

Finally, Alaska can be an expensive place to visit, especially once you start adding on flightseeing trips and day trips to remote places. I give you a rough estimate about how much things cost, but prices do fluctuate, so I recommend getting updated prices from the official websites, so you don’t have any unfortunate surprises.

IMPORTANT: Denali Park Road is closed beyond mile 43. This road closure could last until 2023 or longer, as a bridge is constructed around a landslide. You can still visit Denali National Park, but in my opinion, you will be missing out on the best areas of the park (those that lie beyond mile 43). You can either do the itinerary that does not include Denali (Alaska itinerary #2), or visit Denali now and also plan a return visit in the future, if you want to go beyond mile 43. To learn more about what you can do in Denali right now, read our post What to Do in Denali while Denali Road is Closed.

10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Here are three different ways to plan your 10-day Alaska itinerary.

 
#1: Classic Itinerary: Kenai Fjords, Denali & Anchorage
#2: Wrangell-St. Elias, Kenai Fjords & Valdez
#3: Denali, Katmai & Kenai Fjords

Alaska Itinerary #1: Kenai Fjords, Denali & Anchorage

This is our “classic” Alaska itinerary, where you visit two of Alaska’s most popular national parks, Kenai Fjords and Denali.

On this itinerary, you will fly in and out of Anchorage. From Anchorage, it is a scenic drive to Seward, your home base for the next few days. Visit Kenai Fjords National Park, where you can hike or ice climb on glaciers, go hiking, and cruise the fjords. Then, travel through Anchorage to Denali and spend several days here.

On this itinerary, you have 3 days in Denali National Park, which might sound like a lot, but there is a statistic that only 30% of people get to see Denali, because it is frequently hidden behind the clouds. With several days here, you have a good chance to see this mighty mountain.

IMPORTANT: As mentioned earlier, Denali Park Road is closed beyond mile 43. It closed in August 2021 because the road is “slumping” at a rate that can no longer be safely managed. A proposed bridge will bypass this portion of the road, but it will take several years for construction.

In the meantime, you can still visit Denali National Park, just be aware that you will be missing out on a lot. In my opinion, the very best experiences are beyond mile 43 (Eielson is a spectacular place to visit). So, if you want to see the best of Denali, I recommend saving this itinerary for 2024 or later.

Best Alaska Itinerary

Stony Hill Overlook (mile 62 on Denali Park Road) | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

 

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (places to go and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
 
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

10 Day Alaska Itinerary: Kenai Fjords, Denali & Anchorage

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage
Day 2: Scenic drive to Seward
Day 3: Kenai Fjords National Park
Day 4: Kenai Fjords National Park
Day 5: Drive to Anchorage
Day 6: Drive to Talkeetna and Denali, optional flightseeing tour of Denali
Day 7: Denali National Park
Day 8: Denali National Park
Day 9: Denali National Park
Day 10: Fly home

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage

If your flight arrives in the afternoon or evening, have dinner and get a good night’s sleep. If you arrive in the morning, you have the option to do something in the afternoon.

Here are few things to do:

  • Visit Eklutna Lake, where you can go hiking or kayaking ($5 entrance fee)
  • The Reindeer Farm (feed reindeer, kiss a moose, pet an alpaca, and more; $15 per person)
  • Tour the Musk Ox Farm ($11 per person)

Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

For dinner, we recommend the Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria. They don’t take reservations and there is always a long line waiting for a table, but this was our favorite dinner spot in Anchorage. We also really liked 49th State Brewing.

As far as where to stay, in Anchorage we stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott and the Staybridge Suites Anchorage. Both are centrally located in town, and it is either a short drive or a longer walk to shops and restaurants.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you plan to go hiking while in Kenai Fjords or Denali, pick up some bear spray at the REI in Anchorage.

Day 2: Scenic Drive to Seward

From Anchorage, it takes just over two hours to drive to Seward. However, you have the option to stop at a lot of different places on the drive, turning this into a full day experience.

Take in the view as you drive along Turnagain Arm, look for whales at Beluga Point, hike to the Virgin Creek waterfalls, ride the Alyeska Aerial Tram for scenic views, and visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. You also have the option to visit Whittier along the drive.

Alaska Itinerary Kenai Peninsula

View from the Alyeska Aerial Tram | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

For full details on how to do this, read our Guide to Seward Highway.

In Seward, get checked into your hotel and have dinner. We stayed at the Seward Windsong Lodge. 

Days 3 & 4: Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park is where you will find the Harding Icefield, its outflow glaciers, and fjords. It is a beautiful park that can be visited on foot, on a cruise, and even by helicopter.

Alaska Itinerary with Kenai Fjords

On the Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

With two days here, I recommend spending one day on land and one day on the water.

On land, you can hike the trails at the base of the Exit Glacier, hike the Harding Icefield Trail, or go glacier hiking or ice climbing with a guide. We went ice climbing with Exit Glacier Guides (prices start at $219 per person). 

On water, there are a lot of cruises to choose from. With Kenai Fjords Tours, we took the Northwestern Fjord Cruise, which is a full day cruise to one of the most remote fjords in Kenai Fjords National Park (prices start at $180 per person).

