We just got back from our Alaskan family adventure out of Anchorage. This trip was so much fun. There is a lot to say about Alaska but we loved it. We loved the wild places, the mountainous terrain, the glaciers, the wildlife, the rivers, the people, and the vastness of it all.
Visiting the state of Alaska was the final stop on our 50 States tour. It has taken us just under six years to visit all fifty states as a family. After our first road trip back East in 2015, we decided that we wanted to get all of our children to each of the fifty states before they graduated from high school. Well, with our oldest going into her senior year, we had to find a way to make that happen this year if possible. With Hawaii and Alaska being our last two going into the pandemic last year, we had to figure out how we were going to make it happen. Thankfully, things loosened up this spring and we were able to get to Hawaii for Spring Break and now Alaska over summer vacation.
Our Alaskan adventure began by flying in around 2 am. It was like twilight when we flew over the water into Anchorage. That was a crazy feeling. After landing, we decided to get a hotel near the airport for a bit of a nap after an early red-eye flight.
After a few hours of sleep, Leslie and I walked over to the RV rental office to pick up our motorhome for our weeklong Alaskan family adventure. We have usually traveled in hotels, tents, or the back of our big Sprinter Van. This would be the first trip in a motorhome. This was a treat for all of us. We parked the RV in the hotel parking lot and went up to get the kids. They were so excited to see their home for the next seven days as we travel the Alaskan frontier.
Denali National Park
After getting our stuff loaded up and hitting the grocery store for the essentials, we headed out of Anchorage. Our first leg of the journey was to get up to our campground in Denali National Park. The drive was amazing. It was hard to not stop at every turn and get out and take pictures. Thankfully, as we turned the corner and crossed the Chulitna River, we beheld the mountain. It is said that the majority of the people that come up to the park don’t ever get to see Mount Denali because of the weather. Well, we had some good mountain weather and got to see it. At first, we were trying to pick it out along the range, but then realized that the white patch was not clouds but it was a snowy covered peak.
Shortly after that we arrived at the Southern Denali Viewpoint and got to soak in the majesty of the mountain. We have been to Mt. Ranier, climbed several of Utah’s tall mountains, Driven past Mt. Hood and Mt. Shasta, and many of Colorado’s 14ers but nothing has looked as majestic as this behemoth. We were all pretty excited when we saw the mountain standing high above the range. It really puts a new perspective on “exceedingly high mountain”.
Driving the park road seemed really wild. We got to see a caribou right off the road in one of the river washes. After taking some pictures, we rolled into camp later into the evening, but it sure seemed like it was early afternoon. After dinner, we walked down to the river and soaked in the late evening sunlight up north. As Talmage and I turned to walk down to the river we saw a large cat walk across the trail. It took us a minute to realize what had just happened. We thought it was a bobcat at first, but it was abnormally tall. We discovered that it was a lynx. Unfortunately, we did not get a photo of it, but wow! that was awesome.
Denali Park Road Tour
One of the must-dos in Denali National Park is to take the bus tour along the park road. The road is closed to public traffic after the first several miles. But the road continues to go for over 40 miles into the wild reaches of the park. The only ways to get back there are by bike, hiking, the bus tour, or extremely limited special permit. We highly recommend opting for the bus tour. We loved it. We saw so many bears and other wild creatures. It is nice to have so many eyes looking for wild creatures. The skies were much cloudier this day than the day before so we did not even get a glimpse of the mountain. However, it was perfect for the animals. We saw several grizzly bears, including a mom with two babies, and a couple playing around on the hillside, a couple of eagles, lots of caribou, dahl sheep, moose, and a coyote at a distance.
The vistas on this route were amazing. Even with the low clouds, we still got to see a lot of the wild untouched vistas of this beautiful tundra landscape.
The Sled Dogs
Other fun places to visit at Denali National Park are the Sled Dog sites. Just across from our campground is a winter use cabin for sledding into the backcountry. Then, closer to the entrance, there is the area where they raise and train the Sled Dogs. Here, you can see the dogs in their kennels and enjoy some feeding time as well. They are all such beautiful dogs. All of our children really enjoyed watching the dogs and interacting with them.
Hiking Horseshoe Lake
A quick, easy, and gorgeous hike is just off of the main visitor’s center called Horseshoe Lake. This trail is a beautifully wandering trail through the trees, across a lake overlook, and then down around the lake and alongside the river. We really enjoyed this because it was short enough to have no complaints, but long enough to enjoy it. We even got to see a moose wading in the lake.
The Alaskan Family Adventures Continue
After a couple of great days in Denali National Park, we continued our journey back down towards Anchorage. We gave in to the highly touted bread pudding stop at H&H but it wasn’t as it was cracked up to be. Glad that we got it to go because this place was much more divy than I would have wanted to take my children into. We stopped along the highway to try our hands at fishing at Montana Creek, but with no luck.
Our night along the highway was not a good one. It was a bit warm, but we tried to camp near the river but were eaten alive by mosquitoes during the night. I ended up packing us up and driving us down to a Walmart parking lot. It was crazy to be driving at almost two in the morning with the skies more twilight than the middle of the night. It never really gets dark here.
Just outside of Anchorage we stopped at Reflections Lake. What a gorgeous pond just outside of the city.
After passing through the city, we made the quick pull off to stop and see the Anchorage Alaska Temple.
The Kenai Peninsula
Growing up with a love of flyfishing and the outdoors, I always knew about the Kenai. The river is world-famous for trophy salmon fishing. It is also an amazingly gorgeous area. But the river is not the only part of this area that is now near and dear to my heart. The entire peninsula calls to me. Our first part of this was the obvious trek across what is known as the Turnagain Arm. what a unique stretch as the highway runs parallel with the