An Alaska road trip is the best way to explore the expansive, remote, and rugged 49th state.
Ten days is just enough time to see the highlights you can access by car in Alaska.
Of course, you could stay longer. Two to three weeks would be great. But, you want at least ten days for this itinerary. Alaska is a huge state and it would be difficult and rushed trying to fit everything into an Alaska road trip in less than 10 days.
I absolutely love Alaska!
Chad and I spent three summers working in Denali many years ago. We would drive all the way up to Alaska from Utah every summer so we’d have our car to explore the state on our days off. And explore we did! We visited almost every destination accessible by car in the state.
Since then we have been back many times to visit my brother who lives in Anchorage. Eli is only eight years old and has already been to Alaska three times.
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Alaska Road Trip – Table Of Contents
- The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip – 10 Day Itinerary
- Best Time To Visit Alaska
- Renting A Car In Alaska
- Renting A Camper In Alaska
- Fishing In Alaska
- Day 1-4 – Anchorage To Denali – 3 Nights In Denali
- Day 4 – Denali To Anchorage – 1 Night In Anchorage
- Day 5-7 – Anchorage To Seward – 2 Nights Seward
- Day 7-8 – Seward To Kenai River Region – Cooper Landing, Sterling or Soldotna – 1 Night Kenai River Region
- Day 8-10 Kenai River Region To Homer – 2 Nights Homer
- Day 10 – Homer To Anchorage
The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip – 10 Day Itinerary
This Alaska road trip itinerary combines all of our favorite towns, restaurants, things to do, fishing, hiking, viewpoints, and places to stay.
We put together this road trip itinerary for our latest trip to Alaska in June of 2021, so it is also kid-friendly.
Beginning in Anchorage, this itinerary then takes you north to Denali National Park. From there, back down south to Anchorage, Girdwood, Portage Glacier, Seward (Kenai Fjords National Park), Cooper Landing, and Homer.
Altogether, this itinerary covers over 1,200 miles!
Yes, 1,200 miles is a lot of ground to cover in ten days, but the great thing about an Alaska road trip is that the scenic drive between destinations is also remarkable.
Best Time To Visit Alaska
Hands-down the best time to visit Alaska is in the summer months – June, July, and August. Alaska is often called the land of the midnight sun because it is located in the top half of the northern hemisphere and stays light all night around the summer solstice.
The warmer weather and long days make the summertime in Alaska the ideal time to visit.
Although it is glorious to spend summer solstice in Alaska, I actually prefer going later in the summer when the fireweed is in full bloom.
The first few weeks in September can also be a nice time to visit. In Denali the leaves are starting to change, there are fewer crowds, and it is starting to get dark at night so there is a chance to see the northern lights. But, we’ve also been snowed on in early September in Denali so it is a much safer bet to visit in one of the summer months.
Renting A Car In Alaska
The price of a rental car in Alaska in the summer is extremely steep. With such a short tourist season in Alaska, rental cars are a hot commodity. But, in order to embark on an epic road trip in Alaska, you will absolutely need a car.
Here are some helpful tips for renting a car in Alaska–
Reserve a car as soon as you start planning your trip to lock in a car and hopefully the lowest rate.
For more great money-saving tips read Family Travel On A Budget – 11 Helpful Tips To Make Family Vacations More Affordable
Make sure you reserve a car big enough for all of your luggage. On one trip a few years ago our car was so tiny the three of us barely fit with our luggage and cooler (we always travel to Alaska with a cooler to bring back fish, read on for more info).
It is convenient to rent a car right from the airport. But, renting a car from a company away from the airport can save you a lot of money. You will have to take a rideshare to the off-airport rental location and the rental offices away from the airport are only open from 8:00 or 9:00 to 5:00 or 6:00. Make sure your flight will land in plenty of time to get to the off-airport rental location.
Renting A Camper In Alaska
Another option is to rent a camper. We’ve done this several times in Alaska and it is a great way to see the state. Renting a camper in Alaska can also be a much cheaper option because you are combining your car rental and lodging price.
There are so many great campgrounds in Alaska, that it is easy to reserve campsites for your entire Alaska road trip. Having a camper is nice if you are traveling with kids. You have all of the comforts of home everywhere you go so nap-time and meals are much easier to work into your trip.
The website Alaska.org is an amazing resource to check out if you plan to rent a camper for your Alaska road trip.
