Alaska – The Last Frontier

Breathtaking, Spectacular, Panoramic, I can use many adjectives to describe Alaska. But I think the name The Last Frontier and True Wilderness does all the justice to one of the most beautiful states of the United States. This state has been on our bucket list for a long time, But we never dared to take a step toward planning a trip to Alaska. Alaska looks breathtaking in different seasons. 

There are many reasons to go to Alaska, But I think Aurora Borealis will be on everyone’s bucket list. The best time to watch Nothern lights will be from September till March. We decided to travel on September 2nd week because of the Fall season. Driving around at this time will be easier than in the wintertime.

Because of the pandemic, I had to consider that when planning the trip. These are the steps we took while planning the trip. 

  • At Least 6 to 7 Nights of stay so that you can cover most of the important cities in Alaska.
  • Anchorage and Fairbanks are the two cities where all the tours are conducted. 
  • Book the Rental Car well in advance if the plan is for the fall season. 
  • If the goal is for the Winter season, I think the best place to do all the tours will be Fairbanks. Northern Lights sighting chance is the best. 
  • Tours are the best way to see Nothern Lights, Glacier, and the Arctic Circle.
  • Our primary objective was to See Nothern Lights, Glacier, Denali National Park, and Arctic Circle. 
  • Drive on Alaska 1 highway

Our Trip Plan

We planned our trip from September 11th, 2021, to September 17th, 2021. Below is our Itinerary.

Chicago to Anchorage (11th Sept 2021) –> Anchorage To Denali National Park (11th Sept 2021) –> Tundra Wilderness Tour (Denali National Park) 12th Sept 2021 –> Denali to Fairbanks (13th Sept 2021) –> Fairbanks to Chenna Hot Springs (13th Sept 2021) –> Fairbanks to Arctic Circle & Northern Light Tour (14th Sept 2021) –> Fairbanks to Anchorage (15th Sept 2021) –> Anchorage to Glacier Tour (16th Sept 2021) –> Anchorage to Chicago (17th Sept 2021)

We took the below tours.

  1. Arctic Circle:- https://www.alaskatravel.com/fairbanks/arctic-circle-aurora
  2. Glacier Tour:- https://phillipscruises.com

You can visit Alaska throughout any season, and every season brings its beauty. Every season brings beauty, but spring and Summer bring the most beautiful greenery and wildlife. Fall brings a different dimension when it comes to Alaska. The trees show some beautiful colors where the tree becomes green and gold. It will be white everywhere. But plan to see Aurora Boerlies. The best time will be winter and fall because, in winter, you will have around 16 to 17 hours of night, and then in fall, you will have a reasonable amount of time too.

Our bucket list was to see Alaska in the Fall season. Still, we also wanted to see the Aurora Borealis. After researching and finding out the pricing for all the tours and trips and cars and air travel, we decided to go in Fall Season. But make a note that fall is an off-season for Alaska. Make sure you go before the second week of September because, after the 2nd week of September, many national parks and tours will be closed until December. And because it is an off-season, you will find a handful of restaurants open.
Adding some pictures below to showcase how beautiful it looks at the time of fall

September 11th, 2021

On our first day of the trip, We flew from O’hare (Chicago) to Anchorage (Alaska). Our flight landed around the afternoon in Anchorage. We picked up the car from the airport and started for Denali National Park. We planned to stay the night in Denali National Park. We booked one Grande Denali National Park hotel for our stay. This hotel is located on a hill, and you can see the Denali National Park from your hotel window. I am adding the link for the hotel you want to book it. 

https://www.denalialaska.com/grande-denali-lodge/home

the drive to the hotel from the airport is around two and a half hours, but we took a little longer and enjoyed the beauty of the drive. After doing some search, We decided to have dinner at the Hotel Restaurant, Which is on top of the Hill where you can see the beauty of Denali National Park. 

After we arrived at the hotel decided to go to the visitor center of Denali National Park. We arrived at the visitor center to find out the details about the Denali Bus tour. And we got all the details from the visitor center, and they have asked us to book the bus tour in advance. After returning to the hotel, we reserve the tickets for the Denali Bus Tour. 

There are three types of bus tours, and we booked the Tundra Wilderness Tour. I am adding the website to get all the details.

https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/bus-tours.htm

September 12th, 2021

As the sunrise happens on our second day of Alakasa, we must get ready and leave for the visitor center to catch the bus tour. We got ready and started for the visitor center. As the bus tour would last for half a day, we made sure we had a backpack with water and some snacks and bought coffee from the visitor center, which was perfect. I recommend everyone to taste it. As the bus arrived, we boarded the bus, and officially the tour began of Denali National Park. As this was a Tundra bus tour, they had a potent camera on board so that we all could see the wildlife in the distance.
As the tour was ongoing, we saw many moose and caribou on the way, and the driver explained how Alaska’s geography is different from any other land in the world. On the way, as we were gaining elevation, we saw the trees and plants disappearing. We could see Denali Peak, which looked majestic at a certain height. We enjoyed the tour a lot, and we saw the beauty of Denali National Park.

After returning from the tour for almost half a day, we returned to the visitor center, explored the nearby area, and started hunting for a good place for dinner around late evening. And we realized later that because of the off-season, there are not many restaurants in the nearby area. So after hunting for food, we decided to eat dinner at our hotel restaurant.

