The All-Alaska Tour
Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka
July 5-17, 2019
13 Days, 12 Nights
Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka
- Optional Early Fairbanks Stay ($164/room/night)
- Optional “Journey to the Arctic” tour ($465)
- 3 nights with Fairbanks UU hosts
- Alaska State Museum of the North (at UAF)
- Large Animal Research Station tour (“Musk Ox Farm”)
- Welcome Dinner hosted by Fairbanks UUs
- 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 comfortable, quiet cabins
- Afternoon free to explore Denali National Park
- Optional Nenana River whitewater rafting trip ($94)
- Interpretive 9 hour Tundra Wilderness Tour
- Optional Extended Backcountry Lodge 14-hour tour ($55)
- Free time to enjoy Visitors Center, walking trails, sled dog demonstration, etc.
- Alaska Railroad to Anchorage
- 2 nights with Anchorage UU hosts
- Alaska Native Heritage Center
- Anchorage Museum OR Bike Rental OR Explore Downtown
- Dinner hosted by Anchorage UUs
- Alaska Airlines flight to Juneau
- 2 nights with Juneau UU hosts or at a downtown hotel
- Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and nature walk
- Dinner hosted by Juneau UUs
- Tracy Arm Tour Boat: calving glaciers, whales, and spectacular scenery
- Alaska Airlines flight to Sitka
- 3 nights with Sitka UU hosts or at a guest house
- Wildlife Quest boat tour: look for whales, seals, sea lions, etc.
- UU Service “Inspired by Nature”
- 2 Dinners at Sitka UU Fellowship building
- Sitka National Historic Park Visitors Center and Totem Park
- Alaska Raptor Center
- Tlingit traditional dance performance
- Optional half-day guided kayaking tour ($153)
- Sheldon Jackson Museum
- Historic Russian Bishop’s House tour
- Afternoon free to explore Sitka
- Goodbye dinner hosted by Sitka UUs
- Early Fairbanks Stay ($164 /room/night)
- Journey Above the Arctic ($465)
- Whitewater Rafting ($94)
- Extended Denali Tour ($55)
- Guided Kayak Tour ($153)
All-Alaska Tour Slideshow (2018)
Day One (7/5, Fri.)
The 2019 All-Alaska tour begins in Fairbanks, Alaska’s Golden Heart City. Each guest arranges (and pays for) his/her own flights. It is recommended 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 and/or one of the tour directors. You will stay the night with your Fairbanks UU host.
(Option #1, Early Fairbanks Stay: $164/room/night)
If you wish to arrive one or more days early and explore Fairbanks on your own, WhaleCoast Alaska can arrange for you to stay with a Fairbanks host. You can hike, soak in a nearby hot springs, visit other local attractions, or simply relax under the midnight sun. Your host can offer suggestions. Space for this option is very limited. It is only available to guests who arrive before 11:00 pm. If we are not able to provide you with a homestay for your early arrival, you can get a discounted rate at the Bridgewater Hotel for your early arrival lodging by calling 907-231-3535 and letting them know that you are a WhaleCoast Alaska guest.
(Option #2, Journey Above the Arctic: $465)
If you would like to arrive in Fairbanks early and visit a remote village, you can take a memorable 75-minute flight in a small plane to the Gwich’in Athabascan village of Fort Yukon. This historic village is located on the banks of the Yukon River, eight miles north of the Arctic Circle. Your local guide will share his/her personal perspective of Native culture, salmon fishing, subsistence lifestyle, the Yukon River, and other aspects of village life. Your tour will consist of about 2.5 scenic hours of flight time and 1-1.5 hours visiting Fort Yukon. You will also receive an official Arctic Circle Adventure Certificate. This is an authentic window into Athabaskan culture. This tour departs at 7 pm and returns by 11 pm. This tour is scheduled for Thursday, July 4, which means that you would need to arrive on July 3 in order to participate. The two extra nights lodging are NOT included in the cost of this tour.