The only downfalls to renting a camper in Alaska are-
- Higher cost of gas
- You might need to spend an extra day or two of your trip in Anchorage to work around the camper pick up/drop off times
- Your only mode of transportation is a camper so can be hard to navigate and find parking
Fishing In Alaska
I’ll just say it – I don’t like to fish. But, I’m married to an avid fisherman and have a son who also loves to fish. So, our Alaska road trip always includes a few days of fishing. I can’t really complain though because I do love eating fresh halibut and salmon.
Note – If you don’t plan to fish, I would recommend skipping the night in the Kenai River region and adding another night in Denali or Seward.
If you want to experience fishing in Alaska, this itinerary is perfect.
We always pack a cooler as one of our checked bags when traveling to Alaska. That way we have a cooler to pack lunch and snacks in the car. Then, we use the cooler to bring our fish home. I know it sounds kind of crazy but it works out great. For all of the logistics of bringing a cooler as your luggage read- Why A Wheeled Cooler Makes A Great Checked Bag
Day 1-4 – Anchorage To Denali – 3 Nights In Denali
240 Miles – 4 Hours
Depending on where you are flying in from, driving to Denali the same day you fly into Anchorage might make for a really long travel day. But, the afternoon/evening is a great time to drive up to Denali because there will be less traffic on the highway. Not only that, with the long days in the summer in Alaska you won’t have to drive in the dark.
It is nice to wake up the next morning and already be in Denali.
Only 30% of visitors to Denali actually see the great mountain. The majority of the time Denali is shrouded in clouds. If Denali is out, there are several viewpoints you absolutely should check out on your drive between Denali and Anchorage.
- Denali State Park South Viewpoint at Mile 135.2
- Denali State Park North Viewpoint at Mile 162.7
- Denali Highway Mile 210 – Drive 8-10 miles on the Denali Highway for epic Denali views
Denali National Park
The rugged mountains, abundant wildlife, raging rivers, and remote location make Denali National Park a special place to explore.
- Experience Denali National Park by bus
- Hikes – Savage River Loop and Horseshoe Lake Trail
- Visit the Sled Dog Kennels and watch a Sled Dog demonstration
Denali Places To Stay
- McKinley Chalet Resort – great location in Denali village just outside of the National Park entrance, walking paths and restaurants nearby
- McKinley Creekside Cabins 13 miles south of Denali National Park entrance, away from the crowds. The setting is beautiful and quiet.
- Denali Hostel and Cabins budget-friendly, well-maintained hostel across from McKinley Creekside
Best Restaurants In Denali (and nearby Healy)
- 49th State Brewing Company – great food and beer/ fun outdoor games
- The Overlook – best view in Denali
Day 4 – Denali To Anchorage – 1 Night In Anchorage
240 Miles – 4 Hours
*If you didn’t get a chance to see Denali from the viewpoints on the way up to Denali, make sure to stop on your way back to Anchorage.
Anchorage is located on the Cook Inlet and is surrounded by the Chugach mountains. Such a beautiful setting for a city! Because I’m not a city person, I usually don’t spend much time in Anchorage. That being said, there are some noteworthy things to do and see in Alaska’s biggest city.
- Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
- Anchorage Museum
- Lake Hood Seaplane Base
Where to Stay in Anchorage
- Hotel Captain Cook – luxury hotel in the heart of downtown Anchorage
- Sheraton Anchorage Hotel and Spa downtown Anchorage with beautiful views of the Cook Inlet, walking distance to the Anchorage Museum
Best Places to Eat in Anchorage
- Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria – Great pizza and a fun atmosphere
- Snow City Cafe – best breakfast restaurant
Day 5-7 – Anchorage To Seward – 2 Nights Seward
125 Miles – 2.5 Hours
The drive from Anchorage to Seward is one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the whole world. The 125-mile drive only takes two and a half hours if you drive straight through. But, you won’t want to drive straight through. There are some incredible viewpoints along the way, as well as two can’t-be-missed sites (Girdwood and Portage Glacier).
Viewpoints And Side Trips On The Way To Seward
Beluga Point Lookout – Mile 110
Beluga Point is the first great spot on the Seward Highway to stop and see the incredible views along the Turnagain Arm.
Bird Point Lookout – Mile 96.3
The next lookout where you will absolutely want to stop is Bird Point. This lookout has walkways to several great viewpoints.
Girdwood is a small mountain that is home to Alyeska Ski Resort. It is well worth the short drive off the Seward Highway to visit this charming town.
