10 Day Alaska Itinerary For the Best Trip

Table of Contents

Alaska sounds like a far-off land – a magical place made of snow and boundless wilderness. In large part, it rings true, as road trippers whip past blinding white peaks, forested crests and wind-whipped cliffs.

But Alaska isn’t just winter; it is a stunning spread of summer captures too. Heather-filled meadows, flying fish and grizzlies on the prowl are just some warm weather finds.

In this ultimate 10-day Alaska itinerary, you’ll pass through Alaska’s most treasured national parks and heritage sites. It’s a journey that takes you from sky to sea to sky!

Unless you’re driving up from Canada via the Alaska-Canada Highway (an additional four-day journey), travelers will most likely fly into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Just 5 miles out from downtown Anchorage, it’s a direct portal to your 10-day Alaska road trip.

note

Day 1 - City Exploration

Your introduction to Alaska starts with the city of Anchorage but don’t let the suburban sprawl fool you!

The fresh seafood, wild landscapes and animal neighbors wind their way through the office blocks and strip malls.

Anchorage Museum

The first stop of your 10 day Alaska itinerary is Anchorage Museum – a beginner’s guide to everything Alaska.

The largest museum in the state, its Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center shows off a whopping 600 Native objects alongside interactive science displays and heritage art.

Learn all about this fascinating place at Alaska History Gallery, which traces back 10,000 years of human development.

Anchorage Museum
Anchorage Museum

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Follow up with the Alaska Native Heritage Center for an in-depth exploration of survival in the wilds.

Listen to tales of tribes that built kayaks, their traditional songs and clever technology.

It’s a great substitute if you can’t experience Native Alaska culture in the Bush region first hand.

Ship Creek

Visiting during the summer? Pop by Ship Creek to see schools of salmon mingling and spawning – and cheer on the anglers trying to net their next meal.

Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum

Aviation nerds will gravitate towards Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. The bright red wings and metal flats of historic Bush planes stun you alongside displays of their pilots and achievements.

Catch their short reel in the theater or watch pilots launch off from Lake Hood.

Virgin Creek Falls
Virgin Creek Falls Photo by Paxson Woelber

Virgin Creek Falls

OR forgo the city altogether and head straight into nature! Drive out to Virgin Creek Falls.

Pretty popular but not overwhelmingly so, this short trek takes you through scented pines to a waterfall.

Alyeska Resort

Alyeska Resort is the true highlight, bringing you summer and winter fun outdoors. Sign up for their aerial tram experience, or bike down grass covered hills.

In the winter, enjoy dogsledding, flightseeing and multiple ski routes as you zoom your way down Girdwood valley.

Day 2 - Wildlife & Kenai Fjords National Park

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center herds you through 200 acres with a Wild Side Tour.

You can opt to look for all their protected inhabitants or get up-close and personal with Moose or Bear Encounters.

Alaska Sealife Center
Alaska Sealife Center Photo by Amy Meredith

Alaska SeaLife Center

Stop by the port city of Seward for lunch, also known as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park.

Their Alaska SeaLife Center is home to the cutest seals and puffins.

Kenai Fjords National Park

Once you’re fed, head over to Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s something out of Frozen – glaciers, fjords and islets that make up almost 700,000 aces.

Ice sheets and deep blues give way to reflective surfaces; absolutely stunning!

The sole area accessible by road, Exit Glacier is an active landscape that reshapes the valley. Winter recreation includes dogsleds, cross-country skiing, snowmobiles and more.

Boat tours are the best way to see the Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay. Most depart from Seward’s harbor. You can also paddle along the dynamic coast.

Hike the Harding Icefield Trail for some spectacular scenery. It’s an 8.2-mile round trip, passing through heather meadows and way above the tree line to display snow, snow, snow.

Return to Anchorage or stay the night in Homer.

Day 3 & 4 - Off the Beaten Path

The next leg of your journey depends on your budget and how you’d like to allocate your time. Choose between two destinations, or visit both if time permits!

Kodiak Island

Kodiak Island, summarized as ‘bears, salmon and hunting’, is well worth the visit but somewhat inconvenient to get to. There are two suggested routes:

  • You can save time and fly in from Anchorage. This allows more time on Kodiak Island, followed by a full day at Katmai National Park and Preserve.
  • Take a 9-hour cruise from Homer. Spend the remaining time and the next day at Kodiak Island – definitely check out the whale-watching excursion.

    However you plan this leg of your Alaska road trip itinerary, here are some Kodiak attractions to check out:
  • Kodiak Laboratory Aquarium & Touch Tank is 3500 gallons of sea life with a touch tank so you can handle crabs, snails and starfish.
  • Fort Abercrombie State Historic Park is a peek into how military and trade intertwined back in the day.
  • Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Main is the key to those brown bear sightings.
  • Alutiiq Museum is small but no less interesting! Learn about cultural traditions of the Alutiiq people.
  • Visit the beautiful South Olga Lakes, Frazer Lake, Karluk Lake and Uganik Lake.
Kodiak Island Brown Bear
Kodiak Island Brown Bear

Katmai National Park and Preserve

Like Kodiak Island, Katmai National Park and Preserve can only be accessed via flight and boat.

