Encounter majestic landscapes and diverse wildlife on an expedition into the heart of Alaska’s untouched wilderness. Experience the rugged beauty of Denali National Park on naturalist-led excursions and search for moose, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears and Dall sheep. Hike amid the soaring peaks of the Alaska Range and journey along the stunningly scenic Seward Highway. Cap off your adventure with a cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park, home to humpback whales and towering tidewater glaciers.
Arrive in Fairbanks mid-afternoon Later, meet the remarkable Mary Shields at her log cabin outside of town. An Iditarod veteran and special friend, Mary introduces the group to her sled dogs and shares some of her 40 years of Alaska stories. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a welcome reception and dinner.
Springhill Suites (D)
Today begins with a scenic ride aboard the Denali Star to the entrance of Denali National Park. The glass-domed, Gold Star Service car provides panoramic views as Alaska unfolds along the tracks and an outdoor, upper-level viewing platform offers fresh air and an excellent vantage point for photos. Upon arrival, we travel into the heart of Denali. In summer, the road is closed to private traffic so the ride is unhurried and uncrowded. Along the way, your expedition leader and naturalist will explain the nature and history of the Park. There will be chances to stop for photo opportunities and wildlife sightings-moose, caribou, gray wolves, grizzly bears and Dall sheep.
Denali Backcountry Lodge (B,L,D)
Spend the next two days exploring Denali's magnificent interior from your home-base at Denali Backcountry Lodge, one of National Geographic's "Top 10 Adventure Lodges of the World". Set out on your choice of guided hikes depending on interest and energy level. Options include a hike to a ridgeline summit for commanding views, striking out across the trail-less tundra or meandering in a lush valley looking for ground-nesting birds and meadow wildflowers. There are a variety of activities available at the lodge as well; mountain biking, fishing or relaxing with the family. Kids also have the opportunity to try their luck panning for gold. Whatever you choose, naturalists are there to share their deep knowledge and help you experience this magnificent setting. Weather permitting, take an optional flightseeing trip around Denali, North America's highest mountain to photograph its soaring 20,237-foot peak.
Denali Backcountry Lodge (B,L,D daily)
Take advantage of an early morning drive out of the park to spot wildlife during this active period. Traveling through the Alaska Range southward along the picturesque Susitna River, we stop for lunch in the classic Alaskan town of Talkeetna before arriving in Anchorage this evening.
Hotel Captain Cook (B,L)
This morning, drive south of Anchorage along the stunningly scenic Seward Highway, past Turnagain Arm and the snowcapped Chugach mountains, which seem to rise out of the mirrored waters of Cook Inlet. This is part of a route that National Geographic has named one of its “Drives of a Lifetime.” Later, take the tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska for panoramic views and visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center who's mission is to provide refuge for orphaned, injured, and ill animals that can't survive in the wild.
Seward Windsong Lodge (B,L,D)
Embark this morning on a scenic cruise through the Kenai Fjords. Today is filled with breathtaking views of glaciers and offers great wildlife watching opportunities for all manner of marine life. Steller sea lions can be seen on the rocky islands and Harbor seals are often spotted on ice floes and in the bays. Sea otters bob on the surface, porpoises leap beside the boat and orca, minke, gray and humpback whales are all frequently sighted. Thousands of seabirds call this area home and fill the skies and sea rocks. The highlight of the day is a stop at the base of a tidewater glacier in the hopes of seeing it "calve"-shedding gigantic chunks of ice into the ocean with a thunderous crash. This evening gather for a farewell dinner at a harbor-front restaurant in Seward.
Seward Windsong Lodge (B,L,D)
This morning begins with a visit to the Alaska Sealife Center to meet some of the marine life of the area up-close. The Center is dedicated to maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem of Alaska through research, rehabilitation, conservation and education. Return to Anchorage mid-afternoon for your flight onward.
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