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Alaska Itinerary: 5 Trips for Independent Travelers

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A map of the state of Alaska showing the National Parks and major cities
Map of (most) of Alaska, including major cities and National Parks. Alaska is HUGE state!

Looking for the best way to see Alaska as an independent traveler? If so, this article will tell you everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable trip to Alaska for yourself. Included in this article are five different Alaska itinerary options for 5-10 days. Some require a car, some do not. It also includes ideas for how to spend more time if you have it.

I lived in Alaska for seven years and worked in tourism so I am intimately familiar with how to plan an amazing trip! The most important piece of advice I have is to PRIORITIZE what’s most important to you. Alaska is a gigantic state, the distances are long. If you make thoughtful decisions about where you want to go and what you want to save for your next trip, you’ll be much happier. You’ll also have more fun and get to know Alaska better.

As you’re planning your trip, I recommend reading about how to save money on a trip to Alaska and what to pack for Alaska.

When is the best time to visit Alaska?

Most visitors visit Alaska during the summer months and these Alaska Itineraries are focused on a visit between May and September.

A few things to consider when you’re deciding on the best time to visit Alaska include:

  • May and September are less expensive for most things except food
  • May, June, July and the first half of August are the time of the midnight sun. This means that although the sun sets, it does not get fully dark at anytime during the night during these months. This means you will NOT be able to see the Northern Lights during this time.
  • Late August and September have darkness and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights! They are also colder, especially September. September has gorgeous fall colors in Denali and Fairbanks
  • If you are traveling in May or September, make sure to check if what you want to visit is open. Some places may not open until late May or may close in early to mid September (for example, Denali National Park closes in mid September)
  • Be prepared for rain no matter what month it is
  • June and July generally have the warmest weather
  • July is the most crowded time

In my opinion, late May is an excellent time to visit Alaska. Prices are a bit lower than June and July and most things are open. June is also an excellent time. I am also a big fan of the fall colors in the interior (Denali and Fairbanks). The best time to go is going to depend on what’s most important to you!

How much does it cost to visit Alaska?

I know that what you REALLY want is for me to tell you exactly what it will cost. It’s difficult to give you a total estimate because there are so many variables. Variables include: where are you flying from? Are you camping or staying in hotels? Are you making your own meals? How long is your trip?

To build your budget for your Alaska Itinerary, start with the number of days you’ll be on your trip. Next, use these guidelines to estimate from there (learn more details about budgeting and saving money in Alaska here).

  • Transportation to and from Alaska – flights from Seattle round trip are generally $400-$600
  • Lodging – $15-$25/night for camping; $200 – $400/night for hotels; something in between for cabins, vacation rental homes and lower end hotels (sometimes lower end hotels are also $200/night!)
  • Driving/Car Rental – expect to pay $100/day for a car rental in summer. The railroad is also expensive, but the smaller your group is, the more it might make sense financially (a group will definitely save money with a car). Gas is also expensive, especially outside the major cities
  • Alaska Railroad: Approximately $250/person one way from Anchorage to Fairbanks; $175/person one way from Anchorage to Denali; $79/person one way from Denali to Fairbanks
  • Food: Expect groceries to be a bit more than what you pay at home in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau and a LOT more in smaller communities. Food in restaurants is expensive – ask locals where they eat for meals if you’re looking to save money. Make use of online information to know what to expect in a particular restaurant for a meal.
  • Tours and attractions: This is where your budget will vary A LOT based on what’s most important to you and your choices. Don’t try to do it all! And get the Alaska Toursaver book (more information about this in the linked post on budget travel in Alaska)!
  • Tips: Many people are not aware that it’s important to tip tour guides. Tour guides are often paid minimum wage for extremely hard work and many Alaska guides struggle to find work in the winter. Tips are a critical part of a guide’s income, and extra important if they did a great job. Tip your guide 15-20% of the cost of the tour.

Where to Stay in Alaska

Hotels and Motels in Alaska are extremely expensive. AirBnb is a good way to go in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Girdwood. This also gives you the option of cooking some of your own food, which will also save money.

