Ultimate Alaska Vacation: Seattle to Denali Itinerary

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Here’s my itinerary from Seattle to Denali. It was action packed and fast paced! This one way trip involves train rides, a Princess cruise, plane rides, bear watching, glacier trekking, sea plane rides, bus tours, and SO much more!

First stop Seattle

We arrived in Seattle with not much time to explore. I wanted to hit the city’s highlights before heading north. So, we booked a private Tour of Seattle. Here’s a video of our time in Seattle.

Want to find out more about what we did with one night in Seattle and where we stayed downtown? Click here to find out more about our Seattle stay.

Seattle to Vancouver

The next morning we were up early to take the Amtrak train from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia. We had to be at the train station an hour early. I had read that this train ride is one of the most beautiful rides in America. It didn’t disappoint. Below is a video of the Cascades train ride.

Arrival in Vancouver

One thing I wish I had done is stayed in Vancouver for a few days. I HIGHLY recommend this if possible. For this trip, we only had a few hours. Unfortunately our train was about an hour late coming in and it cut out some of the time we had in the city. We hired a private driver to pick us up at the train station and give us a tour around the city. (More on that in an upcoming post!) After a quick view of the city, he took us to the cruise port to set sail on our Alaska cruise!

After much research, we chose the Princess Star for our cruise ship. We chose the northern itinerary so we could spend a few days in Alaska.

Here’s a quick video of the Princess Star.

Our cruise ship left at 4:30 Sunday evening. The next day was a sea day. It also happened to be Chris’s birthday. I had planned a couples cabana massage after lunch. Unfortunately, the open seas got the best of us. (Chris much more!) We made it to the spa, dressed in our robes, and sat down waiting for our appointment. We had chose the massage on the Sanctuary area of the ship. I had intended it to be a romantic moment. Instead, we had to cancel and go to sleep to help with the nausea. We cruise quite frequently and had never experienced sea sickness like this. The open seas off the coast of Vancouver are no joke!

Cruise Day 3: Ketchikan

There’s a lot to do in downtown Ketchikan. Many shops and restaurants to explore. Everything seems to be close together.

Salmon Capital of the World

After much research, we chose to fly with Island Wings to Traitor’s Cove to watch the bears in their natural habitat. When planning a bear watching tour in Ketchikan, make sure to pick the best time of year to see the bears in the area you are going to.

Check out our day in Ketchikan!

Cruise Day 4: Juneau

It’s difficult to decide what to do in Juneau. It really depends on what your interests are. Juneau is the place to enjoy some good seafood restaurants. It also has a tram to check out the views in the area, some of the best gold panning activities, and fishing trips.

We had a jam packed day! We started the day with breakfast on the ship and headed to our meeting spot for a whale watching tour with Juneau Tours. This tour lasted a total of 3 1/2 hours with drive time.

At 12:30 we headed off for more adventure with ABAK Wilderness Trips. I HIGHLY recommend their glacier canoe, paddle, and trek tour. You canoe for an hour, past Nugget Falls, to the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier. From there, you get to experience walking through an ice cave and exploring the glacier. Then, canoe back to the starting point. It was one of the highlights of our trip! Here’s a video of this grand experience!

Cruise Day 5: Skagway

The ship docked quite a way (still within walking distance) from the town of Skagway. I had researched the best activity for this trip and decided on the Yukon Rail & Bus tour from Chilkoot Charters & Tours.

I chose the bus tour up so that we could stop at the scenic locations and to give the foggy morning time to dissipate. (Perfect choice, I might add!) After checking out the world’s smallest desert and Carcross (for lunch), we made our way to one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen, Emerald Lake. Then, we hopped on the train and made our way back to Skagway.

Cruise Day 6/7: Glacier Bay National Park & College Fjord

Glacier Bay was a must for my first Alaskan cruise. It’s the main reason I chose the Princess cruise line for our itinerary.

Our cruise ship was able to get within a 1/4 of a mile from these giant glaciers! Watching the big chunks of ice break off into the water was so amazing! It sounded like thunder and our ship would bob up and down from the waves that were created.

Whittier to Anchorage

After disembarking the cruise ship, we headed to our motor coach for the trip to Anchorage. We chose this route so we did not have to worry about the timing to get through the one way 2.5 mile-long Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. The trip up to Anchorage had so many scenic landscapes that were picture worthy.

Whittier cruise port

Check out the video of our ride from Whittier to Anchorage

When we reached Anchorage, we headed to the airport for our annual anniversary photo shoot. Unfortunately, our Denali landing was cancelled due to cloudy weather. So, we were booked on a later tour in hopes that the skies would clear up. While we waited, we watched the sea planes take off Lake Hood, the largest and busiest seaplane base in the WORLD. You can read about that below with a video of the beautiful flight through the Chugach Mountains.

Heading to Denali

Since we had worked up an appetite, we asked our private driver where we should go for supper. He suggested the Village Inn. The restaurant name sounds weird, but let me assure you the food (and pie!) is delicious!

Village Inn restaurant

After eating, we drove the 4 hour drive to Denali Park Village where we were to stay for the weekend. On the way, we saw a beautiful, bright rainbow and a moose that Chris said looked like a deer on stilts! 🙂 Despite it being almost midnight when we got to Denali, we could still see like it was dusk. Here are some pictures of the Denali Park Village.

Denali Backcountry Adventure

It was going to be a LONG day! We chose the Denali backcountry tour through the Denali National Park. I have to say we chose the best tour! Our tour bus driver stopped and gave us fresh cookies and hot chocolate or coffee to keep us warm. Lunch at the Denali Park Lodge was delicious and there were many activities there to enjoy. Definitely book with this company versus another one! Stay tuned for more info about this wonderful day!

We had hoped to see the northern lights while in Denali since it was late August. Unfortunately, there was too much cloud coverage. 🙁

Denali to Anchorage

We didn’t want to take the same method of transportation back to Anchorage and really wanted to take a train through the backcountry. So, we booked Holland America’s McKinley Explorer Dome Railcar. Click here to read about our day on the McKinley Explorer train.

From there, we took a late flight home to Tennessee. What do you think of this trip? Would you change this Seattle to Denali itinerary? Comment below!

Seattle to Denali vacation

By | 2018-02-16T08:00:45+00:00 February 11th, 2018|

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