Alaska & Yukon Highlights
This tour gives you a real sense of the wilderness that can still be found in the most remote parts of North America. Beginning in the Alaskan state capitol of Anchorage, this tour travels north to Denali National Park and the city of Fairbanks before journeying towards the Canadian Provence of Yukon. Visit the capital city of Whitehorse and Haines Junction, the gateway to the stunning Kluane National Park. This tour also takes in Seward and the Kenai Fjords National Park.
- Denali National Park
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and is a thriving metropolis amid a somewhat unlikely setting among the Chugach Mountains and the vast wilderness beyond. The city does, however boast many restaurants, art galleries and shopping opportunities as well as a growing arts and music scene. The Anchorage Museum and Alaska Native Heritage Centre showcase an impressive display depicting 10,000 years of Alaskan history and culture.
As you may expect in Alaska, away from the bustling city centre, the opportunities to view wildlife are plentiful. Make sure to visit the resident 1,000-strong moose population as well as Alaska Conservation Centre and Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary. You can also go fishing for world-famous Alaskan salmon at Ship Creek or go “skijording” (skiing whilst being towed by a dog!). Whilst here, don’t forget to take in the beautiful scenery of Chugach State Park from Flattop Mountain, pan for gold at Crow Creek Mine or take a day trip to Prince William Sound, a 3,125 square mile area of protected waterways, islands, fjords and glaciers. From here, you may be lucky enough to spot whales, sea otters or bears.
Denali National Park
This morning, make the drive to Denali National Park, comprising an area larger the entire state of Massachusetts, for what is sure to be a highlight of the trip. “Denali” is the Athabascan name for Mount McKinley, meaning “the high one”. There are so many opportunities for fun here, including hiking, rock- and ice-climbing, photography, wildlife viewing, nature walks, horseback treks and river excursions. During the winter, visitors can often also see the Northern Lights.
Take a guided tour into the park’s wilderness, on the 91-mile scenic road through the park you’ll have the opportunity to see the beautiful views surrounding Wonder Lake, Savage River, Polychrome Pass, the Outer Range, Sanctuary River and Muldrow Glacier. You could also choose to walk or bike or take a bus through the park but the park is closed to private vehicles. Whilst travelling, look out for some of the 37 species of mammals found in the park, including lynx and showshoe hares. If you see wolves, grizzly and brown bears, caribou and moose during your trip, you’ll have scored a “Denali Slam” of the top five animals to see in the park. Up to 130 different bird species can also be found here throughout the year including bald eagles, great-horned owls and ptarmigan. Make sure visit the Eielson Visitor Centre to learn about the cultural and natural resources of the area; with viewing areas, exhibits and interpretive displays, a stop here would greatly enhance your visit.
Fairbanks is Alaska’s second largest city and is known for its extremes of light, warmth, dark and cold. Temperatures as low as -52°c have been recorded here in the winter months. In the summer, temperatures as high as 27°c are possible. Fairbanks also enjoys up to 22 hours of sunlight per day in the summer. The city offers much for visitors to see and do throughout the year, from watching spectacular Northern Lights to going rafting down the meandering Chena River. Make sure to visit Pioneer Park, celebrating the area’s gold-mining history and the University of Alaska Museum of the North, widely regarded as one of the best museums in the state.
As it is further north, Fairbanks also acts as a gateway to the Interior of Alaska and the Arctic. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is accessible by small plane and any trip along the famous Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay – also known as the “Haul Road” – begins here. This road is one of the most challenging roads in Alaska but if you choose to brave it, you will be rewarded with several exciting sites along the way, including crossing the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle. The Chena River State Recreation Area is a great place to hike, eight miles from the park, hikers will find Chena Hot Springs Resort, where you can rest tired feet!
The community of Tok is just 93 miles from the Canadian border and is known as the “Sled Dog Capital of Alaska”. Sled dog puppies provide education and interaction during summer and sprint races steal the show between late November and March. The Race of Champions happens every March and compromises the largest collection of dogs in any sprint race in Alaska.
As with much of Alaska, Tok is an outdoorsman’s paradise. The world-famous Forty Mile Country, which inspired the author Jack London, who wrote “Call of the Wild” can be found to the north and the Mentasta and Wrangell Mountains lie to the south.
Today, cross the border into the Canadian province of Yukon and into the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush; Dawson City. In August 1896, three men found gold and triggered a stampede of thousands hoping to find their fortune in the wild North. An official National Historic Site, Dawson City still evokes the heartbeat of the greatest gold rush in history, with its boardwalks and vintage false-front buildings. On arrival, take one of three Parks Canada walking tours of the city and learn what life was like in Dawson City when it was first formed on the Gold Rush in the 1900s. The “Strange Things Done” tour delves into the quirky stories and myths associated with the town. Take a paddle-wheeler ride on the Yukon River or visit the Dawson City Museum, which explores the social and mining history of the area.
The city is also known for its nightlife; can-can dancers, bars and vibrant festivals light up the streets. No visit to Dawson would be complete without an evening at Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall, Canada’s first casino.
Whitehorse is a contemporary place with a vibrant arts community and world-class attractions; a big city with an endearing small-town personality. The S.S. Klondike, the largest sternwheeler to travel the Yukon River, is one of the main attractions in Whitehorse. The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre chronicles an area that escaped glaciation during the Ice Age and subsequently became a refuge for plants, large animals like the woolly mammoth and steppe bison as well as the first North American people. Today, you can explore exhibits showcasing this unique area, including a full-size mammoth cast.
