No matter where you go in Alaska, you can guarantee it will be jaw-droppingly scenic. Towering mountain ranges, plunging river canyons and expansive ice fields; everything here is on a grander scale. And that extends to the adventure too. We’ve laced up our hiking boots and donned our crampons to scour this adrenaline-packed state and have come out the other side to compile this – our Alaskan Grand Adventure. Spend 12 nights getting to grips with America’s Last Frontier as you heli-hike through Boreal forests, scramble across glaciers, mush traditional dog sleds and soar above snow-capped peaks. Complete with a dusting of isolated luxury lodges, this is a trip that really does have it all and we can guarantee you’ll fly home leaving no stone unturned.Read more
Pack your Compass…
The crossroads to adventure, there could be no better place to start your Alaskan discovery than Fairbanks. No matter which way you turn, a different exploration awaits, whilst in the winter, the Northern Lights blaze overhead. You’ll overnight here tonight before heading south to Alaska’s crown jewel, Denali National Park, the next morning. Six million acres of untamed wilderness and home to spectacular tundra, forests and glaciers (not to mention North America’s highest peak), Denali is a place to get your heart pumping. Tucked away amid a blanket of spruce and birch trees, you’ll spend the next two nights waking up to panoramic views of the valley beyond. Bliss.
…and get off the Beaten Trail
In a place of such sheer enormity as this, it’s too easy to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before. However, it’s only when you forge your own path that you find the best adventures. While we love a good ol’ fashioned compass and map to guide us, we’ll hook you up with an expert guide too. These guys know Denali like the back of their hands and it’s that expertise that guarantees an unforgettable foray into this incredible region. 95 miles deep into the National Park, past the glittering waters of Wonder Lake (a well-deserved name if you ask us), you’ll make your base on the banks of Moose Creek. Spend the day panning for gold at historic claim sites and spotting wolves and caribou in the subarctic desert terrain, before flying over and out in a Cessna above the North Face of the imposing Mt. McKinley.
On Track to Talkeetna
From Denali, it’s all aboard as you catch the world famous Alaska Railroad Dome Train down to Talkeetna. Enjoying all the luxury trimmings of Gold Class and its open air observation deck, and simply sit back and enjoy the stunning scenery as you travel over the 2,363-feet high Broad Pass and the vertiginous Hurricane Gulch Trestle. It’s one of those “don’t look down moments” where you’re going to want to have your camera handy. Pulling into Talkeetna, you’ll check in at the cosy Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. Balanced atop a ridge overlooking the town, you’ll be treated to unbeatable views of the south side of Mt. McKinley as you warm up by the 46ft river rock fireplace in the lobby.
Tomorrow, you’ll discover this wide-open wilderness as you head out on a private heli-hiking tour. Lifting off from Boreal forest into the mountains above, you’ll feel magically transported to a far-off place as you soar over jaw-dropping scenery before stepping onto pristine Alpine tundra. A hiker’s paradise, inaccessible by any trail, you’ll have the enormity of the Alaskan backcountry at your fingertips as you come face to face with tremendous views of Mt. McKinley and the surrounding Alaskan mountains.
Trams, Sleds & Crampons
For some of the best mountain views in Alaska though, nowhere beats your next stop. Nestled in a lush valley, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and hanging glaciers, Hotel Alyeska quite literally goes above and beyond to give you the best view in the state. Equipped with their own aerial tramway, the hotel takes you 2,300ft up the valley to give you breathtaking views of the Chugach Mountains and Glacier Valley – not to mention access to some of the best hiking trails around. Take a mental snapshot (or better yet, a real one) of these views, because they’ll give you some incredible context for tomorrow’s adventures.
After a quick tram ride up Mt. Alyeska, it’s off into the wilderness as you hike along the scenic ridgeline with incredible views of Turnagain Arm below. You’ll then strap on your crampons as you head onto the glaciers themselves and channel your inner pioneer. Sticking to the glaciers, you’ll also try your hand at that great Alaskan sport – dog sledding. Half adrenaline-fuelled pastime, half essential means of transport, meet your team and learn all about the history of mushing before harnessing up the dogs and setting off through the snow. Who knows, maybe you’ll enter next year’s Iditarod (a.k.a. the Super Bowl of dog sledding)?
The Port of Adventure
Today you’ll head off on a coastal adventure as you cruise the 127 scenic miles of Seward Highway, bordered by wildflowers and waterfalls, following every twist and turn of Turnagain Arm, down to Seward. Stop off en route at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre, a preserve dedicated to safeguarding Alaskan wildlife, and see the many injured and orphaned bison, bears, eagles and more that call this place home. Once in Seward, you’ll have Alaska’s rugged coastlines at your fingertips as you head out to sea and into the Kenai Fjords National Park where 587,000 acres of glistening watery beauty awaits. Look out over the thousand-foot thick ice of Harding Icefield, the nesting seabirds of the cliffs, the playful porpoises in the water and the Wolverines that roam the shorelines. This is Alaskan coastal wilderness in all its glory.
Head back inland from Seward on another of the Alaskan Railroad’s epic rail journeys, the Coastal Classic. Passing by the turquoise waters of Lake Kenai, it’s easily the most scenic route in the state. After a final night at Hotel Alyeska, you’ll head off to Anchorage, where you’ll spend a day discovering another side of Alaska: its gastronomy. No matter what you’re in the mood for, we’ll hook you up with the hottest reservations in town.
The Ultima Conclusion
A trip as epic as this deserves an epic conclusion – and that’s exactly what Ultima Thule delivers. Deep in the Alaskan wilderness, 100 miles from any road, steeped in luxury yet centred on adventure, it’s no wonder it’s our favourite bolthole. Ultima Thule is well and truly off-the-grid (they don’t even have a phone), so you can forget about checking the office emails as you spend your final three days revelling in the delights of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
There’s no such thing as an itinerary at Ultima Thule, it’s adventuring as it’s meant to be, pure and simple. Boasting their own fleet of light aircraft and some of the most passionate guides in the state, you can quite literally go wherever the wind takes you. Find yourselves exploring abandoned gold mines one day, kayaking and fishing for salmon the next. Trek through Boreal rainforests, hike across a mountain ridge, camp out in the wilderness – you can even enjoy a cheese and wine tasting on the Icefield. We can’t think of a better way to end this Alaskan Grand Adventure and, to be honest, we don’t want to.