Book all lodging far in advance, especially June-August.

Getting Around in Alaska – Road Trip or Railroad?

One of the biggest decisions you’ll face planning for your Alaska Itinerary is how you’re going to get around. You can definitely visit Alaska without a car (see itineraries #2 and #5) by utilizing the Alaska Railroad. Sometimes there is also bus service available. The routes vary quite a bit from year to year, generally bus service is available at least between Anchorage and Denali.

The Alaska Railroad is expensive as well as a wonderful adventure and the entire trip is absolutely gorgeous. If you’re going to spend more than a day in Denali National Park, or if you’re a solo traveler, you might save money by taking the Alaska Railroad instead of renting a car. You cannot drive in most of Denali National Park so your expensive rental car will be parked for the days you travel into the park.

Renting a car is also expensive but also gives you lots of flexibility. It is more economical with a family or group of friends traveling together. If you are renting a car, do not attempt to do a one way road trip, this will cost an additional $800-$1000 for a one way rental in Alaska (on top of paying $100/day to rent the car and gas).

With a car, you can stop anywhere you want for as long as you want, and it’s easier to carry food with you and get to the grocery store.

It is critical to get reservations for either a rental car or the Alaska Railroad well in advance.

Alaska Itinerary #1: 10 Day Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Adventure

Denali rises above the Susitna river on a sunny day. There are trees in the foreground. The Denali lookout is part of the Alaska itinerary
The view of Denali from the overlook on the Parks Highway

This Alaska Itinerary is best for: Those who love fitting in as many things as possible into a vacation. This is also for those who love road trips!

If you have more time for your Alaska trip, you can easily spend more time in any of these places. Or you can add on any of the other ideas at the bottom of this post.

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage

For most travelers, it will be a long day (or more than a day) of travel to get to Alaska. On your first day, I recommend arriving and focusing on getting your rental car and getting settled. If you’re ready to stretch your legs and get outside after a day of traveling, head to the Coastal Trail. Here you can walk, run or rent a bike and explore this beautiful 11 mile trail for as long or short a distance as you’re up for.

Day 2: Exploring Anchorage

If you’re into hiking and outdoor activities, I recommend doing one of the many fantastic hikes in the Anchorage area. You can also head out for a walk or bike ride on the Coastal Trail if you didn’t do that yesterday.

Looking for indoor activities? Head for the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

More ideas for the best things to do in Anchorage (including hikes!) as well as best places to eat!

Day 3: Anchorage to Denali National Park

Today you’ll road trip to Denali National Park! Make sure that you have your lodging arranged (hopefully you did this a long time ago), whether you’re planning to camp or stay in a hotel. Another thing to do before you leave is to download any audio books or playlists you want to listen to as you’ll be driving in areas without cell phone service.

You’ll also want to go to the grocery store and stock up on road trip food, lunches and snacks. The distances are long and in Denali National Park there are no food options once you get past the entrance area. Make sure to start with a full tank of fuel as well.

The drive from Anchorage to Denali is 237 miles and is about 4 hours of driving time (5 if you go over Hatcher Pass, which you should!). Plan on it taking 6-8 hours (plus an additional hour for grocery shopping and gas) because you will want to stop lots of times along this gorgeous drive!

A few stops not to be missed are:

  • Hatcher Pass – widely said to be one of the most beautiful places in Alaska you can reach by car, this seasonal detour adds about 20 miles onto your trip (and at least an hour, plus the time you spend exploring when you get there). Take in amazing scenery, towering mountains and explore the historic independence mine.
  • Talkeetna – a half hour detour off the Parks Highway leads to a funky Alaska town known for Denali climbers and pie. This makes an excellent lunch stop
  • Denali State Park – there are two overlooks, several campgrounds and hikes in Denali State Park. At a minimum, make sure to stop at the Denali viewpoints with incredible views of Denali and the Susitna River.

