Ultimate Alaska Wildlife Safari
Go deeper into Alaska's wilderness, far away from tourist routes, and closer to the wildlife spectacles that make the 49th state extraordinary.
Alaska: Drink It In
No one does Alaska quite like this! Experience the silent inner heart of Denali, where grizzlies and caribou roam the tundra. Ride the Alaska Railroad through the Great Interior and float the Placer River beneath the icy peaks of the Chugach Range. Cruise to the face of a calving glacier; look for whales, otters and puffins on a chartered boat cruise in Kenai Fjords. Then, overnight on a private island. At Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, capture iconic photos of giant brown bears fishing for salmon. This is the real Alaska: bigger, wilder and more enthralling than you ever imagined.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- • Spend unhurried time with the brown bears of Brooks Falls at Katmai National Park.
• Experience genuine wilderness in the Denali backcountry as you overnight at one of the few lodges located deep within the park's remote interior.
• This operator has been perfecting this, their flagship Alaska adventure, for more than 25 years--and it shows!
Trip Sustainability Awards
Fantastic advances in minimizing carbon footprints at locations.
On the East African Energy Renewal Board
Runs local educational facilities for children.
Day 1: Fairbanks, Alaska
Our Alaska nature adventure begins in Fairbanks, Alaska's "Golden Heart City" and capital of the vast Interior, which retains its frontier flavor with pioneer saloons, paddlewheelers and outlying mining camps. Meet your Expedition Leader at a welcome dinner this evening.
Accommodation: Springhill Suites Fairbanks
Days 2 & 3: Denali National Park—Kantishna
Travel south through boreal forest and along the Nenana River to Denali National Park. At 6 million acres—larger than the state of Massachusetts—Denali is one of the world’s great wilderness preserves. The park's namesake is the highest peak in North America, towering 20,310 feet over alpine tundra and taiga that provide habitat for wolves, grizzlies, moose, caribou and Dall sheep. Formerly known as Mt. McKinley, the mountain's Athabascan Native name—Denali—means "The Great One."
On our drive, which takes us far deeper into the park than most visitors ever go, keep a close eye out for wildlife. It's important to remember that the climate and environment of Alaska's interior at this latitude are harsh much of the year, and it takes a vast amount of habitat to sustain animals. Wildlife encounters thus tend to be fleeting and often at a distance, though always thrilling. Once we reach our remote base 90 miles inside the park, we have time and space to encounter genuine wilderness. Hiking, nature walks, mountain biking, fishing and optional flightseeing over the glaciers of Denali are available. At night, soak up the silence of the wild on a scale few are ever privileged to experience.
Accommodation: Kantishna Roadhouse
Day 4: Denali / Alaska Railroad Dome Car / Talkeetna
Return to the park entrance by road this morning, keeping an eye out for wildlife roaming the open tundra and eagles overhead. At midday, board an Alaska Railroad dome car for a classic train journey through Alaska's rugged Interior. Our route through the Alaska Range climbs above tree line over Broad Pass, then descends to follow the Susitna River to the historic village of Talkeetna, where we disembark for the night. The rustic town, founded a century ago as the district headquarters for the new railroad, sits at the confluence of three rivers and enjoys a striking panorama of Denali and adjacent peaks. An outdoor recreation mecca, Talkeetna's economy today thrives on rafting, flightseeing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting, and it is also the main base for climbing expeditions on Denali. Enjoy dinner at the lodge this evening with a panorama of the Alaska Range on display through the picture windows, including Denali itself, weather permitting.
Accommodation: Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
Day 5: Talkeetna / Alyeska
Discover the quaint and quirky town of Talkeetna this morning, whose "downtown" dating to the early 1900s has been designated a National Historic Site. Continue south by road, traveling through forested terrain thick with poplar, willow and spruce, eventually reaching the coast along Cook Inlet. Passing through Anchorage, we follow Turnagain Arm to Girdwood and Alyeska Resort. Alyeska is Alaska’s premier ski area, where a host of summer activities is also available. Set in a lush glacial valley in the Chugach Range southeast of Anchorage, Alyeska offers nature and luxury in tandem. Explore the northernmost temperate rain forest in North America, surrounding our deluxe accommodations at the Hotel Alyeska, or choose an optional tram ride to the alpine summit with vistas of the ice-clad peaks and glacial-fed inlet far below.
