1012
Alaska

The Best of Alaska’s National Parks: From Denali to Kenai

Come explore the National Parks of Alaska with our experts. Discover unique wildlife, stunning landscapes, and ancient forests as you explore one of the most unspoiled regions on earth.
Rating (4.68)
Program No. 1012RJ
Length
12 days
Starts at
4,599
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12 days
11 nights
30 meals
11 B 9 L 10 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Fairbanks, AK
D
River's Edge Resort

Activity note: Check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 3:00-5:00 p.m. After checking into your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the main lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: In the dining room at the River's Edge Resort in Fairbanks, we’ll have a buffet dinner with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation. Just before dinner, the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Distances and durations of hikes may be affected by weather/local conditions. We will have evening presentations by local experts at the Denali Education Center. Topics will vary from natural history to mountaineering to living in the interior. Occasionally, presentations are part of a community offering, integrating us into the local culture. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Museum; Coach to Denali; Check-in; Orientation; Speaker
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; The drive is about 120 miles, approximately 2 1/2- 3 hours. Light town walking up to 2 miles; mostly paved, 1-4 steps possible, minimal elevation change.

Breakfast: At the River's Edge Resort, the breakfast buffet offers a variety of options each morning such as eggs, a breakfast meat, breads and/or cereal, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we'll board the motor coach and head to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center for a deeper look into the history of Fairbanks and the Native people of Alaska.

Lunch: Along the way, we'll stop at a local restaurant full of local fare and flare.

Afternoon: We'll arrive in Denali at the Denali Education Center (DEC), our home for the next four nights. After arrival, we’ll have a short orientation to DEC, its amenities, and the 10-acre campus. Snacks such as toast, fruit, and granola bars, as well as coffee, tea, and water are available at all times. Alcoholic beverages are not available for sale on campus but can be purchased at a nearby general store.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet. Meals at the Education Center strive to be varied and flavorful. Coffee, tea, and water area available at each meal.

Evening: We’ll gather with a member of the DEC year-round staff to learn about the seasonal trials and joys of life in Denali. Groceries, babies, outhouses — we'll hear about it all.

DAY
3
Denali National Park, Guided Hike, Sled Dog Demonstrations.
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus. Driving 30 miles total, approximately 1 hour. Hiking; 2-miles on a maintained trail; approximately 3 hours total; uneven ground, rock steps, some rugged areas, no significant elevation change.

Breakfast: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy a breakfast buffet with rotating choices such as eggs, hot and cold cereals, granola, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: Boarding a bus, we’ll travel to Denali where we will get to know the landscape and history of Denali National Park with one of our field educators. Be sure to bring your camera on this wilderness walk along the Savage River Loop Trail, as this is a great spot to see caribou, Dall sheep, marmots, squirrels, and ptarmigan.

Lunch: Out in the field, we’ll have the packed lunches we made after breakfast featuring sandwich fixings, snack bars, and fresh fruit.

Afternoon: Returning to Denali’s Visitor Center, we’ll then take the shuttle buses from the Denali Visitor Center to the kennels at the park headquarters, about 1.5 miles from the Visitor Center, to meet the four-legged heroes of Denali and watch a mushing demonstration. Denali National Park is the only Park in the world that has a working sled dog kennel and the 30-minute Ranger presentation also includes the opportunity to pet and visit with Denali's most well-traveled four-legged rangers! Those who would rather spend this time exploring the Visitor Center are welcome to do so. Denali's main campus includes the renowned Denali Visitor Center, the Morino Grill restaurant, and Alaska Geographic bookstore. There will be time for independent exploration and our Group Leaders available to answer any questions. The Visitor Center features an impressive exhibit hall and regular showings of the park film, "Heartbeats of Denali," a 20-minute non-narrated film that shares visuals of the various seasons, landscapes, and wildlife of this beautiful place. We’ll then return to the Denali Education Center (DEC) campus.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: Evening presentation topics and locations will vary depending on local speaker availability. Presentation topics range from learning about living in Denali to predator-prey relationships to climbing the mountain. The schedule for evening presenters in Denali will be announced on the first day of the program.

DAY
4
Subarctic Ecosystems, Walk in Alaska's Boreal Forests
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus; driving 20 miles one way, approximately 1/2 hour total. Walking 3 miles on a maintained trail, approximately 4 hours; shorter steep sections, roots, rocks, and we patches possible. Approximately 400 feet elevation change total.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet.

Morning: In a classroom session on campus, one of our expert field educators will teach us about the sometimes surprising, always extreme conditions that shape life in Denali and define a subarctic ecosystem. In this 3-hour interactive session, we’ll learn how the complex geology of interior Alaska is connected to annual precipitation, why geographical location determines the adaptations of plants, and how the Native peoples survived for generations in one of the most formidable climates on Earth.

