The All-Alaska Tour
Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Anchorage, Sitka, and Juneau — Optional Tour Extension to Anan Bear Observatory and Wrangell
July 19 – July 31, 2024
13 Days, 12 Nights
Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Anchorage, Sitka, and Juneau
- Welcome dinner hosted by Fairbanks UUs
- 3 nights with Fairbanks UU hosts
- Alaska State Museum of the North (at UAF)
- Large Animal Research Station tour (“Musk Ox Farm”)
- Optional gentle Chena River canoe trip to Sunday service
- Sunday service with the Fairbanks UUs
- Riverboat Discovery cruise on the Chena River
Denali National Park
- Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park
- 2 nights lodging in nearby cabins
- Afternoon free to explore Denali National Park
- Optional Nenana River whitewater rafting trip ($130)
- Interpretive 5-6 hour Tundra Wilderness Tour
- Free time to enjoy Visitor Center, hiking, sled dog demonstration, etc.
- First Class Alaska Railroad full dome car to Anchorage
- 2 nights with Anchorage UU hosts
- Alaska Native Heritage Center
- Anchorage Museum OR explore downtown Anchorage
- Dinner hosted by Anchorage UUs
- Alaska Airlines flight to Sitka
- 2 nights with Sitka UU hosts or at a hotel
- Wildlife Quest boat tour: look for whales, seals, sea lions, etc.
- Alaska Raptor Center Tour
- Sitka National Historic Park Visitors Center and Totem Park
- Dinner with Sitka UU Fellowship
- Sheldon Jackson Museum
- Historic Russian Bishop’s House tour
- Tlingit traditional dance performance
- UU Sunday Service “Inspired by Nature”
- Optional half-day guided kayaking tour ($160)
- Free time to explore Sitka on your own
- Alaska Airlines flight to Juneau
- 3 nights at a Juneau hotel
- Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and nature walk
- Tracy Arm Boat Tour: calving glaciers, whales, and spectacular scenery
- Free time to explore Juneau (Mt. Roberts Tram, self-guided walking tour, zipline tour, botanical gardens, microbreweries)
- Dinner hosted by Juneau UUs
Optional Tour Extension to Anan Bear Observatory and Wrangell
July 31 – August 2nd, 2024
2 day tour extension includes 2 flights, 2 nights lodging + 2 meals
- Flight from Juneau to Wrangell
- 2 nights in a Wrangell lodge
- Guided tour to world class Anan Bear Observatory
- Free time to explore Wrangell
- Flight to Seattle included
- Please Note: 12 guest minimum required for this tour
All-Alaska Tour Slideshow
Day One (7/19, Fri.)
The 2024 All-Alaska tour begins in Fairbanks, Alaska’s Golden Heart City. Each guest arranges (and pays for) their own flight. We recommend that you arrive in Fairbanks in the afternoon or early evening so you can have some time to acclimate and to get a good night’s sleep. You will be met at the Fairbanks International Airport by a Fairbanks UU. You will stay the night with your Fairbanks UU host. Many guests choose to arrive in Fairbanks one or more days early and explore the area on their own. This allows you to adjust to the new time zone and to the 24 hours of daylight. Sometimes the Fairbanks UUs offer an optional day of group activities for early arrivals as a fundraiser: hiking, gold panning, soaking in a nearby hot springs, etc.
Day Two (7/20, Sat.)
You will have breakfast with your hosts this morning. After breakfast, we will meet for a tour orientation. It’s fun to get to know the people that you will be traveling with. Typically, at least 20 states are represented in our group! Lunch will be catered by the local UUs. After lunch, we will shuttle to the UAF Large Animal Research Station (locals call it the “Musk Ox Farm”) where a docent specially trained in the biology of large mammals will tell us about the musk ox and reindeer there. The musk ox lived through the last ice age. This is the only successful large terrestrial mammal to continuously occupy the arctic for the past 10,000 years. Afterward, we will 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 features Alaskan animals, Alaska history, and the arctic environment. Following our day on campus, the local UUs will drive us to their beautiful sanctuary for a delicious dinner that they have prepared for us. They will also entertain us with their hometown talent. Be prepared for a strange experience of “nighttime.” It will not get dark in this “land of the midnight sun” during our entire time in Fairbanks! Your host will take you home for a well-deserved night’s sleep.
