The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Itinerary
Updated February 2021, The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Itinerary was originally written in January 2020
Alaska’s big and a major bucketlister for many a traveler. For many travelers that aren’t on a high budget, an Alaska road trip is the best way to see the 49th state without forking over your life savings.
People will explore this however they want, some people will buy themselves a campervan, whilst others might prefer to figure out there own way around Alaska. Whatever they decide to though it still makes for a great trip – a trip that plenty of people (people like you) want to take. So read on to learn how to take on an Alaska road trip written by someone born, raised and still currently living in Alaska.
Please note that I’ve started the road trip from Anchorage as that is the most common starting point. This can also be started from Fairbanks for those flying in there, or Tok for travelers arriving overland from Canada.
You’ll also notice I have broken the Alaska road trip itinerary into 3 one-week legs (4, if you include the Dalton Highway). Each leg can be done in a week, but depending on interests or if you plan to add a hike or a few, they can easily be spread over more time.
Dalton Highway Option
Welcome to Alaska! This is the most common jumping-off point for an Alaska road trip as Anchorage has the most domestic and international connections.
As Anchorage will be a starting point for many of you reading this post, Anchorage will be where you’ll pick up your rental car and most supplies. Anchorage has numerous grocery, department, and gear stores such as Fred Meyer, REI, Walmart, and more.
Anchorage also has a small handful of budget accommodations and hostels for those on a tight budget. Check out this post to see a list of cheap accommodations. Another great option is Airbnb.
You will be in Anchorage a couple more times on your Alaska road trip, so you may choose to explore the city right away or at a later point in your trip.
Check out 2 Days In Anchorage and Free Things To Do In Anchorage for ideas on what to do in the city. Wanna get out of the Anchorage bustle, but not stray too far? Check out the 16 Best Day Hikes Near Anchorage.
Plan your stay in Anchorage with the Anchorage Travel Guide
Where To Stay In Anchorage
Anchorage to Girdwood
- Distance: 35 Miles
- Time: 40 Minutes
- Places to stop: McHugh Creek, Beluga Point, Bird Creek
Girdwood is a small town about 40 minutes south of Anchorage along the scenic Turnagain Arm. Home to Alyeska Ski Resort for those visiting in winter/spring months that may want to get in some turns. Girdwood has several good restaurants, plenty of hiking options, and is quite scenic.
Some will make a quick pitstop here while others may want to spend a few days.
Check out Girdwood accommodations here.
Things To Do In Girdwood
Everything you need to know to plan a perfect visit: The Girdwood Travel Guide
Girdwood to Whittier
- Distance: 25 Miles
- Time: 40 Minutes
- Places to stop: Portage Ghost Town, Portage Glacier, Byron Glacier, Whittier Tunnel
Whittier & Portage
Not much further south from Girdwood is a tunnel that pierces through the mountains to a little town named Whittier on Prince William Sound. Even to this day it still surprises me every time I cross through the tunnel at how different the landscape is just on the other side.
From Whittier, it’s possible to take day cruises in the sound out to beautiful calving glaciers, go out on a fishing charter, hike, camp, and more. Note that a 2-way ticket for the Whittier tunnel is $22 per car.
Don’t miss Portage & Byron Glaciers that sit very close to the opening of the Anchorage side of the Whittier Tunnel.
There aren’t a lot of accommodation options in Whittier, however there are campgrounds.
Things To Do In Whittier & Portage
- Take a glacier cruise from Whittier to explore Prince William Sound
- Take a Portage Lake Cruise
- Hike Portage Pass
- Visit Byron Glacier
Looking for more info on Byron Glacier? Learn more to plan your visit here
Wanna break from driving? Visit Spencer Glacier On The Whistle Stop Train
Whittier to Seward
- Distance: 110 Miles
- Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
- Places to stop: Turnagain Pass, Hope, Kenai Lake, Moose Pass, Primrose/Lost Lake Trailhead, Exit Glacier/Harding Icefield Trailhead
Seward is the Gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park and a port city for southcentral Alaska. The city of Seward isn’t very large, but depending on your interests some may need a few days to tick off all the things on their to-do list.
Shop Seward accommodations here.