Day 4: Denali National Park

I highly recommend spending this day taking the bus trip into the park! The scenery is amazing and if you take the hiker shuttle you can get off and hike wherever you like. It’s important to bring your own food as there is none available in the park.

There are several different options for the bus trip which are discussed in more detail in this planning guide for Denali. The guide also includes restaurant recommendations for the Denali area.

If you decide not to take the bus trip, check out the sled dog kennels or take a hike to Mt Healy or along the Savage River (these are also discussed in the planning guide). You can also do it before leaving the next day.

Day 5: Denali to Girdwood

I recommend staying in Girdwood for the second part of your trip. It’s close to Anchorage but also outside the city and closer to the activities for the next few days. Look for one of the many ski oriented Airbnbs in town, or stay at the Hotel Alyeska.

This drive will take 5 hours (plus stops), passing through Anchorage. If you wanted to save either Talkeetna or Hatcher Pass for the return drive, add additional time.

When you arrive in Girdwood, check in to your lodging and if you’re up for it, go for a hike or ride the gondola up to check out the view!

Make sure to get pizza and beer from very popular Chair 5, and ice cream from the Ice Cream Shop next to the Tesoro station at least once during your stay.

Day 6: Day trip from Girdwood to Seward

Seward is a delightful port town on Prince William Sound and a jumping off point for adventures in Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s a 1 hour and 45 minute very scenic drive from Girdwood.

There are a few options for your day trip to Seward. 15 minutes outside of town is Exit Glacier, a mandatory stop. If you’re a hiker, check out the Harding Icefield hike. Harding Icefield trail is a strenuous 9 mile hike with 3500 feet of elevation gain and is an Alaskan favorite.

This is the gateway community for visiting Kenai Fjords National Park. I recommend the Major Marine Tours boat tour which takes you through spectacular scenery and marine wildlife. Another option is to do a kayak rental or tour in the park.

Seward is also home to the Alaska Sea Life Center, an aquarium dedicated to the marine animals of Prince William Sound and the North Pacific Ocean.

You can also enjoy walking around town and checking out the harbor.

Day 7: Day trip from Girdwood to Portage

Portage is just a 30 minute drive from Girdwood with lots of activities and scenery to explore.

Make sure to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see many beloved Alaska animals such as bear, moose, caribou and more. This is an excellent photography opportunity and a place to learn about Alaska’s many animals.

At Portage Glacier, you can take a shorter boat tour across a lake to see the glacier, or you can hike Portage Pass to see it on foot. There are also many miles of trail leaving from the visitor center to check out other glaciers and to see spawning salmon in season. Learn more here about visiting the Portage Valley and the many things to do!

Day 8: Glaciers and Wildlife Boat Tour or Kayaking in Whittier

Whittier is just beyond Portage (although you have to wait for your turn in the unique Whittier tunnel which could take up to an hour). If you didn’t do the boat tour in Seward, or if you loved it and want to do another, take the 26 Glaciers cruise to see lots of glaciers and marine wildlife.

This is also an excellent place for kayaking which you could do if you’ve had your fill of boat tours.

There are also several hiking trails around Whittier.

Another option for this day is to hang out in Girdwood and do hikes or just relax in the laid back town.

Day 9: Exploring Girdwood and return to Anchorage

On your last full day in Alaska, you can continue to explore the hiking trails in Girdwood such as the Winner Creek Trail. You can also hike from the gondola if you want to get a ride up to some good views to start!

Depending on what time your flight is tomorrow, you might want to get to Anchorage tonight, or you could spend your last night in Girdwood. It’s about an hour back to Anchorage from Girdwood.

There are several excellent hiking trails along the route back to Anchorage along scenic Turnigan Arm.

Day 10: Departing Anchorage

If you have time to fit in one more hike, museum or trail walk or bike ride before heading for the airport, go for it!

Alaska Itinerary #2 – 8 Day Railroad Adventure without a Car

An engine and baggage car for the Alaska Railroad, an Alaska itinerary without a car. In the background are glacier covered mountains against a blue sky

This Alaska Itinerary is best for: Anyone who doesn’t want to or is not able to drive. This is also good for anyone adding additional days in Denali where you wouldn’t be driving anyway.