With Liquid Adventures, we took the Aialik Glacier Wildlife Cruise and Kayaking Tour (prices start at $399 per person). Kayaking in front of the Aialik Glacier and watch it calving was awesome!

For a full list of things to do, read our guide 9 Amazing Things to Do in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Kayaks

Kayaking Kenai Fjords

Kayaking in front of Aialik Glacier

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Kenai Fjords Tours is part of the Alaska Collection. This company offers lodging in several national parks as well as tours, such as the fjord cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park. When we did this, we booked our lodging in Denali (Denali Cabins and Denali Backcountry Lodge) and Seward (the Windsong Lodge) with them as well as the Northwestern Fjord Cruise. By bundling together our lodging and the cruise, we were able to get a discount.

Day 5: Drive to Anchorage

From Seward, it takes just over 2 hours to drive to Anchorage. Spend the afternoon in and around Anchorage. Take you pick from the list above (from day #1), either visiting Eklutna Lake, the Reindeer Farm, or the Musk Ox Farm. The Reed Lakes Trail also came highly recommended to us from prior visitors to Alaska.

Day 6: Drive to Denali

Today you will drive north to Denali. Time your drive to be in Talkeetna for lunch. This very small town has several great restaurants. The spinach bread at Talkeetna Spinach Bread is awesome, and one of our favorite meals in Alaska. Plus, it’s super cheap.

This afternoon, you have the option to take a flightseeing tour of Denali. K2 Aviation is in Talkeetna and runs a variety of different flightseeing tours (prices start at $230 per person).

Denali Flightseeing

Flightseeing in Denali National Park | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

We did this and loved it, even though we had to do a modified tour. Originally, we booked a flight with a glacier landing. Conditions in the mountains weren’t clear enough for a landing, so instead, we took a standard flightseeing tour over the Denali range. It was still a great experience, but the glacier landing tour really looks spectacular.

If you plan to do a flightseeing tour, book your tickets in advance, because they do sell out.

From Talkeetna, continue the drive north towards Denali. On the drive, there are two great viewpoints where you can get your first view of Denali, as long as the clouds are cooperating. These are at Denali Viewpoint South and Denali Viewpoint North (we all thought the South Viewpoint was better than the North Viewpoint).

Denali South Viewpoint

Denali Viewpoint South | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Once you get to Denali, check into your hotel. We stayed at the Denali Cabins but the Denali Lakeview Inn, the Denali Tri-Valley Cabins, the Denali Park Hotel, and Grande Denali Lodge get good reviews.

Days 7, 8 & 9: Denali National Park

With three days in Denali, there are several things to choose from. Go hiking in the front country (Horseshoe Lake, Mount Healy, the Triple Lakes Trail, and the Savage Alpine Trail are all great options) and ride the park shuttle on Denali Road to mile 42 of Denali Park Road. There are two shuttle options: the Tundra Wilderness Tour ($128 per person) and the Natural History Tour ($104 per person).

For more information about things to do and how to plan your time, read our article 16 Best Things to Do in Denali National Park.

Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

 

Best Hikes in Denali

Hiking in Eielson, Denali | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Visit our Denali Travel Guide, where you can see all our articles about Denali National Park.

Day 10: Fly Home

You can fly home from Anchorage or Fairbanks. If your flight is in the morning, drive to the airport the evening of day 9. Otherwise, you can get up early and drive to the airport today, just give yourself plenty of time, so you do not miss your flight.

Best National Parks USA


Alaska Itinerary #2: Wrangell-St. Elias, Kenai Fjords & Valdez

This is a great 10-day road trip in Alaska. Wrangell-St. Elias is one of the most underrated national parks in the USA. This massive park is home to some of the highest peaks in North America. The hiking is great, you can go glacier hiking or ice climbing, and the flightseeing is spectacular (better than Denali, in my opinion).

In Valdez, go kayaking in front of one of the most active glaciers in the world. Then cruise to the Kenai Peninsula and spend several days in Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park before heading home.

If you want to visit Alaska and save Denali for a future visit because of the road closure, I recommend following this itinerary.

This map shows the driving route for this itinerary. You will also take a ferry from Valdez to Whittier.

 

10 Day Alaska Itinerary: Wrangell-St. Elias, Kenai Fjords & Valdez

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage
Day 2: Drive to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Day 3: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Day 4: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Day 5: Drive to Valdez
Day 6: Valdez
Day 7: Cruise to the Kenai Peninsula
Day 8: Kenai Fjords National Park
Day 9: Kenai Fjords National Park
Day 10: Fly home

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage

Arrive in Anchorage and get settled into your hotel. For ideas on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay, take a look at Day 1 of our classic Alaska itinerary.

Day 2: Drive to Wrangell-St. Elias

What an awesome introduction to Alaska!

This is how we spent our first full day in Alaska, and it was one of the best one-day road trips we have done. Once you get out beyond Anchorage, it looks like you are driving through a national park. But nope, this is just beautiful Alaska (and just wait until you get to Wrangell-St. Elias!).

There is a lot to do along this drive. Visit Eklutna Lake, feed a reindeer at the Reindeer Farm, take a tour of the Matanuska Glacier, and enjoy the views of the Wrangell Mountains.

