Encounter majestic landscapes and diverse wildlife on an expedition into the heart of Alaska’s untouched wilderness. Experience the rugged beauty of Denali National Park on naturalist-led excursions and search for moose, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, and Dall sheep. Hike amid the soaring peaks of the Alaska Range and journey along the stunningly scenic Seward Highway. Cap off your adventure with a cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park, home to humpback whales and towering tidewater glaciers.
Arrive in Fairbanks mid-afternoon. Later, meet the remarkable Mary Shields at her log cabin outside of town. An Iditarod veteran and special friend, Mary introduces the group to her sled dogs and shares some of her 40 years of Alaska stories. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a welcome reception and dinner.
Today begins with a scenic ride aboard the Denali Star train to the entrance of Denali National Park. The glass-domed, GoldStar Service car provides panoramic views while an outdoor, upper-level viewing platform offers fresh air and an excellent vantage point for photos. Upon arrival, travel into the heart of Denali. Along the way, your expedition leader and naturalist will talk about the nature and history of the park. There will be chances to stop for photos and wildlife sightings—possibilities include moose, caribou, gray wolves, grizzly bears, and Dall sheep.
Spend the next two days exploring Denali's magnificent interior from your home base at Denali Backcountry Lodge, one of National Geographic's "Top 10 Adventure Lodges of the World." Set out on your choice of guided hikes depending on your interest and energy level. Options include a hike to a ridgeline summit for commanding views, striking out across the tundra, or meandering through a lush valley on the lookout for ground-nesting birds and wildflowers. Back at the lodge, choose from a variety of activities including mountain biking and fishing, or relax with your family. Kids also have the opportunity to try their luck panning for gold. Whichever activity you choose, naturalists will be on hand to share their deep knowledge and help you experience this magnificent setting. Weather permitting, take an optional flight-seeing trip around Denali, North America's highest mountain, to photograph its soaring, 20,237-foot peak.
Take advantage of an early morning drive out of the park to spot wildlife during this active period. Traveling through the Alaska Range southward along the picturesque Susitna River, we stop for a picnic lunch before arriving in Anchorage this evening.
This morning, drive south along the stunningly scenic Seward Highway past Turnagain Arm and the snowcapped Chugach mountains, which seem to rise out of the mirrored waters of Cook Inlet. This is part of a route that National Geographic has named one of its “Drives of a Lifetime.” Take the tram to the top of Mount Alyeska for panoramic views and visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which provides refuge for orphaned, injured, and sick animals that can't survive in the wild. Later in the afternoon, continue south to our comfortable lodge situated on the banks of the Resurrection River.
Embark this morning on a scenic cruise through the Kenai Fjords. The day is filled with breathtaking views of glaciers and offers excellent opportunities to spot all manner of marine life. Steller sea lions can be seen on the rocky islands, and harbor seals are often spotted on ice floes and in the bays. Sea otters bob on the surface; porpoises leap beside the boat; and orca, minke, gray, and humpback whales are all frequently sighted. In addition, thousands of seabirds call this area home and fill the skies and sea rocks. Later, stop at the base of a tidewater glacier in the hopes of seeing it "calve"—shedding gigantic chunks of ice into the ocean with a thunderous crash. This evening gather for a farewell dinner at a harbor-front restaurant in Seward.
This morning begins with a visit to the Alaska Sealife Center to meet some of the marine life of the area up close. The center is dedicated to maintaining the health of Alaska's marine ecosystem through research, rehabilitation, conservation, and education. Return to Anchorage mid-afternoon and connect with your flight home.