Where to go?
I often get asked a question
something like this. I want
Alaska, but I only have a one week vacation, where should I go?
is such a big place, that this question can be difficult to answer.
It is kind of like asking; I’m traveling to the western U.S., where should I go? Of
course a lot depends on what one wants to photograph, whales,
bears, eagles or landscapes? But if
you want a good overview as to what Alaska
has to offer, here is the advice I
I would split
my time between my two favorite photography destinations;
and Seward /
National Park. You will have a
couple of travel days to get between these two destinations, and you
will want to spend a couple of days each at
Denali, so this pretty much fills a week.
This will give you a feel for the coastal environment with its
rain forests and marine mammals, and the interior environment with its
tundra and Taiga forest and different
plenty of places for lodging in
Alaska, but as a photographer I think renting an RV or pickup with a camper
might be the better option. It
will come in handy in Denali, as you will learn when you read photography
Denali, and in Seward you will be able to camp right on the ocean.
In between, you will have the flexibility to stop wherever you
might find great light. Since
the shooting day is more of a shooting night, and your hotel or B&B
may not be near the action, the flexibility of having your room and
board with you is hard to beat. I
have and use a pick up and camper extensively myself.
Since I have my own and have never rented one, I can not offer
any recommendations on where to rent.
As you plan
your trip, the first thing you will want to do is buy The
The Milepost is a detailed guide to every mile of Alaska
and the Alaska Highway
through Canada, you will recognize this travel guide on the dash of most visitors
vehicles for good reason, it covers everything.
The Seward Highway
and Seward on the Seward
is a great destination in itself. Stop
at Potter’s Marsh and check out the bird activity.
Keep an eye out along Turnagain
Arm, this can be great place to
see sheep, at times they will be feeding right along the side of the
highway. Later in the summer
watch for Beluga Whales in the waters of Turnagain Arm.
Take the short detour to Portage
Lake, this lake used to be full of ice bergs, but now that the glacier has
receded out of the lake, the ice bergs are not as predictable.
It is still a beautiful place.
is another good place to spot a wide variety of birds including loons,
and if you can believe it - terns. And
at any time you can see moose on this drive to
Seward, but your chances
increase greatly later at night and early in the morning.
In Seward, be
sure to take one of the full day tours into
National Park. On the full day tours, you
have a much better chance
of seeing a whale – about a 90% chance I believe.
Plus you will see some very active tide water glaciers, puffins
and all kinds of sea mammals. On
the second day, take in the
Center, and drive out to Exit
toe of the glacier is just a short walk from the parking lot.
If you are in decent shape, a climb up the very well maintained
trail to the Harding Ice field is a must.
The drive to
The drive from Seward
is a long one, at least 350 miles, with much to see along the way.
I usually break the drive up into two days by camping at the
Denali View North Campground or Byers Lake Campground, both located in Denali
State Park. There
are also some nice hotels along this stretch including a Princess Lodge.
The Parks Highway
has some of the best views of Mt. McKinley
and if “The Mountain” is out, enjoy it because it doesn’t happen
all that often. A detour to
Talkeetna can be rewarding, especially early in the summer during the
Now for the
Denali portion of my trip recommendation, I forward you to my Photography
in Denali page.
If you have
more time, I would add a trip over to the Wrangell-St.
National Park. You can make a nice loop
by cutting across the Denali Highway. Before traveling the
Denali Highway, check on the current road conditions, most of this road is not paved
and it can get pretty rough at times. Another
option would be going up and around via Fairbanks, and then drop down to Glennallen and the
are a wonderful area, and also the place I grew
up; I have a write-up on this area in my blog, you can find the links to
these pages back on the FAQ page.