Kara Feeding Reindeer

Kara feeding a reindeer at the Reindeer Farm, located just outside of Anchorage

 

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

 Wrangell Mountains

Views of the Wrangell Mountains | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

For a full list of things to do along this drive, read our guide on how to drive from Anchorage to Valdez. You will do most of this drive today, and later in this itinerary, finish the drive to Valdez after visiting Wrangell-St. Elias.

McCarthy and Kennicott are two tiny towns that sit side by side in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

You can get to McCarthy by car or by airplane. We drove to McCarthy. To do this, you need to rent a 4×4 vehicle and get permission from your rental car company to drive McCarthy Road. It’s a beautiful drive and the road conditions have improved a lot in recent years. Learn more about the drive here.

If you don’t want to rent a 4×4 or don’t feel comfortable driving McCarthy Road, you can either fly into McCarthy from Chitina (about $350 per person round-trip) or take a shuttle from Chitina (about $150 per person round-trip).

Stay in either McCarthy or Kennicott for 3 nights. We stayed at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge.

Kennicott Glacier Lodge

Kennicott Glacier Lodge | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

 

McCarthy Alaska

McCarthy, Alaska | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Days 3 & 4: Wrangell – St. Elias National Park

You have two full days in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park.

If it fits in your budget, consider taking a flightseeing tour. This national park is huge (it’s six times the size of Yellowstone) and filled with more mountain peaks than you can count. The best way to see it is from the sky.

Mount St Elias

Mount St. Elias on a flightseeing tour of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park

 

Flightseeing

Flightseeing in Wrangell St. Elias National Park | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

You can take a short flight over the heart of the park or a longer flight that goes out towards the coast and flies over the Bagley Icefield, one of the largest icefields in the world.Flightseeing tours start at $250 per person. Learn more in our Guide to Flightseeing Tours of Wrangell – St. Elias.

Another great thing to do here is to go hiking on the Root Glacier. You can also add on ice climbing or a visit to an ice cave (prices start at $100 per person).

Glacier Hiking Alaska Itinerary

Root Glacier | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

If you are looking for something free to do and like hiking, the hike to Bonanza Mine is challenging but you’ll get similar views from a flightseeing tour, without the big cost.

Wrangell St Elias Hike

Hiking the Bonanza Mine Trail | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

You can also tour the historic Kennecott Mine and Mill.

Kennecott Mill

Kennecott Mill | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Day 5: Drive to Valdez

Drive, fly, or take the shuttle to Chitina. From Chitina, drive to Valdez. It takes about 2 hours to drive the Richardson Highway to Valdez, a little longer with stops.

See the Worthington Glacier, Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls, and Old Valdez. We have more information about this drive in our Guide to Driving from Anchorage to Valdez.

Once in Valdez, get settled into your hotel. If you have time this afternoon, you can visit the Valdez Museum.

Valdez Alaska

Valdez, Alaska | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

We stayed at the Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn, which is mediocre (it’s old and dated and in need of a renovation). For dinner, I recommend The Potato, The Fat Mermaid, and Nat Shack (the Nat Shack Crunchwrap is awesome!).

Day 6: Columbia Glacier

The Columbia Glacier is one of the most active glaciers in the world. With roughly 13 million tons of ice breaking off the Columbia Glacier every day, there is a good chance that you will be able to watch a calving event take place.

There are several different ways to see the Columbia Glacier: by boat cruise (about $140 per person), kayaking tour (about $330 per person), and by helicopter (about $600 per person).

We took a cruise + kayaking tour combo. It’s a great experience although we did not have the best weather.

Columbia Glacier

Columbia Glacier | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Day 7: Cruise to the Kenai Peninsula

Today, cruise through the Prince William Sound to the Kenai Peninsula. We did not do this, but spoke to multiple groups of people who did, and they all had wonderful things to say about this experience.

The Alaska Marine Highway is the only marine route that is designated as a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road. It spans 3,500 miles, running from the Inside Passage of Alaska and British Columbia out to the Aleutian Islands. Today’s short cruise is a tiny part of this “highway.”

To get from Valdez to Whittier, you will take the Alaska Marine Highway ferry. The ferry leaves at 7 am and arrives in Whittier 6 hours later. As an estimate, for 2 people and one vehicle, the cost is roughly $300. For updated pricing for your dates of travel and vehicle type, visit the official website.

If you don’t want to take the ferry, you can drive from Valdez to Seward. This drive is 425 miles long and takes 7.5 hours without stops.

Once in Whittier, spend some time exploring the harbor and then drive to Seward.

Whittier Alaska

Whittier, Alaska | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

To exit Whittier, you will drive through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. The tunnel is 2.5 miles long, is only wide enough for one way traffic, and has railroad tracks running down the middle. Since it is a one lane tunnel, motor vehicle traffic and train traffic in each direction is coordinated.

In the summer, the tunnel opens to motor vehicle traffic heading towards Whittier at the bottom of the hour and it opens to motor vehicle traffic departing Whittier at the top of the hour.