Day Three (7/21, 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 try to 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. After the service, the Fairbanks UUs will drive us to the nearby riverboat dock, where we will eat lunch. We will then board the Riverboat Discovery, Alaska’s last sternwheeler paddleboat, and travel down 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 her people catch salmon in a fish wheel, clean them, and smoke them. Native young people, home from college for the summer, will guide us through this fish camp, giving us a fascinating window into Athabascan culture. 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. (Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day.)
Day Four (7/22, Mon.)
After breakfast with your hosts, you will board the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park. The train route travels across scenic boreal forests, through the village of Nenana, and high on the ledge of a canyon. Lunch is a sandwich or other to-go meal on the train. Our scheduled arrival in Denali National Park is 12:15 pm. Your luggage will be delivered to our cabins so that you can have the entire afternoon to experience the park on your own. Some options would be to enjoy a hike on your own, explore the Visitor Center, visit our country’s only National Park Service sled dog kennel, or participate in other activities of the day. Dinner($) is on your own. Our lodging has a nice restaurant, and there are many others within walking distance or a short shuttle ride. Don’t stay up too late. Tomorrow we have an early start.
(Option #1, Whitewater Rafting, $130)
You have the option of a thrilling whitewater rafting trip on the Nenana River. No experience is necessary, since your professional guide will help navigate the rapids. You will be issued a drysuit to keep you comfortable. The $130 cost includes an action photo of each rafting group plus all gratuities.
Day Five (7/23, Tue.)
Breakfast will be early this morning, and you may take it to-go from the cabins. After breakfast, we board a Tundra Wilderness Tour bus to take us into the park. This 5-6 hour tour is a great way to see many animals – moose, caribou, sheep, grizzly bear, wolf, fox, interesting birds, etc. – and get a feel for the sheer expanse of Denali National Park. It’s the size of Massachusetts. If it’s clear enough, we’ll have a chance to see Denali (“The Great One”), the highest mountain in North America at 20,310 ft. Even if Denali is not visible
(it’s in full view only a few days per month), the wildlife and natural beauty of the area are still well worth the trip. A box lunch is included in the tour. After your tour, you can take the rest of the afternoon – and the evening, since it won’t get dark – to enjoy this awe-inspiring park. Dinner($) is on your own.
Day Six (7/24, Wed.)
Breakfast($) is on your own, either at the cabins or at a cafe just a short walk away, and you have the option to sleep in. We will depart mid-morning for the train depot. If you rise early, you can squeeze in one last walk or activity. Around noon, you will board an Alaska Railroad first class train car to Anchorage – one of the world’s most scenic train rides. Our full dome car will afford us magnificent views. Our journey takes us through the Alaska Range, along several wild and scenic rivers, through isolated small towns, and above breathtaking Hurricane Gulch. If it is clear, there will be stunning views of snow-capped mountains, including Denali. This is a train ride you will never forget! Lunch and dinner will be provided in the first class dining car. After dinner, we arrive in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, where your UU hosts will greet you and take you home for the night.
Day Seven (7/25, Thur.)
After breakfast with our hosts, we will meet at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where five indigenous groups – Athabascan, Yupik, Inupiaq, Alutiiq, and Tlingit/Haida – have created a veritable living museum. Reconstructed Native dwellings surround a pond. Native docents at each structure explain the traditions of their people. Contemporary artists, dancers, and storytellers perform every half hour in the main hall of the museum while Native craftspeople in another wing demonstrate their work and talk about their craft and heritage. Lunch is in the Native Heritage Center Café. After lunch, we will shuttle downtown. There, you will visit the superb Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen Center. The museum has fascinating 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. You can explore the museum all afternoon if you like, or take some time to walk around or shop downtown. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, known as one of the most beautiful coastal trails in the nation, is accessible from downtown, and offers beautiful views of the Cook Inlet and surrounding mountain ranges on a clear day. The Anchorage UUs will prepare an excellent dinner for us at their fellowship that evening. You will spend the night with your hosts.
Day Eight (7/26, Fri.)
After breakfast, your hosts will drive you to the Ted Stevens airport for an Alaska Airlines flight to Sitka. Lunch will be at the Sitka UU Fellowship. After lunch, we will take a bus to the Alaska Raptor Center for an interpretive tour. The Center’s scenic 17-acre campus, its bald eagle hospital, and its other programs are all managed by a nonprofit organization. Our admission fees support its mission. From there, we will walk a short trail to the Sitka National Historic Park Visitor Center. There’s a Sitka Spruce forest behind the Visitor Center with many totem poles along the ocean shore. This is the location of the final battle between the Tlingits and the Russians. With its soaring spruce trees, the forest feels like a natural open-air cathedral. We’ll begin with a brief orientation to the park. Then you will have time to explore the interpretive displays both inside and along the trails. Rangers give interpretive talks throughout the day. You will have some free time to explore Sitka. Dinner, which often features locally-caught fish, will be hosted by the Sitka UUs. The small Sitka UU congregation will host some of our group, and the rest of us will stay in a hotel.
