Put everything down and book your trip of a lifetime to Alaska!

Alaska is stunning, wild, weird and heartwarming. I was so impressed, that I was ready to move there and change my career path to a bush pilot, no joke.
Don’t be afraid to bring your kids on a road trip there. If you feel comfortable taking your little ones to Canada or Washington state, for example, Alaska will be no different. It is a remote and the most sparsely populated US state, but you have the same great roads, access to hospitals and stores (at least along this itinerary).

We planned our Alaska road trip with one goal — to see the most remarkable places there in a single visit, with a 23-month-old and 7-year-old in tow.

Alaska is huge, unspoiled, uncrowded and different. You’ll see glaciers, fjords, mountains, abundant wildlife, 50 shades of green, panning for gold, traces of Russian influence and heritage of Alaska Natives. Promise, you’ll want to come back. We definitely do!

Alaska Road Trip Itinerary

  • Anchorage is where your adventure begins (Day 1)
  • Denali is your next top destination in Alaska (Day 2-5. Day 6 is back in Anchorage)
  • Whittier is a must during your road trip in Alaska (Day 7)
  • Seward is your perfect getaway to Kenai Fjords National Park (Day 7-9)
  • Homer is a gateway to Katmai National Park and best sunsets in Alaska (Day 10-13)
  • Anchorage is where your road trip ends (Day 14)
  • Full Itinerary in Google Maps
Anchorage downtown framed by the Chugach Mountain Range. Alaska
photo credit: Wikimedia

Anchorage

Anchorage stroke us right away. The city sets in some beautiful surroundings — between rugged mountains and huge bodies of water, lush green and full of wildlife right in the middle of the city. Coming from the East Coast, it was like nothing we have seen before. It felt that we were really far from “lower 48” and at the same time, it was cozy as we were home. One of the reasons for this was beautiful paper birches, the most beloved trees in our culture, which are growing everywhere in the city. When I told my husband how many places of wild nature are in the city, he replied that the city got actually lost among the wild nature. He was 100% right!

Seaplane base on Lake Hood, Anchorage
photo credit: Wikimedia

Before our 14-day road trip around Alaska, we spent 2 full weeks in the city, exploring everything we could in and around of the Anchorage, while Leo was working remotely from a downtown co-working space. There was still so much left. I would definitely love to come back!

How long to stay in Anchorage

Plan on staying in Anchorage at least one night in the beginning or at the end of your trip, and after the trip to Denali. We stayed a couple more nights in the beginning and in the middle. There are many exclusive places to explore within 0.5-1.5 hours drive from Anchorage and a few in the city!

Where to stay in Anchorage

Salmon run at the footsteps of our first airbnb apartment in Anchorage

We had a great experience with Airbnb/VRBO throughout entire stay in Alaska, best price/quality ratio and much cheaper than hotels. A 2-3 stars hotel runs around $200 per night in-season. Start searching as early as possible to get best rates: before January for the upcoming season, at the end of February most places will be booked. We paid around $100 per night for 1 bedroom apartments in 3 different areas in Anchorage: one right near the Campbell Park, another in downtown on the 13th floor overlooking the Knik Arm, and one at the very south of Anchorage. Liked all of them. You can still find something in spring, but be prepared to pay +25% and more for the same listings. If you are a newbie to Airbnb/VRBO, read about scams before you start looking for a place to stay.

You never know for sure, who is your next Airbnb host 😉

Read more: 4 Things You Must Try in Anchorage with Kids

Denali National Park

Denali National Park boasts 6 million acres of endless wilderness, untouched by man for thousands of years. It’s the home for the tallest peak in North America, which also give it its name – Mt. Denali – “the high one” in Alaska Native language.

Denali is the most popular National Park in Alaska among road trip travelers. It is easily accessible via a well-paved road from Anchorage. However, once there, you won’t be able to get very far into the park by car. There’s a single road running through the entire National Park. A system of tour buses running on schedule can take you to different points of interest inside the park.

Transit bus tour in the heart of Denali National Park, Alaska

Many visitors come here to see the wildlife, known as “the big 5”: moose, caribou, dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears. Stories of bears scratching their backs at the signs along the road are pretty common among the visitors here. We did not have the luck to see the bears in Denali. Apparently, your chances for an up-close wildlife encounter are higher when the weather is not as warm and sunny. Do not avoid Denali if it rains and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Caribou, one of the “Big Five” in Denali, Alaska

On the other side, you only get to see the majestic Mt. Denali on a clear sunny day. This privilege is given to less than 10% of the park visitors, and we were lucky to be among those.