The roundtrip toll starts at $13 for passenger vehicles that are not pulling trailers. Click here for more details on operating hours, tolls for various vehicle types and trailers, size restrictions, etc. 

In Seward, get checked into your hotel and have dinner. We stayed at the Seward Windsong Lodge. 

Days 8 & 9: Kenai Fjords National Park

Spend two full days in Kenai Fjords National Park. For information on what to do, read days 3 & 4 of the classic itinerary.

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

 

Earth Trekkers Alaska

Ice climbing on the Exit Glacier | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Day 10: Fly Home

Today, fly home, or continue to your next destination. If you have an early morning flight, return to Anchorage the night of day 9. Otherwise, you can drive to Anchorage in the morning and take an afternoon or evening flight.


Alaska Itinerary #3: Denali, Katmai & Kenai Fjords

This itinerary is similar to the classic itinerary (#1), with a few changes. The big difference is that we added Katmai National Park. On this itinerary, you will move faster through Denali, in order to give yourself enough time to visit Katmai. This itinerary is also done point-to-point, starting in Fairbanks and ending in Anchorage.

Katmai is my favorite national park in Alaska. And getting here takes advance planning and a bit of luck.

Brooks Lodge, which is in Katmai National Park, is the spot to see brown bears feasting on salmon. To get a room at the Brooks Lodge, you will have to enter the lottery.

The lottery takes place each December, 18 months in advance of the summer season (if you want to visit Katmai in July 2024, the lottery is December 2022…if you want to visit Katmai in 2022 or 2023, the lottery has already occurred). It’s also possible to get a room at Brooks Lodge if someone cancels (that’s how we got our spot). Learn more about how all this works later in this itinerary.

Visiting Brooks Lodge isn’t cheap. You will be paying for two flights plus expensive lodging, which makes this itinerary rather expensive. Alternatively, you can day trip to Katmai from Anchorage, which is easier to plan, easier to get tickets for, and cheaper.

This map shows the driving routes in Alaska. In addition to the road trip, you will also fly to and from King Salmon/Brooks Camp when you visit Katmai National Park.

 

10 Day Alaska Itinerary: Denali, Katmai & Kenai Fjords

Day 1: Arrive in Fairbanks
Day 2: Drive to Denali, afternoon in Denali
Day 3: Morning in Denali, drive to Anchorage
Day 4: Fly to Katmai National Park
Day 5: Katmai National Park
Day 6: Fly to Anchorage
Day 7: Drive to Seward
Day 8: Kenai Fjords National Park
Day 9: Kenai Fjords National Park
Day 10: Fly home

Day 1: Arrive in Fairbanks

If your flight arrives in the afternoon or evening, simply have dinner and get a good night’s sleep. If you arrive in the morning, spend time exploring Fairbanks or drive out to see North Pole, Alaska.

Day 2: Drive to Denali, afternoon in Denali

On this Alaska itinerary, you have very limited time in Denali. Right now, while Denali Park Road is closed beyond mile 43, the Denali to-do list is a lot shorter, so having limited time isn’t a big deal.

To get to Denali, it takes just over 2 hours. If you leave early, you will have most of the day to explore the front section of the park. And since you will be doing this during the summer, the days are very long.

You can do several short hikes around the Visitor Center, visit the sled dog kennels, and visit the Savage River area. If skies are clear and you like hiking, you will get your best view of Denali from the Savage Alpine Trail.

Savage Alpine Trail

Savage Alpine Trail | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

In the afternoon or evening, check into your hotel. We stayed at the Denali Cabins but the Denali Lakeview Inn, the Denali Tri-Valley Cabins, the Denali Park Hotel, and Grande Denali Lodge get good reviews.

Day 3: Morning in Denali, drive to Anchorage

You have two options on how to spend your time in Denali today. You can either go hiking in the front of the park, take one of the Denali Park shuttle tours, or check out of your hotel early, drive to Talkeetna and take a midday sightseeing flight of Denali National Park (prices start at $230 per person).

In the afternoon, drive to Anchorage, check into your hotel, and have dinner.

Day 4: Fly to Katmai National Park

Today, fly to Katmai National Park. To get to Katmai from Anchorage, you will first fly to King Salmon and then you will take a float plane to Brooks Lodge. Brooks Lodge can set up your flights for you when you make your Brooks Lodge reservation.

Depending on how your flights work out, this takes about 4 to 5 hours of the day. Ideally, schedule a morning flight, so you have all afternoon to watch the bears from the Brooks Falls viewing platforms.

Round trip flights from Anchorage to Brooks Lodge cost roughly $1000 per person.

Alaska Itinerary with Katmai

Brown bear in Katmai National Park | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Getting a Reservation at Brooks Lodge

Reservations for Brooks Lodge are only offered by lottery. This lottery takes place in December, a year and a half in advance of the summer season (for summer 2024, you will enter the lottery in December 2022). 

The lucky lottery winners are notified by early February.

If you are not one of the lucky lottery winners, you still have a chance of getting a reservation. As people cancel their reservations, spaces will open. You will just have to be flexible with your dates.