Day Nine (7/27, Sat.)
After breakfast at the Sitka UU Fellowship building, we will walk to the historic Russian Bishop’s House, which was once the center of the Russian Orthodox Church authority in a diocese that stretched from California to Siberia. A National Park Service ranger will give us a fascinating tour that includes a discussion of local history and of the relationships between the native Tlingit and the Russian conquerors. Many of the original furnishings and icons of the house are preserved inside. From there, we will walk to the Sheldon Jackson Museum. This jewel of a museum is Alaska’s oldest. It contains a superb collection of Alaska Native cultural artifacts gathered from 1888 to 1898 by a prominent missionary. Lunch($) is on your own. Sitka has many nice restaurants that are within easy walking distance. After lunch, we will meet at Crescent Harbor to board our chartered boat for a “Wildlife Quest” tour. We will have the opportunity to observe some of Sitka’s most famous residents – sea otters, humpback whales, puffins, bald eagles, and other birds – in their natural habitat. Every tour is unique. We might trace the rugged coast of pristine Sitka Sound or explore the narrow waterways that divide countless untouched islands. A naturalist will tell us about the features and habits of the wildlife we see. If we’re fortunate enough to find whales during this tour, it will be breathtaking! Tonight’s dinner($) is on your own. If you are staying with hosts, this would be your opportunity to take them out to dinner and learn more about what it is like to live in Sitka. You will again spend the night with your host or at your hotel.
(Option #2, Guided Kayaking Tour: $160)
This morning, you could take a half day kayaking and cruise adventure. After donning your kayaking gear and attending a kayak skills and safety orientation, you will paddle through Sitka’s pristine and tranquil waters, with plenty of opportunities to spot the beautiful Alaska wildlife of the area. Above the surface, you might see sea lions, seals, eagles, and a variety of marine birds, while below the surface, you might see jellyfish, sea stars, crabs, and anenomes. Paddle time is about 2 hours, and no experience is necessary. The guides are highly trained and safety-conscious. This is a “rain or shine” activity. (Note: maximum weight: 275 lbs.)
Day Ten (7/28, Sun.)
After breakfast, we will hold our Sunday Service. The title of our program will be, “Inspired by Nature,” and will feature literary readings that you and your fellow guests have brought to share. Afterward, we will walk to the Tlingit clan house, or “Sheet’ka Kwaán Naa Kahídi” for a traditional dance performance. The clan house’s large structural beams, central fire pit, and tiered seating provide an ideal ambience. It all starts with the smell of burning cedar that is lit during the introduction of the first dance. The deep sound of the box drum fills the room as Tlingit dancers enter wearing beautiful regalia. They sing ancient songs that have been handed down for generations. The narrator begins with a Tlingit story and then interprets and explains all that is seen and heard. A dozen members of the tribe, also wearing traditional outfits, sing and dance three songs. The program lasts a half hour, but the dancers will linger a while to visit with us and answer questions. Lunch($) will be on your own, followed by some free time to explore Sitka. Dinner will be provided by the Sitka UUs. After dinner, we will shuttle to the airport for our flight to Juneau. Our plane lands in Juneau at 8:00 pm. The Juneau UU congregation is small, so we will stay at a hotel near downtown Juneau.
Day Eleven (7/29, Mon.)
Breakfast will be at the Juneau Hotel. After breakfast, we will visit the Mendenhall Glacier and Visitor’s Center, a part of the Tongass National Forest. There, you can see a glacier that has been retreating dramatically for decades. You can take a 5-minute walk on the Photo Point Trail to a scenic overlook, or a two mile round trip trail to a waterfall. A longer walk on the East Glacier Loop Trail travels 3 miles through a young rainforest that was covered by glacial ice 100 years ago. There are many interpretative displays, both in the Visitor Center and outside. Our bus will take us downtown. Lunch($) will be on your own, with a wide selection of restaurants to choose from. You will have the afternoon free to explore Juneau and choose from an array of activities to do on your own, including the Mt. Roberts Tram, self-guided walking tour, zipline tour, botanical gardens, or visiting one of the local microbreweries. Dinner($) will be on your own.