Accommodation: Hotel Alyeska
Day 6: Spencer Glacier / Placer River Float
Today we board the Alaska Railroad once more, riding the train to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop to enter a lush tract of remote roadless wilderness. Created in partnership with the Chugach National Forest, this rail spur expands access to some of Southcentral Alaska's most beautiful coastal mountain terrain, with views of valley glaciers, waterfalls, deep canyons and dense deciduous forest on either side. Disembark to explore the glittering tableau of iceberg-choked Spencer Lake, then board sturdy rafts for a gentle float trip down the Placer River, turbid with glacial silt, before returning to Girdwood late this afternoon. Dinner is not included this evening, in order to give you a chance to sample your choice of restaurants in the Alyeska/Girdwood area.
Accommodation: Hotel Alyeska
Day 7: Kenai Peninsula / Private Fox Island
This morning, revel in more dramatic scenery as we drive south to the Kenai Peninsula, crossing Moose Pass en route to the fishing town and port of Seward. The road corridor we follow winds through the Kenai Mountains–Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area, a designation that recognizes the area's unique cultural, geographic and historical features. Once we reach Seward's small boat harbor, look for sea otters that are frequently seen bobbing among the yachts and docks. Here, we board a boat for the voyage to Fox Island, a lushly forested private island in Resurrection Bay on the edge of Kenai Fjords National Park. Our isolated location, fronting a wild pebble beach backdropped by steep, forested mountains, reveals the pristine side of Alaska most visitors miss. The Kenai Fjords region is famed for its sea kayaking, and an optional paddling excursion late this afternoon is likely to reveal some of the area’s prolific marine life.
Accommodation: Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge
Day 8: Kenai Fjords National Park—Private Cruise
Iconic images of Alaska are on display today from our private chartered boat as we cruise through a realm where vestiges of the Ice Age still linger. Our small vessel allows us to approach wildlife at close range, and Kenai Fjords National Park provides excellent opportunities for viewing humpback and orca whales, porpoises, sea otters and bobbing puffins. Weave among islands and rocky cliffs where seabirds nest, and look for bald eagles in the treetops above. Glaciers pour from the jagged mountain heights into the sea, and we may observe icebergs calving with a thunderous crash from a glacier's towering blue face. Following our all-day outing, our boat returns us to our secluded lodge on Fox Island for another night of peace and solitude in the wilderness.
Accommodation: Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge
Day 9: Seward / Anchorage
After a last morning on serene Fox Island, board our private boat for the return journey up Resurrection Bay to Seward, where we'll have lunch and visit the Alaska SeaLife Center. Primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the renowned center also features a public aquarium and is the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state. From Seward, we retrace our route northward, with the mountain ranges of the Kenai Peninsula rising one after another, sourcing some of Alaska's richest salmon rivers. We reach Anchorage by late afternoon, with rest of the evening at leisure. Dinner is not included so you can select your choice of the many outstanding offerings available in Alaska's largest city. Local seafood is always a highlight! Tap your Expedition Leader for recommendations.
Accommodation: Hilton Anchorage
Days 10 & 11: King Salmon / Katmai National Park—Brooks Falls
Fly southwest to King Salmon this morning, then by floatplane to Katmai National Park and world-renowned Brooks Falls, one of the best places to view giant Alaskan brown bears in their natural habitat. Katmai is home to the world’s largest population of these enormous coastal grizzlies, with some 2,200 individuals inside the park. As many bear populations around the world decline, Katmai's 4 million acres of wilderness provides some of the last pristine habitat for these magnificent carnivores.