This is what we did. In April 2021, we called Brooks Lodge and they had an opening for early July. We were able to get a 3-day, 2-night stay at Brooks Lodge in July. Once we made this reservation, we planned our entire Alaska itinerary around these dates.

With that being said, I don’t recommend waiting that late to plan a trip to Alaska. We got lucky, since COVID still kept travel light in Alaska at this point. We were able to make hotel reservations, flight reservations, and a rental car reservation 3 months in advance of our trip but I don’t think that will be the case in future years, once travel returns to normal.

Rooms at Brooks Lodge can accommodate up to four people and cost $850 per night. The dining room at Brooks Lodge also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and this has an additional fee. 

Once you arrive at Brooks Camp, spend the afternoon and evening at the Brooks Falls Viewing Platforms. It’s one of the best US national park experiences for wildlife viewing.

Brooks Falls

Brooks Falls | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

 

Katmai Bear

Day 5: Katmai National Park

You have two choices today: spend your time at the viewing platforms or take the day tour to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is the site of one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions. It is located 23 miles from Brooks Lodge. On a full day trip, you will drive out to the Valley and spend several hours hiking and exploring the area.

Ten Thousand Smokes

Giant wall of ash in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

Worth it? We thought so, for two reasons.

For one thing, how often do you get to see a landscape that was dramatically altered by one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions?

Plus, this tour occurs midday, when the Brooks Falls viewing platforms are packed with day trippers. Once we arrived back at Brooks Camp (at 4 pm), the day trippers left, and we still had the afternoon and evening to watch the bears.

This tour costs roughly $100 per person.

Day 6: Fly to Anchorage

Today, fly back to Anchorage. If you book an afternoon flight, you will have a good chunk of the day to visit the viewing platforms, so you’ll make the most of the money that you spent to visit Katmai National Park.

Alternatively, if you want more time on the Kenai Peninsula, you can schedule an early morning flight to Anchorage and, in the afternoon, drive from Anchorage to Seward. And here’s one more option: you can also fly from Brooks Camp to Homer, which is on the Kenai Peninsula. Spend the afternoon and evening in Homer and tomorrow drive to Seward.

Day 7: Scenic Drive to Seward

From Anchorage, it takes just over two hours to drive to Seward. However, you have the option to stop at a lot of different places on the drive, turning this into a full day experience.

Take in the view as you drive along Turnagain Arm, look for whales at Beluga Point, hike to the Virgin Creek waterfalls, ride the Alyeska Aerial Tram for scenic views, and visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. You also have the option to visit Whittier along the drive.

For full details on how to do this, read our Guide to Seward Highway.

In Seward, get checked into your hotel and have dinner. We stayed at the Seward Windsong Lodge. 

Seward Alaska

Seward, Alaska | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

Days 8 & 9: Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park is where you will find the Harding Icefield, its outflow glaciers, and fjords. It is a beautiful park that can be visited on foot, on a cruise, and even by helicopter.

With two days here, I recommend spending one day on land and one day on the water.

On land, you can hike the trails at the base of the Exit Glacier, hike the Harding Icefield Trail, or go glacier hiking or ice climbing with a guide. We went ice climbing with Exit Glacier Guides (prices start at $219 per person). 

On water, there are a lot of cruises to choose from. With Kenai Fjords Tours, we took the Northwestern Fjord Cruise, which is a full day cruise to one of the most remote fjords in Kenai Fjords National Park (prices start at $180 per person). 

With Liquid Adventures, we took the Aialik Glacier Wildlife Cruise and Kayaking Tour (prices start at $399 per person). Kayaking in front of the Aialik Glacier and watch it calving was awesome! 

For a full list of things to do, read our guide 9 Amazing Things to Do in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Kenai Fjords National Park Photo

Cruising Kenai Fjords National Park | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

 

Orcas Alaska

In Kenai Fjords, you can see lots of wildlife from the cruises, like these orcas. 

 Kenai Fjords Cruise

Scenery on the Northwestern Fjord Cruise | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Kenai Fjords Tours is part of the Alaska Collection. This company offers lodging in several national parks as well as tours, such as the fjord cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park. When we did this, we booked our lodging in Denali (Denali Cabins and Denali Backcountry Lodge) and Seward (the Windsong Lodge) with them as well as the Northwestern Fjord Cruise. By bundling together our lodging and the cruise, we were able to get a discount.

Day 10: Fly home

From Seward, it takes just over 2 hours to drive to Anchorage. If you have an early flight today, return to Anchorage the evening of day 9. But if your flight is late in the day, you can drive to Anchorage in the morning and fly home in the evening.

Alternative Version of this Alaska Itinerary

If you are unable to get a reservation at Brooks Lodge, you can still visit Katmai on a day trip from Anchorage. Day trips to Katmai take a full day. It’s best to plan a direct flight from Anchorage or Homer to Brooks Lodge, so you have as much time as possible at Brooks Camp.

Day trips to Katmai start at $1000 per person. You will have 4 to 6 hours in Katmai.

The number of people allowed on the Brooks Falls viewing platform is limited to 40 people. Midday, crowds are at their highest, since this is when day trippers visit the park. At this time, there is a wait list, and the wait can be as long as 2 hours.

