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Alaska – A Quick Travel Guide To The Last Frontier

Alaska is an amazing state that no other lower 48 state can capture. It is no doubt worth the visit. The problem is Alaska is by far the largest state. Almost fit two Texas into the state. So a visit to Alaska can take considerable time and even though it is not that populated there are a lot of things to do and see. Most people take an Alaskan cruises which I’m sure is amazing. I feel flying and renting cars is the best way of seeing everything.  

Here are the travel states of my visit to Alaska. 

Alaska / Washington / Canada Trip Summary August  17th – 28th  2016
1,667 miles in 6 rental cars (which is lower than my 2-3,000 average on a trip but I did two tours which did about 500 miles for me)
13 airports and 10 flights in 11 days
1,973 photos (88.2GB) between my Canon 5D Mark II and a rented Canon 5Ds
1,462 iPhone photos and video
47.4 GB of dash camera video
Alaska makes state #49 for me leaving Hawaii as the last state.
I was in Seattle, Vancouver , Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Barrow.
With the NW and Northernmost points of the USA completed I got the corners done of the USA.

Anchorage, Alaska 

Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska. Since there are so many flights between Seattle and Anchorage some locals joke that Anchorage is a suburb of Seattle. Getting around Alaska will involve flying a lot and almost every flight will be transferred or started from the Anchorage airport (Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport)

Right beside the airport is a nice park called Point Woronzof Park with walk-able paved trails. If you park here 61.199187, -149.992907, you should have a great view of the Anchorage skyline.   You see Mount McKinley / Mt Denali With Mt. Hunter On The Left from here even though it is about a 4 hour drive away. It is the tallest peak on North America. 

Shortly down the road is Earthquake park which is full of informative displays about the devastating 1964 earthquake that shaped this hilly area. It is located at 5101 Point Woronzof Rd, Anchorage, AK 99502

Granted I only stayed one night but already my favorite place to eat in Alaska is Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria. The pizza I got was perfect. They are located at 3300 Old Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99503. Even got there when they opened on a weekend and there was a line waiting. 

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is one of Alaska’s iconic winter events, and the excitement starts in Anchorage on the first Saturday of March each year. The Iditarod course begins on Fourth Avenue at D Street (400 W 4th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501) and runs all the way to Campbell Creek Science Center. Onlookers get a close-up view of the teams. Spectators flock to the start line downtown or stake out a spot further down the 11-mile route through Anchorage. After a restart at Willow the following day, Iditarod mushers and their dogs battle the elements and test their own limits on the approximately 1,000 mile trail to Nome.

View of Anchorage skyline from Point Woronzof Park

Mount McKinley With Mt. Hunter On The Left Seen From Point Woronzof Park, Anchorage

Juneau, Alaska

The capital city of Alaska. You can’t drive to Juneau, flying or taking a boat are your only options. 

One of the most popular options is visit Mendenhall Glacier, the visitor center is located at 6000 Glacier Spur Rd, Juneau, AK 99801. Mendenhall glacier was the first one I ever saw that close up. It was a cool place, with Nugget Falls and bald eagles in the area. It is a short drive from the Juneau airport.

The most common place to eat for tourist is Red Dog Saloon at 278 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK 99801. The food was ok, there was live country music when I was there. I enjoyed it. 

I did a whale tour and we saw some Humpback Whales, that was a fun experience and of course surrounded by the beauty of the area.

Mendenhall Glacier

Humpback Whale Tour in Juneau, Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks is the largest northern city that you can drive to using paved roads. This is the most modern city this far north so it has the most northern about everything, most northern McDonald’s, my hotel was next to the most northern Denny’s, you get the idea. Since you are so close to the Arctic circle, during the summer you get some light all night long. They even have a famous midnight baseball game on the summer solstice that doesn’t require any lights. 

Fairbanks is suppose to be one of the best places in America to view the Northern Lights, Fairbanks’ “Aurora Season” is from August 21 to April 21 and will be visible in Fairbanks an average of four out of five nights when the sky is clear and dark enough. If you stay a minimum of three nights and are actively out during the late evening hours increase their chance of seeing the aurora to more than 90 percent. 

A great restaurant to visit is Pump House Restaurant & Saloon located at 796 Chena Pump Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709

Just outside of Fairbanks is the small town of North Pole, Alaska and the Santa Claus House is a nice little tourist location to go too. It is located at 101 St Nicholas Dr, North Pole, AK 99705. 

I highly recommend checking out the Museum of the North where you can see stories about Alaska’s people, places, and wildlife in the museum’s award-winning exhibit galleries – your best introduction to this vast and diverse state. It is located on the campus of University of Alaska at 1962 Yukon Dr, Fairbanks, AK 99775. Nearby is the Geophysical Institute where they do all kinds of interesting earth science studies. 

I took a one day tour to the Arctic Circle with the Northern Alaska Tour Company.  This was a fun and educational trip. You will also see the most northern telephone poles, as you cross under them everything North of there is “off the grid” and people have to be self sufficient.

Dalton Highway – Alaska Towards the Arctic Circle

This is our Original Arctic Circle Drive Adventure which started it all.

A One Day Guided Round Trip Journey By Land Across The Arctic Circle.

