Alaska for Outdoorsy Families

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Super fun itinerary for families with kids: glacier hiking, ziplining, rafting, kayaking and bear viewing. Minimum car time, maximum play.

Day 1: Anchorage

Anchorage is not the capital of Alaska (that’s Juneau), but it’s by far the biggest city in the state, and home to about half of the population. If you arrive early in the day, consider a visit to either the Anchorage Museum of History and Arts, or the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Other good options include a walk along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, or – if you’re not too…Read more

Anchorage is not the capital of Alaska (that’s Juneau), but it’s by far the biggest city in the state, and home to about half of the population. If you arrive early in the day, consider a visit to either the Anchorage Museum of History and Arts, or the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Other good options include a walk along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, or – if you’re not too tired after a long flight – a hike up the popular trail to Flattop Mt.

Most car rentals companies offer airport pickup, with the exception of some local agencies who are located a short taxi ride away.

Overnight: Anchorage, AK

Downtown Anchorage, Alaska

Day 2: Hike the Matanuska Glacier

The day starts with a drive east along the Glenn Hwy, which quickly becomes a winding, mountainous and super-scenic road. The highway follows the Matanuska River valley, parallel to the stunning snowy peaks of the Chugach Range. This beautiful drive takes about 2.5 – 3 hours. The afternoon will be spent exploring the Matanuska Glacier with local professional guides (no experience or equipment required). The “Mat”, as it’s known locally,…Read more

The day starts with a drive east along the Glenn Hwy, which quickly becomes a winding, mountainous and super-scenic road. The highway follows the Matanuska River valley, parallel to the stunning snowy peaks of the Chugach Range. This beautiful drive takes about 2.5 – 3 hours.

The afternoon will be spent exploring the Matanuska Glacier with local professional guides (no experience or equipment required). The “Mat”, as it’s known locally, is a 27-mile long glacier, the longest car-accessible glacier in the US. Your guides will take you to the glacier’s face, where you’ll don your helmet and begin the 3-hr hike. The glacier is constantly moving and shifting, creating a landscape rich with unique features such as turquoise pools, blue caves, crevasses and moulans (waterfalls emptying into an ice cave). Needless to say, this is a true highlight of every visitor to Alaska.

The day ends near in the Matanuska Glacier area, in one of the few remote lodges located in this beautiful corner of Alaska.

Overnight: Glacier view, AK

Glacier hiking on the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska

Day 3: Rafting and Ziplining near the Matanuska Glacier

Today is dedicated to family activities in the Matanuska Valley. In the morning, go rafting on the Matanuska River. The source of this river is the Matanuska Glacier, and the trip starts in a glacial lake close to the glacier’s face. It then continues downstream, through some fun but not intimidating class 2 rapids. Folks over the age of 12 are welcome to upgrade to a more adventurous Class 3-4…Read more

Today is dedicated to family activities in the Matanuska Valley.

In the morning, go rafting on the Matanuska River. The source of this river is the Matanuska Glacier, and the trip starts in a glacial lake close to the glacier’s face. It then continues downstream, through some fun but not intimidating class 2 rapids. Folks over the age of 12 are welcome to upgrade to a more adventurous Class 3-4 ride, in a nearby upper section of the river.

In the afternoon, go on a spectacular ziplining excursion along the banks of the Matnuska River. The tour includes two different glides, one of which is the G2 line, considered the fastest in Alaska. The entire tour takes about an hour and a half. At the end of the day, return to your lodge for a second night.

Overnight: Glacier View, AK

Rafting (1)

Day 4: Girdwood

The day starts with a drive back west towards Anchorage. A great option for a scenic detour is the Hatcher Pass area, a beautiful off-the-beaten-track alpine area in the Talkeetna mountains close to the town of Palmer. Surrounded by green tundra and overlooked by impressive granite peaks, this is a great area for a short (or long) hike. You can also visit Independence Mine Historical Site, an interesting deserted gold…Read more

The day starts with a drive back west towards Anchorage. A great option for a scenic detour is the Hatcher Pass area, a beautiful off-the-beaten-track alpine area in the Talkeetna mountains close to the town of Palmer. Surrounded by green tundra and overlooked by impressive granite peaks, this is a great area for a short (or long) hike. You can also visit Independence Mine Historical Site, an interesting deserted gold mine from the 1940’s.

Your destination today is the town of Girdwood, about 45 minutes drive south of Anchorage. The road to Girdwood runs parallel to Turnagain Arm, a narrow bay known for its panoramic views and extreme tides. This is a great area for wildlife viewing, especially beluga whales and Dall sheep.

A ski town in winter, Girdwood turns during summer into a hub for local outdoor activities. The Cross Pass Trail, one of Alaska’s best hiking trails, is right out of town (4-6 hours RT). If you’re looking for a flatter hiking experience, Winner Creek Trail offers a fun walk in the rainforest all the way to a great little view point called “the Gorge”. Overlooking the town is Mt. Alyeska, and you can take the tram to the top and enjoy some excellent views of the area. Other options include bike rentals, dog sledding and more.

Overnight: Girdwood, AK

Reed Lakes, Hatcher Pass, Alaska

Day 5: Scenic day cruise in Prince William Sound

After a relaxed morning, head south to the town of Whittier. Whittier is a quirky little town which is not much of a destination, but it’s worth noting that virtually all residents of this town live in one apartment building (don’t worry, you won’t miss it!). Whittier is connected to the rest of Alaska via a narrow tunnel which is used alternately by vehicles and trains. The tunnel is very…Read more

After a relaxed morning, head south to the town of Whittier. Whittier is a quirky little town which is not much of a destination, but it’s worth noting that virtually all residents of this town live in one apartment building (don’t worry, you won’t miss it!). Whittier is connected to the rest of Alaska via a narrow tunnel which is used alternately by vehicles and trains. The tunnel is very well monitored so the risk of meeting the train in the middle of the drive is not high; still, it’s an interesting ride.

Around noon, you’ll board a 100-passenger vessel which will take you on a cruise of the west side of Prince William Sound. This is a fantastic way to soak the amazing scenery of one of Alaska’s most beautiful coastal areas. The boat is small enough to get very close to some of the tidewater glaciers in this area. The local fauna includes huge sea-bird colonies, sea otters, seals, sea lions and of course, humpback whales.

This 5-hour cruise ends in the afternoon hours. you can use the afternoon hours for a visit in the glacial Portage Valley, where you can check out the displays at the visitor center, or go for a walk on one of the valley’s many hiking trails. Also nearby is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife. This is a great place to see some of Alaska’s charismatic fauna up close and personal.

Eventually, return to Girdwood for a second night.

Overnight: Girdwood, Ak

Father and daughter near Columbia Glacier, Alaska

Day 6: Homer

Today, drive south for about 3 hours. Your destination is the charming town of Homer, located literally at the end of the road. Your route will take you along a scenic stretch of the Chugach Mountains, then along the Cook Inlet shoreline. Weather permits, you could expect some great views of the big volcanoes (11,500-13,000 feet) across the inlet.

Overnight: Homer, AK

Today, drive south for about 3 hours. Your destination is the charming town of Homer, located literally at the end of the road. Your route will take you along a scenic stretch of the Chugach Mountains, then along the Cook Inlet shoreline. Weather permits, you could expect some great views of the big volcanoes (11,500-13,000 feet) across the inlet.