So, just be aware that if you day trip to Katmai, you will have limited time on the main bear viewing platform. Learn more in our Guide to Brooks Falls.

Here is the modified itinerary with a day trip to Katmai. You will have more time for Denali and Kenai Fjords, or you can also add on a day trip to nearby Lake Clark National Park.

  • Day 1: Arrive in Fairbanks
  • Day 2: Drive to Denali, afternoon in Denali
  • Day 3: Denali National Park
  • Day 4: Morning in Denali, drive to Anchorage
  • Day 5: Katmai National Park day trip
  • Day 6: Drive to Seward
  • Day 7: Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Day 8: Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Day 9: Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Day 10: Fly home

Adding More Time to this Alaska Itinerary

If you have more than 10 days in Alaska, here are some things you can do with the extra time.

Add on More Time to the National Parks

In these national parks, rainy days can impact flightseeing trips, hiking, and cruises. It rains frequently along the coast in Alaska during the summer months, so having an extra day in the parks makes it more likely that you will have clear skies for part of your visit. This also gives you an extra day if you need to reschedule a flightseeing tour.

Day Trip to Katmai National Park or Lake Clark National Park

Both Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks can be visited on a day trip from Anchorage or Homer. These start at $1000 per person and need to be booked in advance. We have not been to Lake Clark yet, but it is another good spot to see brown bears.

Visit Homer, Alaska

Homer is a small town that proudly proclaims to be the halibut fishing capital of the world. It sits on the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula and it is a very pretty spot to visit. To do so, add on one day to the above itineraries, visiting Homer before or after Seward.

While in Homer, go for a walk on the beach, visit the shops and restaurants on the Homer Spit, take the ferry to Seldovia, and explore Kachemak Bay State Park.

Homer Alaska Beach

The beach in Homer, Alaska | 10 Day Alaska Itinerary

 

Homer Alaska

Shops and restaurants on the Homer Spit.

Additional Costs for this Alaska Itinerary

In the itineraries above, I provided estimates for activities and some transportation. Here are a few more items to budget for.

Rental Car: For this, I can’t give an estimate. Your rental car cost will depend on the length of your visit, the type of vehicle you plan to rent, and if your pick-up location will be the same as your drop-off location. Because rental car fees vary a lot from month to month and year to year, I can’t give an accurate estimate to what this will cost (it can range from $50 to $150 per day). When we rent a car, Tim checks the prices on the official websites and chooses the cheapest option.

Hotels: For double occupancy for a mid-range hotel, prices can range from $150 to $250 per night.

Food: For breakfast and lunch, we either ate the hotel breakfast or ate food that we purchased from the grocery store. For dinner, prices are typical for other places in the US, averaging about $10 to $18 per plate.

More Information about Alaska

DENALI: Denali Park Road Travel Guide: Things to Do, Map, Photos, Itineraries
DENALI: Top 10 Hikes in Denali National Park
BEST OF DENALI: 16 Best Things to Do in Denali National Park
DENALI ROAD CLOSURE: What to Do in Denali while Denali Road is Closed (& is it Worth It?)
KENAI FJORDS: 9 Amazing Things to Do in Kenai Fjords National Park
KENAI FJORDS: Harding Icefield Trail: The Ultimate Hiking Guide
WRANGELL – ST. ELIAS: 10 Best Things to Do in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
WRANGELL – ST. ELIAS: Wrangell-St. Elias Flightseeing Tour: What to Expect & is It Worth It?
KATMAI: 8 Amazing Things to Do in Katmai National Park
KATMAI: Complete Guide to the Brooks Falls Viewing Platforms
ANCHORAGE TO VALDEZ: Driving from Anchorage to Valdez: Best Things to Do, Map & Photos
VALDEZ: Columbia Glacier Kayaking Tour: The Complete Guide
ANCHORAGE TO SEWARD: Driving the Seward Highway: Best Things to Do, Map & Photos

Read all of our articles about the Alaska in our Alaska Travel Guide.


If you have any questions about planning your Alaska itinerary, or making modifications to these itineraries, let us know in the comment section below.

You Might Also Like:

Read all of our articles about the United States in our United States Travel Guide.

 

 

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Comments 16

  1. Avatar for Siddarth Sharma
    Siddarth Sharma

    Hi Julie, I have followed your blog and I used it to convince my friends to go to Alaska and they agreed! So, firstly thank you so much for such a detailed itinerary and amazing pictures. I managed to book tickets to the tundra wilderness tour for 28 August. I am planning some adventure activity at Kennai Fjords. What would you recommend are the best thigs to do ? I was planning the Aialik Glacier Kyaking. But I also wanted to do whale watching. Do you think its worth doing both of them or is kayaking good enough? I don’t really want a tour where I am just sitting in a ship and watching wildlife, I would rather prefer the adventure but also don’t want to miss out on whale watching. I read about a hybrid kayaking and cruze tour. Would that be better? or should I do kayaking here and go to some other place for whale watching.

    Secondly, I wanted to do the exit glacier hike.. is this different from the harding glacier hike? I want to full experience of hiking on glacier, ice caves, ice climbing etc. Is it worth doing both of them or the exit glacier hike is inclusive and better?

