The Alaska National Parks Tour

Anchorage, Seward, Kenai Fjords, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks

Alaska National Parks Tour

June 13-23, 2020
11 Days, 10 Nights


Anchorage, Seward, Kenai Fjords National Park, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks



  • Optional Early Anchorage Stay ($168/room/night)
  • Sunday service with the Anchorage UUs
  • Alaska Native Heritage Center
  • Welcome Dinner hosted by Anchorage UUs
  • Anchorage Museum OR Nature Center visit
  • 3 nights with Anchorage UU hosts

Seward / Kenai Fjords National Park

  • Alaska Railroad to Seward (standard railcar)
  • 2 nights lodging in oceanside hotel
  • Visit to Exit Glacier hiking trail and visitors center
  • Alaska Sea Life Center
  • Optional Behind-the-Scenes tour ($18) and/or Puffin Experience ($26) at ASLC
  • Optional Guided Evening Kayaking tour ($88)
  • 7 hour Kenai Fjords National Park marine tour: whales, glaciers, sea lions, etc.

Denali National Park

  • First Class Alaska Railroad magnificent dome car to Denali National Park
  • 2 nights lodging in comfortable, quiet cabins
  • Interpretive 9 hour Tundra Wilderness Tour
  • Optional Extended Tour of Denali ($60)
  • Optional Nenana River whitewater rafting ($98)
  • Free time to enjoy Visitors Center, walking trails, sled dog demonstration, etc.


  • Alaska Railroad to Fairbanks (Standard railcar)
  • 3 nights with Fairbanks UU hosts
  • Riverboat Discovery cruise on the Chena River
  • Alaska State Museum of the North (at UAF)
  • Large Animal Research Station tour (“Musk Ox Farm”)
  • Optional gentle canoe trip on the Chena River
  • Sunday service with the Fairbanks UUs
  • “My Fairbanks” custom afternoon tours led by Fairbanks UUs
  • Goodbye Dinner hosted by Fairbanks UUs
  • Extended Fairbanks Stay ($168/person/night)
  • Optional Arctic Circle Air Adventure ($460)
  • Optional Arctic Circle Anaktuvuk Pass Adventure ($560)

Optional Tour Activities:

Alaska National Parks Tour Slideshow (2019)

Detailed Itinerary

Day One (6/13, Sat.)

The 2020 Alaska National Parks tour begins in Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city. Each guest arranges (and pays for) his/her own flight. It is recommended that you arrive in Anchorage in the afternoon or early evening, so you can have some time to acclimate and get a good night’s sleep. You will be met at the Ted Stevens International Airport by an Anchorage UU greeter and spend the night with your UU host. Since most guests arrive later in the day, no meals or activities are included on arrival day.

(Option #1, Early Anchorage Stay: $168/room/night)

If you wish to arrive one or more days early and explore Anchorage on your own, WhaleCoast Alaska can arrange for you to stay with an Anchorage host. Lodging, breakfast, and a ride to/from the downtown area are included. For lunch, dinner, and activities, you are on your own. You can visit a museum, explore a botanical garden or bird sanctuary, hike a trail, rent a bike, or simply relax and enjoy the view. Your host can offer suggestions. Please note that space is very limited for this Early Anchorage Stay. This option is only available to guests arriving before 11:00 pm. Also, we have arranged a special rate with the Anchorage Motel 6 for the early arriving guests for whom we aren’t able to provide homestay lodging. Motel 6 has recently been remodeled, and they provide a courtesy shuttle from the airport. If there is interest, the tour director will arrange a breakfast get together near the Motel 6 on 6/13. To get the discounted rate of $149 + tax, call 907-677-8000, and let them know that you are a WhaleCoast Alaska guest.

Day Two (6/14, Sun.)

After breakfast with your hosts, you will go to the Anchorage UU church for a tour orientation, then we will attend their Sunday service. Following the service, a local caterer will provide lunch. Next, we will take a bus to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where five indigenous groups – Athabascan, Yupik, Inupiaq, Alutiiq, and Tlingit/Haida – have created a veritable living museum. Reconstructed Native Alaskan dwellings surround a small lake. Docents at each structure explain the traditions of their people. Contemporary artists, dancers and storytellers put on performances every half hour in the main hall of the museum. Native craftspeople in another wing will be demonstrating their work and talking about their craft and heritage. You will be fascinated by the displays and performances such as Native dancing. We will travel back to the Anchorage UU church for a delicious welcome dinner feast in their wonderful sanctuary.

Day Three (6/15, Mon.)