Looking for a stop on the way to Seward? Check out the tiny town of Hope, Alaska
Things To Do In Seward
- Visit the Sealife Center
- Take a halibut or salmon charter
- Hike along Exit Glacier
- Take a Kenai Fjords National Park glacier cruise (I recommend booking with Major Marine Tours)
- Hike to Harding Ice Field
- Visit the boat harbor
- Trek up Mount Marathon
- Kayak in Resurrection Bay
- Go flightseeing
- Take a whale watching cruise
- Spend a night or two over in nearby Kayaker’s Cove
Where To Stay In Seward
| Cityofseward.us |
Orca Island Cabins
| Expedia.com |
Located on a private island in Humpy Cove, Resurrection Bay
Looking for more ideas? Check out my Seward Travel Guide for everything you need to know
Seward to Kenai
- Distance: 105 miles
- Time: 2 hours
- Places to stop: Cooper Landing, Soldotna
There isn’t much in the way of attractions or things to do in Kenai itself unless you’re planning to get in some fishing on your way down to Homer, but Kenai can be a decent place to stop over between Seward and Homer.
Shop Kenai accommodations here.
Where to Stay In Kenai & Soldotna
Read more details on my One Week Kenai Peninsula Road Trip itinerary
Kenai to Homer
- Distance: 85 Miles
- Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
- Places to stop: Ninilchik, Anchor Point
Homer is a usual fan favorite of those tourists that road trip around Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
Check out Homer accommodations here.
Things To Do In Homer
- Wander around the beaches, shop,s and campgrounds on the Homer Spit
- Visit the Islands Ocean Visitor Center
- Grab a drink at the Salty Dawg Saloon
- Take a halibut charter
- Go flightseeing and bear viewing over in Lake Clark National Park
- Hike around Kachemak Bay State Park
- Take a water taxi across the Bay to Halibut Cove
- Grab a beer at Homer Brewing Company
Make the most of your time in Homer with the Homer Travel Guide
If you’re planning to spend the night in Halibut Cover, click here for a list of accommodations and here for campgrounds. In Seldovia, you can try the Sea Parrot Inn, or click here for more info on camping in Seldovia ($10/night for tents and $15/night for RVs).
Homer to Anchorage
- Distance: 225 Miles
- Time: 4 Hours 15 Minutes
- Places to stop: Anchor Point, Kenai, Soldotna, Cooper Landing, Girdwood
Time to loop back to Anchorage. For those of you that are only in Alaska for a week, you may be bidding your goodbyes here, but if you’re continuing for two weeks or more, use this time to re-stock up before hitting the road to the north toward Denali and Fairbanks.
Shop Anchorage accommodations here.
Things To Do In Anchorage
- Take a hike up Flattop for panoramic views of Anchorage
- Bicycle down the Coastal Trail
- Shop around downtown Anchorage
- For more ideas check out my post Free things to do in Anchorage
See more and plan the perfect trip with the Anchorage Travel Guide
Anchorage to Eklutna
- Distance: 20 Miles to Eagle River | 22 Miles more to Eklutna
- Time: 25 Minutes to Eagle River | 35 Minutes to Eklutna
- Places to stop: Arctic Valley, Eklutna Graveyard
Eagle River & Eklutna
I’m actually from Eagle River, and from a tourist’s perspective, there isn’t much of anything to see in Eagle River unless you want to get out into nature. Eklutna is one of the oldest inhabited parts of the Anchorage area, estimated at 800 years old.
Shop Eagle River accommodations here.
Things To Do In Eagle River
- Hike around the Eagle River Valley at the Eagle River Nature Center
- Trek back to glacial-fed Symphony & Eagle Lakes
- Walk up Mt Baldy for panoramic views of the Knik Arm
Things To Do In Eklutna
- Hike, bike or kayak at Eklutna Lake
- Visit Eklutna Historical Park
- Walk to Thunderbird Falls
Eklutna to Hatcher Pass
- Distance: 45 Miles
- Time: 1 Hour
- Places to stop: Knik, Butte
Even after a lifetime here, Hatcher Pass is one of my favorite places in Alaska. With countless adventures to be had into the Talkeetna Mountains, it’s got something just about anyone could enjoy.
Things To Do In Hatcher Pass
- Visit Independence Mine
- Trek up or cross country ski around April Bowl
- Visit Reed Lakes
- Take on longer backpacking routes like Snowbird to Bomber or the Mint-Bomber Traverse
Hatcher Pass to Talkeetna
- Distance: 93 Miles
- Time: 1 Hour 50 Minutes
- Places to stop: Nancy Lake, Willow, Susitna River
Talkeetna is a small town, that once had a cat as a mayor, north of Wasilla. Talkeetna makes a great base for adventures around Denali National & State Parks.
