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Alaska

Amazing Alaska: The Last Frontier, From Mountains to the Sea

Program No. 24425RJ
Explore pristine landscapes and the wilderness of Alaska as you journey from mountains to the sea, learning from Native Peoples, discovering geological wonders and spotting wildlife.
Length
10 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at
5,549

Your well-being is our #1 priority

To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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We want your Road Scholar learning adventure to be something to look forward to—not worry about. Learn more

Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
Plan ahead.
What kind of weather can you expect? Take a look!
itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jun 3 - Jun 12, 2023
Starting at
5,549
Jun 17 - Jun 26, 2023
Starting at
5,549
Jul 8 - Jul 17, 2023
Starting at
5,549
Jul 15 - Jul 24, 2023
Starting at
5,549
Jul 22 - Jul 31, 2023
Starting at
5,549
Aug 5 - Aug 14, 2023
Starting at
5,549
Itinerary Note

Private Group - Winding River Group

Aug 12 - Aug 21, 2023
Starting at
5,549
Aug 19 - Aug 28, 2023
Starting at
5,549
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jun 3 - Jun 12, 2023
Starting at
6,949
Jun 17 - Jun 26, 2023
Starting at
6,949
Jul 8 - Jul 17, 2023
Starting at
6,949
Jul 15 - Jul 24, 2023
Starting at
6,949
Jul 22 - Jul 31, 2023
Starting at
6,949
Aug 5 - Aug 14, 2023
Starting at
6,949
Itinerary Note

Private Group - Winding River Group

Aug 12 - Aug 21, 2023
Starting at
6,949
Aug 19 - Aug 28, 2023
Starting at
6,949

At a Glance

Journey from the highest mountain range in North America in Interior Alaska to the dramatic glaciated temperate rain forests of the Southeast Alaska coast on a learning adventure from Fairbanks to Seward. Learn about Native Athabascan culture, meet research scientists, take a field trip to see muskoxen, caribou and reindeer and stand underneath the Alaska Pipeline. Spend two nights at the entrance of Denali National Park, then take the Alaska Railroad through breathtaking scenery to Seward, nestled in beautiful Resurrection Bay. Visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, where researchers share their work rehabilitating the ecosystem after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and observe marine mammals in Kenai Fjords National Park as you voyage past majestic glaciers.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
This is an on-the-go program with a few days of early start times, long drives, and getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking on uneven terrain. Standing for an hour at a time. Several opportunities for hiking, with some options over uneven dirt surfaces, steps, and moderate elevation gain and length. Please refer to daily activity notes.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Take a dip in a geothermal hot spring, a remedy that historically became famous for healing prospectors of their aches and pains.
  • Spend two nights at the entrance of Denali National Park and enjoy opportunities to hike and learn of the Park’s rich history, with opportunities to search for wildlife along the way.
  • Cruise past tidewater glaciers and watch for whales, otters, sea lions and puffins from a catamaran in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Jerri Roberts
Jerri Roberts grew up among Arizona's vast National Parks. Jerri had a long career in the aerospace industry after earning her Bachelor's degree at Arizona State and her Master's in Bergamo, Italy. After leaving the aerospace industry, Jerri worked in Silicon Valley managing data centers until she retired. Jerri then spent 20 years in Denali National Park as a Road Scholar Group Leader and Interpretive Park Ranger for 16 years. Jerri has an extensive background in natural history, specializing in Alaskan ecosystems.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Jerri Roberts
Jerri Roberts View biography
Jerri Roberts grew up among Arizona's vast National Parks. Jerri had a long career in the aerospace industry after earning her Bachelor's degree at Arizona State and her Master's in Bergamo, Italy. After leaving the aerospace industry, Jerri worked in Silicon Valley managing data centers until she retired. Jerri then spent 20 years in Denali National Park as a Road Scholar Group Leader and Interpretive Park Ranger for 16 years. Jerri has an extensive background in natural history, specializing in Alaskan ecosystems.
Profile Image of Valerie Hershfield
Valerie Hershfield View biography
Valerie Hershfield, a native Californian, has worked in educational travel since 1993, visiting more than 100 countries. She became associated with Road Scholar in 2010. Summers find her leading Road Scholar groups in Alaska. Valerie also enjoyed a career in journalism as a reporter and editor. She enjoys volunteering at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and as an EMT with a local fire department. She says, “The greatest joy of traveling with groups is witnessing that moment when people experience a new place.”
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod
by Gary Paulsen
The Firecracker Boys: H-Bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement
by Dan O'Neill
Going to Extremes
by Joe McGinniss
Coming Into The Country
by John McPhee
Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments that deal, respectively, with a total wilderness, with urban Alaska, and with life in the remoteness of the bush.
Chasing Ice
by Directed by Jeff Orlowski
Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled: A Narrative of Winter Travel in Interior Alaska
by Hudson Stuck
Ordinary Wolves
by Seth Kantner
Fairbanks: A Gold Rush Town that Beat the Odds
by Dermot Cole
Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
by Velma Wallis
Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness
by Robert Specht/Ann Purdy
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10 days
9 nights
23 meals
9 B 6 L 8 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Fairbanks, AK
D
Springhill Suites by Marriott