With wilderness that spans mountains, tundra, forests and lakes, you may want to dedicate an entire day and spend the night around Brooks Lake.

  • Brooks Falls is the perfect Brooks Lake and Naknek Lake in-between, where salmon leap over 6 feet of falls.
  • Bear Viewing Tours is a Katmai must-do because this national park is known for its abundance of brown bears.
  • Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes lures you in with its awe-inspiring landscape, formed where ash from the last eruption settled and created steam vents.
  • Mount Katmai and its crater lake is a breathtaking composite of ridged peaks, snow blankets and bear spotting. Other volcanic mountains include Mount Griggs, Trident Volcano, Fourpeaked Mountain, Mount Douglas and Novarupta.

Day 5 - Denali National Park

Take an early morning flight back to Anchorage so you can continue your epic road trip!

Next up is Denali National Park and Preserve, vast and teeming with grizzlies.

Not sure where to begin exploring? From hour-long flight experiences to ATV Trailblazer adventures, you’ll be pumped up with adrenaline all day.

Denali Flight Tour

Take in the entirety of Denali’s 8 million acres from above; this exhilarating flight tour swoops over clouds to circle ancient glaciers and gorges.

You might even land on a glacier – no hike necessary!

Go on a Bus Ride

Catch a ride on a Denali Transit Bus, which offers non-narrated and narrated rides.

Of the different options, the Tundra Wilderness Tour is an 8-hour round-trip ride that offers a guide, photograph opportunities and a trip straight down Denali Park Road.

Denali ATV Tour
Denali ATV Tour Photo by Viator

Take an ATV Tour

Looking to get off the beaten path and explore one of America’s most stunning national parks?

On a 2.5 hour Denali ATV tour, you’ll learn all about the history and ecosystem of this incredible place from your knowledgeable guide.

Keep your eyes peeled for some of the park’s resident wildlife, including moose and bears!

The ATVs are specially equipped to handle the challenging terrain of Denali – sit back as you’re taken on an unforgettable adventure through one of Alaska’s most spectacular natural wonders.

Go Hiking or Biking

Or, bike down Denali Park Road. Pull over anytime for photos or stunning scenery, with plenty of rest stops between Savage River, Stony Hill Overlook and Moose Creek.

Savage River Loop Trail takes you across a river, bracketed between Mount Margaret and Healy Ridge. It takes approximately an hour to walk.

Boreal Forest rakes in more tree-wrapped terrain and rising slopes, leading up to a serene lake.

Hike to Horseshoe Lake in an hour – try to spot beavers as you exit the forest and come alongside Nenana River.

Day 6 - Northern Lights & Arctic Circle

Wake up slow (and hopefully rested) because you’re going to be out at night. Treat yourself to a warm and hearty breakfast.

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Drive up to Fairbanks on Day 6 of your 10 day Alaska itinerary and be pleasantly surprised by its Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum.

While not something you expect to find in the middle of Alaska, this resort museum is great at tiding you over until your full-day Arctic Circle tour begins.

Housing 70 historic cars and post-Gold Rush heritage exhibits, it’s a history time-out after all that nature wandering.

Aurora Borealis
Aurora Borealis

Arctic Circle Tour

It’s time for the long-anticipated Arctic Circle Tour! Hotel pickup happens at 2PM, after which you’ll:

  • Cross into the Arctic Circle and get a certificate of proof to show off back home.
  • Learn about how the Trans-Alaska-Pipeline was built; an epic beast that runs on for over 800 miles.
  • Contrasting manmade awesome-ness, you’ll be brought to Yukon River for a genteel stroll.
  • Hike up Finger Mountain next for a plethora of moose, foxes and bears. Maybe even a lucky lynx spotting.
  • Sit in the cold but pampered with hot drinks and snacks.
  • Drive through the night, trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive Aurora Borealis.
  • Arrive back in Fairbanks before dawn breaks.

Day 7 - Chena Hot Springs & Tanana Valley

Chena Hot Springs

Sleep in to recharge your batteries, and then wake up with a dip in the natural mineral water pools at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

Take a quick detour to Aurora Ice Museum to exclaim over the world’s largest year-round ice venue. Over 1000 tons of ice and snow were used to create this whimsical museum, forming the shell, ice sculptures, a bar and other entertainments.

Want the full experience? Sign up for this Chena Hot Springs Tour.

Chena Hot Springs
Chena Hot Springs Photo by Rick Webb

Tanana Valley State Forest

Follow the river through Tanana Valley State Forest where 1.8 million acres of forestland waits. 

One of the largest forests in Alaska and famous for its spruces, birches and poplar trees, it’s made for hiking and biking.

  • Rosie Creek roads – Somewhere along Mile 343 Parks Highway, there are some signs and maps that will lead you to an overlook.
  • Bonanza Creek roads – Turn off Mile 339 Parks Highway for a pretty ride up a bluff and towards Tanana River.
  • Nenana Ridge roads – Bracketed by yellow-leaf trees during fall, this hilly ride is opposite Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn.

