Alaska Travel Adventures by Foot, Saddle and Sea

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Alaska Travel Adventures - group of hikers  on trail overlooking the Harding Icefield next to the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Our small group tour hiking the Harding Icefield next to the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. Photo credit: Judy Antell

The writer was hosted.

The usual response to “I took an Alaska vacation” is “Did you take a cruise?” But no. My husband and I, along with a couple of friends, stayed in hotels and had an Alaska vacation with both land and sea adventures.

I’m not denigrating Alaskan cruises. In fact, I would love to return to Alaska and take a cruise. But for my first trip to the 49th state, we had a few other adventure tours in mind.

First, we signed up for a Backroads multi-sport adventure tour. These active travel trips combine biking, hiking and sea kayaking.

Our small group tour was concentrated in southeast Alaska, from Anchorage to the Kenai Fjords National Park. Because our multi-day land tour required us to hit the ground running, (actually, biking and hiking) we warmed up with a couple of hikes near Anchorage first.

Alaska Travel Adventures - Woman and man stand on bench posting with hands out at Chugach State Park in Alaska.
First peak, Chugach State Park. Photo credit: Judy Antell

On Our Feet: Chugach State Park

We rented a car to get to Chugach State Park, which has many hiking trails. So many that we spent two days in three very different parts of the gigantic –  half a million acres! – park.

What’s great about Alaska tours in summer, besides the warm weather, is the amount of daylight. We started one hike at 5 pm. And we still had five hours of daylight left!

We did a morning beach hike, a hike up a mountain, and a backcountry hike another day in Chugach State Park. Plus our evening hike.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you will need a rental car in Alaska, book early. The only car we could find was through Turo. It worked out very well, but our options were very limited. And expensive.

Alaska Travel Adventures - Mountain peaks and blue skies at Chugach State Park.
Mountain hike in Chugach State Park. Photo credit: Judy Antell

There was almost TOO much wildlife viewing here. A trail we had planned to hike one day was closed due to “excessive bear activity.” We actually heard bears roaring (do bears roar?) on our ursine-free trails. We also saw salmon leaping out of the water, tons of wildflowers, mushrooms and gorgeous scenery everywhere.

We were sightseeing as much as hiking.

Our hikes went like this:

  • Walk 2 feet.
  • Gasp.
  • Pull out camera.
  • Start off again.
  • Gasp.
  • Take camera out again.
  • Repeat for three or four hours.
Alaska Travel Adventures Group of bicyclists wearing biking gear and helmets gathered on a road in Alsaka in front of a mountain view and cloudy sky.
Getting ready for our first bike ride on our Alaska adventure. Photo credit: Judy Antell

In the Saddle: Biking to Alyeska Resort

After our Backroads group met up, we shuttled to Girdwood and got on bikes for a 20-mile ride along a flat biking/walking path. The scenic railroad runs along here, too.

We spent the night at Alyeska Resort, home to the only downhill ski slopes in Alaska.

Alyeska, the most luxurious hotel in Alaska, offers wildlife viewing, glacier hiking, white water rafting and dog sledding. There is also a spa, but since we felt the bike ride wasn’t much of a workout, we went hiking right from the resort. We were hoping to see moose, but our wildlife viewing was limited to chipmunks and voles. Alyeska also has an indoor saltwater pool and a hot tub.

We had breakfast at the resort, where you could have reindeer sausage with your eggs and pancakes.

Alaska Travel Adventures - View of narrow tree trunks from below, looking up to the sky. Some have moss but no leaves.
Hiking in the forest at Alyeska Resort. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Alaska on the Water

We took a boat tour in Prince William Sound, where we saw glaciers and an iceberg calving. Though this day wasn’t physically demanding, it was a unique adventure.

We had to take a one-lane tunnel that switches traffic directions to let people get in and out. The town of Whittier, on the other side of the tunnel, is quite isolated. Most of the residents live in the same building, which makes getting along with your neighbors critical.

Alaska Travel Adventures - Prince William Sound and the sparkling tidewater glacier, near Whittier, seen from boat.
Prince William Sound and the sparkling tidewater glacier, near Whittier, seen from our boat tour. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Lazy Otter Charters cruised around Prince William Sound, and the capable tour operators pointed out otters, bald eagles and other sea birds. It was truly magical. The company can also arrange a kayak tour.