Shop Talkeetna accommodations here.
Talkeetna to Denali
- Distance: 174 Miles
- Time: 3 Hours
- Places to stop: Trapper Creek, Denali South View, Denali Viewpoint, Byer’s Creek Trail, Chulitna River, Hurricane Bridge
Cantwell, Denali National Park, Healy
This is one of the top places to visit in Alaska, with Denali National Park being one of the most well-known destinations in the state. If you’re planning to visit in the summer months, June, July, and August, I highly recommend making arrangements and booking accommodations and/or campsites well in advance as things do fill up quickly and accommodations in your budget range may sell out long before your arrival.
If you’re not fussed to camp in a tent (or camper/RV) and outside the park though, you can usually find a slot at a campground even at the last minute.
Denali has plenty to offer with narrated bus tours, flightseeing, wildlife viewing, walking, hiking, backcountry backpacking, and so much more.
Shop Denali accommodations here.
Things To Do In & Around Denali National Park
- Take a narrated bus tour of Denali National Park (note that you cannot drive the park road beyond Savage River (mile 15) in your own vehicle unless you’ve got a Denali Road Lottery Permit)
- Go on a flightseeing tour
- Take a backcountry safari down the Stampede Trail
- Hike K’sugi Ridge over in Denali State Park
- Go whitewater rafting
- Drive the Denali Highway to Paxson
- Get a Denali Road Lottery permit for September and self-drive the entire national park road
Plan your visit to Denali National Park with the Denali Travel Guide
Read more about the Denali Road Lottery & learn how you can do it too
Denali to Nenana
- Distance: 54 Miles
- Time: 55 Mintues
- Places to stop: Nenana River
Nenana is a small town, just north of Healy, on the way to Fairbanks. There are only a handful of sights to see in town, making it a nice stop to break up the journey between Denali and Fairbanks.
Click here to shop Nenana accommodations.
Things To Do In Nenana
- Whitewater raft the Nenana River
- Visit the Alaska State Railroad Museum
- Check out the Alfred Starr Cultural Center and Museum
Check out the hit the highlights road trip: Anchorage to Fairbanks
Nenana to Fairbanks
- Distance: 55 Miles
- Time: 1 Hour
- Places to stop: Esther
Alaska’s golden heart city, with plenty of things to do whether you’re visiting under the midnight sun of midsummer, or you’re braving the cold in the dead of winter. One of the main draws for people to Fairbanks is the chance to see the northern lights dance in the sky, which means for a chilly winter visit (but spring and fall usually yield some aurora activity too!), but the awesome things about Fairbanks is that there’s plenty of other things to check out in town or just outside if you come for the aurora and the weather (and solar flares) don’t behave for you.
Check out Fairbanks accommodations here.
Things To Do In & Around Fairbanks
- Soak it up at Chena Hotsprings
- Hang out on the beach at Tanana Lakes
- Explore downtown Fairbanks
- Take a Riverboat Discovery Tour down the Chena River
- Check out antique cars at the Fountainhead Auto Museum
- Hike up Table Top Mountain
- Get outside the city (if you’re there in fall, winter, or spring), and go hunt for the aurora borealis
- Visit The Aurora Ice Museum
- Go to the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
- Pay a visit to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center
- Take the kids to have fun at Pioneer Park
Going to Fairbanks? Look no further! The Fairbanks Travel Guide
Optional: Dalton Highway Road Trip
- Distance: 992 Miles (return)
- Time: 24 Hours (return)
- Places to stop: See here for sights
Dalton Highway (Add On)
The Dalton Highway is a crazy road trip that will take you from Fairbanks to the north coast of Alaska, up a dirt road, that passes beyond the Arctic Circle. You will want to have plenty of food, water, gasoline, and camping gear for the journey…. and a spare tire or two because flats are the norm (happened to a friend just this past summer).
If you want to do a day trip to the Arctic Circle via the Dalton Highway and don’t want to deal with the logistics or worry about breakdowns, you can book this Arctic Circle day tour from Fairbanks.
If you wanna read up more on the road trip up the Dalton Highway, read this post here.