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage

For most travelers, it will be a long day of travel to get to Alaska. If you’re doing this Alaska itinerary without a car, I recommend staying downtown.

If you’re ready to stretch your legs and get outside after a day of traveling, head to the Coastal Trail, where you can walk, run or rent a bike. Explore this beautiful 11 mile trail for as long or short a distance as you’re up for. The trail starts downtown and you can meet it in multiple places.

Day 2: Exploring Anchorage

If you didn’t do it yesterday, take a walk or rent a bike and explore the Coastal Trail.

You can take a shuttle to hike Flattop Mountain (your best option for car free hiking in Anchorage).

Another great place to go is the Alaska Native Heritage Center, you can take the bus or an uber/lyft from downtown. The Anchorage Musuem is located downtown.

Make sure to get some snacks and food to take with you to Denali today and grab dinner at 49th State Brewing (and try the beer if you’re a beer drinker!).

Day 3: Glacier Cruise in Whittier

One of the best things to do in Alaska is take a glacier and wildlife cruise and you don’t want to miss out on this wonderful tour.

The best option to do this if you don’t have a car is to do the 26 Glacier Cruise in Whittier. You can take the Alaska Railroad or bus to get there and back and it’s timed with the tour departure. The Alaska Railroad option is more expensive than the bus and both of them travel the incredibly beautiful drive between Anchorage and Whittier. Learn more about the options and costs here.

This excursion (train or bus plus glacier and wildlife cruise) takes about 12 hours, so that will take the whole day, but it’s well worth it!

Day 4: Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali

The train leaves early in the morning (check your ticket for exact timing and what time to arrive). Depending on where you stay downtown and how much luggage you have, you may be able to walk to the train depot. You can also take a rideshare (uber/lyft).

The train to Denali takes about 7.5 hours of gorgeous Alaska scenery. The train depot is right at the park entrance station and you’ll arrive in the late afternoon.

If you’re camping, you can ride the Denali shuttle to your campsite. Most hotels offer a shuttle to the entrance area and the train depot (double check when booking).

Once you settle in to your lodging take advantage of the Denali shuttle to explore the entrance area if you’re up for it. You can also do this tomorrow or the next day.

Day 5: Denali National Park

I highly recommend spending this day taking the bus trip into the park! The scenery is amazing and if you take the hiker shuttle you can get off and hike wherever you like. It’s important to bring your own food as there is none available in the park.

There are several different options for the bus trip which are discussed in more detail in this planning guide for Denali. The guide also includes restaurant recommendations for the Denali area.

If you decide not to take the bus trip, check out the sled dog kennels or take a hike to Mt Healy or along the Savage River (these are also discussed in the planning guide). You can also do it before leaving the next day. These places are all accessible on the shuttle bus that goes around the entrance area of the park (separate from the bus system that goes deeper into the park).

Day 6: Alaska Railroad from Denali to Fairbanks

The train trip from Denali to Fairbanks is much shorter at four hours and leaves in the late afternoon. This allows time for another hike or visiting the sled dog kennels or exploring the entrance area at the park.

Make sure to get to the train depot early and not miss your train!

You’ll arrive in Fairbanks in the evening, usually around 8pm. I recommend finding a place to stay close to downtown so you can get there quickly and be able to explore the next day on foot.

Day 7: Explore Fairbanks

Getting around Fairbanks without a car can be done by ride share (uber/lyft) or riding the bus. You can also take tours to many other things so if you don’t have a car, you’ll still be able to explore.

Start your day in Fairbanks by visiting the Morris Thompson Cultural Center and learning all about the cultural history and modern life of the Athabaskan people. There’s also an impressive public lands information center here. Walk along the river as long as you like on the lovely riverfront trail.

There are lots of options for the rest of your day. You can take a shuttle out to Chena Hot Springs, or visit the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North. Read more here about all the unique things to do in Fairbanks!