Day Twelve (7/30, Tue.)
After breakfast at our hotel, we will meet at the Juneau boat dock. We’ll board a small boat for a visit to the stunningly beautiful Tracy Arm Fjord. This all-day excursion is an experience that many guests find to be the highlight of their entire tour. We will see tidewater glaciers calving icebergs into the sea, beautiful mountains and waterfalls, and 2,000 foot granite cliffs rising straight up from the water. We often see humpback whales, mountain goats, bears, bald eagles, and seals resting on icebergs. You won’t find the big cruise ships here, they are simply too large. Lunch ($) will be sandwiches on the boat, or you are welcome to bring your own lunch food from Juneau. After our tour, we shuttle to the Juneau Fellowship building for our goodbye dinner. We will view a memorable slide show of tour pictures and bid our farewells.
Day Thirteen (7/31, Wed.)
Sadly, our tour ends this morning. After breakfast at your hotel, you will take a shuttle to the airport for your morning flight. Check out time is 12 pm. If your flight leaves later in the day, you can either go to the airport early and wait for your flight, or arrange transportation at your own expense later in the day.
Optional 2 Day Tour Extension to Anan Bear Observatory and Wrangell ($1,406)
Included with this fee:
- Flight from Juneau to Wrangell
- Anan Bear Observatory guided tour
- 2 nights lodging at a Wrangell lodge
- 1 lunch and 1 dinner, and 2 breakfasts
- Flight from Wrangell to Seattle
Day One (Wednesday, 7/31)
We will shuttle to the Juneau airport later in the morning. Lunch($) is at the airport or you can bring something from Juneau. After lunch, Alaska Airlines will fly us to Wrangell, a quiet fishing town at the mouth of the mighty Stikine River. Wrangell is the only Alaska town to have been ruled by four nations: Tlingit, Russia, England, and the US. We’ll shuttle to a local lodge where we’ll spend the night. You’ll have some time to walk around town. Dinner ($) will be on your own at a Wrangell restaurant.
Day Two (Thursday, 8/1)
Breakfast will be provided for you at our lodge. Half the group will shuttle to the harbor, where our tour boat will take us 30 miles to the the mouth of Anan Creek. The other half of the group will explore Wrangell today and visit Anan the following day. On the boat tour, we could see whales, seals, bald eagles, or other wildlife on the way. Lunch will be provided on the boat before stepping foot in bear territory. A guide will lead us on a half mile walk to the world class Anan Bear Observatory. Grizzly and black bears congregate to catch salmon, and we will have a birds-eye view. There is a stairway leading to a blind near the bottom of a small waterfall, where you might see bears as close as 12 feet away. Don’t forget to bring your camera! We’ll also see bald eagles feeding on the discarded fish carcasses. We’ll spend a couple hours viewing these fascinating bears before returning to the boat and cruising back to Wrangell. This is a day that you will savor forever! Dinner will be at the finest restaurant in town, The Stik Restaurant at the Stikine Inn.
Day Three (Friday, 8/2)
Breakfast will once again be at the lodge. The other half of the group will visit Anan Bear Observatory, while those that visited the previous day will be able to explore Wrangell. One option is to visit Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park, which has the highest concentration of petroglyphs in Southeast Alaska. Other options include visiting the Wrangell museum, Totem Park, or exploring the town by foot or bike. Lunch($) is on your own. In the afternoon, we’ll meet to shuttle to the airport. Your tour fee includes your flight to Seattle. Each guest will need to arrange their own transportation home from there.
Basic Tour Package
Make a deposit to reserve a space on this tour.
Balance of tour payment is due March 15, 2024.
Optional Tour Activities
Please choose specific additional tour options. More information included in the Detailed Itinerary.
You’ll be thrilled with your WhaleCoast Alaska experience!
“The scenery, the fellowship, the leadership, the diversity of travel and experiences, the planning and expertise of our leaders–top notch! Would recommend to those who want more than a ‘cruise-ship’ type of experience.”
“The homestays were a wonderful part of the travel experience. Our hosts from the various small Unitarian churches and fellowships were very friendly and hospitable. They were happy to share their stories of how and why they came to Alaska, to answer our questions, and to help us understand and appreciate “their” Alaska.”
“What a gift of a lifetime you have given us! The adventures and experiences were so rich and valuable. Our perspectives of Alaskan nature, history, and its amazing people have been forever impacted.”