Mt Denali on a clear sunny day

Speaking of weather, Alaska Range is so tall, that it forms its own weather, which most of the time hides the Range from sight with rain, snow, fog, and clouds. Dress properly and be ready to experience several seasons in a single day!

Denali National Park is a great start to your road trip. I highly recommend making it your first destination. We visited Denali last, after being already spoiled by glaciers, fjords, and marine views. Don’t make this mistake.

Time to explore Denali National Park

From our experience, you need at least 2 full days in Denali. Allow plenty of time to explore the park. It’s huge and there are a lot of things to do. Keep in mind that you’ll have to spend plenty of time to get to the park (4 hours each way from Anchorage by car).

I wish we had 1 more extra day to spend in Fairbanks, as it’s in only 2 hours drive from the Denali National Park.

Huge glacier run through Alaska Mountain Range
Arial view of Alaska Mountain Range

Where to Stay at the Denali National Park

We chose Denali Hostel because it was budget-friendly, located right on the border with National Park and within 20 minutes from the visitor center. After we actually stayed there, I would not change it for anything else. It was like an adventure of its own. Our cabin at the creek had wonderful waterfront and mountain views.

Denali Hostel. Denali National Park, Alaska

Our cabin was tiny, but very cozy. Everything was clean and fresh.

Inside waterfront Iceworm Cabin, Denali Hostel, Alaska

Other things we liked there were: the well-organized kitchen, no lines to the bathrooms or showers and friendly staff. We met a family from NY, who stayed at a wall tent next to us. They said it felt like camping without bringing any gear; clean, with really warm sleeping bags.
We were surprised, how many guests arrived from different corners of the globe. Australia, Korea, China, Europe, all of us cooking in one kitchen, having dinner at one big table. Felt like a summer sleep-away camp!

Read more: Top 8 Things to Do in Denali with Kids

Whittier

Welcome to Whittier — “A town living under one roof” and the gateway to Prince William Sound. One of the biggest highlights of our road trip started in this town, with Phillips Cruises and Tours. I’m glad we did both day tours, in Seward and in Whittier, but if I had to choose just one, it would be Whittier.

One of the 26 glaciers we saw in Prince William Sound

There was an abundance of wildlife (which was pleasantly unexpected, as the information on the internet mentioned lots of wildlife in Seward, but not Whittier), gorgeous fjords, the densest concentration of tidewater glaciers in the world, up close (true!), with no seasickness.

Sea lions resting on the floating ice in Prince William Sound. Whittier, Alaska

More about this trip: 26 Glacier Tour.

Orcas swimming near our boat in Prince William Sound, Alaska

We took our 1 day trip to Whittier from Anchorage. The distance between the two is 1.5 hours by car, not counting the tunnel and stops along the scenic Seward highway. Check the schedule of the tunnel here. This is the only way to get to Whittier — through the longest combined tunnel in North America.

One funny thing from the cruise I want to share. Leo made a joke that on this tour, besides seeing the coolest glaciers and lots of wildlife, we watched the contest of “who has the coolest and longest zoom cameras and in the world”. We lost :).

Seward

The road to Seaward is pure wonder and deserves its own post. We were lucky to drive it several times on a clear day, and I can say “Yes”, it’s one of the most scenic roads we have ever seen. Hands down. In terms of intensity and richness, I would say only Icefields Highway (Alberta, Canada) can match the experience.

The distance between Anchorage and Seward is only 2.5 hours driving by car. Leave from Anchorage early to enjoy the ride and make several stops along the way: Beluga Point, Windy Point, Indian Valley Mine (an excellent place to try panning for gold with kids), Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is also a must.

Seward is a small, but picturesque seaside town located at the calm waters of the Resurrection Bay.