If the weather is cooperative, spend the evening having dinner on the deck at Pike’s Landing or the Pumphouse and watch the Chena River float by.

Day 8: Depart Fairbanks

Depending on your flight time, you might be able to fit in more Fairbanks fun before you leave. Another option would be to take one of the red eye flights that leave Fairbanks between midnight and 2 am and arrive in Seattle very early in the morning. You could do this at the end of day 7 or 8, depending on how much time you have.

Alaska Itinerary #3: 5 Days Denali Road Trip or Railroad

A river at sunset flows through golden and red fall color shrubs with distant mountains in Denali National Park. Denali is a part of an Alaska itinerary
A September sunset on the Savage River in Denali National Park

This Alaska Itinerary is best for: Those with less time who want to focus primarily on seeing Denali National Park. This Alaska Itinerary does NOT include any coastal areas.

Note: this itinerary can also be done out of Anchorage. If someone wants to focus primarily on Denali, Fairbanks is much closer. See Alaska Itinerary #1 for details about the drive between Anchorage and Denali if you decide to do it that way. This Alaska Itinerary can also be done one way if done by train (but not by car as a one way car rental is prohibitively expensive in Alaska).

Day 1: Arrive in Fairbanks

Fly into Fairbanks, get your rental car (if applicable) or take ride share to your lodging.

If it’s early enough in the day that you’re ready to explore, visit the Morris Thompson Cultural Center and learn all about the cultural history and modern life of the Athabaskan people. Walk along the river as long as you like on the lovely riverfront trail. Spend the evening having dinner on the deck at Pike’s Landing or the Pumphouse and watch the Chena River float by (you can also do this on your last night before leaving).

If you’re riding the train, I recommend going to the grocery store and getting some snacks and food for your trip to Denali (if you’re driving you can do this tomorrow).

Day 2: Fairbanks to Denali

The train leaves early in the morning so make sure to get there well ahead of time according to what they tell you on your ticket. A ride share is going to be the best way to get to the train depot. The train ride takes about 4 hours and will get you there midday.

If you’re driving, you can have a more leisurely start to your morning if you’d like to check out some of the other unique things to do in Fairbanks! The drive to Denali takes about two hours from Fairbanks. Make sure to get groceries before you leave town for your days in Denali.

However you arrive, you’ll be there in time to do some exploring around the park entrance area. Check out the sled dog kennels, hike Mt Healy or Savage River or one of the other fun things to do in Denali. These places are all accessible on the shuttle bus that goes around the entrance area of the park (separate from the bus system that goes deeper into the park).

Day 3: Denali National Park

I highly recommend spending this day taking the bus trip into the park! The scenery is amazing and if you take the hiker shuttle you can get off and hike wherever you like. It’s important to bring your own food as there is none available in the park.

There are several different options for the bus trip which are discussed in more detail in this planning guide for Denali.

If you decide not to take the bus trip, check out the sled dog kennels or take a hike if you didn’t do those yesterday.

Day 4: Denali to Fairbanks

If you’re taking the train back to Fairbanks, it departs in the late afternoon. You’ll have some time early in the day to do any last Denali exploring you want before departing. If you are doing the train one way and heading to Anchorage today, the train leaves midday.

If you’re driving back to Fairbanks, you can spend part of the day in Denali and part of it in Fairbanks, with any of the things you wanted to do that you didn’t get to yet.

Pro tip: Head out to the Turtle club or Two Rivers Lodge for dinner and then an evening soak at Chena Hot Springs before you head back home. You can stay at Chena Hot Springs, or head back to Fairbanks for the night.

You could also take a red eye flight home tonight, saving a night of lodging and getting you home on Day 5.

Day 5: Depart Fairbanks

Depending on the time of your flight, you might have time to do more exploring around Fairbanks. If your trip can last into a six day of traveling home you could also take the red eye from Fairbanks tonight and get home on Day 6.