    One last thing- I have never camped and would like to do it for one night. Currently my itinerary is anchorage – kennai fjords and denali. Which would be the best place to do it?

    Are there ice caves at exit glacier or should I go to some other place for that?
    Thanks a ton

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      That’s very exciting that you are planning a trip to Alaska! On the kayaking tour of Aialik Glacier that we did, we did see a few whales on the cruise to Aialik Bay. The same company that we used also offers a cruise and kayaking tour of Northwestern Fjord…I think this would be a good option for you, since you get the adventure of kayaking, but there is a very good chance that you will see wildlife and whales on the cruise to Northwestern Fjord. We did the Northwestern Fjord cruise separately and saw so much wildlife (and within the next week, we will finally be publishing our article about this). Here is the link to Liquid Adventures and the cruise/kayaking tour. They also offer kayaking/camping tours which really would be adventurous, so look around on their website for what they have to offer.
       
      The only ice caves that I know of (in Alaska) are in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
       
      The Harding Icefield Trail is a hiking trail that runs next to the Exit Glacier and takes you to the viewpoint of the Harding Icefield. Glacier hiking/ice climbing on the Exit Glacier is different, since you hike right on the glacier and need a guide. If you have not gone glacier hiking or ice climbing yet, I recommend the Exit glacier hiking over the Harding Icefield Trail.
       
      As for camping, Denali might be a good place to do this. Here is a list of the campgrounds at Denali.
       
      Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Don
    Don

    Hi Julie, I’ve been planning out first Alaska trip this coming summer and I’m very glad Google directed me to your website here. This is hands down the most helpful blog I’ve found on the internet. And the photo quality is also superb!

    Do you have any suggestions on what lenses I should be bring to Alaska?
    What I currently own: Canon 6D mark i, 16-35/4, 70-200/2.8 II, 100-400 mark ii, a few prime lenses I don’t think fit the travel purpose but mentioning here: 35/1.4, 85/1.2 II and 135/2

    I’m planning to rent a 90D (it’s APS-C format with 1.6x factor) and a 1.4x extender for wildlife and general videos, so right now my travel list is:
    6D, 90D, 16-35/4, 100-400. There’s a gap from 35 to 100mm.

    I don’t want to bring too many lenses especially when I’m hiking the hard trails, so here’s my question:
    Should I bring the 70-200 or rent a 24-70?
    Do you think if I’m bring the 70-200, together with 90D and 1.4x extender (or 2x), the reach is enough? 35mm equivalent 450mm or 640mm (2x extender). I don’t have much experience with wildlife photography but I wonder if I’d want something longer (90D + 400mm + 1.4x -> 900mm) If 450mm or 640mm is enough, I’ll leave 100-400 at home. With 70-200 I have access to 70-100mm range, which is important for landscape imo.

    Also here’s what I’m planning to do to provide some use cases:
    Glacier guided tours
    harding icefield trail
    brooks falls
    Denali NP
    Glacier kayaking
    wildlife cruise
    Denali flightseeing and glacier landing

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Don. That’s very exciting that you are planning a trip to Alaska!
       
      Here is what we brought as our camera gear. Two Canon camera bodies (5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV). Lenses: 24 – 70 mm/2.8, 16-35mm/4, and a 70-300mm/4-5.6. No extenders. The majority of our Alaska photos (and almost all the photos on our website) were taken with the 24-70 mm lens. That’s a good walking around lens and I think it is important to have something in that range, so my vote would be to rent one. I used that lens a lot at Brooks Falls to photograph the bears as they walked in front of us and around the boardwalk trails. We also used the 70-300mm lens quite a bit at Brooks Falls. More zoom would have been nice, at Brooks Falls, Denali, and the wildlife cruise. I think 640mm is enough, unless you really want to hone in on the bears at Brooks Falls or capture a bear or whale off in the distance on a wildlife cruise. In Denali, the caribou and bears are usually far from the bus so something more than 300 mm would be great here. Our Harding Icefield photos were taken with the 16-35. We used both the 16-35 and the 24-70 on our flightseeing tours, Tim sitting on one side of the plane and me the other, both snapping away. For glacier kayaking, we primarily used our iPhones to take photos, but I did keep the Canon with the 24-70 in a dry bag and used it to shoot a few photos.
       
      So, based on my experience, 2 cameras is a great idea. Bring the wide angle, rent the 24-70, and then choose between the 2 telephoto lenses. Maybe since you have it, bring the 100-400 and you’ll be looking down the bears’ throats. 😊
       
      I hope you have a great time in Alaska! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Mrun
    Mrun

    Such great Alaska itineraries! Thanks a lot for all the material, it really helps a lot to plan the vacation. I always first refer to your website before planning any vacation.

    I am in the initial phase of planning my Alaskan vacation. I had a question. In the #3 itinerary, for the Kenai Fjords National Park, for water activities, you have mentioned 2 options- Northwestern Fjord Cruise and Aialik Glacier Wildlife Cruise and Kayak Tour.