The MacBride Museum of Yukon History offers the most comprehensive overview of the territory’s history. Take a trip on the waterfront trolley tour along the original White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, a delightful way to get your bearings within the city or visit the Old Log Church Museum, one of the oldest buildings in the city, which tells the story of early missionaries, whalers and explorers. The Whitehorse Fish Ladder is the largest in the world; witness the seasonal migration of the Yukon River Chinook salmon from the underwater viewing windows.
Skagway is a coastal town which often appears as a stop on the famous Inside Passage cruises. Like many of the towns in Alaska in the Yukon, Skagway and the nearby ghost town of Dyea were formed off the back of 1897 gold rush. Today, with so many cruise ships docking here, downtown Skagway can often resemble the bustling environment that it must have been in its heyday.
During the summer, National Park Service rangers lead 45-minute walking tours of the area, stopping at historic buildings like the Mascot Saloon Museum, the first cabin built in Skagway and one of the town’s earliest brothels. For the adventurous, Skagway has an excellent trail system that begins just blocks from the downtown area and allows hikers to trek to alpine lakes, waterfalls, even the graves of Skagway’s most notorious resident, Jefferson ‘Soapy’ Smith, a con man who became known after he tricked people into believing that some of the bars of soap he was selling concealed $100 bills.
The historic White Pass & Yukon Route railroad provides tours to the top of the mountain pass north of town. Seated in parlour cars, view scenery such as Glacier Gorge, Dead Horse Gulch and Bridal Veil Falls. At the top, see the White Pass at 2,885 feet, which is also the international boundary between the United States and Canada.
Known to locals simply as "the Junction", Haines Junction sits is surrounded by dramatic scenery and nestled at the edge of Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada which, together with the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in British Columbia, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska form the largest internationally protected area on earth and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Haines Junction is the ideal base for taking advantage of the beautiful scenery and surrounding wilderness here. Activities you and your family can enjoy here include river rafting, canoeing, hiking and glacier flightseeing. Kluane is a wonderful place to explore by road and for day trip adventures including guided nature walks, paddling, horseback riding or enjoy fishing on Kathleen and Pine Lakes.
Today, make your way back to the Alaska and the gateway town that is Tok. Whilst here, make sure to make the most of the abounding number of outdoor activities that are possible in this wilderness, including bird-watching, hiking, fishing and float trips. Attractions within the town include gold panning, museums, restaurants, shops, horseback riding and even a little golf.
The town of Wasilla is best known as the headquarters of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and most recently gained attention following Sarah Palin’s involvement in the 2008 Presidential Election. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters, outside of Wasilla, is a log cabin museum featuring video exhibits displays and race paraphernalia. The Knik Museum & Sled Dog Musher's Hall of Fame is also worth a visit. Many Iditarod racers offer tours of their kennels and mushing demonstrations during the summer. Wasilla also serves as a gateway to the alpine adventure and beauty of Hatcher Pass. At 3,886 feet in elevation, the pass is above the tree line and a popular destination for its views of the stunning Talkeetna Mountains and Independence Mine State Historical Park.
The town of Palmer, fourteen miles east of Wasilla, is known as Alaska’s ‘bread-basket’ and produces up to 75% of the state’s total agricultural output. The area has the striking appearance of a Midwestern farming community juxtaposed with alpine paradise. The downtown area of Palmer is very much still in keeping with its 1930s origins; the Colony House Museum is an original farmhouse from the time and is still decorated as it was. To the south of Palmer is the Knik Glacier, which is best experienced on a day trip on an airboat up the Knik River. Many visitors also like to cruise Palmer's back roads past original colony farms. Begin by heading nine miles northeast on the Glenn Highway and then hop on Farm Loop Road and, if it’s mid- to late summer, keep an eye out for roadside vegetable stands.
Situated on the Kenai Peninsula at the head of Resurrection Bay, Seward is a scenic and historic town with a lively harbour and unparalleled natural beauty. Take a wildlife and sightseeing cruise over to the Kenai Fjords National Park and witness calving glaciers and an abundance of wildlife, including wolves, black and brown bears, sea lions, otters and whales. As many as 191 species of birds have also been seen here. Snow and ice cover 60% of the park, and lining the edge is the vast Harding Icefield. From the massive icefield, countless tidewater glaciers pour down, carving valleys that fill with seawater to form stunning fjords and icebergs the size of small houses. Also make sure to visit Exit Glacier, a road-accessible glacier that offers an impressive up-close view as well as many hiking trails. In Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park, visitors can also go kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking, snowmobiling and dog-sledding; also worth a visit is the Alaska SeaLife Centre.
Anchorage & Home
Today, make your way back towards Anchorage for your flight home tomorrow. A great way to travel this last leg of your journey is by train, allowing you to make the most of the stunning Alaskan scenery you pass, if this is your chosen mode of transport then an extra night stay in Anchorage will be needed as the train arrives too late to catch the flight home on the same day. The Coastal Classic is a local favourite and links Anchorage in the north to Seward further south. The train departs Seward at 18:00 and arrives in Anchorage at 22:15 that evening. The train runs from mid-May to mid-September meaning visitors will benefit from the long hours of sunlight and will be able to fully appreciate the scenery.
Why not treat yourself and upgrade to GoldStar Service, which features a glass-roof, upper-level open air platform; the first of its kind on any rail service in the world. You can enjoy upper level dome car seating and a private outdoor viewing deck. The entire roof of the rail car is curved glass to nearly waist height, giving you unparalleled views of the landscape as you pass. All GoldStar rail cars are also accompanied by a knowledgeable Alaskan tour guide for the duration of your trip. GoldStar Service also includes both lunch and dinner to all passengers.
- International flights from London (please ask if regional airports are required)
- 15 nights’ accommodation and room tax
- Fully insured compact car hire (larger vehicles are available)
- A detailed and comprehensive travel pack with driving instructions and maps
Daily departures from May to September.