Back on Our Feet: Hiking an Ice Field

An intense day of hiking the Harding Icefield Trail rewarded us with a mama bear and her two cubs lumbering through the underbrush. We looked at the Exit Glacier and saw bald eagles overhead, but never saw a moose. Good thing – they aren’t known to be friendly.

We hiked 10.5 miles that day, and our Backroads guides carried extra water and treats for us. We each carried our own lunch and two liters of water. To “help” our guides, we scarfed down most of the chocolate they brought for us – more to lessen their loads than to celebrate reaching the peak.

Alaska Travel Adventures - two couples pose in front of mountains by a large rock at the Harding Icefield.
Hiking along the Harding icefield with our friends. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Our wilderness lodge in Seward, Seward Windsong Lodge also had a bear roaming around. The lodge has basic motel-style rooms, some with balconies. But after seeing a bear running around, I was happy to stay inside for a while.

Resurrection Roadhouse, open for breakfast and dinner, calls itself tide-to-table, so the emphasis is on seafood, but there were plenty of choices for all dietary restrictions. I had a delicious beet salad with goat cheese and a vegan quinoa bowl with lots of seasonal veggies.

The on-site Roadhouse has an extensive selection of local beers on tap. I was eager to try a cocktail called 30 Days of Night, with gin, Chartreuse, Lillet and absinthe, but the global Chartreuse shortage prevented that.

Alaska Travel Adventures - Small bear on the front porch of a building at a wilderness lodge in Seward.
The wilderness lodge in Seward had a bear a little too close for comfort. Photo credit: Judy Antell

SheBuysTravel Tip: Buy bear spray and a bear bell for your Alaskan adventure travel

Alaska Travel Adventures - Couple in a double kayak on the water with Yukon Island behind.
Sea kayaking with True North Adventure Tours: Photo credit: Judy Antell

On the Water Again: Kayaking Tour

We explored Yukon Island by kayak. Actually, we kayaked around the island, with otters swimming next to us and the occasional porpoise. Our guided tour included lunch on a secluded island.

Alaska Travel Adventures - Gray sea otter floating
Otter floating by while we were sea kayaking. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Back in the Saddle

Another bike ride took us along Homer Spit and Kachemak Bay. But first, we had to climb a very, very steep hill. We were jealous of the riders who had chosen e-bikes that day. Luckily, our ride took us back down the steep hill, so we could just cruise with very little effort and very tight grips on our handlebars.

Alaska Travel Adventures Woman in blue biking gear and helmet stands astride her bike with her hands on her hips, in front of Alaskan mountain view.
Bike path in Alaska. As always, mountains are in the background. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Our home for two nights, Land’s End Resort, had a couple of hot tubs for our weary muscles. Our balcony overlooked the water. And there was a bald eagle nest right outside our hotel!

Land’s End Resort has a restaurant and an espresso bar. You can also walk into town where there are at least 20 places to eat.

Alaska Travel Adventures - view from the rear of a 2-seat kayak toward a man sitting in the front wearing a life vest that reads "True North". He wears a baseball cap and is turned looking to the right. In front is a wooded island.
Sea kayaking with True North Adventure Tours: Photo credit: Judy Antell

More Alaska Travel Adventures

Although we traveled a lot on our Alaska trip, we saw only a tiny portion of this mammoth state. It’s like going to Providence, Rhode Island, as your only stop in America. We didn’t see the Northern Lights, go whale watching or dog sledding, (dog sledding is winter only) or go white water rafting (because I value my life).

Here are some other ways to explore Alaska:

Denali National Park

Had we had more time, we would have gone to Denali National Park. To get there from Anchorage, you can drive about five hours, (IF you can find a rental car), take the Alaska Railroad from either Anchorage or Fairbanks, or splurge on a flight.

If you choose to fly, you have options of just sightseeing from the air (by small plane or helicopter) or taking an air taxi, a small plane that can drop you off.

Other friends of ours went to Denali National Park at the same time we were in Alaska. They went backcountry hiking and rented kayaks. They also saw a ton of moose.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

To actually climb a glacier, go to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the United States. The World Heritage Site has four mountain ranges, river rafting and wilderness backpacking.

Alaska Travel Adventures - Mountain and glacier view over gray water in Alaska.
Otherworldly scenery in Alaska. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Glacier Bay National Park

You can experience true Alaska wilderness in Glacier Bay National Park, which is accessible only by boat or plane. If you take a small ship cruise you can get up close to the glaciers.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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