1012
Alaska
The Best of Alaska’s National Parks: From Denali to Kenai
Come explore the National Parks of Alaska with experts. Discover unique wildlife, stunning landscapes and ancient forests as you explore one of the most unspoiled regions on earth.
Rating (4.91)
Program No. 1012RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
3,499
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11 days
10 nights
26 meals
10 B 8 L 8 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Denali National Park
D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Check-in available from 12:00 Noon.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you arrive at the Denali Education Center’s campus, stop into Riverside Hall where you will find your room assignments, your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. 5:00 p.m. 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. We will also go over wildlife safety and emergency procedures at this time, including contact numbers for key staff. “America the Beautiful” passes cover entrance fees at national parks and wildlife refuges for up to 4 adults. If you have one of these national park passes, please bring it with you to the program and on our field trips to benefit other members of the group. Periods in the daily 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. We’ll then learn about Denali Education Center's rich history with Road Scholar and take a short walk on campus to get familiarized with the landscape and available amenities.

Dinner: At Riverside Hall, we’ll enjoy a healthy, balanced, home-cooked buffet meal, which will vary day to day. Coffee, tea, water included.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars during an informal meet-and-greet, then gather for announcements outlining the next day’s activities. Settle in and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Denali National Park, Hike Along Savage River, Sled Dogs
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Driving approx. 15 miles to Denali one way; about 1/2 hour each way. Hiking approx. 2 miles on the Savage River Loop Trail; about 3 hours total; uneven ground, rock steps, some rugged areas, and 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 free 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 first day of program.

DAY
3
Subarctic Ecosystems, Walk in Alaska's Boreal Forests
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Driving about 10 miles into Denali Park one way; approx. 1/2 hour round trip. Walking approx. 2.5 miles on Rock Creek Trail; about 4 hours; occasionally steep, about 400 feet in elevation change.

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. This 3-hour interactive program. 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: Then we’ll set out to explore the world’s largest biome, the northern boreal forest, on an expert-led walk on the Rock Creek Trail. Arriving to the trailhead by bus, this quiet 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 woodlands.

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
4
Heart of the Park, Eielson Visitor Center
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Driving approx. 65 miles one way; about 8 hours total aboard, with rest stops every 1-1.5 hours. Walking less than 1 mile throughout the day during group activities; opportunities for more walking dependent on personal preference. Lengths and terrain of independent hikes at Eilson Visitor Center vary significantly from less than 1 mile on easy, compact terrain, to longer hikes on more challenging terrain that can be uneven, rocky, and sometimes 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 enjoy our sack lunches featuring 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, you may wish to spend some more time independently at and around Eielson Visitor Center, hiking Denali's pristine wilderness. The Group Leader will offer information on how to return to the Denali Education Center for anyone interested in staying longer and hiking on their own.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Wildlife of Denali, Horseshoe Lake Trail Interpretive Hike
Denali National Park
B,L,D
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Driving approx. 10 miles to Horseshoe Lake Trail; about 1/2 hour roundtrip. Walking about 3.5 miles; approx. 4 hours; dirt and gravel, some 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.

Lunch: Riverside Hall buffet.

Afternoon: After traveling the short distance by bus to the trailhead, we’ll experience the rich and varied habitats of the area with one of our field educators along the 3.2-mile Horseshoe Lake Trail. Watch for evidence of beaver as the trail descends to the beautiful Horseshoe Lake before circumnavigating it. 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
6
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 approx. 3 miles roundtrip; about 3 hours. Choice 2: Hiking up to 2 miles roundtrip; approx. hours. Both are dirt trails through the forest with exposed rocks and roots present throughout.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet.

Morning: After hearing from our Group Leaders about the 2 morning hike choices, we’ll set out from the DEC on foot with our hiking parties on your choice of two hikes, each led by one of our field educators. Each morning adventure will explore trails closest to our campus. Choice 1: 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 engage in a presentation given by a local speaker. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
7
Through the Alaska Range, South to Seward
Seward
B,L,D
Breeze Inn

Activity note: Driving approx. 375 miles; about 9 hours total, with 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: At a comfortable stop en route, we’ll have our sack lunches.

Afternoon: Upon arrival at the inn in Seward, we’ll meet our new Group Leader and check into our rooms with some time to freshen up before dinner.

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

Evening: We’ll then gather in our group meeting room for a presentation focused on a global perspective of Alaska.

DAY
8
Behind-the-Scenes at SeaLife Center, Exit Glacier Hike
Seward
B,L
Breeze Inn

Activity note: Driving approx. 25 miles total for the day; about 1 hour total. Minimal walking and periods of standing at SeaLife Center. Hiking approx. 1.5 miles roundtrip; about 2.5 hours; moderately strenuous terrain, some steep inclines and rocky areas, with some benches on which to rest throughout.

Breakfast: At the 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 enjoy 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 our boxed lunches with coffee, 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: 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 then regroup at the inn for a presentation on glaciers and glaciology given by a Park Ranger.

DAY
9
SeaLife Center Marine Life Class, Free Time
Seward
B
Breeze Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off bus; minimal driving. Minimal walking on group activities; more dependent on personal preference.

Breakfast: Inn buffet.

Morning: Spending the morning back at the SeaLife Center, Alaska's only public aquarium and ocean-wildlife rescue center, we’ll learn more about the rich marine world of Alaska from a local expert in an on-site class.

Lunch: 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.

Afternoon: Free Time. Take some time to explore Seward independently. You may wish to stop by the Seward Museum to learn about the history of Seward or venture into downtown Seward. A free shuttle is available connecting the harbor to downtown.

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.

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; short transfers. Getting on/off a boat; ride is approx. 7.5 hours.

Breakfast: Inn buffet.

Morning: Arriving at the dock via a short shuttle ride, we’ll board a small boat for an all-day expert-led field trip into Kenai Fjords National Park and Resurrection Bay. A great opportunity to spot wildlife, we may be lucky enough to see whales, sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, puffins, eagles, and more – so be on the lookout as we travel through this strikingly beautiful habitat. 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 enjoy a delicious 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 farewell dinner together with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Regrouping, we’ll enjoy 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 will be at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
11
Program Concludes
Seward
B

Activity note: Check-out by 8:00 a.m. Driving approx.130 miles to the Anchorage Airport; about 3 hours. The motorcoach is expected to arrive at the airport by approximately 11:30 a.m. Scheduling outbound flights after 2:00 p.m. is advised.

Breakfast: Inn buffet.

Morning: We’ll then depart Seward aboard a chartered 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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