    My question is can these 2 tours be done on the same day? If not, and If I have to choose one from them, which one would you suggest to chose, and which one to skip.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Great question. Those tours need to be done on different days since both come in around 7 to 10 hours total per tour. We still plan to publish info and photos about both of these, we are just behind since we have (luckily) been traveling a lot recently. As far as choosing the best tour, that depends. If you want to sit back, relax, see a lot of marine wildlife and glaciers, take the Northwestern Cruise. It’s amazing. I don’t like to be on boats for very long but I loved this tour and it is a full day. If you want to get up close to a glacier and do something more rugged and adventurous, do the kayaking tour to Aialik Glacier. This tour starts off with a smaller speedboat to get you to the glacier and you see some great scenery and wildlife on the way (we saw a lot more marine wildlife on the Northwestern cruise). You get dropped off at a beach where you will kayak for several hours to Aialik. This experience is rougher, colder, and you could get wet (if it’s raining, as it was in our case). I really liked both…but you will be making a choice between comfort and adventure. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Pam B.
    Pam B.

    Do you all have a recommendations for travel insurance: companies, coverage, etc.? As our Alaska costs are racking up, I’m thinking insurance would be a good idea. Thanks!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Believe it or not, we have only used travel insurance one time. The only time we ever used it was on our Around the World trip in 2014/2015 and that was through World Nomads. We book hotels with a refundable policy and can usually reschedule flights if travel plans get changed, whether it’s COVID related or something else. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Pam B.
    Pam B.

    Thanks for this timely post! We are heading to Alaska at the very end of May. We will have 9 full days. We are going to follow Itinerary 2 except we are going to go up to Denali first instead of Wrangell-St. Elias NP, just in case this is the only trip we get to take to Alaska. I have a couple of questions. On my current schedule, we will be doing the Columbia Glacier tour, the Ferry from Valdez to Whittier and the Kenai Fjords National Park in 3 out of 4 days (with the Exit Glacier on day 3). I am wondering if these will feel very similar to each other. Obviously, we need to take the Ferry (I’d prefer that to driving). Are the Columbia Glacier tour and the Kenai Fjords tour similar? It sounds like we’d see more wildlife (which I love) on the Kenai Fjords tour; is that true? If you had to pick one of these two tours, which would you choose? I am considering splitting the drive from Anchorage to Valdez into 2 days and stopping at the Copper River for a fishing expedition. However, since the Ferry only runs on certain days in May, I would have to skip the Columbia Glacier tour if we do that. If that tour is a “don’t miss” then I could look for fishing in Seward instead.

    You mentioned using the Alaska Collection for certain hotels and activities. Since you make recommendations for these things, is there an added benefit we would get by going through them?

    Thank you so much for your itineraries! We have used your itineraries in both Southern France and Yellowstone, so I was thrilled when you published these itineraries to Alaska (my only remaining state to visit!). We are not huge hikers, but I appreciate that you give suggestions for a variety of skill/interest levels.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Yes, I recommend picking between Columbia and Kenai, since they are similar. Columbia Glacier is awesome…we just had a terrible day when we did this. But the wildlife that you can see from a Kenai Cruise is awesome. I would recommend do a Kenai Fjords tour. We loved the experience and saw tons of wildlife (we still need to write and publish this experience). On the ferry cruise to Valdez, you will get great views from the ferry (and different views than the Kenai Fjord cruise) and will probably be able to see some of the icebergs from Columbia as you get closer to Valdez. And by doing the Kenai Fjords tour, you can also do the fishing expedition. With the Alaska Collection, we got a discount by booking the Kenai Fjords tour and our stay at the Windsong Lodge in Seward. I also think we got a discount for the Denali Cabins in Denali as well. If you check their website, it will tell you any deals they are currently offering. Both the Windsong Lodge and fjord cruise were great and I recommend both of them.
       
      Have fun exploring your last state. You saved one of the best for last! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Pam B.
        Pam B.

        Thank you so much, Julie. I think we will go with the Kenai Fjord tour and the fishing expedition. We are so looking forward to the trip. Once again, we appreciate the itineraries and articles. They are incredibly helpful!

  6. Avatar for Stephanie
    Stephanie

    I’m impressed with your knowledge of Alaska. I enjoyed reading about your suggested itineraries. I think I’d note in restaurant selection for Anchorage…. You really can’t go wrong with so many choices.

    I’m curious…. I’ve always wondered why no one ever mentions going to the Alaska Zoo for tourists? I send my out of state visitors there first! I usually get rave reviews about how delightful it is. I also make sure they make it to the museum. People can’t get over what a first rate museum it is and just love the Alaska exhibit.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Thanks! We spent a month in Alaska and we are already planning a return trip in 2023 (we will have to add on the zoo to our to-do list). To be honest, we didn’t know about the zoo. What came up in our research were the Reindeer Farm and Musk Ox Farm and we thought both were wonderful. As far as restaurants in Anchorage, we tried a few but kept going back to Moose’s Tooth because we liked it so much. Thanks for writing in and we are really looking forward to our return visit. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Husain
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
  8. Avatar for Opal Brown
    Opal Brown

    Great Alaskan tour! My mom and I did a 7 days trip in 2015, I recalled several places we had also seen… and some we’ll have to return to see! I look forward to seeing your other adventures.

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