8 Perfect Weekend Trips to Alaska
Last Updated on March 23, 2023
Is a trip to Alaska on your bucket list? Do you always think “someday I want to go to Alaska?”. Friend, someday is NOW. Getting to Alaska is easier than you think and to prove it to you I have a whole list of perfect weekend trips to Alaska to share!
These trips are all three days long (with flying in the night before the first day, leaving Seattle in the evening). If you’re looking to plan a longer adventure in Alaska you can find all my ideas to plan your perfect longer Alaska itinerary here.
Weekend trips to Alaska are definitely easiest for those already living in or near Seattle. Flights to these Alaska destinations are 1.5-4 hours from Seattle. If you’re coming from somewhere else, you can still do this, you’ll just need to add on your flight time to Seattle (and you might need to do a red eye flight to make it work). Planning a trip to Seattle? Add on a few days and visit Alaska too!
Related: What to pack for Alaska, How to visit Alaska without a car, Alaska on a Budget
- Hiking and Glaciers near Anchorage
- Anchorage Ski Trip
- Fairbanks and Denali National Park
- Chasing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks
- Hiking and whale watching in Juneau
- Exploring Glacier Bay National Park
- Fishing and Exploring Ketchikan
- Off the Beaten path in Wrangell and Petersburg
Is three days enough in Alaska?
Yes! Also, of course not! Several weeks is not really enough time to see all of Alaska, but the key to enjoying a weekend trip is to minimize your travel around the state. Dive in to one area and make the most of it! Keep the travel simple so you can spend the time enjoying the experience.
Where can I spend a weekend in Alaska?
Truly, you can spend a weekend anywhere in Alaska. The most important thing to think about to ensure an enjoyable weekend trip is your travel time. My recommendations are all for nonstop flights from Seattle that take 90 minutes to 4 hours. A couple of these suggestions have a layover but it’s a short one with short flights involved. If you add in stopovers it takes much more time. These are the places that I enjoy going for a weekend and make for a really great short trip to Alaska.
Hiking and Glaciers near Anchorage
- Best for: This is the Alaska that visitors have in their head, especially visitors from Seattle – hiking among high peaks with wildflowers and wildlife with epic views of fjords and glaciers! If that’s what you’re dreaming of, this is it! This is one of the best weekend trips to Alaska for hikers, but you could also replace most of the hikes with kayaking, or doing some of both. Another benefit of this option is the large number of nonstop flights between Seattle and Anchorage.
- Best month to go: June (May and July are also good – watch out for potential snow on hikes in May and crowds and more difficult lodging to find in July)
- Ground Transportation: Rent a car in Anchorage (car rental in Anchorage is expensive, consider an alternative like Turo)
- Where to Stay: If you’re looking for a hotel or vacation rental, look in Anchorage or Girdwood. If you’re camping, try the Seward municipal campground or the campground in Portage Valley.
- When to fly: Nonstop flights go between Seattle and Anchorage almost every hour! Plan an evening flight the night before Day 1 and fly home in the evening of Day 3 (or red eye if you want more time). Flight time is usually 3-3.5 hours.
- Day 1: Explore the Portage Valley – there are plenty of options here, from hiking Portage Pass to taking a boat tour on the lake up to the glacier or walk the trail of blue ice. Make sure to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. You could also do a kayak trip out of nearby Whittier this day.
- Day 2: Take the 26 Glaciers cruise out of Whittier or the day boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park that departs from Seward. Both tours are excellent and have lots of opportunity for seeing wildlife! If you still have energy, you can fit in another hike before a late dinner, either near Seward or Girdwood.
- Day 3: Spend the day in Anchorage, go for a hike, or ride a bike or walk on the Coastal Trail. Visit one of the excellent museums and have lunch or dinner at 49th State Brewing before heading to the airport
Learn More: Things to do in Anchorage, Portage Glacier Day Trip from Anchorage
Anchorage Ski Trip
- Best for: Winter lovers and those who like an extra dose of adventure with their winter activities! Anchorage doesn’t have the best snow (it can be wet and icy like in Washington) but the views and the experience can’t be beat. This is a great option for both downhill skiing at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood (near Anchorage) or cross country skiing. There are lots of places to cross country ski in Anchorage, and if there isn’t enough snow or it’s too icy, try Hatcher Pass.
- Best month to go: February – Early in the winter is very dark and can be very cold. By February the days are a bit longer but there should still be good snow. Early March is often good too.
- Ground Transportation: Rent a car in Anchorage
- Where to Stay: Hotel or vacation rental in Anchorage or Girdwood
- When to fly: Fly to Anchorage the night before Day 1, fly out the evening of Day 3. You could also fly in early on the morning of Day 1.