Lunch: Riverside Hall buffet

Afternoon: Next, we’ll set out to explore the world’s largest biome, the northern boreal forest, on an expert-led walk on one of Denali's maintained trails. Arriving to the trail head by bus, this forested trail is occasionally steep with 400 feet elevation change, affords beautiful views and an intimate look into the serenity and severity of Alaska’s boreal forest.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: Gathering together, we’ll settle in for a presentation given by a local speaker on a topic pertinent to the program theme.

DAY
5
Heart of the Park, Eielson Visitor Center
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus. Driving about 65 miles one way, approximately 8 hours total aboard, with rest stops every 1-1.5 hours. Walking up to 1-mile throughout the day; opportunities for more walking dependent on personal preference. Maintained trails are available around the Eielson Visitor Center. Trail length and difficulty vary significantly from less than 1 mile on easy, compact terrain, to longer hikes on more challenging terrain that can be uneven, rocky, and steep.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet.

Morning: Boarding a shuttle bus, we’ll travel to the heart of Denali National Park on a day-long journey to the Eielson Visitor Center. Along the way, we’ll enjoy commentary about the park from our bus driver while we take in breathtaking views of the Alaska Range and its many peaks. Have your cameras ready as we might have a good chance to view Denali's wildlife, which may include caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose, wolves, and more! Opportunities to stretch our legs will be available throughout the day; we will stop periodically to observe wildlife when sighted, for restroom breaks, and for photo opportunities.

Lunch: At Eielson Visitor Center, we’ll have sack lunches with a sandwich, snack bars, and fresh fruit.

Afternoon: At the Eielson Visitor Center, we’ll have time for independent exploration to take in the many interpretive displays including a 3-D model of Denali that can help one visualize the various climbing routes, both past and present. Rangers will also be on hand to answer any questions that you might have. A shuttle bus will then set out for the return trip to Denali Education Center. However, if you wish to spend some more time independently at and around Eielson Visitor Center, hiking Denali's pristine wilderness this is an option. The Group Leader can offer information on how to return to the Denali Education Center for anyone interested in staying longer and hiking independently.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Wildlife of Denali, Maintained Trail Interpretive Hike
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus. Driving about 15 miles total; approximately 1/2 hour. Walking 3.5 miles on a maintained trail, approximately 4 hours; compact gravel, boardwalks, roots, rock, and stairs. About 250 feet of elevation change.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet.

Morning: Denali is home to 39 of the most iconic mammal species and an impressive 169 bird species. We’ll join a Denali Education Center field educator in class in our Riverside Hall as they discuss the extraordinary adaptations that allow local wildlife to survive in Alaska’s extreme subarctic climate. During this educational program, we will get to examine several fur pelts, skulls, and hooves from these regional species as we learn about how they are surviving in the North.

Lunch: Riverside Hall buffet.

Afternoon: After traveling the short distance by bus to the trailhead, we’ll explore the rich and varied habitats of the area with one of our field educators along a 3.2-mile maintained park trail. Watch for evidence of wildlife as the trail winds through the forest- putting your newly gained wildlife knowledge to the test. We’ll return to the DEC upon completion of our hike.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: A local speaker will join us for an informative presentation.

DAY
7
Choice of Hike: Triple Lakes Trail or Oxbow Trail, Free Time
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Choice 1: Hiking approximately 3 miles roundtrip; about 3 hours. Choice 2: Hiking up to 2 miles roundtrip; approximately 2 hours. Both are compact trails through the forest with exposed rocks, roots, and wet patches present throughout.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet.

Morning: After the Group Leaders explain the two morning hike options we'll devide into hiking groups before boarding the bus for a short shuttle to the trail heads. Each hike will be led by one of our field educators who will explain the terrain and ecosystem as we travel through it. On the Triple Lakes Trail, we’ll take our time and climb the approximately 800 feet of elevation gain along the trail out to the second of the area's three lakes. Choice 2: Those who would like a more leisurely day may wish to join a field educator on Denali's Oxbow Trail, a 1.7 mile loop that meanders around a peninsula along the glacier-fed Nenana River.

Lunch: Riverside Hall Buffet

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You may wish to take some time to rest and relax, explore the park independently, or pursue other activities at your own cost such as rafting, flight seeing, or visiting the kennels of a local Iditarod champion.

Dinner: Riverside Hall Buffet

Evening: We’ll gather in Riverside Hall to discuss the following day's journey south and what to expect in Seward. Enjoy the final night in Denali. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
Through the Alaska Range, South to Seward
Seward
B,L,D
Breeze Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Driving 375 miles, approximately 9 hours total including stops.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall Buffet

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll journey via motorcoach to the harbor town of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, home of Kenai Fjords National Park. Dependent of weather and visibility along the way, we may get a glimpse of Mt. Denali as we pass through Denali State Park. We’ll stop at several places to stretch our legs and take photos of the magnificent views afforded in this beautiful landscape.

Lunch: We'll enjoy the sack lunches made earlier that morning at a stop along the way, or en route aboard the motor coach.