Camp the night at the sole campgrounds or stay in a nearby town.

Day 8 - Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Record-breaker Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is another Alaska road trip must-do, thanks to its mammoth volcanoes and glaciers.

In fact, it’s the largest U.S National Park! Spend your entire day at this unbelievably beautiful expanse.

  • Hubbard Glacier – Often enjoyed afar from a cruise, it’s an astounding 7 miles by 76 miles in dimensions.
  • Wrangell Mountain Air Tour – In 90 minutes, you’ll have circled around most of the park.
  • Root Glacier Trail – Canyons and walls of ice don’t deter trekkers from experiencing this massive ice sheet.
  • Kennicott Glacier Trek – Featuring the historic ghost town of Kennecott, this glacier used to be the heart of mining.
  • Mount Blackburn hikes – Fifth highest peak in the US, Mount Blackburn is freedom incarnate.

Honestly, pick a peak and go. Every mountain comes with its own glacier and natural sights.

Wrangell St Elias National Park Preserve Hubbard Glacier
Wrangell St Elias National Park Preserve Hubbard Glacier Photo by National Park Service, Alaska Region

Day 9 - Gold Mine & Hatcher Pass

Panning for Gold

Today is a step back into history as you explore the first gold mine in Alaska. Try gold panning at Independence Mine State Historical Park before looping around the old preserve buildings.

Is the gold mining life as fascinating as it sounds? There’s a 45-minute tour that takes you into the mine buildings.

Go Hiking

Hike up to Gold Cord Lake or take the April Bowl Trail for more fresh air. Winter isn’t a reason to stop moving either as trails for cross-country skiing and snowmachines are made available.

Hatcher Pass Alaska
Hatcher Pass Photo by LindaDee2006

Hatcher Pass

Of course, don’t miss out on Hatcher Pass. Set within Talkeetna Mountains is this local favorite, a scenic drive that gifts you with alpine tundra and wildflowers.

Feel free to park wherever possible to hop on the hiking trails. You might spot some paragliders launching off the slopes too. Some scenic drive points include:

Government Peak Recreation Area – For all your outdoor activity needs.

Gold Mint Trail Hike – 16 mile hike that takes you to Mint Hut.

Little Susitna River Overlook – alongside Palmer Fishhook Road.

Motherlode Lodge – Beautiful wooden building that offers guest rooms and dining.

Fishhook Trailhead – Best in late summer when the walk if rife with blueberries.

Summit Lake State Recreation Area – A comfortable lakeside retreat where you can just watch hang gliders fly.

When you’re done exploring, find accommodation for the night here or return to Anchorage.

Day 10: Cross Off the Bucket List

It’s the last day of your Alaska road trip; time to return to Anchorage. Think about what you haven’t done yet.

Rent a bike and coast along the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail; absorb as much of Alaska’s seaside beauty as possible.

Look for dog sledding opportunities if you haven’t tried it yet. Whether you’re looking for a ride or just puppers to cuddle, know that it is in fact, a state sport.

Pick out some souvenirs in form of traditional Alaska Native art! Or bring home some bottles of premium omega-3 oils, maybe even local candy.

Since shopping here is tax-free, it won’t take chunks out of your budget.

Finally, pack up and zip up. It’s time to go home.

Day 8 - 10 (Alternative Itinerary)

Another option for Day 8 – 10 is scheduling your flight home from Juneau and indulging in a mini-adventure through the Inside Passage.

Ferry Through Alaska

Take advantage of Alaska’s ferry system and pop between Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and other charming coastal towns!

You can also sign up for a see-all cruise trip, including a 2-day cruise that takes you back to Anchorage.

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway

If you prefer high altitudes versus the biting sea chill, an iconic Alaskan experience is taking the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway.

Check out the official website for available routes, some of which offer round-trip packages.

You’ll traverse through the mountains from Skagway to Whitehorse, to Fraser and other locations along the Alaska-Canada border. These hours-long journeys really rake in diverse landscapes.

Jewell Gardens

Quieter attractions like Jewell Gardens have their own charms too. Vegetable patches aside, you’ll find flowers beds, ponds and even a miniature train.

Peek into the on-site glassblowing studios for some amazing demonstrations.

Sealaska Heritage Institute
Sealaska Heritage Institute

Sealaska Heritage Institute

Juneau visitors may enjoy the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which offers more insight into Native Alaskan culture.

Alaskan Fishing Cruise

Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that lets you see how much work goes into sea crab fishing – but without the danger.

You’ll go around the best catching spots, listen to the crew’s stories and learn about the trade.

Whale Watching

While seasonal, whale watching is no doubt an Alaskan highlight. Join tours for higher guarantee of whale spotting, plus informational guides talking you through their migration process.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to road-tripping expansive territories like Alaska – the possibilities are endless.

You could spend days exploring a single national park, or try to cover as much ground as possible as you drive along the coast. You could indulge in slow travel by ferrying from city to town to city.

One thing to keep in mind: while the endless oceans, snow banks and mountains are striking, Alaskan culture hides in the details of everyday living.

Don’t just look for grand sights; pay attention to the common things too!