- Day 1: Head to Alyeska Resort. When conditions are good, this is truly incredible skiing with a unique and breathtaking view. Join the crowd for excellent pizza at Chair 5 after.
- Day 2: Spend another day at Alyeska, of if you’d like to try cross country skiing, head to one of Anchorage’s excellent cross country ski areas.
- Day 3: Have breakfast at the legendary (and long wait) Snow City Cafe and head out to Hatcher Pass, a stunning location year round near Palmer outside of Anchorage. Here you can snowshoe or ski among giant mountains with distant views to the ocean and explore the historic independence mine. Head to the airport in the evening.
Fairbanks and Denali National Park
2023 Note: The Denali Park Road closed at Milepost 42 (Polychrome Pass) in August 2021. The park service has announced that the road will remain closed at this point at least through the 2023 season. A permanent fix to this section of road is currently being built. Bus tours will still operate up to that point. Eielson Visitor Center and Wonder Lake will not be accessible.
- Best for: This is the shortest and easiest way to get to Denali National Park, which is only a two hour drive from Fairbanks (at least four hours from Anchorage). Fairbanks is also an awesome town to visit. This is makes it one of the best weekend trips in Alaska!
- Best month to go: June (for the midnight sun and better weather or early September (for incredible fall colors in Fairbanks, Denali and on the drive as well as less people in Denali and a chance to see the Northern Lights!)
- Ground Transportation: Rent a car in Fairbanks, or take the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to Denali and back.
- Where to Stay: Hotel or vacation rental in Fairbanks, hotel or camping in Denali. Note about Denali – be prepared for very high lodging prices and not getting a lot for what you pay. You can do a day trip to Denali from Fairbanks, but if you want to take the bus tour (highly recommended!) you’ll want to stay in Denali at least the night before.
- When to fly: Fly into Fairbanks the evening before Day 1, get a nonstop flight from Seattle. Fly out of Fairbanks late in the evening on Day 3 (or red eye). Flying time between Seattle and Fairbanks (nonstop) is usually 3.5-4 hours.
- Day 1: Get a breakfast sandwich and coffee from Sunrise Bagel and explore the trail along the river in downtown Fairbanks. Check out one of the excellent local breweries and visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North and the Musk Ox farm. Drive to Denali, stopping in Healy at 49th State Brewing for dinner.
- Day 2: Do the bus tour of Denali National Park. It’s a long bus day, but trust me, totally worth it! Go as long as you can stand it, the further you go the better your chance of seeing the most wildlife, especially bears and caribou. Take the shuttle bus instead of the narrated tour and get off and go for a hike anywhere you like. When you return to the entrance area, visit the dog kennels or hike Mt Healy for incredible views. Both the dog kennels and Mt Healy can also be done when you arrive the night before or before you leave in the morning.
- Day 3: Return to Fairbanks if you didn’t do that last night and head out to Chena Hot Springs for a relaxing soak and a beautiful drive with an excellent chance to see moose. Have dinner at the local favorite Turtle Club on your way back to the airport.
Learn More: Things to do in Fairbanks, Denali National Park Guide
Chasing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks
- Best for: If the Northern Lights is on your bucket list, don’t put it off, do it now! This is one of the best weekend trips to Alaska to plan at the last minute based on the weather and northern lights forecast. It works especially well if you have Alaska airlines miles, but you can still get some reasonable deals on flights this time of year. While you’re waiting for the lights to come out, there are tons of fun winter things to do during the day and some wonderful hot springs to soak in. Don’t plan activities early in the morning so you can also get some sleep after your late night aurora chasing!
- Best month to go: Late February and early March – Fairbanks is bitterly cold in the winter, with many days colder than 40 degrees BELOW zero. By late winter, there are more hours of daylight (but still plenty of hours of darkness for Aurora viewing) and while it will still be very cold it’s manageable with the right gear. This is also usually a time with clear weather.
- Ground Transportation: Rent a car – this is especially important so you can drive around late at night and look for northern lights!
- Where to Stay: Hotel or vacation rental in Fairbanks (you can also stay at Chena Hot Springs)
- When to fly: Fly into Fairbanks the evening before Day 1, get a nonstop flight from Seattle. Fly out of Fairbanks late in the evening on Day 3 (or red eye). Flying time between Seattle and Fairbanks (nonstop) is usually 3.5-4 hours
- Day 1: Get breakfast at Sunrise Bagel and give cross country skiing a try at one of the many fantastic trail systems in the Fairbanks area. Try some local craft beer afterwards and have dinner downtown at Lavelle’s Bistro. In the evening, head to the incredible ice art competition ice park and check out the amazing ice sculptures lit up at night. After that, grab a good book or your favorite show and a hot drink and start waiting for the northern lights to come out. When you get tired, set your alarm for 1am and then get up and look again.