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m. Remember to bring your name-tag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Program Registration: 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the hotel lobby to register with program staff, get any updated information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please locate your Group Leader and let them know you have arrived.

Dinner: In a private room in a restaurant within our hotel.

Evening: Orientation: 7:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. 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 or 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
Alaska Intro., Hot Springs, Ice Museum, Geothermal Energy
Fairbanks, AK
B,L
Springhill Suites by Marriott

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 122 miles throughout the day, approximately 2.5 hours total riding time. Hot Springs average temperature is 106°F year-round; bring bathing suit and change of clothes; towel provided. For Ice Museum, bring warm gloves and hat; parka provided.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will gather for an overview and introduction to Alaska by Road Scholar staff. We’ll then board a motorcoach for a field trip to Chena Hot Springs Resort, a geothermal powered facility that became famous for healing crippled prospectors of their aches and pains after its discovery in 1905. The hot springs lake is not chlorinated. All natural water constantly flows in and out, creating circulation and natural filtration. We will have an opportunity to soak in the healing waters of the natural hot springs rock lake, indoor pool, or hot tubs. The Chena geothermal system is fed by water that circulates deep underground over a period of thousands of years, picking up natural heat from the earth, and then “short circuits” back up to the surface through cracks and fractures in the granite rock underneath the hot springs area from a depth of approximately 3,000 feet.

Lunch: At the resort.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll walk to explore the Aurora Ice Museum. Created from more than 1,000 tons of ice and snow, it boasts ice sculptures, an ice bar, ice chapel, and even hotel rooms. Remaining at a cool 25°F, the ice museum stays icy cold even in summer due to the patented absorption chiller, powered by geothermal water and the first of its kind in the world used for this purpose. We will also learn how geothermal renewable energy produces 100% of the electricity used at Chena Hot Springs. It is the lowest temperature geothermal resource used for power production in the world. We’ll board our motorcoach after the field trip for the scenic ride back to our hotel.

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: At leisure.

DAY
3
Animal Research, Museum of the North, Geophysical Institute
Fairbanks, AK
B,L,D
Springhill Suites by Marriott

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 20 miles, approximately 3/4 hour riding time plus stops. Walking up to 3 miles throughout, standing up to 1 hour at a time indoors and out during field trips; mostly flat terrain, potential for rain; dress accordingly.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll start the day with a lecture by our Group Leader to gain further insight into this fascinating and unique region. We’ll then board the motorcoach for a field trip to the Large Animal Research Station, a branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology. Studies of the large ungulates of the Arctic — such as musk oxen, caribou, and reindeer — have been ongoing for decades. A researcher or station staff member will tell us about the biology of the animals and the ecosystems they inhabit, emphasizing the different adaptations these various species have made to the same environment, including life cycles and survival strategies. Pelts, skulls, antlers, and horns will be available for hands-on examination and study. A special highlight will be the opportunity to see and learn about musk oxen, an emblem of the Arctic. Next, we’ll make a brief stop to see a section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). The approximately 800-mile pipeline crosses three mountain ranges and is built on permanently frozen ground in the north and in areas of routine seismic activity in the south. Overcoming these obstacles led to the development and implementation of cutting-edge technology, making the Alaska pipeline one of the great engineering feats of the 20th century. We’ll then make our way to the Museum of the North.

Lunch: At the Museum of the North, we’ll have boxed lunches.

Afternoon: We will explore the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. This public research university is a world-renowned circumpolar research center with extensive collections gathered from current and past scientific expeditions in Alaska, America’s only Arctic state. During our self-directed exploration, we will see exhibits on Native culture, post-contact history, geology, fauna, flora, the Gold Rush, the Alaska pipeline, the Aurora, plus rotating art and photo exhibits, all housed in a beautiful and striking architectural gem. We will also be able to learn about Arctic and sub-Arctic ecology and environment and the people who inhabit this northern edge of our world. Following our exploration of the museum, we will walk to the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute where we will learn from a university geologist about the effects that climate change has had on the region, the steps that are being taken to study these effects, and the different projects that are being conducted at the university.