September 13th, 2021

We started the day on the road and started the road trip towards Fairbanks, Alaska. But we had the entire day, so we decided on other places like Alaska University and the North Pole. When traveling towards Fairbanks from Anchorage or Denali Park, these are the must-visit places. We started the day looking for a good breakfast place, So we decided to stop by Rose Cafe just outskirts of Denali National Park. It is a tiny and family-owned place. Here is the link for the rose cafe you would like to visit. And we decided to reach the hotel because we had the early morning Northern Light Tour from Fairbanks.

Rose Cafe:- https://goo.gl/maps/xCuzo6hMN9UWPSaf6

Directions from Denali to Fairbanks:- https://goo.gl/maps/w5dgCcdSvaQneNLp9

September 14th, 2021

The day started early morning because we had our Nothern lights and Arctic Circle trip. We must take the most dangerous road in the USA, Dalton Highway. There are some rules we need to follow when we drive on that road, and also we have to see the Northern Lights which will appear late at night, so we have to go on a trip for almost 18 to 20 hours. So we made sure we packed loads of snacks, good lunch and dinner, and enough water, so we didn’t get short. Below are the things you need to carry when planning to take the trip.

  1. Lunch and Dinner
  2. Snacks
  3. Water
  4. Tripod 
  5. DSLR camera with a must of 2.8F Lens.
  6. Snow Jackets (It will be freezing

Trip Details:- VIEW IN GOOGLE MAPS

We joined our tour group in the tour office and boarded the bus. The bus took us to the grocery store for last-minute shopping. After we finished shopping, we boarded the bus and started the trip. Our first stop was the Dalton Highway sign; the drive-in highway is like an adventure because every mile passes, the landscapes changes. Our second stop was the Yukon River. It has a bathroom and a small restaurant, and a gift shop. We stopped there for 1 hour, had our lunch, and then started the rest of the trip. On the way, our tour guide/driver stopped at some places to take breathtaking landscapes. You can stop anywhere side of the road to eat wild blueberries. You can make blueberry plants with pink color leaves. Our next stop was Arctic Circle Sign. It’s a beautiful place to take loads of pictures.

Once we finished taking pictures, we started the trip back to Livengood to see the finale of our journey, which was the Northern Lights. We stopped at the Cabin near Livengood, and It’s a cozy cabin with all the amenities. Everyone started setting up the tripod and the camera outside and waited for the Northern lights to appear. With the naked eye, it’s hard to see the Nothern Lights. It comes with a greyish hue in the sky. After looking at the greyish hue, we asked our guide if that was Nothern Lights, then he said that take a picture, and you will notice it. Once we took the picture, we saw that green color. I ensured that my DLSR camera settings were appropriate for the northern lights. Below is the setting I used it

The aperture of f/2.8 or the widest in your Lens.
Adjust an ISO from 3200 to 6400.
Set a shutter speed between 1-15 seconds.
Adjust your white balance to 3500k.
Focus manually on a distant light.
Set the general camera settings for Northern Lights.

After this epic day, its almost 3 am, and the tour guide/ driver wrapped up the tour, and we boarded the bus back and started for Fairbanks towards the office where we parked the car. We reach our hotel hotelrning 5 am.

September 15th, 2021

We arrived at the hotel after the Northerlight tour by around 5 am. We woke up late, approximately 10, and started getting ready for Anchorage. Today was dedicated to travel from Fairbanks to Anchorage, where we took one of the most beautiful resorts in Alaska. It’s Alyeska Resort. So we started our data by visiting the Starbucks to have breakfast and coffee, and then we began our journey from Fairbanks to Anchorage. As we went to Alaska in springtime, we were sure the drive to Anchorage would be beautiful, and that was true. It was one of the most beautiful drives. We stop in many places because of the beauty and the landscapes. Below are some of the pictures and videos we took during the drive

Once we reached Anchorage, almost late evening, we decided not to stop and drive toward our resort. We need to rush to report because it was raining crazy when we arrived in Anchorage. But the highway we had to take to reach the resort was just the most beautiful highway I had ever driven in the USA. The name of the road is Seward Highway.

September 16th, 2021

Today we had a plan to take a Cruise for the Glacier visit. We made the booking with the Philips cruise. The Cruise pick was from Anchorage downtown. So If you are planning to take your car, make sure you don’t carry much of your belongings, and there are good numbers of public parking available where you can park the car for the entire day. And we did the same thing we parked our car in the public parking and took the Tour Bus. We started the tour with the bus ride toward our destination, which is on the Seward Highway. We arrived at the port to add the fun to the mix. It was raining at that time. But the bus driver said that you wouldn’t encounter any rain once you are in the ocean. On the ticket window, you can exchange your online ticket with the Crusie ticket, and you can choose the table you want, either on the lower or upper deck. My recommendation will be a lower deck. Because you will see the glacier from the lower deck, it looks majestic. Make sure you have a heavy snow jacket and gloves and a bennie. It will be chilly and windy and may also snow or rain.

September 17th, 2021

On the last day of our stay, we decided to take Alaska 1 highway. I have taken many road trips, but the beauty of the Alaska 1 highway is breathtaking, and no street can match the beauty of AK1. I request everyone to take this route. I am adding the places you can visit in the screenshot of the map below.

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