- Day 2: Sleep in, then get breakfast at Sunrise Bagel again, or Alaska Coffee Roasters. Head out Chena Hot Springs road, keeping an eye out for moose along the way. Take a long soak in Chena Hot Springs and make sure to take the tour of the ice hotel and get the appletini in an ice glass. Grab dinner at Two Rivers Lodge or the Turtle Club on your way back to town. Repeat the evening aurora watch!
- Day 3: Sleep in and maybe today you only make it up for lunch, which means you had an awesome night of aurora watching…you go! Have lunch at the Cookie Jar (they have food, not just cookies) and then try out a new winter activity such as dog sledding, ice fishing, walking with reindeer or snowmachining. There are plenty of options to try each of these unique winter sports. I also recommend a walk at Creamer’s Field which is beautiful in winter and has trails you can explore even without skis. Head to the airport in the evening (or take the red eye so you can spend more time looking for auroras!)
Learn More: How to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, Why March is the Best time to visit Fairbanks
Hiking and whale watching in Juneau
- Best for: This is another wonderful weekend getaway for hikers or kayakers or anyone who likes wildlife. Juneau also has excellent food and is a wonderful town to visit. There are lots of cruise ship tourists, but it’s easy to avoid crowded places.
- Best month to go: Late May – July. Juneau is a very rainy place all summer, but early summer is a bit drier than later in the summer and a better time to visit for outdoor activities.
- Ground Transportation: Rent a car or walk and take public transit. This is really a matter of convenience. You can definitely get around Juneau without a car, but if you want to get places fast you might appreciate a car.
- Where to Stay: Hotel or vacation rental, there are also good places “out the road” for camping
- When to fly: There are multiple nonstop flights per day to Juneau from Seattle, fly in the night before Day 1, or early in the morning of Day 1. Fly out the evening of Day 3. Flight time from Seattle is 2-2.5 hours.
- Day 1: Have breakfast at the Sandpiper and hike or take the tram to Mt Roberts and then explore further up the trails above the tram. Switch this out for another day on your trip to get the best weather. Try the delicious concoctions at the Amalga Distillery downtown and have dinner at the Hangar. Make sure to see the amazing whale sculpture downtown.
- Day 2: Take a whale watching or kayak trip in the morning and explore another trail in the afternoon. I recommend heading over to Douglas Island and hiking the flat trails around the old mine and sandy beach. Have dinner at the Island Pub (get pizza!) after.
- Day 3: Head out to the Mendenhall Valley and visit the Mendenhall Glacier. The visitor center is excellent and there are many wonderful hiking trails. I recommend the short and flat hike to Nugget Falls, which is a thundering waterfall in view of the glacier. If time permits, drive out the road to the Shrine of St Therese or stop at the Alaskan Brewery. Have lunch or dinner at Suwanna Thai Cafe or Zelda’s Bistro before heading to the airport.
Learn More: Things to do in Juneau
Exploring Glacier Bay National Park
- Best for: National Park lovers, wildlife lovers and those who like solitude! Most visitors to Glacier Bay come on a cruise ship and never go on land, but if you travel there on your own you’ll get to see so much more! Hiking, kayaking, learning about Huna Tlingit culture and the fantastic day boat tour are a few highlights of this weekend adventure. This is one of the best weekend trips to Alaska for solitude and exploring a remote area.
- Best month to go: June
- Ground Transportation: Bus or taxi from Gustavus to Bartlett Cove; walking, tour boat or kayaking once in the park
- Where to Stay: The Glacier Bay Lodge is the only overnight accommodation available in the park. There are other vacation rentals and lodges in Gustavus, if you choose to stay there make sure you can get a ride to the park. The Bartlett Cove Campground is free and is one of the best campgrounds I’ve ever stayed in. You’ll need to bring all your own food with you or eat your meals at the lodge.
- When to fly: There are multiple nonstop flights per day to Juneau from Seattle and the flight to Gustavus from Juneau is about half an hour on a small plane. You can also take the ferry, but you’ll need to fly on a short weekend itinerary. You can do the whole trip the night before Day 1, or you can fly to Juneau the night before and stay the night there before flying to Gustavus. You can also do the whole trip the morning of Day 1. Depart Gustavus late afternoon or evening on Day 3 and then fly from Juneau to Seattle.