Dinner: At a restaurant near the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
4
Cultural Center, Denali National Park, Dog Sled Homestead
Denali National Park, AK
B,L,D
Denali Grizzly Bear Resort

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 130 miles throughout the day, approximately 3 hours total riding time plus rest stop. Walking 1/2 mile to the Cultural Center, walking approximately 1/2 mile during field trips and standing indoors and out; gravel, packed dirt, boardwalk, paved surfaces. Potential for rain, dress accordingly.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out of our hotel and walk a short distance to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center that features exhibits and dioramas focusing on the people and ecosystems of interior Alaska. A docent will lead an exploration of the cultural center and we will learn about the lives of Athabascan people past and present. We’ll also have some time for independent exploration. The Alaska Public Lands Information Center, a storehouse of information and exhibits on the public lands in Alaska, is located in the same building, as is the Fairbanks Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Lunch: At the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, we will sample local delicacies commonly enjoyed by native Alaskans.

Afternoon: Back aboard the motorcoach, we will ride on to Denali National Park via the George Parks Highway. We will see the rolling hill country of the Yukon-Tanana uplands covered with spruce and birch before crossing the vast Tanana lowlands, then climbing the north side of the Alaska Range. We’ll have views of incredible Alaska Range scenery and meandering rivers. Keep a look-out for moose and other wildlife that might be present. Approaching Denali, the highway parallels a deep canyon carved by the Nenana River. As we arrive at the entrance of Denali National Park, we’ll stop at the homestead of Iditarod champion Jeff King. The homestead provides an authentic look into rural lifestyles based on 44 years of Alaskan adventures, from freight hauling on Denali to crossing the finish line in Nome with a champion Iditarod team. We’ll “meet” the husky dog team, learn about their summer training, and hear stories from the trail as you view actual racing sleds, arctic survival gear, and equipment used to traverse 1,100 miles of Alaska’s most rugged terrain. We’ll then ride on to our hotel and check in.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Denali National Park History, Exploring “Front Country”
Denali National Park, AK
B,D
Denali Grizzly Bear Resort

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 86 miles round-trip, up to approximately 4 hours riding time plus stops to view wildlife as opportunities arise and for a rest stop. Denali Park Road gravelly and uneven in some areas, potential for bumpy ride. Bring binoculars if available. Distance while hiking in Denali National Park according to personal choice.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Early this morning, we will board the motorcoach for a narrated Denali tundra wilderness field trip. As we ride 43 miles into the Park, we will have great opportunities to view the Park’s wildlife and scenery and learn about the animals, plants, and history. If we’re lucky, we may see Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves, even grizzly bears that might be present. Denali — formerly Mount McKinley — is visible only when conditions are right, but on clear days we will have several opportunities to view the mountain that is the highest peak in North America. We will have rest stops at least once every 90 minutes during the field trip.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like at the Denali National Park Cafeteria.

Afternoon: We'll have some time to explore the Park Visitor’s Center independently and peruse exhibits, watch the award-winning movie “Heartbeats of Denali,” or walk along one of the numerous nearby trails. Road Scholar staff will be on hand to offer recommendations to help you make the most of your afternoon in this beautiful National Park, known for its biodiversity and amazing views.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Talkeetna Historical Society, Native Heritage Center
Anchorage, AK
B,L,D
Aspen Suites Anchorage

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 235 miles throughout the day, approximately 4 hours total riding time. Walking at Heritage Center according to personal choice; half-mile loop trail to see Native dwelling exhibits, generally flat paved paths.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out, board the motorcoach, and begin our ride to Anchorage. En route, we’ll stop at Talkeetna, a historic village nestled at the base of Mount Denali. Rich in history, it may be best known for being the jumping-off point for climbers hoping to summit North America’s tallest peak. We’ll explore the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum, consisting of four restored buildings introducing the native peoples, aviators, gold seekers, and who were an important part of Talkeetna’s past. A docent will give us an introduction to the museum, followed by some independent time to see the exhibits on our own. Among them is the Mountain Exhibit, showing Denali and its surrounding peaks of the Alaska Range as a room-size model that presents the history of mountaineering.

Lunch: We’ll enjoy boxed lunches in Talkeetna.

Afternoon: Upon arrival in Anchorage we’ll head to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the largest cultural institution in Alaska, to learn about the unique indigenous cultures that have shaped Alaska’s history. We’ll take a virtual journey through 10,000 years of Alaska Native history and culture through art, dance, Native games demonstrations, exhibits, and walk through traditional Native dwellings. We will then proceed to the hotel and check in.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At the hotel, we’ll have another educational presentation by Road Scholar staff.

