I recently took my first trip to Alaska. My boyfriend and I flew into Anchorage and spent 7 days exploring from Denali to the Kenai Peninsula. You can get all of the details about our time up near Denali National Park here and our adventures on the Kenai Peninsula here.
This post is going to cover everything we were able to do in just 7 days. 7 days in NOT enough time to see all of Alaska but we did our best! If you are looking for a relaxed itinerary filled with downtime, this is not the itinerary for you. If you are looking to see as much of Alaska as possible (with some select moments of relaxation) then keep on reading.
Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage and head to Denali National Park.
We flew direct into Anchorage from Minneapolis. Our vehicle and home for the week was a Ford Bronco with rooftop tent that we rented from Alaska Camping Adventures. They arranged to pick us up at the airport and took us to the pickup location which was super convenient.
After a quick tutorial on how to setup the tent, we started the 4-hour drive up to Denali National Park. It’s a beautiful drive with lots of opportunities to pull over and admire the scenery along the way. Download your playlists and podcasts because we couldn’t even get radio stations most of the way!
Campsites are hard to get in Denali National Park so we booked an RV spot at Denali Rainbow Village just outside the park’s entrance. In the Midwest, you are only allowed to camp in campgrounds and RV parks but we learned in Alaska that you can pull over and camp pretty much anywhere as long as it doesn’t say “No Camping.” However, it was still nice to have access to clean water and bathrooms for a few nights.
Day 2: Tour Denali National Park.
When we visited in July of 2022, the Denali Bus Tours were only going to mile 43 because of rock slides and erosion that have taken out the road that used to go 92 miles into the park. The bus tour is the one of the few ways to get past mile 12 without special permits. It takes about 5.5 hours with frequent stops along the way for bathroom breaks and wildlife. We had people ask us if it was worth the price (~$128 per person) and I would say that it is. Especially if you only have a few days at the park.
If you take an early tour, you’ll have time to hike the Horseshoe Lake Trail located near the entrance of the park. It’s about 2 miles starting at the trailhead or closer to 4 miles starting at the visitor center.
We finish the evening with beers and dinner at 49th State Brewing in Healy, which is only about a 10-minute drive north of the park entrance. It’s a super cool brewery and they play live streams of the bears in Katmai State Park.
Day 3: Hiking Denali National Park.
On our second day at Denali National Park, we woke up bright and early (thank you time change) and began the Mount Healy Overlook Trail around 7 a.m. The trail ends at 2.7 miles and 1,700 ft of elevation gained but we continued on a little further towards to the top of the mountain.
Denali National Park is also an amazing place for off-trial hiking and lots of people travel to the park just for that. Our tour bus driver recommended Mt Margaret as an off-trail hike that only takes about half a day. You’ll have the opportunity to run into dall sheep, moose and bears along the way so always stay alert.
After the Mt Healy hike, we went to the sled dog kennels. You can get up close with the team of sled dogs that patrol and maintain the park in the winter. They also offer daily demonstrations on their training and how they prepare to run.
From there we continued further into the park and stopped at the Savage River Trailhead at mile 12 of the park road, the end of the paved road and as far as you can go in a personal vehicle.
We climbed up Savage Rock and then did the 2-mile Savage River Loop Trail. It’s a flat hike but so serene as you walk along the rushing river with towering mountains on each side.
Dinner that night was from the food truck next to the Sled Dog Liquor store and their tacos and salmon burgers were some of the best things we’d eat all trip.
We had booked another night at the RV park but decided to hit the road and stop at Denali State Park for the night. We were able to pop up our rooftop tent at the Denali View North parking lot and it was one of my favorite spots we slept at! Denali Mountain was right outside our window.
Day 4: Talkeetna.
Talkeetna is the launching point for climbers wishing to summit Denali or other peaks in the Alaska Range. It is about 100 miles south of the entrance to Denali National Park and midway back to Anchorage. It was also the midway point of our week.
We figured we would be ready for a shower and real bed by day 4 so we booked a room outside of town at the Talkeetna Chalet. The owners were extremely welcoming and upgraded us to a private cabin. It was so cozy! I couldn’t recommend this place enough.
When we got into Talkeetna we grabbed breakfast at Conscious Coffee and then went for a walk along the Railroad Bridge Trail. We spent the rest of the day exploring, shopping and eating in Talkeetna.
If you’re looking to eat one thing in Talkeetna, it’s Talkeetna Tako. This baked cheese with salmon was insane! We washed it all down at with a few beers at Fairview Inn and I had some delicious blueberry mojitos at Denali Brewing Company.
Day 5: Long drive to Homer.
We were determined to fit Homer into our trip. So on day 5 we did the 6-hour drive from Talkeetna down to the tip of the Kenai Peninsula. If you wanted to cut down on driving and spend more time in Seward you could skip this stop but we were really excited to visit Homer.
To break up the trip, we took a short detour to Portage Glacier. It was our first glacier sighting and there are also hiking trails that take you up to it.
Once we reached Homer we went to our campsite at the Heritage RV Park out on the Spit. We picked a campsite along the fishing hole and we had an amazing view from our tent.
Day 6: Drive to Exit Glacier and Seward.
The next day, we packed up our tent right before the rain hit and began the 3.5 hr drive to Seward.
Along the way we stopped at Exit Glacier. At first we were just going to do the short hike to view the glacier but as soon as I saw that there was an 8.2-mile hike to Harding Ice Field, I had to do it and, per usually, doing the extra hike was so worth it.
Unfortunately, it rained the entire time so we stopped at the second overlook. We figured that with all of the clouds, rain and fog and the fact that we’d been soaking wet for 5 hours, we should turn around and not try to make it to the ice field.
After the hike we continued on to Seward. Seward is a super cute town and we were excited to walk around downtown and hike to the top of Mt Marathon but unfortunately mother nature had different plans. We were soaked and we knew we had to wear our rain gear the next day so we booked a last minute hotel room to dry out our clothes.
That night, we got lucky and were able to snag a seat at the bar at The Cookery. If you’re one to plan ahead I would highly recommend getting a reservation. The food was awesome!
Day 7: Get out on the water.
For our last full day, we booked a 6-hour Kenai Fjords National Park cruise through Major Marine Tours. There are lots of options for excursions depending on your interests; whales, wildlife, fishing, sled dogs, bears, glaciers, and even helicopter rides. Have your Dramamine ready because it can get really choppy!
Sadly, because of the weather and high tides, our 6-hour cruise was cut short to 4 hours and limited to just the bay. It was disappointing but even the bay was a little choppy and we still saw orcas, otters, humpbacks, puffin and stellar sea lions.
We were supposed to stay in Seward one more night but knowing our flight was the next morning, we decided to drive north to get out of the rain and sleep roadside again.
Day 8: Return to Anchorage and depart.
The next morning we grabbed breakfast at Gwinnie’s Old Alaska Restaurant, an Anchorage institution and one of the best pancakes I had all week.
Finally, as we returned our beloved Bronco and headed to the airport, our 7-day Alaska adventure came to the end.