Read More: The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Itinerary (Everything From Homer To Fairbanks!)
Looking to elevate your adventure this summer?
Nothing is more adventurous or more rugged than Alaska. It’s not called “The Last Frontier” for just any reason! From the endless options for backcountry trails, off-road adventuring, or just sightseeing, you’re sure to get a hefty dose of the outdoors on an Alaska road trip.
In this post, we’re sharing the ultimate Alaska Road Trip itinerary, one that takes you from Homer to Fairbanks, to show you some of the most iconic spots in the state.
We’ll spill the beans on Denali National Park, whale watching in Seward, hot springs in Fairbanks, and share some of the best secret spots to check out near Girdwood!
It’s all here, so keep scrolling and let’s get planning one of the best west coast road trips in the USA!!
The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip Itinerary (From Fairbanks To Seward, Alaska)
When Is The Best Time To Plan An Alaska Road Trip?
The best time to take an Alaska road trip is in the summer months, which are from May to September (the best times being July and August!). You can probably get away with planning a trip until October, but be prepared for snow if the winter season comes early!
Alaska Road Trip Planning Tip: We don’t suggest traveling in April, often called “mud season”, as the snow is melting which in turn makes Alaska hiking trails slushy and roads slippery and wet. Local businesses are also often closed, shifting gears from Alaska winter tours to summer tours.
Psst, want to make your trip even easier? Try downloading the app The Dyrt for their trip planner feature. You can set your route and waypoints, and it will find you the best campground and gas stops along your Alaska road trip route! Try their pro membership free for 30-days when using our code MANDAGIES!
How To Get To Alaska
If you’re wondering where to start your Alaska road trip itinerary, we highly suggest starting your trip to Anchorage.
Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, which means you are able to easily rent a car, stay overnight in the city, and purchase any last-minute gear before you take your road trip in Alaska.
You’ll fly into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), likely on Alaska Airlines.
Make sure to reserve a window seat because the views upon landing are absolutely spectacular! You get to fly over the Chugach Mountains which look as if they plunge right into the bay below. This view told us we were going to have the best Alaska itinerary start ever!
Renting A Car In Anchorage, Alaska
There are a lot of great options when deciding to rent cars in Alaska. What kind of Alaska trip you want to have will determine what kind of car you should rent! Here are some of our suggestions below:
Renting A Regular Car: If you are planning to stay in lodges and hotels during your itinerary, we suggest renting a car like a sedan, SUV, or hybrid vehicle. These generally can fit in all parking garages and covered areas.
Outdoorsy: If you are hoping to go experience some wild Alaska camping, we suggest renting a camper van or recreational vehicle for your road trip. Try Outdoorsy – it’s like Airbnb but for car campers! You can borrow someone’s vehicle with full insurance coverage for a unique road trip experience.
Vintage VW Bus Rentals – Trickster Trips: Looking to have a one-of-a-kind road trip? Take your Alaska itinerary in style and rent a vintage Volkswagen van! Last Frontiner Westys rents out vans that have built-in heaters, a fully stocked kitchen, and sleeping gear for your trip. Did I mention they are incredibly photogenic??
Alternative: Don’t rent a car! It’s possible to see a ton of Alaska without having to rent a car! You can make your home base in the city and take day trips from Anchorage every day. From train travel to tours that pick you up, it’s a very possible (and fun!) way to stay in one place.
When Planning A Road Trip In Alaska, Remember This: Anchorage is, unfortunately, one of the cities with the highest car theft rate among U.S. cities. Make it a habit of hiding your valuables out of sight in the car’s trunk, or better yet, taking them along with you.
10-Days In Alaska: The Best Alaska Itinerary To See Everything
Day 1: Anchorage, Alaska
Begin your Alaska road trip itinerary in the city of Anchorage. This is where you will find plenty of options for food, fuel, and gear, so double-check that you have all the items necessary for your journey. (See our Alaska road trip packing list here!)