Within Katmai's protected bounds, scientists study bears in their natural environs, visitors have unparalleled viewing opportunities, and the bears live largely undisturbed. Nurturing this delicate relationship between people and bears is the key to Katmai's success, making it the world's preeminent place to observe brown bears in the wild. From the safety of platforms built over Brooks Falls, we get a close look at one of the world's most iconic wildlife spectacles, which few visitors to Alaska have the privilege to witness: at close range, watch bears stand in the rushing whitewater, jaws gaping, trying to catch the salmon that leap up the falls once spawning season starts. Our June and July departures will have a good chance to see fishing bears, since this is when the salmon are running, but viewing is excellent in August and September, too, with even more bears in the vicinity, wandering up and down the Brooks River. During each full day with the bears, we break to have lunch at world-famous Brooks Lodge, an easy walk from the falls.
Accommodation: Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge or Brooks Lodge
Day 12: Katmai / King Salmon / Anchorage
After a last round of bear viewing in Katmai, fly back to King Salmon, then on to Anchorage, where our Expedition Leader hosts a farewell dinner to celebrate our Alaskan adventures.
Accommodation: Hilton Anchorage
Day 13: Anchorage / Depart
Our Alaska wildlife safari comes to a close today as we transfer to the airport for homeward flights, or ongoing travel for those who have booked extensions.
Important Note on Bear Viewing: Bears are attracted to the Brooks River at multiple times during the summer, and their precise location varies depending on seasonal elements including weather and fish movements. More intimate experiences with bears (due to fewer tourists) tend to happen in late August and September (versus late June and July), when bears are found throughout the area rather than primarily fishing atop the falls.
Important Note on Katmai Accommodations: Depending on your departure date, you will overnight on Days 10 and 11 at either Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge or Brooks Lodge. Brooks Lodge is a more rustic accommodation located inside the park, within walking distance of the viewing platforms over the falls, and offering round-the-clock proximity to the bears. Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge is a deluxe fly-in wilderness lodge near King Salmon, from which we make a scenic round-trip floatplane ride (20 minutes one way) to reach Brooks Falls. Talk with your Travel Curator for more details about these two very different accommodation options, each with their own unique advantages.
Activity Level: Moderate. The activities on this Alaska wildlife adventure are diverse, requiring general mobility and fitness. The longest required walk is one mile one-way over a relatively flat wooden boardwalk to reach the Brooks Falls viewing platform from the main lodge in Katmai National Park, where we observe the brown bears. Trail surfaces for our various walks vary from pavement to uneven natural terrain. While all travelers must be able to walk at least two miles without assistance, some longer hikes are available for those who desire. Travelers may have the opportunity to participate in optional kayaking, on Fox Island, weather permitting. Though no prior kayaking experience is required, general fitness and mobility, including the ability to get into and out of a kayak, are essential. We stress that travelers are not required to participate in every activity, but all participants must be generally physically fit and have the ability to walk two miles unassisted.
Important Information About This Trip: This trip ventures far afield from the typical Alaska tour circuit where large motorcoaches move long lines of cruise clients to crowded destinations. A few details you should be aware of: The day we transit from the remote heart of Denali National Park to Talkeetna is a long one (10 hours), but it includes magnificent scenery the entire way, and we travel by both small bus and train. Solar power is available during daytime hours at Kenai Wilderness Lodge. All Ultimate Alaska trips begin in Fairbanks at 4pm and end in Anchorage. You can depart any time from anchorage on Day 13.
Bears: A prime focus of this Alaska adventure is bears, which, naturally, should be treated with caution. At Brooks Falls, thousands of visitors have traveled here to view bears over the past 50+ years and, to our knowledge, there has never been a bear attack. But we never know exactly what bears are thinking, so we ask our travelers to consider this and pay close attention to the rules set forth by the park rangers.
I've sent many travelers on this itinerary and they always adore it. This operator knows Alaska extremely well and has a deep appreciation for this powerful place.
Joy Martinello, Founder
What’s Included & Cancellation Policy: