Advice for Alaska Trip 2023

In a few days, I will be able to pick my vacation days for 2023. I am thinking of taking us to Alaska this year but I think Denali is one of the usual picks for wildlife and mountains and it seems part of the road is closed. Should I take Denali off the list? At this point, I can pick any dates I want, so any advice on wildlife being out versus avoiding crowds would be appreciated as well as any thoughts on best places to go. As far as what I’d like to see in order of interest bears, sea otters and martens (really any mustelid),  pika, marmots, puffins, and anything else that can be found along the routes and or while looking for the  above is a bonus. I’ll probably try to include some natural scenery to keep the S.O. happy, mountains, coastline, or glaciers should all do the trick.


  • Ellen W

    How long do you have? Planning on flying everywhere or driving, train, boat or? Alaska is really, really big, so this makes a huge difference in planning.

    Still plenty to see and do in Denali with the closure, in my opinion. If you have the time, I absolutely love taking the train there from Anchorage. You’ll see wildlife along the way and your wife will enjoy it, too.

    For sea otters and scenery I love boat tours out of Valdez. Valdez gets far fewer giant cruise ships than a lot of the other ports. You’ll see gorgeous glaciers there and otters are pretty much guaranteed. Puffins, eagles, kittiwakes, too. Good for orca, seals and sea lions as well.

    For bears I prefer Anan over Katmai as it usually feels less crowded and zoo-like. Alas I’ve never made it to Admiralty so I can’t offer an opinion there.

    Hope this helps. Source: lived in Fairbanks and Ketchikan for 13+ years

  • Kestral

    I am researching the same thing. I found this page helpful regarding the salmon run. I figured other mammals (4-legged) will also be following the salmon.

  • Matt Heinicke

    I’d definitely keep Denali, particularly if you’re on a budget and are starting in Anchorage. From your list Brown Bear, Collared Pika, and Hoary Marmot are all straightforward from the still accessible parts of Denali, as are Caribou, Moose, Dall’s Sheep, Arctic Ground Squirrel, and Red Squirrel with a reasonable chance at picking up another carnivore species.

    Sea Otters are easy from shore in Seward. If you do one of the glacier boat tours out of Seward you’ll also pick up puffins and have a good shot at a selection of pinnipeds and cetaceans.

  • wildlife_watcher

    Thanks for the suggestions, I will put Denali back on the map.

    It sounds like Anchorage is the usual fly in destination. I am thinking about flying in there, going to Valdez to see some glaciers and marine mammals, then heading up to Denali maybe stopping at the Muskox or Reindeer farms for entertainment/educational value along the way. Since I will need a rental car, I’m not sure if I could take the train unless maybe it’s possible to take a taxi to a rental car at the end of the train. I see a lot of people seem keen to drive the Dalton Highway, am I likely to pick up additional species that way I won’t see at Denali? If not, I may head back and look for bear viewing opportunities. I’ve seen some guided fly in tours, curious if anyone has thoughts on those or if I am better off trying to drive around and look for them on my own. Not sure if habituated bears that visits dumps and such are common?

  • Michael Johnson

    Just did a Google search and car hire does seem to be easy in Denali. Alaska Auto Rental in particular seem to be eager to help with “unusual” rentals, including one way, gravel roads etc.

    Thanks for the thread, it has given me a few ideas as well!

  • Matt Heinicke

    The two additional species you could add along the Dalton Highway are Alaska Marmot and Muskox. For the marmot you’d need to get as far north as the Brooks Range and for Muskox you’d need to get past the Brooks Range.

    For Brown Bears, you don’t need to add a fly-in tour or special stop if you just want to see them. A day or two in Denali should produce sightings. However, the inland bear viewing is akin to Grizzly viewing in the Rocky Mountains — you’d see 500 lb bears doing things like eating berries or roots. The fly-in tours are good for seeing the giant coastal bears fishing for salmon, digging clams, etc. The coastal bears are also at much higher density so you’d have a better chance of observing social behavior

  • wildlife_watcher

    I have my flight and rental car now for the first week of June. I do think I will try one of the flights out to see coastal bears. I only have 9 days to actually explore (2 days are mostly going to be spent at the airport), so I’m thinking of going to Seward instead of Valdez to save time since it sounds like both are scenic and have similar species of marine wildlife. For Denali, does anyone have any thoughts on how to best prioritize my time as in how much to spend hiking versus driving my private vehicle versus cruising on the shuttle bus? Is there any special campground or lodge I should try to get into?

Leave a Reply