Resurrection Bay, Seward

Besides beautiful scenery, it’s also a big fishing and cruise ship port and a perfect getaway to the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
A piece of glacier kids fished out from the Exit Glacier stream

Seward is a great place to visit even if you are not planning to take a cruise tour. There are plenty of incredible things to do! For such a small community (near 3000 residents), Seward is rich in history and has many students. UAF Seward Campus, Culinary Academy and Institute of Technology, are all located in the town. When you walk the streets of Seward, it’s hard to believe that in 1964 the Great 9.2 magnitude earthquake (and then tsunami) had dropped half of the place and its economy down into the sea and left in ruins the rest. Make sure to save some time to check out huge colorful murals in the downtown and stop by the Waterfront Park to watch a gorgeous sunset over the Resurrection Bay and mountains.

One of the many glaciers in the Resurrection Bay

Weather in Seward is slightly different: temperatures in summer tend to be colder, then in Anchorage and air is pretty dry. Outdoor humidity was only 35% during our stay in the middle of July.

How Long to Stay in Seward

Although you can squeeze all main activities in Seward in one day, there is no need to rush, especially if you are traveling with the little ones. We stayed 2 full days and would not mind a bit more.

Where to Stay in Seward with Kids

Staying in hostels, private rooms or cabins was one of the highlights of our trip to Alaska. We have never tried it before, but it turned out to be surprisingly good. We loved the Moby Dick hostel, which is right in the center of the town. It’s clean, has beautiful views and nice hosts. Would stay there again.

View form the “lodging room”, Moby Dick hostel

Where to Eat in Seward

We did all our grocery shopping at the Seward Safeway. It has a huge variety, everything fresh, also slightly more expensive, as you are getting further from Anchorage. Trying local seafood was on my bucket list and I’m glad we decided to trade a dinner at a restaurant for a stop at local seafood locker. Those guys have all kinds of local seafood you can imagine, super fresh, cleaned and processed right there. Try local king crab legs — the most delicious thing I have ever eat!

Read more: Top 8 Thing to Do in Seward with Kids

Homer

Where the road ends, the adventure is just going to begin!
Homer is a vibrant seaside community at the very tip of the Kenai Peninsula, with AK Route 1 running straight to the very end of the Homer Spit.

Panoramic view of Homer and Homer Spit from Skyline Drive

I’m glad we made it all the way down to Homer. It’s a true gem, well-liked among locals, but is not yet widely known by travelers. The two main things Homer is famous for are: outstanding bear-watching tours to the Katmai National Park, and fishing for halibut.

Katmai National Park – world premium location for bear watching
photo credit: Christoph Strässler

It’s hard to miss “Halibut Capital of World” sign when entering Homer.

At the entrance to the city of Homer, Alaska

We were lucky to watch how locals were unloading and processing the daily catch of the halibut. Boy, the fish were huge: some, near as tall as a 7 y/o boy and, who knows, around 100 pounds? Though, in Homer, even that is not the limit.

Halibut processing at Homer Marina services, Homer

How Much Time to Spend in Homer

We planned to spend 2 full days in Homer, but after we arrived to Mossy’s farm, I wished we could stay there even longer. Such a nice place to bring your family and kids. Homer is in 4 hours drive from Anchorage and in 3.5 hours from Seward. Weather is colder than in Anchorage, and on the spit it’s even more cold and windier.

Where we Stayed in Homer

Mossy’s Farm made our trip to Homer special. It’s not a fancy kind of accomodations, but if you are looking for an authentic, serene, homelike atmosphere, book a cabin at the Seaside Farm Accommodations. Some private cabins have kitchens. Waterfront cabins have million dollar views of the Kachemak Bay. If you can’t fit into a waterfront cabin, from the camping meadow you can experience the same views.

Seaside Farm Accommodation, Homer

There, we saw one best sunsets in Alaska! You’ll be in luck in July, as it’s the raspberries picking time at the farm and you can pick tons of delicious raspberries.There is a huge organic raspberry patch near the main building. Seaside Farm had also suffered from the 1964 Great earthquake — farm’s drinking water is hauled-in since then.

Read more:

Anchorage

Anchorage is where your road trip ends.

Whether you are blessed with beautiful, sunny weather or not, your road trip in Alaska is going to be vivid and memorable. As you drive along the AK Route 1 and enjoy those million-dollar views surrounding it, it’s hard to believe that you are not driving through some national park. All that gorgeous beauty is just there, unrestrained, wild and free.

Cooper Landing cliffs, AK Route 1

Full Itinerary on Google Maps

Have a fun time exploring Alaska!