Want to do a little bit of exploring around the city? Check out the viewpoint of the Sleeping Lady (Mount Susitna) near the airport at Point Woronzof Overlook.
You can also take a quick hike around the Chugach Mountains at Flattop Mountain trail (or just snap a beautiful photo from the parking lot!). Either way, we definitely recommend spending a bit of time exploring the things to do in Anchorage – they are a fun part of your Alaska road trip and a chance to get to know the city a little better!
Day 2: Homer, Alaska
From your starting point in Anchorage, drive south to Homer, Alaska, for the southernmost point of your Alaska road trip route, and the Alaska highway system! Stop along the way to take photos of the Russian River and then in Ninilchik to see the famous Russian church – Transfiguration of Our Lord Church.
Homer is known for its halibut fishing, so if you want to spend a few more days of your Alaska itinerary here, consider going on a Halibut fishing charter to see what it’s really like on an Alaska fishing trip!
You can camp on Homer Spit, or browse these campgrounds off Soldotna / Kenai Peninsula. Additionally, you can check out Land’s End Resort, for their cozy accommodations and fun hot tub with amazing views!
Wake up to take a walk on Bishop’s Beach, and grab some coffee and pastries at Two Sisters Bakery for the stroll!
Day 3: Seward, Alaska
Working your way back up north on your road trip in Alaska, make a stop in Seward, Alaska. This town is known for its large marina and boating access (and some limited foot access) to Kenai Fjords National Park.
Continue to the small town of Seward, where we recommend spending the night at the Harbor 360 Hotel. Here, you can walk behind the hotel and visit the Seward Boat Harbor. This is an extremely photogenic place on a good day, with towering mountains in the distance for a stunning backdrop.
Seward is also a popular place for going whale watching! The best time to see whales in Seward, Alaska is late May and early June, but Major Marine Tours do many different tours depending on the time of year.
Best places to eat in Seward, Alaska:
Day 4: Kenai Fjords National Park
If you are looking for a unique activity to do during your Alaska road trip, we suggest visiting Exit Glacier. This glacier is one of the few accessible ones left in Alaska and is always finding itself as an example of climate change for its rapidly melting pattern over the recent years.
For a fun way to stretch your legs and get out of the car, hike the Harding Icefield to Exit Glacier. The trip all the way to the impressive top of the Harding Icefield is an 8.2-mile round trip, but you can easily check out Exit Glacier with a very easy walk to the (quickly melting) base.
Stopping here for a hike will also give you access to the Kenai Fjords National Park and the Visitors Center. Come and get your passport stamped!
Day 5: Hatcher Pass and Matanuska Glacier
Heading north out of the Kenai Peninsula and past Anchorage, the next stop on your Alaska road trip itinerary will be at Matanuska Glacier and Hatcher Pass!
Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier accessible by road in Alaska. At its longest, it stretches 27 miles and at its widest, it spans 4 miles wide. There are many ways to visit Matanuska Glacier – from its several viewpoints around the Glenn Highway, taking a walking tour, and even enjoying lunch at a rustic lodge overlooking the views. Additionally, you can camp here to maximize your time exploring the glacier.
Continuing your Alaska road trip north, drive the Hatcher Pass Scenic Byway (AKA Fishhook Road), a 60-mile detour from Palmer to Willow for incredible alpine tundras and mountain wildflowers! Some of the most iconic views on this road are Independence Mine and the Hatcher Pass Lodge. You’ll easily recognize Hatcher Pass Lodge by their iconic red A-frame cabins on the side of the hill.
With the iconic red lodges standing out against the white snow (and even more beautiful with green meadows, too!) make sure to plan a road trip stop here at any point in the year!
Hatcher’s Pass Pro Tip: Stop for a while to photograph them, but remember to respect the space, as it’s a private rentable cabin for guests of the lodge! Please respect guest privacy and don’t get too close!
Day 6: Talkeetna
Talkeetna, Alaska is a small town located at the base of Mount McKinley (Mount Denali). Most of their industry is focused on outdoor adventure tourism, so this is an excellent place to book fishing tours, float trips, scenic flights and tons of other backcountry trips in Alaska.