DAY
7
Eagle River, Hike, Free Time, Anchorage Museum
Anchorage, AK
B,D
Aspen Suites Anchorage

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 60 miles roundtrip, approximately 1.5 hours total riding time. Hiking 3/4 mile; groomed trail, benches along the way.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: At the hotel, we’ll gather for another educational presentation by Road Scholar staff on topics related to our course of study. Afterwards, we’ll board the motorcoach for a field trip to the Eagle River Nature Center, nestled in the Eagle River Valley within Chugach State Park. After a brief introduction at the nature center, a naturalist will lead us on a hike around the Rodak trail, offering pristine mountain views, glacier rivers and streams, and opportunities to see wildlife. Returning to Anchorage, we’ll have some time for independent exploration in downtown Anchorage.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like in downtown Anchorage. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: We will rendezvous at an announced time and place, then ride a short distance to the Anchorage Museum for a self-directed field trip. The large variety of exhibits illustrate pre-historic, historic, and present-day Anchorage and Alaska. The primary exhibition contains more than 600 objects from the Smithsonian collections and is one of the finest presentations of Alaskan history and ethnology in the state. Full-scale and miniature dioramas provide a look at the early lifestyles of Alaska’s native peoples. Other exhibits cover exploration and settlement by the Russians, the Gold Rush era, World War II and statehood.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for early check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
AK Railroad to Seward Scenic Ride, SeaLife Center
Seward, AK
B,L,D
Gateway Hotel

Activity note: Early check-out and transfer approximately 5:30 a.m. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 20 miles total, approximately 1/2 hour. Getting on/off a train; ride to Seward about 107 miles, approximately 4 hours. Standing up to 1 hour at field trip sites.

Breakfast: Aboard the Alaska Railroad.

Morning: Up early this morning, we’ll check out of the hotel before breakfast and ride a short distance to the train station. We’ll board the train and take the Alaska Railroad south for a narrated ride through spectacular scenery, starting along the shores of Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm, traveling through the valleys and canyons of Chugach National Forest, past glaciers, rivers, lakes, and finally to the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula and the coastal town of Seward. The stunning beauty of this trip is one of the best kept secrets in Alaska. Keep an eye out for migratory birds, moose, and other wildlife throughout our journey. Upon arrival in Seward, we’ll disembark the train, board a motorcoach, and ride to the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Lunch: At the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Afternoon: The Alaska SeaLife Center is a cutting-edge marine research facility. A member of the educational staff will give us a presentation on their work. We will learn about ongoing research projects and see exhibits on the marine life of the south-central and northern Pacific shores of Alaska. We’ll also learn about the center’s current objectives and how the establishment of this research center came in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Money from state damages assessed on Exxon was used to start up the research center. One special focus was to study the long-term effects of the oil spill on the people, the animals, and the land of South Central Alaska. The center has become a top-notch research facility, drawing researchers from all over the country. We’ll then ride a short distance to our hotel and check in.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park Wildlife Cruise
Seward, AK
B,L,D
Gateway Hotel

Activity note: Hike at Exit Glacier is considered moderately strenuous at approximately 1.2 miles with some steep, uneven surfaces and exposure to wind. Some benches are available along the way. Getting on/off a passenger catamaran; riding approximately 6 hours; indoor seating available; warm layers, rain gear recommended. Bring binoculars if available.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll begin our day with a self-guided walk to the edge of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. Exit Glacier received its name for serving as the exit for the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield in 1968. We will learn about this iconic feature and view the dense blue ice up-close while listening to it crackle. Afterwards, we'll ride to the harbor dock in Seward and board a catamaran for a glacier and wildlife study cruise. As we sail out into beautiful Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park, we’ll learn about the Russians who “discovered” the bay on Easter Sunday and named it Resurrection Bay — “Easter” commonly referred to as “Resurrection.” Ship staff will provide insightful commentary along our journey as we take in the breathtaking scenery.

Lunch: Aboard the catamaran.

Afternoon: Our study cruise will continue as we keep an eye out for seals, sea lions, otters, numerous birds including some puffin varieties, and whales set against a backdrop of magnificent tidewater and hanging glaciers. We may even see some glacial calving. We’ll return to the hotel after our field trip.

Dinner: At a local restaurant. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
10
Transfer to Anchorage, Program Concludes
Anchorage, AK
B

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 126 miles, approximately 3 hours riding time. Drop-offs at airport and starting hotel expected between approximately 10:30 a.m and 12:00 p.m. depending on traffic and road conditions.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll have one more chance to absorb Alaska’s beautiful scenery on our return ride to Anchorage, with drop-offs at both the airport and our hotel in Anchorage. 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!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.