Tel-Aviv to Anchorage
Flight via USA, landing in Anchorage, Alaska. Picking up the rental vehicle and sleeping in Anchorage.
Anchorage – Matanuska Glacier
The morning offers some re-organization time and even a nice walk around the city, if you’re up for it. Later, we leave anchorage, driving south to Palmer and turning east on the Glenn Hwy, which becomes a winding mountain road at this point. The road runs parallel to the wide Matanuska River, and on the other side you can see the snowy peaks and glaciers of the Chugach Range. The day ends in a remote lodge near Matanuska Glacier, one of the longest in Alaska. The lodge’s accommodations are well-kept rustic wooden cabins – a true Alaskan experience.
This day is dedicated to exploring the glacier and its’ surroundings. Leaving in the morning, you start the day with rafting on the Matanuska River. The river runs adjacent to the Matanuska Glacier, and where the river meets the mountain, some extra-fun Class 3 rapids form. Rafting concludes around noon, leaving enough time for a long lunch and maybe even a nap.
After lunch, we return to the glacier, where two long and enjoyable hikes offer zip lines, each a couple hundred feet long. The hikes overlook the river and surrounding mountains, and the zip lines offer a unique experience that is the closest you’ll get to flying – highly recommended.
At the end of the day we return to Sheep Mt. for the night.
Matanuska Glacier - McCarthy
Driving along the diverse landscapes of Glen Hwy, and later turning south to the Richardson Hwy and east again to the Edgarton Hwy, up to Chitina. If the weather allows, along the road you’ll be able to see the Wrangell mountain range, mostly dormant volcanoes which peaks reach heights of up to 13,000-16,500 feet above sea level. These mountains mark the beginning of Wrangell-St. Elias Park – a huge park that forms a part of the largest natural reserve complex in the world (along with adjacent parks in Canada and Alaska). The Park contains some of the highest mountains in North America, the highest of them all being Mount St. Elias (18,000 feet).
The town of McCarthy and the ghost town of Kennecott are located in the heart of the Park, and getting to them is an adventure in itself. The road leading from Chitina into the Park is poorly maintained, and as such is not insured by most rental companies. The car will therefore remain in the Chitina airport, and you will arrive to McCarthy by flying in a light plane. Wrangell–St. Elias is one of wildest natural reserves in the world, and flying is almost the only way to see the inside of the park. Most of the Park’s glaciers and summits are so large, that you can only see and truly admire the landscape’s intensity from the air. The flight is 30-40 minutes long, and it ends at McCarthy’s airport.
McCarthy itself is a tiny town that developed alongside the Kennecott mines, which operated here in the early 20th century. The mines were abandoned in the early 1930s, but the town lives on. Despite a certain growth in tourism in recent years, McCarthy is still considered an undeveloped tourist destination because access is difficult. As a result, the town manages to preserve its unique nature, and is reminiscent of Wild-West towns. Accommodations in Kennecott or McCarthy.
Kennecott and McCarthy
Root Glacier is at a walking distance from the remnants of the Kennecott mines’ factories. The morning is dedicated to touring the glacier with professional guides. The tour takes 4-6 hours, during which you will see the glacier’s unique landscape up close: waterfalls vanishing into the ice, clear turquoise pools and ice caves. The tour utilizes designated equipment that will be supplied by the guide (crampons and helmets), and does not entail any special physical exertion beyond a regular hike. At the end of the tour we return to Kennecott. During the afternoon you could take a guided tour of the abandoned processing factories of Kennecott mines, take a short hike in the area or go on a beautiful scenic flight over the national park (* Not included). Accommodations in Kennecott or McCarthy.
McCarthy - Valdez
In the morning, flying back from McCarthy to Chitina (30-40 minutes). After the flight you return with the car to the main road, and from there south toward Valdez. The road traverses the mountain views of Thompson Pass, and continues to Keystone Canyon with its large waterfalls. Valdez itself sits at the shore of Prince William Sound, a beautiful bay full of wildlife and glaciers. It rose to fame about twenty years ago when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground there and caused a catastrophic environmental disaster. Accommodations in Valdez.
Cruise to Columbia Glacier
A full day of sailing near the Columbia Glacier and the nearby Meares Glacier. The Columbia Icefield is one of Alaska’s largest glaciers. This glacier has been receding very quickly in the last twenty years, leaving behind it a vast area dotted with beautiful huge chunks of ice. The peaceful waters and magnificent views of Prince William Sound make it an ideal sailing destination. During the trip you pass exquisite blocks of ice that have detached from the glacier with a massive splash, and on them you can sometimes spot marine mammals (such as sea lions, seals and sea otters) catching some sun. The cruise leaves Valdez in the morning and returns in the evening. Accommodations in Valdez.
Valdez – Whittier – Seward
In the morning, a ferry ride from Valdez to Whittier, a small town on the west side of Prince William Sound. Near Whittier there’s a glacial valley called Portage Valley, with an interesting visitors’ center and nice and easy hiking trails. After visiting the valley, driving towards Homer, on the southwestern side of the Kenai Peninsula. The road crosses the Chugach Mountains and the Kenai Fjords Park makes it especially attractive. Spend the afternoon in the Sealife Center and on Exit Glacier adjacent to the town from the north. Accommodations in Seward.
Kenai Fjords Park
Kenai Fjords Park is almost inaccessible by land, and sailing is the main way to experience its views and diverse wildlife population. The day is dedicated to sailing between the fjords. The marine animals common to this region include whales, sea lions, seals, various water birds and sometimes even orca whales. Accommodations in Seward.
Seward – Anchorage – Tel Aviv
Driving from Seward to Anchorage. The last bit of driving before Anchorage is a proper ending to the trip – the road runs parallel to Turnagain Arm, which demonstrates one of the most extreme tidal ranges in the world, and you drive down a narrow road between the sea and the coastal cliffs. You can often see pods of beluga whales in the waters along the road, or herds of mountain sheep on the cliffs on the other side of the road. After arriving the Anchorage, return the rental car at the airport and fly home.