Overnight: Homer, AK

Hikers in Portage Pass, Alaska

Day 7: Bear viewing in Katmai or Lake Clark National Parks

Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks lay on the west side of the Cook Inlet, across the bay from Homer. These two wild parks are arguably two of the best locations in the world to view bears in the wild. Today’s plan is to go on a day trip to one of these parks and spend a few hours with the furry giants also known as the coastal brown bears…Read more

Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks lay on the west side of the Cook Inlet, across the bay from Homer. These two wild parks are arguably two of the best locations in the world to view bears in the wild. Today’s plan is to go on a day trip to one of these parks and spend a few hours with the furry giants also known as the coastal brown bears of Alaska.

The brown bear is not a social animal by any mean, but every summer, when the salmon begin moving upstream, big concentrations of bears are formed along the rivers. These bears will spend most of the summer fishing and competing for fishing and mating rights. Busy with their fishing agenda and concerned mostly with the presence of other bears, the bears are generally very tolerable of human presence. This does not mean you should approach them too closely, of course – these are still very wild and very big animals – but it allows for an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience.

The exact destination of the trip is determined by the local operators in Homer the day before (and sometimes, the day of) departure, based on bear activity observed in each area. Both Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks are not connected to the road system, so arrival at the bear viewing location is done using a variety of small aircraft, including (but not limited to) floatplanes, helicopters and wheeled planes capable of landing on the beaches during low tides. The super-scenic flight will take you over some serious mountains, glaciers and active volcanoes, and is a highlight on its own right. The tour is usually led by the pilot or by a professional guide, unless the destination is Brooks Camp, where park rangers oversee the site and direct the visitors.

Once the tour is over, you’ll fly back to Homer.

Overnight: Homer, AK

Brown bear fishing for salmon, Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska

Day 8: Seward

Your next destination is the town of Seward, about 3 hours drive from Homer. Seward is located at the edge of Kenai Fjords National Park, a coastal area dominated by the vast Harding Icefield. Glaciers extending from the icefield towards the sea created a series of deep fjords, rich in wildlife and extremely photogenic. On the way to Seward you could stop for a hike in one of the many…Read more

Your next destination is the town of Seward, about 3 hours drive from Homer. Seward is located at the edge of Kenai Fjords National Park, a coastal area dominated by the vast Harding Icefield. Glaciers extending from the icefield towards the sea created a series of deep fjords, rich in wildlife and extremely photogenic. On the way to Seward you could stop for a hike in one of the many hiking trails along the way, or spend the afternoon on a stroll along the Seward waterline. If you like staring at big fish, Seward’s fishing charters typically return to the harbor around 6:00 pm; you can see the charters crews filleting their catch by the water, to the delight of outside visitors and local gulls alike.

Overnight: Seward, AK

Family hike to Thunderbird Falls, Alaska

Day 9: Kayaking in an icy lake

Bear Glacier flows out of the Harding Icefield towards the ocean, but its terminus rests in a beautiful glacial lagoon, filled with icebergs. This tour starts with a jet boat ride from Seward to the lagoon; chances of viewing the local marine wildlife (whales, orcas, sea lions and more) along the way are pretty high. After a safety brief, you get your own double-seat ocean kayak and go on a…Read more

Bear Glacier flows out of the Harding Icefield towards the ocean, but its terminus rests in a beautiful glacial lagoon, filled with icebergs. This tour starts with a jet boat ride from Seward to the lagoon; chances of viewing the local marine wildlife (whales, orcas, sea lions and more) along the way are pretty high. After a safety brief, you get your own double-seat ocean kayak and go on a guided adventure among the icebergs. The tour is about 5.5 hours long, out of which about 2.5 hours are spent kayaking, and it ends with a return to Seward.

Seward is rich with other areas to explore, if you have the time and the energy. The prominent options are the Harding Icefield trail, Caines Head trail (coastal walk) or some section of the Lost Lake trail. If the weather is iffy and not very suitable for hiking (this is Alaska after all), you could spend some quality time in the Alaska Sealife Center learning about the local marine biology.

*the kayaking trip could be replaced upon request with a scenic boat tour in Kenai Fjords National Park (6-7.5 hrs).