Alaska Itinerary #4: 5 day road trip from Anchorage with Glaciers and Coastal Mountains

Portage glacier in the middle, meadows in the foreground and mountains in the background against a blue sky
Portage Glacier seen from Portage Pass

This Alaska Itinerary is best for: People who want to focus on the glaciers and wildlife of Alaska’s wild coast and those who don’t want to spend too much time driving

Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage and Girdwood

For this Alaska itinerary, I recommend finding an Airbnb and staying in the small town of Girdwood, about an hour from Anchorage. This will get you out of the city right away and minimize the number of nights you are moving around on a short trip. If you prefer, you can also stay in Anchorage, just add an hour to the driving time each day.

Day 2: Portage Glacier

Portage Glacier is just a 30 minute drive from Girdwood with lots of activities and scenery to explore.

Make sure to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see many beloved Alaska animals such as bear, moose, caribou and more. This is an excellent photography opportunity and a place to learn about Alaska’s many animals.

At Portage Glacier, you can take a boat tour across a lake to see the glacier, or you can hike Portage Pass to see it on foot. There are also many miles of trail leaving from the visitor center to check out other glaciers and to see spawning salmon in season. Learn more here about visiting the Portage Valley and the many things to do!

Day 3: Glacier and Wildlife Tour (Whittier or Seward)

A glacier and wildlife day cruise is one of the very best tours you can take in Alaska! The scenery is amazing, you’ll learn a lot from the on board naturalists and they usually provide lunch.

You have a couple of options for this. The first is to do the 26 glacier cruise out of Whittier. The drive to Whittier takes about 40 minutes (plus the time waiting for the tunnel).

Another option is to do the Major Marine Tour of Kenai Fjords National Park, which operates out of Seward. The drive to Seward takes about an hour and 45 minutes.

Both cruises are excellent, you can decide which you prefer. A lot of it depends on how far you are up for driving and if you want to explore the town of Seward on your trip (if you do, make sure to stop at Exit Glacier).

Day 4: Explore Girdwood

Relax today in the town of Girdwood. Enjoy a hike on the mellow Winner Creek Trail or ride the Gondola at Alyeska resort for it’s epic views of mountains and Turnagain arm.

Make time for ice cream from the Ice Cream Shop and grab pizza at wildly popular Chair 5.

Day 5: Exploring and Departing Anchorage

Depending on the time of your flight, you may have time for more Girdwood or Anchorage adventures before flying out. It will take about an hour to drive back to the Anchorage airport from Girdwood.

Alaska Itinerary #5: 5 Days in Southeast Alaska with or without a car

A waterfall tumbles from above against rocks into a glacier fed lake. There is a glacier in the background. It is a dark, overcast and rainy day on an Alaska itinerary
Nugget Falls at Mendenhall Glacier is beautiful in any weather

This Alaska Itinerary is best for: People who want to experience the glaciers, wildlife, mountains and dramatic scenery of the inside passage without taking a cruise.

I highly recommend Airbnb for summer lodging in Juneau. If you stay “in the valley” you’ll be close to the Mendenhall Glacier, Airport and Ferry terminal in a neighborhood. From downtown you’ll be able to walk everywhere downtown and will be in a more busy area.

I’ve found the hotels near the airport to be a better value than downtown (and they give rides to the ferry and airport).

If you have more time, consider riding the Alaska ferry one way (from Bellingham, WA) to see more of the inside passage. If you’re considering taking the ferry to Alaska read this post first! It will help you determine if riding the Alaska ferry to Juneau is right for you. You could also spend two or three days visiting spectacular Glacier Bay National Park.

One more important note about this itinerary. Juneau is very rainy all year, including in the summer. I’d recommend switching up the plans for each day based on the weather. For example, the walk on Douglas, anything downtown and the Mendenhall Glacier are still good in the rain, but Mt Roberts is not as fun without the view!

Day 1: Arrive in Juneau

If you’re arriving by plane, it’s a two hour flight from Seattle, but still a long day if you’re flying from elsewhere! Arriving by ferry, you’ll arrive Monday or Tuesday early in the morning. Juneau is only accessible by boat and plane, there are not roads going in or out!