Afternoon: Upon our arrival, we'll check into our rooms with some time to relax and freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: At the inn, we’ll have a buffet dinner including coffee, tea, and water; other beverages available for purchase

Evening: We'll gather in our group meeting room to familiarize and acquaint ourselves with the differences between Seward and Denali and to go over the schedule for the upcoming days.

DAY
9
Behind-the-Scenes at SeaLife Center, Exit Glacier Hike
Seward
B,L
Breeze Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus. Driving about 25 miles total, approximately 1 hour. Walking and standing at SeaLife Center. Hiking 2-miles round trip, approximately 2.5 hours; moderately strenuous terrain, some steep inclines, rocky areas, and sloping terrain. There are some benches along the way to rest.

Breakfast: At the Breeze Inn, we’ll have a buffet breakfast with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: After taking a shuttle bus to the SeaLife Center, we’ll have an expert-led behind-the-scenes exploration during which we’ll learn about the center’s marine wildlife research, rehabilitation projects, and life-support systems. We’ll also discover what it takes to care for seals, sea lions, octopus, seabirds, and 154 species of fish that are all housed at the SeaLife Center.

Lunch: At the Alaska SeaLife Center, we’ll have boxed lunches with coffee and water.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll travel by bus to Exit Glacier. As we get closer to Exit Glacier, be sure to watch for the date markers along the roadside; these markers indicate where the glacier’s terminus was located at that time! Once we arrive we’ll be joined by a ranger who will lead our interpretive walk to the edge of the glacier while teaching us about the ecosystem that surrounds this iconic icy behemoth. After our hike, we’ll return to the inn.

Dinner: On your own to sample the local fare. Seward is known for its fresh seafood caught daily and served in many of its delicious restaurants.This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: We’ll regroup at the inn for a presentation by a Park Ranger on glaciers and glaciology.

DAY
10
Kenai Fjords National Park Marine Wildlife Cruise
Seward
B,L,D
Breeze Inn

Activity note: Short walk to the small boat harbor: less than a mile. Getting on/off a boat; riding approximately 7.5 hours.

Breakfast: Breeze Inn buffet.

Morning: After a short walk to the small boat harbor, we’ll board a catamaran style boat for a full-day, expert-led field trip into Kenai Fjords National Park and Resurrection Bay. Throughout the day a Park Ranger will be aboard the boat to interpret what we are seeing and answer our questions. A great opportunity to spot wildlife, so be on the lookout as we travel through this strikingly beautiful habitat. We may be lucky enough to see whales, sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, puffins, eagles, and more. Along our route, we will also pass two active tidewater glaciers, the Holgate and the Aialik.

Lunch: Aboard the boat during our Kenai Fjords adventure, we will have a buffet meal of regional favorites with coffee, tea, water, and non-alcoholic beverages included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our expert-led field trip aboard the boat in Kenai Fjords National Park and Resurrection Bay. Upon our return to the dock, we’ll transfer back to the inn.

Dinner: At the inn, we’ll enjoy a tasty buffet dinner together with coffee, tea, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner, we'll discuss the following day's trip north to Anchorage. The rest of the evening is yours to do any final exploring of Seward.

DAY
11
Seward Highway, Downtown Anchorage, Anchorage Museum
Downtown Anchorage, AK
B,D
The Historic Anchorage Hotel

Activity note: Check-out by 8:30 a.m. Getting on/off a motorcoach. Driving about 130 miles to Anchorage, approximately 3 hours. Expected arrival approximately 11:00 a.m. Town walking up to 2 miles; mostly paved, 1-4 steps and gentle inclines possible.

Breakfast: Breeze Inn buffet.

Morning: After checking out, we’ll depart Seward aboard a chartered motorcoach bound for Anchorage where we will check into our overnight accommodations, The Historic Anchorage Hotel.

Lunch: Lunch on your own in Downtown Anchorage. Enjoy an abundance of options within walking distance of the hotel.

Afternoon: After lunch, we'll meet up and walk to the Anchorage Museum. Enjoy a docent led tour to get your bearings, then take time to explore on your own! Afterward, we'll walk back to the Historic Anchorage Hotel and check into our rooms.

Dinner: Just another short walk from the hotel, we will share a farewell dinner at the 49th State Brewing Company. Coffee, tea, and water included with other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Back at the hotel, we’ll have a program wrap-up during which we’ll tell stories and share some of our favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends as we recount our explorations of two of Alaska's incredible national parks. The remainder of the evening is at leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
12
Program Concludes
Downtown Anchorage, AK
B

Activity note: Check out by 10:00 a.m. Getting on/off a motorcoach. Driving approx 15 miles to the Anchorage Airport, approximately 20-30 minutes. Expected arrival 10:30 a.m. Scheduling outbound flights after 12:30 p.m. is advised.

Breakfast: Historic Anchorage Hotel Buffet

Morning: After checking out, we'll board a motorcoach bound for the Anchorage Airport. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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