Tour Summary:

  • Ground tour north from Fairbanks in the personalized comfort of our tour vans and coaches. 
  • View the remarkable Trans Alaska Pipeline. 
  • Visit the Arctic Circle Trading Post situated in the rural community of Joy, Alaska. 
  • Travel the rugged Dalton Highway made famous by the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline. 
  • Experience the mighty Yukon River. Marvel at the majestic beauty of the northland’s most famous waterway and learn of the river’s storied past. 
  • Cross the Arctic Circle and receive an official Arctic Circle Adventure Certificate. 
  • Explore up close the amazing arctic tundra and feel the veins of ice just beneath the surface. 
  • Departs 6:30 am; returns between 10:30 and 11:30 pm from 3820 University Ave S, Fairbanks, AK 99709
  • Tour Schedule: Daily May 21 – September 17 – minimum 4 required

A must visit is Denali National Park and Preserve, Mount Denali formally known as Mount McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America and just the beauty of the area is worth the visit. It is about 2 hours 30 minutes from Fairbanks.  I took a full day tour down the  92 miles long Denali Park Road. I would gladly take that tour again. 

Shortly outside of Denali I ate at the Denali Park Salmon Bake at Mile 238.5 Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755 or 63.744610, -148.896363. They had a wide spread of Alaskan wild game food that you don’t see much in the lower 48 states. 

All throughout the Fairbanks region is Taiga / Boreal forests which consist of narrow and relatively short pine / spruce trees compared to the larger trees found in the southern 48 states. They are short mostly because of the permafrost keeps the roots from going that far down into the ground and the short growing season prevents lots of growth. 

Taiga and Boreal forests of Fairbanks AK

 

Arctic Circle Sign on the Dalton Highway

Distances to Locations from Fairbanks, AK

Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska

Denali National Park and Preserve

Grizzly Bear in Denali National Park 

Barrow, Alaska

Utqiaġvik is what it is now known as but Barrow, Alaska is the more common name is the northernmost city in the United States. The nearby Point Barrow being the nation’s northernmost point and is the 11th northernmost public community in the world. Barrow is just 1,122 nautical miles (1,291 mi; 2,078 km) south of the North Pole and 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The city of 4,581 is built on permafrost that is up to 1,300 feet deep in places and experiences super cold and windy winters. There are no trees this far north, just Arctic tundra which in August is already in bright red fall colors.

Barrow could be expensive as well to visit depending on where you come from. For instance a Chicken fried steak, 3 eggs, hash browns and toast is $18. At one restaurant a small meat lovers pizza is $26 with bread sticks & ranch being $18, a cheeseburger is $12. One place had salads for $20. The cost is mostly because of their location and the only way they can get food is flying it in or by ship which takes awhile to go around Alaska.

Prices vary by season, I went to the Arctic Coast grocery store which is the most northern grocery store in America and most items don’t have price tags on them as the price changes due to supply and demand. In August of 2016 when I was there a gallon of milk was $8.50 and a gallon of gas was $3.25 a gallon and I was told that was an amazing deal for Barrow and there was line of cars filing up. A side note is none of the roads are paved, due to the harsh winters and the ground is frozen, you drive on dirt roads.

Iñupiat Heritage Center located at 5421 North Star Street, Utqiagvik, AK 99723 is a nice place to visit to learn more about the local natives and how Barrow has changed over the years

Places to eat would be Sam & Lee’s Restaurant at 1052 Kogiak St, Utqiagvik, AK 99723 and the Northern Lights Restaurant at 5122 Herman St, Utqiagvik, AK 99723

I stayed at King Eider Inn & Car Rental at 1752 Ahkovak St, Utqiagvik, AK 99723 which is directly across from the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport. I literally just dragged my luggage across the street. Car rental when I was there in August was $150 a day but was told in the summer it could be $350 a day. Prices might have changed since I was there but considering the high cost of getting a vehicle to Barrow, they know you don’t have any options.

Still light in Barrow Alaska at 3:49 am on August 24th

Point Barrow or Nuvuk is a headland on the Arctic coast in the U.S. state of Alaska, 9 miles (14 km) northeast of Barrow. It is the northernmost point of all the territory of the United States, at 71.386818, -156.470967

Whale Bone Arch to the Arctic Ocean, the sun did set after about 1.5 hours but it never got dark that night when I was there August 24th, it was sunset light until sunrise. The land of the midnight sun during the summer and during the winter they have a  couple months of darkness.  Location of the Whale Bone Arch is at 71.298618, -156.773536

Walking into the Arctic ocean at Point Barrow was fun, the water was very cold as expected. Even had a chunk of ice on the shore. I lost feeling in my feet after just a few waves but considering how few people ever see the Arctic ocean let alone wade into it.

Wading into the Arctic Ocean at Point Barrow

Barrow – Utqiaġvik Alaska – Most Northern City in America

Famous Whale Bone Arch – Gateway to the Arctic

Satellites point much lower to the ground verses the 48 states

The Iñupiat or more commonly known as Eskimo have ate Whales for centuries and still do but with much more controversy.  

Most Northern Football Field – Barrow High School

More Things to See:

Alaska has a lot of places to see. Some I hope to see on a return trip. 

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

4 hour drive from Anchorage, Alaska to Anchor Point, Alaska – North America’s Most Westerly Highway Point at  34358 Old Sterling Hwy  Anchor Point, Alaska 59.7756315,-151.8333038

I’ve heard great things about taking an Alaska railroad tour but have yet to take one myself. 

Northern Lights – I would love to come back during the darker months to experience the Northern lights. Many people say March is the best month for weather wise to have more mild nights mixed with dark skies. 

5 hours from Fairbanks to the Alaska / Yukon border (Welcome to Alaska Sign) – 62.615198, -141.001713 on the Alcan / Alaska Highway

The current “End of the Alaska Highway” monument at Delta Junction, Alaska at 64.037121, -145.731732 about 1.5 hours southeast of Fairbanks. This is Historic Mile 1422. It is in front of the Visitor Center along with some interpretive displays about the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and across the road is the restored Sullivan Roadhouse.  As of 2018, Historic Mile 1422 is actually about 2,225.5 kilometers, or 1,383 miles, from Dawson Creek due to continuing work to straighten the highway.

 

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