Get settled into your lodgings and pick up your rental car if you have one and explore around town a bit if you’re up for it. This article has lots of information about the best things to do during your stay in Juneau and some delicious food not to miss!

If you arrive early enough in the day, head over to Douglas Island and the Treadwell Mine Trail. This quiet, flat walk gives you the opportunity to walk along the beach across the channel from Juneau. You can get here by bus or driving. Head to the Island Pub for pizza after!

Day 2: Wildlife cruise

Juneau is surrounded by lots of wildlife, including whales. Taking one of Allen Marine’s excellent day cruises can take you to see even more spectacular scenery and wildlife than you can see if you stay in town.

Day 3: Mendenhall Glacier

You can’t miss the Mendenhall Glacier when you visit Juneau! Not only is it beautiful, the visitor center is informative and they are getting real about climate change. The Mendenhall Glacier is retreating rapidly and here you can learn all about it.

In addition to the visitor center and glacier gawking, this is a wonderful place to go for a hike. I highly recommend the Nugget Falls Trail (2 flat miles round trip). Here you get right up close to an impressive waterfall and see the glacier even more closely. There are several other hiking trails if you’d like to go farther.

Driving to the Mendenhall Glacier is very straightforward. Getting there without a car is a little more complicated but is definitely doable (no need to rent a car for this only). See this post for more information on getting to Mendenhall Glacier without a car.

Day 4: Mt Roberts

There are two ways to get to Mt Roberts, one is to hike and the other is to ride the tram. My favorite way to do it is to ride the traim and THEN hike from there. This allows you to get even further up into the views and meadows of Mt Roberts!

Whichever way you do it, the views from Mt Roberts are truly spectacular.

After your hike, grab dinner at the Hangar downtown.

Day 5: Explore downtown and Depart

At some point during your visit to Juneau, it’s important to explore downtown, with it’s many art galleries, delicious coffee, local distillery and more. There are lots of cruise ship tourists, but don’t let that stop you from exploring and tasting this wonderful town. You can do this on any day of your trip that it fits, but if you haven’t done it yet before you leave for the airport, do it today!

Cruise ships also leave by evening, so evening is a good time to see what live music is on at the historic Alaskan Hotel.

What to add if you have more time for your Alaska Itinerary

A tidewater glacier at the head of a bay. The glacier is blue and has dark cracks. In front of the glacier are thousands of small icebergs floating in the water. In the background is a high snow capped mountain. Glacier Bay is a highlight of an Alaska itinerary
Marguerite Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park

If you’re lucky enough to have more time for your Alaska Adventure, that’s terrific! You can spend more time in any of the places mentioned in these itineraries (especially Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula).

Some other specifics to consider adding to your Alaska Itinerary (with the itineraries they make sense with) include:

  • Glacier Bay National Park (itinerary #5)
  • Riding the Alaska ferry (if doing itinerary #5)
  • Driving the Glenn Highway and visiting Matanuska Glacier (itinerary #1 or #4)
  • Visiting the town of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is a good place to kayak or even stay in a remote yurt in Kachemak Bay! (itinerary #1 or #4)
  • Kayak camp in Kenai Fjords National Park (itinerary #1 or #4)
  • Try your hand at salmon or halibut fishing in Whittier or Seward (itinerary #1 or #4)
  • Visit remote (but still on the road system) Wrangell – St Elias National Park and historic Kennicott (itinerary #1)
  • Visit one of Alaska’s very remote National Parks – several of Alaska’s remote National Parks can only be visited by small plane. They are very expensive to visit, but also very unique and unforgettable. From the salmon eating bears of Katmai National Park to the vast tundra of Gates of the Arctic National Park you can have an experience few can share. This is a fly in experience so you could add it to any of these itineraries.

I hope you’re excited to plan your very own Alaska Itinerary! Have an amazing adventure!

Snowy mountains at sunset above the water. Text reads 5 epic trips in Alaska for independent travelers

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!