Overnight: Seward, AK

Kayaking near the Columbia Glacier, Alaska

Day 10: Anchorage

Drive back north to Anchorage and enjoy another look at the beautiful views along the Turnagain Arm. The trip ends at the Ted Stevens International Airport in town, where you return your rental car and begin the journey back home.

Drive back north to Anchorage and enjoy another look at the beautiful views along the Turnagain Arm. The trip ends at the Ted Stevens International Airport in town, where you return your rental car and begin the journey back home.

sunlight through the boreal forest, Alaska

Why choose this tour?

Alaska is big. You won’t be able to see it all in one trip. And if you travel with kids, it’s best you don’t try. Our advice: take your time, play more and drive less. Make the most of what Alaska has to offer, without trying to cover too much ground.

This trip begins and ends in Anchorage. The route stretches between the Matanuska Glacier (3 hours east of Anchorage) and Homer (about 4 hours south of Anchorage), with a little hop over the inlet to Katmai or Lake Clark National Park to go see some bears in the wild. It’s based on our 10-day Kenai & Matanuska itinerary, with some extra play time near the Matanuska Glacier. If your family likes to play outside, this is a great tour to take. Of course, you don’t have to have kids to do it – we’ll leave that decision to you.

The tour package includes

1 Explore the mighty Matanuska Glacier: go on a guided glacier hike, a scenic river float and an exciting ziplining tour!

2 Take a day tour in Katmai or Lake Clark National Park, where you can view the world-famous coastal brown bears of Alaska in the wild.

3 Go on a scenic day cruise in the beautiful Prince William Sound – Glaciers, whales and more.

4 Kayak among the giant icebergs of Bear Glacier lagoon.

Still not sure?

You’re more than welcome to contact us, we’ll be happy to chat and help you pick the right tour.

Total cost

  • 2 Travelers: $4,170 Per Person, double occupancy.
  • 2 + 1 kid over 12 y/o: $3,670 Per Person.
  • 2 + 2 kids over 12 y/o: $3,320 Per Person.
  • 2 + 3 kids over 12 y/o: $3,110 Per Person.
  • Taxes and fees included.
  • Kids under 12 may be eligible to some further discount – depends on supplier policies.

Deposit / Cancellations 

  • Covid-19 Policy! Yes, these are special times:

    • Deposit: $100 (for the whole trip, not per-person)
    • Balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
  • Cancellation fees:

    • Up to 60 days prior to departure: NO CANCELLATION FEE except for the $100 deposit.
    • 59-30 days prior: 10% of the trip cost + cancellation fees charged by vendors.
    • 29-1 days prior: 20% of the trip cost + cancellation fees charged by vendors.

Trip cost includes

Accommodations

  • 9 nights in hotels, lodges (usually rustic cabins) or B&B’s.
  • Breakfast is not included unless specifically mentioned.

Transportation

  • 10 day car rental with unlimited mileage.
  • Party of two: Fullsize vehicle category.
  • Party of three: Compact SUV category.
  • Party of four or five: Minivan category.

Tours

  • Guided glacier hike on the Matanuska Glacier (4 hrs).
  • Scenic float on the Matanuska River (2.5-3 hrs, class 2 rapids)
  • Ziplining excursion near the Matanuska Glacier (Nitro and G2 combo)
  • Scenic day cruise in Prince William Sound, inc. lunch (5 hrs).
  • Bear viewing tour in Katmai or Lake Clark National Park, including a RT flight in a small aircraft from Homer (5-8 hrs).
  • Kayaking day tour in Bear Glacier Lagoon near Seward (5.5 hrs, including RT boat ride between Seward and the tour location).

Not Included

  • International and / or domestic flights.
  • Rental car additional costs: insurance, additional driver, gas.
  • Meals.
  • Tips.
  • Optional excursions or admission to optional sites (museums, trams, etc.).
  • Anything not specifically mentioned under “trip cost includes”.

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