Don’t have a ton of money to spend? Talkeetna has an entire page on their website about Alaska activities on a budget, which is really helpful when you’re trying to plan out 10 days in Alaska!
Plan a road trip stop here for a good dose of adventure in Alaska, near and far!
Day 7: Denali National Park
This is the part of your Alaska road trip that will take you northbound towards Fairbanks and Denali National Park, towards the Interior of Alaska. Probably one of the most anticipated stops on any Alaska road trip route is Denali National Park, which will be your next trip!
There are so many things to do in Denali National Park! Take a hike with a ranger, go whitewater rafting on the Nenana River, or even go hiking in the backcountry. A popular activity is taking an entire day for the Kantishna Experience Tour (11-12 hr, 92 miles one way), which drives the whole Park Road and has an accompanying park ranger for the full park experience.
Don’t forget to stop by and see the husky kennels! They are official rangers in Denali, which assist in backcountry rescues that require sledding into the scene. If you love animals, make sure to bring your camera in Denali because in addition to the huskies, make sure to look out for the “Big Five” animals – caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bears, wolves, and moose!
All the best Alaska itineraries include a stop in Denali – don’t miss this one!
Campgrounds Near Denali National Park:
- Riley Creek Campground (showers and RV sites)
- Savage River Campground (limited amenities but it’s INSIDE the park)
Note: Many of these campgrounds in the park are open in summers only, except for Riley Creek Campground. It’s first-come-first-serve and free during the off-season! Check out our guide to sleeping in your car if you find yourself running into chilly nights!
Day 8: Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks will be the northernmost stop on your Alaska road trip! Fairbanks is known for many iconic Alaska activities, including the midnight sun in the summertime, endless nights in the winter, and ample opportunities to witness the northern lights!
Looking to relax after all those hours in the car? Consider taking a visit to Chena Hot Springs. This resort uses naturally sourced hot spring water to heat their pool for an incredible experience outdoors. Other activities at Chena Hot Springs Resort include touring the ice museum, the Chena Kennels, and even staying overnight at the grounds!
Read More: 10 Awesome Things To Do In Fairbanks, Alaska
Day 9: Drive Back to Anchorage (Or Denali National Park OR Fairbanks Again)
On day 9 of your 10 days in Alaska, this is the day you’ll have quite a few options.
If you are concerned about getting to the airport on time, we suggest driving the long trek back to Anchorage this day. (Make sure you download these road trip podcasts for some fun listening along the way!)
You can explore the nearby Turnagain Arm, and stop at the many scenic overlooks and hikes in the area. You can also drive over to Girdwood, Alaska and hike the Winner Creek Trail. There are many places to stop driving from Anchorage to Seward, and all of these locations aren’t very far away from the city at all!
Do you want to spend more time in Denali National Park? Consider spending another night in the park! Stay close by the entrance and take a tour of the Denali Kennels to meet the cute pups and speak with a Park ranger about their life training for the noble work of park safety!
You can choose to camp in the park, or stay in nearby towns like Cantwell or Healy for a no-fuss stop at the end of your Alaska road trip.
Day 10: Anchorage, Alaska
It’s day 10 and your Alaska road trip has come to an end! Before you return your Alaska rental car and hop back on the plane to go home, squeeze in one final adventure!
Try visiting the nearby Eklutna Lake for a last-minute Alaska photography opportunity, and sip some coffee on the shores before your long travel day home. (Our favorite coffee shops in town are Kaladi Brothers, Snow City Cafe, and Black Cup Coffee).
There are a lot of nearby hikes in Anchorage to choose from, and the most convenient options are Flattop Mountain Trail and Thunderbird Falls.
Alaska Road Trip Itinerary Map
Below, you’ll find our Alaska itinerary broken down into stops, and suggestions of places to check out along the way. Thanks for reading and we hope you have a great Alaska trip!