This morning you will be treated to one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. The Alaska Railroad travels to Seward along the ocean, past glaciers, and over miles of unspoiled forest and tundra. We’ll watch for sure-footed Dall sheep. On one trip, a half dozen of them scampered gracefully down the steep cliff by the tracks. It was such a good sighting that the train stopped for a few minutes so we could watch them. After arriving in Seward, you will enjoy a delicious lunch with your group at a beautiful lodge on the edge of town. In the afternoon we’ll visit Exit Glacier, the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park that is accessible by road. You can walk the easy half mile round trip hike to the Glacier View viewpoint, or choose the longer 2 mile round trip hike to the Edge of the Glacier. You can also visit the nature center. During the second part of the afternoon, we will visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, a unique cold water marine science facility. We’ll see arctic marine life in huge saltwater tanks and watch puffins and murres “fly” underwater. The SeaLife Center also offers two optional activities that help fund their research (see below). Dinner($) is on your own, with many local restaurants to choose from. (Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day.) The SeaLife Center stays open until 9:00 pm, and you are welcome to return there after dinner.

(Option #2, Behind the Scenes Tour, $18)

Take a guided 1 hour walking tour of the SeaLife Center research corridors and learn about their new and ongoing research projects. Learn about what the SeaLife Center does away from the aquarium exhibits, including Wildlife Response and Rehabilitation and projects focusing on sea ducks, marine mammals, conservation science, and more.

(Option #3, Puffin Experience, $26)

This 1 hour seated group experience teaches you all about where the puffins (and other birds) came form, their natural histories, and how the SeaLife Center aviculturists care for them. You will see their distinct plumage and marine adaptations up close, and get a chance to take pictures.

Note: The above 2 optional activities are scheduled for the same time on Monday afternoon. If you select both of them, then your Puffin Experience will be on Monday and your Behind the Scenes tour will be on Tuesday at 6 pm, after our boat tour. If you select both of the above options, you will not be available to participate in the evening kayaking tour.

Day Four (6/16, Tue.)

After breakfast at the hotel buffet, we board a 7-hour boat tour that takes us through Kenai Fjords National Park. Wear clothing in layers, since there can be a large range in temperature as we move about the ocean and along the shore. Our boat has two large heated cabins, but you’ll want to step outside on deck as soon as the first marine wildlife is spotted. That will probably be a sea otter before we get very far from the dock. They’re often seen floating on their backs in Resurrection Bay as we head towards the National Park. An Orca breached next to the boat here during one trip, and a fin whale once surfaced in the middle of a pod of Orcas. We often see humpback whales, sea lions, and seals —and perhaps a grizzly bear strolling along the shore. There’s a chance we will encounter Dall porpoises playfully racing along side our boat. There will be arctic birds by the thousands—puffins, auklets, murres and others—and a tidewater glacier calving icebergs into the sea. Our prime rib and salmon lunch on the boat will be delicious – with yummy desserts served later in the afternoon. Vegetarian meals may be requested.

(Option #4, Evening Guided Kayaking Tour, $88)

After a safety and instructional briefing, your local guide will lead you along the eastern coastline of the bay, paddling in double kayaks. You will learn about the plants and animals of the intertidal zone and the history of the area. A light meal is included as part of your kayaking tour. Experience is helpful but not necessary. If you opt for kayaking, you are committed to participate “rain or shine.” The kayaking tour begins one half hour after we return from our boat tour, and it ends between 10:00 and 10:30 pm. Note that our first activity the next morning will be at 9:30 am. (Maximum weight is 275 pounds. Space on this tour is limited.)

Day Five (6/17, Wed.)

After your breakfast buffet at the hotel, you will take a scenic, narrated bus tour to Anchorage. Lunch will be at in Anchorage. After lunch, you will have a choice of two activities. One option is to visit the world-class Rasmussen Museum of History and Art. The museum has superb collections of Native and contemporary Alaskan art exhibits on Alaska’s cultures from the earliest inhabitants to the 750,000 people living in the state today. The other option involves a visit to the Eagle River Nature Center, with a to-go lunch on the bus. This state park has a relaxing visitors center and miles of relatively flat hiking/walking trails. Be on the lookout for moose! At the end of the afternoon, your Anchorage UU host will pick you up. Dinner is on your own. If you are so inclined, tonight would be the time to take your hosts out to dinner to thank them for their hospitality.

Day Six (6/18, Thur.)

After breakfast with your hosts, you will board the Alaska Railroad train, first class seating on the Wilderness Express car, to Denali National Park. You will enjoy a full dome railcar with a magnificent view. Our unforgettable journey takes us through the Alaska Range, along several wild and scenic rivers, and above breathtaking Hurricane Gulch. If it is clear, there will be stunning views of snow-capped mountains, including Denali. Lunch is included on this leg of the trip, in a separate and stylish dining car with linens on the table. It’s a delight to dine while you watch the scenery go by. We arrive in Denali at 4:00 pm. You can either go directly to our comfortable cabin lodging, or spend some quality time in the park and shuttle to your cabin later. Choices include numerous walking trails, a free park bus that travels the first 12 miles along the park road, and interpretive displays at the Visitors Center. Dinner($) is on your own. There is a nice restaurant on site, and many others just a shuttle ride away. There are also two relaxing outdoor hot tubs on the property. Don’t stay up too late. Tomorrow we have another early start.

Day Seven (6/19, Fri.)

We enjoy a full breakfast buffet early this morning. Afterward, we board a Tundra Wilderness Tour bus to take us deep into the park. When I first came to Alaska in 1981 “just for the summer,” it was to drive this same tour. I became enchanted by the land and people of this great state, and I’ve lived here ever since. This 9 hour tour is a great way to see many animals – moose, caribou, sheep, grizzly bear, wolf, fox, unusual birds, etc.—and get a feel for the sheer expanse of Denali National Park. It’s the size of Massachusetts. If we’re fortunate enough to see Denali like we did last year, we’re in for something spectacular! Even if the mountain is not visible (it’s in full view only a few days per month), the wildlife and natural beauty is still well worth the trip. After your tour, you can take the rest of the afternoon – and the evening, since it won’t get dark – to enjoy the park. Dinner($) is on your own.

(Option #5, Extended Tour of Denali, $60)

Extend your time in the park by taking this 14 hour tour “Denali Backcountry Adventure” instead of the 9 hour “Tundra Wilderness” tour. This tour ventures 34 miles farther along the Denali Park Road, giving you additional time for viewing wildlife and scenic mountains. This tour includes a two hour stop at the Denali Backcountry Lodge, with a buffet lunch and an interpretive program. (Seats on this tour are limited. Please read information on the FAQ page.)

Day Eight (6/20, Sat.)

After your buffet breakfast, you have until late afternoon to relax at the cabins or explore the park. You can visit the park sled dog kennel for an informative demonstration, walk/hike another trail, or join a ranger-led walk. For a more thrilling experience, you can opt for whitewater rafting (see below). Lunch($) is on your own. Late in the afternoon, we board a standard Alaska Railroad car for a scenic ride to Fairbanks. The train passes through the deep canyons, forested valleys, and the Native village of Nenana, before bringing us to Fairbanks. This “Golden Heart City,” began as a turn-of-the-century gold rush town. Surviving several boom and bust cycles throughout the past century, it ranks as Alaska’s second largest city. Dinner($) is on the train. Your Fairbanks UU host will meet you at the depot and take you to their home for the night.

(Option #6, Whitewater Rafting, $98)

This morning, you have the option of a thrilling whitewater rafting trip on the Nenana River. No experience is necessary, since your professional guide will navigate the rapids. You will be issued a drysuit to keep you comfortable. The $98 cost includes an action photo of each rafting group plus all gratuities. If some of the rafters wish to eat lunch together($) at a restaurant after the trip, your tour director can arrange a reservation.

Day Nine (6/21, Sun.)

You have a choice about how to spend the first part of your Sunday morning. After breakfast with your hosts, you are invited to join the local UUs for a gentle canoe trip on the Chena River, ending at the UUFF sanctuary for their morning service. No experience is necessary, since they match novices with experienced locals. We might see beaver or moose. If you would rather sleep in, that’s just fine. Your host can drive you directly to the 10:30 am service. The UUs will host us for lunch. After lunch, the local UUs will treat us to a special afternoon in their hometown. We call this program, “My Fairbanks.” They will offer a variety of unique tours tailored to their particular interests. Examples may include nature walking, hiking, local history, gold mining, fishing, reindeer viewing etc. You might even venture to a nearby spring, lake, organic farm, or rock formation. Fairbanksans are passionate about their community, and selecting just one of these offerings will be difficult indeed! Dinner($) is on your own. This would be your opportunity to take your hosts out to dinner if you are so inclined. Since this is the summer solstice weekend, there will probably be many special events going on around town. You will again spend the night at your host’s home.

Day Ten (6/22, Mon.)