- Day 1: Enjoy your coffee and breakfast on the covered deck of the lodge (I recommend this even if you’re camping). Take a walk on the beach and check out the tidepools and visit the beautiful Huna Tribal House and the nearby whale skeleton. Hike the Bartlett River trail or the more strenuous and remote Bartlett Lake Trail.
- Day 2: Take the Day boat tour to the head of Glacier Bay and see multiple tidewater glaciers as well as lots of wildlife (note: if you don’t take the day boat tour you will not actually see the glaciers and also the boat tour is amazing).
- Day 3: Do a half or full day kayak trip (guided or renting the kayak) around the Beardslee Islands before heading to the airport.
Learn More: How to visit Glacier Bay National Park
Fishing and Exploring Ketchikan
- Best for: Ketchikan is really close to Seattle. This is one of your best bets for weekend trips to Alaska because it’s so convenient! Ketchikan also has wonderful local shops, food, hikes and tours and is a fantastic place to do a fishing charter for salmon or halibut. There are lots of cruise ship tourists, but it’s easy to avoid crowds by exploring on your own.
- Best month to go: May-September. Anytime in the summer season is a good time to go. If you’re for a specific kind of fishing experience, contact your fishing charter about the best times to go. Ketchikan is very rainy all summer so it’s important to be prepared for rain! Earlier in the summer is generally dryer than later, but it’s quite rainy anytime.
- Ground Transportation: Walking or public transit
- Where to Stay: Hotel or vacation rental in downtown Ketchikan
- When to fly: The flight from Seattle to Ketchikan is short (1.5-2 hours) so you can either fly in the night before Day 1 or the morning of Day 1. Depart the evening of Day 3.
- Day 1: Have breakfast at Sweet Mermaids and spend some time in downtown Ketchikan, taking in the shops of Creek Street with lots of local art. Check out the Totem Heritage Center and then head out to Totem Bight Historical park or Saxman, both of which have lots of beautiful Totem Poles. In the afternoon, take a hike on the Rainbird Trail for a mellow forest hike, or for a challenging hike head up to Deer Mountain for amazing views.
- Day 2: Spend the day on a fishing charter catching fish and seeing amazing scenery and wildlife, have dinner at Diaz Cafe or Annabelle’s.
- Day 3: Spend another day fishing or take a boat trip to Misty Fjords National Monument before heading to the airport
Learn More: Things to do in Ketchikan
Off the beaten path in Wrangell and Petersburg
- Best for: Want to experience Alaska and not see many other tourists? Then this is the trip for you! It’s also excellent to see wildlife or go fishing. You can also go to either Wrangell or Petersburg for a weekend, this itinerary combines the two.
- Best month to go: June, July
- Ground Transportation: Walking or taxi
- Where to Stay: There are limited options for hotels and vacation rentals in both Wrangell and Petersburg but both towns have several good ones.
- When to fly: There is one jet flight a day that starts in Seattle, stops in Ketchikan and then Wrangell and then Petersburg. Take the flight north on Day 1 (arriving in Wrangell at 10:30am) and then the return flight south from Petersburg in the mid afternoon. If you decide to just visit one town, you’ll be on the same flight schedule. Flight time from Seattle to Wrangell is 3-3.5 hours (including some time on the ground in Ketchikan). Flight time from Petersburg to Seattle is 4-4.5 hours (including some time on the ground in Wrangell and Ketchikan).
- Day 1: Depart Seattle early and arrive in Wrangell mid morning. Get breakfast at the Stik Cafe and then spend some time walking around town and checking out Petroglyph Beach (try to time it for low tide). Visit the excellent Wrangell Museum as well as the Chief Shakes Tribal House and Totem Park. Head up to the Mt Dewey Overlook for a short but steep hike with amazing views, or out to the road to Rainbow Falls, a beautiful rainforest hike with a gorgeous waterfall. Have dinner at Marine Bar (great pizza).
- Day 2: Take a tour boat to explore the unique and beautiful Stikine River, looking for wildlife all along the way. Some tour companies will stop in Petersburg on the way back, so you might be able to use your tour for transportation to Petersburg. You can also fly on a jet or a small plane or take the ferry to Petersburg. Once you arrive in Petersburg, spending some time exploring town and have dinner at the Beachcomber.
- Day 3: Head to the Salty Pantry for a delicious breakfast and then take a tour boat out to LeConte Glacier (I recommend Seek Alaska Tours). In addition to epic icebergs and waterfalls, there’s an excellent chance to see seals and whales on this trip. Fly out on the jet in the afternoon, arriving in Seattle in the evening.
Learn More: Things to do in Wrangell, Things to do in Petersburg