While in Girdwood, take the Arial Tram to the top of Alyeska Ski Resort for some epic views of Turnagain Arm and the Chugach Mountains. Chair 5 Restaurant is a great restaurant to stop to eat on your way out of town.
The Begich, Boggs Visitor Center is located five miles off of the Seward Highway near mile marker 79. Portage Glacier used to be visible from the Visitor Center but has receded over the years. Now the only way to see Portage Glacier is to hike or take a Glacier Cruise. That being said, even if you don’t have time to hike or take the Portage Glacier Cruise, the informative Begich, Boggs Visitor Center is well worth a stop. There is an informative movie to watch and interesting and interactive exhibits to check out. The visitor center also has a Junior Ranger Program!
Seward is hands-down my favorite town in Alaska. The town of Seward is located on Resurrection Bay, surrounded by Majestic mountains carved out by glaciers. Not only is Seward incredibly beautiful, but there is so much to do and see there. It is definitely a great town to have on your Alaska road trip itinerary if you are visiting Alaska with kids.
- Visit and hike Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords Nationa Park
- Take a Boat Tour out of Resurrection Bay in Kenai Fjords National Park
- Rent kayaks at Miller’s Landing
- Visit Alaska Sealife Center
Places to Stay in Seward
- Harbor 360 Hotel Right on the water with fabulous views!
- Exit Glacier Lodge A few miles out of town so very peaceful and quiet. Close to Exit Glacier
- Miller’s Landing Great budget option right on the water. You can rent kayaks or get on a water taxi right from the property.
Day 7-8 – Seward To Kenai River Region – Cooper Landing, Sterling, or Soldotna – 1 Night Kenai River Region
If fishing for salmon on a river in Alaska is on your bucket list, then spending a night near the Kenai or Kasilof River and booking a salmon charter is a must-do.
Alaska has some of the best salmon fishing in the world and the Kenai and Kasilof rivers are both great salmon fishing rivers. Booking a guided salmon charter will be an incredible experience (and you have a much better chance of catching your limit of salmon if you go with a guide).
50 Miles – 1 Hour From Seward
Cooper Landing is a tiny town located on the upper Kenai River. Most of the restaurants and lodging in Cooper Landing are right off the highway.
93 Miles – 2 Hours From Seward
Soldotna is a much bigger town with plenty of lodging options and restaurants (and a huge Fred Meyer department and grocery store). If you plan to fish on the Kasilof River, Soldotna is only 15 miles away. Much closer than Cooper Landing.
Places to Stay Near the Kenai or Kasilof Rivers-
- Alaska Heavenly Lodge in Cooper Landing
- Aspen Hotel in Soldotna Indoor pool – great for families with kids
- Southern Bluff B&B in Soldotna Yummy breakfast and a great central location
Best Restaurants –
- Kenai River Brewing Company – Great food and beer, located in Soldotna
- Jersey Subs – Fresh and delicious deli sandwiches, located in Kasilof
Day 8-10 Kenai River Region To Homer – 2 Nights Homer
80 Miles – 1.5 Hours from Soldotna
The drive from Soldotna to Homer has breathtaking peekaboo views of the ocean and mountains once you get to Ninilchik. Once the fireweed is in bloom you are in for an even more incredible drive.
If you want to book a halibut charter, Homer is the place to go. Homer is a Fisherman’s (or woman’s) dream town. The picturesque snow-covered mountains across Kachemak bay make a beautiful backdrop to this small fishing town.
*Book your halibut charter on your first full day in Homer. You will want to make sure there is time for your fish to be sealed and frozen before you head back to Anchorage and fly home.
Homer Highlights –
- Halibut Fishing
- Checking out the shops and restaurants on the Spit (the narrow finger of land that extends out into the bay)
- Walk Bishop’s Beach
- Take a ferry to the nearby town of Seldovia
Where to Stay in Homer
- Alaska Adventure Cabins – Unique accommodations that include cabins, a train car, and a boat. On the hillside with fabulous views.
- Homer Inn & Spa – Located right on the water with amazing views, a sauna, and a hot tub. Well worth the splurge!
- Aspen Suites Hotel New hotel with mountain views across from the grocery store
Best Restaurants In Homer-
- Finn’s Pizza Great pizza on the Spit
- Wild Honey Bistro fresh and delicious breakfast and lunch in town near Bishop Beach
Day 10 – Homer To Anchorage
225 Miles – 4.5 Hours
All good things must come to an end. Luckily, the drive back to Anchorage on the last day of your trip is absolutely beautiful.
I can’t wait for our next epic Alaska road trip.
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