Another fine summer day in Fairbanks! After breakfast, your host will drive you to the riverboat dock. The Riverboat Discovery, Alaska’s last sternwheeler paddleboat, will cruise the Chena River. Along the way, we’ll stop at a sled dog kennel, where an Iditarod veteran educates us about the sport of dog mushing. We’ll even get to see the dogs enthusiastically pull a dogsled on wheels. Later, an Athabascan woman will welcome us to her fish camp to show us how she catches salmon in a fish wheel, cleans them, and smokes them. We’ll meet her again in the reconstructed village and see her sewing gorgeous parkas from different furs. Native Alaskan young people, home from college for the summer, are docents in the village. This is a fascinating window into Athabascan culture. Following our cruise, we will eat a family style lunch at the Discovery Dining Hall. Our afternoon will feature a tour of the UAF Large Animal Research Station (locals call it the “Musk Ox Farm”), where we’ll see musk ox, caribou and reindeer. Our docent specially trained in the biology of the large mammals will tell us about them. The musk ox lived through the last ice age – the only successful large terrestrial mammal to continuously occupy the arctic for the past 10,000 years. We will also visit the magnificent University of Alaska Museum of the North. The building is exciting inside and out, and its art and exhibits are outstanding. It includes outstanding exhibits on Alaskan animals, Alaska history, and the arctic environment. One permanent exhibit by Fairbanks composer John Luther Adams is in a room titled “The Place Where We Go To Listen.” It creates music from data streams measuring the rhythms of night and day, the phases and positions of the moon, the changing sky conditions, seismic readings, and disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field. Our last evening together will feature a delicious dinner hosted by the Fairbanks UUs in their beautiful sanctuary followed by a slide show, using pictures contributed by you and your fellow guests. It will be a sweet, nostalgic ending to our delightful experience together.

Day Eleven (6/23, Tue.)

You will have breakfast with your hosts. For some of you, the tour ends today, when your hosts bring you to the airport for your morning flight. Guests are responsible for arranging and paying for their return flight home from Fairbanks. If your flight departs after 12:00 noon, you will be responsible for your own transportation to the airport. One option would be to ride with your hosts downtown in the morning, experience some Fairbanks attractions and activities, and take a bus or taxi to the airport to catch your flight. Some of you will opt to remain one or more nights in Fairbanks (see below) to continue your adventure. We hope you will have enjoyed a unique and wonderful adventure with WhaleCoast Alaska!

(Option #7, Fairbanks Extended Stay: $168/room/night)

Continue your adventure by adding an extended stay for one or more nights with your Fairbanks UU host, arranged through WhaleCoast Alaska. This option includes lodging, breakfast, and transportation to/from town. For the rest of the time, you’ll be on your own. If we are not able to provide you with a homestay for your early arrival,WhaleCoast Alaska has reserved space in the conveniently-located “Ah Rose Marie” B & B for June 23 and 24. More information is available on the FAQ page. Contact WhaleCoast Alaska to reserve a room there. If you are traveling solo, we can match you with a roommate upon request. There are many fine additional activities and attractions in or near Fairbanks that are well worth the extra time!

(Option #8, Arctic Circle Air Adventure: $460)

You will have most of the day to explore Fairbanks on your own, then we will transport you from downtown to the airport. At 7:00 pm, you will take a scenic flight over the Yukon River and above the Arctic Circle to the town of Coldfoot. A guided bus tour will take you 16 miles to the gold mining town of Wiseman, nestled at the foothills of the majestic Brooks Range. Your guide will teach you about the gold mining that continues to this day. You will receive an official Arctic Circle Certificate after your plane returns at midnight… and the sun will still be shining! The cost of this tour does not include gratuities to the tour guide and pilot, or lodging for the extra night.

(Option #9, Arctic Circle Anaktuvuk Pass Adventure: $560)

You will have most of the day to explore Fairbanks on your own, then we will transport you from downtown to the airport. At 7:00 pm, you will take a scenic flight over the Yukon River and above the Arctic Circle to the Nunamiut village of Anaktuvuk Pass. There, your local host will give you a firsthand snapshot of Nunamiut culture and modern village life. You will receive an official Arctic Circle Certificate after your plane returns at midnight… and the sun will still be shining! The cost of this tour does not include gratuities to the tour guide and pilot, or lodging for the extra night.

You’ll be thrilled with your WhaleCoast Alaska experience!

“Thank you for the trip of a lifetime. We appreciate your wealth of knowledge and experience. It made a complicated and packed agenda a pleasure to experience. You are truly professional.”

Phyllis and Les

Spokane, Washington

“I really enjoyed how the trip blended history, information about the natural environment, the Native peoples of Alaska, interaction with host families who live and work in contemporary Alaska, as well as shared experiences with the other UU  travelers.”

Judy O.

Seattle, Washington

“At each stop, I felt secure that you had chosen the best highlights to share in that town or location. So many details you had to consider with moving us all, and you were so well coordinated!”

Mary S.

West Bloomfield, Michigan