Fairbanks to Delta Junction
- Distance: 95 Miles
- Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
- Places to stop: North Pole, Salcha
There isn’t heaps to do in Delta Junction itself but you’ll pass through here if you’re planning to explore between Fairbanks and Valdez or even Anchorage via the Richardson Highway.
Shop Delta Junction accommodations here.
Things To Do In Delta Junction
- Rika’s Roadhouse & Big Delta State Historical Park
- Sullivan’s Roadhouse Historical Museum
- Quartz Lake Loop Trail
- Gulkana Glacier Trail
- Bert Mountain Trail
- Lost Lake-Moose Pond Trail
- Take a road trip tour from Fairbanks to Delta Junction
Delta Junction to Tok
- Distance: 108 Miles
- Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
- Places to stop: Tanana Valley State Forest
Tok, much like Delta Junction doesn’t have tons of things to do in itself, however, it’s a good jumping-off point for further adventures. Tok is at a crossroads if you will.
Heading east along the Alaska Highway will take across the border and into Canada, a turn north will take you along the Taylor Highway to Chicken, Eagle, Yukon Charley River’s Nature Preserve and eventually onto the Top of the World Highway to cross the border into the northern Yukon Territory and to Dawson City. Heading southwest out of Tok is the Glenn Highway, which will take you past Gakona and Glennallen where you can either head south to Valdez or southwest to Anchorage.
Shop accommodations in Tok here.
Things To Do In & Around Tok
- Tok Mainstreet Visitors Center
- Forty Mile Country
Tok to Wrangell St. Elias National Park
- Distance: 261 Miles
- Time: 6 Hours
- Places to stop: Paxson, Gakona, Glennallen, Chitina
Wrangell St. Elias National Park
From Tok, take the Glenn Highway down to Glennallen and from there head south on the Richardson to Copper Center. In Copper Center, I’d recommend making a stop at the Copper Center Visitor Center to learn what activities and trails to hike in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
A little way down the highway after Copper Center head out onto the Edgerton Highway to Kenny Lake and Chitina, before making the remainder of the journey on the McCarthy Road that gives access to McCarthy and Kennecott Mine. McCarthy is the main jumping-off point into Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
Wrangell St. Elias is the largest national park in the US, and as such, most of the park is only accessible by multi-day hikes and by small plane.
Shop for cabins and accommodations in McCarthy here.
Things To Do In Wrangell St. Elias National Park
- Hang out in the small town of McCarthy
- Visit Kennicott Mine
- Charter an air taxi to check out the Wrangell St. Elias backcountry, or to stay in one of the public access cabins
- Walk out onto Kennicott Glacier & Root Glacier
Wrangell St. Elias National Park to Valdez
- Distance: 180 Miles
- Time: 4 Hours 15 Minutes
- Places to stop: Thompson Pass, Bridal Veil Falls
Valdez is a small port on a fjord in Prince William Sound that’s most well known as the terminus of the Alaska Pipeline.
Shop Valdez accommodations here.
Things To Do In Valdez
- Valdez Museum & Hisotrical Archive
- Take a glacier cruise to Colombia Glacier & Mears Glacier
- Hike Mineral Creek Trail
- Go seakayaking to explore the fjords around Valdez
- Take a halibut charter
- Whitewater raft the Lowe River through Keystone Canyon
Want more details? Check out my one week in Alaska Wrangell St. Elias & Prince William Sound Road Trip
Valdez to Matanuska Glacier
- Distance: 196 Miles
- Time: 3 Hours 15 Minutes
- Places to stop: Thompson Pass, Bridal Veil Falls, Gelnnallen, Eureka
Matanuska Glacier is one of Alaska’s easiest to visit glaciers. For those not as adventurous it’s easy enough to stop at viewpoints along the Glenn Highway for views of the glacier, but if you’re wanting to get out on the ice drive into Matanuska Glacier Park where you can pay the $30 per person access fee and continue to drive to the toe of the glacier.
Once there, park the car and head on out to the ice, following the trail marked by orange cones. I recommend dressing warm and wearing cleats out there to help prevent slips. If DIY isn’t your thing you can book glacier tours here.
Matanuska Glacier to Anchorage
- Distance: 103 Miles
- Time: 2 Hours
- Places to stop: Matanuska River, Palmer
Finally back to Anchorage to wrap up your Alaska road trip!