Day Two (7/6, 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. Last year’s group represented 20 states! 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 them. We’ll see musk ox, caribou 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 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. There may also be time to take a walk to around the campus or see the botanical gardens. 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 (7/7, 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 at 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 Fairbanks UUs will drive us to the nearby riverboat dock, where we will have 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 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. 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 ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day.)
Day Four (7/8, Mon.)
After breakfast with your hosts, you will board the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park. The train route travels across scenic boreal forests, through the village of Nenana, and high on the ledge of a canyon. Lunch($) is on the train. Our scheduled arrival in Denali National Park is 12:15 pm. Your luggage will be delivered to your comfortable cabin so that you can have the entire afternoon to experience the park on your own. Some options would be to enjoy a Ranger-led walk, hike on your own, explore the Visitor’s 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 campus has a nice restaurant, and there are many others along the shuttle bus route. Don’t stay up too late. Tomorrow we have an early start.
(Option #3, Whitewater Rafting, $94)
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 $94 cost includes an action photo of each rafting group plus all gratuities. If some of the rafters wish to dine together($) at a local restaurant after the trip, your tour director can arrange a dinner reservation.
Day Five (7/9, Tue.)
Breakfast at the restaurant will be early this morning. After breakfast, we board a Tundra Wilderness Tour bus to take us 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 have lived here ever since. This 9 hour tour is a great way to see many animals – moose, caribou, sheep, grizzly bear, wolf, fox, subarctic 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 the mountain called Denali (“The Great One”), we’re in for something spectacular! Denali is the highest mountain in North America at 20,310 ft. Measured from base to peak, Denali is one of the tallest mountain expanses on earth. Even if the mountain 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 light 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. There are some options for evening entertainment. You could also relax in one of the outdoor hot tubs at our lodging site.
(Option #4, Extended Tour of Denali: $55)
Extend your time in the park by taking this 14 hour “Backcountry Lodge Tour” instead of the standard Tundra Wilderness Tour. You will venture 34 miles farther along the Denali Park Road, giving you additional time for viewing wildlife and scenic mountains. This tour includes a hearty buffet lunch and interpretive program at the Backcountry Lodge. (Seats on this tour are limited. Please read information on the FAQ page and ask about availability before registering.)
Day Six (7/10, Wed.)
Breakfast($)is on your own, and you have the option to sleep in. Our shuttle to the train depot departs in mid-morning. If you arise early, you can squeeze in one last walk or activity. Around noon, you will board the Alaska Railroad train to Anchorage – one of the world’s most scenic train rides. 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($) and Dinner($) are on your own, either in the dining car or the in the train’s casual café. 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 (7/11, Thur.)
After breakfast with our hosts, we will meet at the 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 small lake. Native 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 while Native craftspeople in another wing will be demonstrating their work and talking about their craft and heritage. Lunch($) is on your own at the Native Heritage Center Café. After lunch, we will shuttle downtown. There, you will have a choice of three 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. You can explore the museum all afternoon if you like, or take some time to walk around or shop downtown. If you want something more active, two alternatives are offered: renting a bicycle for an afternoon ride along the popular Coastal Trail, or exploring Anchorage on your own. The Anchorage UUs will prepare an excellent dinner for us at their church. You will spend the night with your hosts.
Day Eight (7/12, Fri.)
After breakfast, your hosts will drive you to the Ted Stevens airport for a mid-morning Alaska Airlines flight to Juneau, where we will have lunch at a local restaurant. A bus will take us to the Mendenhall Glacier and Visitors Center. There, you can see a glacier that has been retreating dramatically for decades. A short trail highlights the glacial ecology of the area. You can also take a 5-minute walk the on Photo Point Trail to a scenic overlook. Another half mile trail leads to a waterfall. There are also many interpretative displays, both in the Visitors Center and on the trails. Our bus will take us to downtown Juneau, where you will have some time to explore on your own. At the end of the afternoon, you will take a short bus ride across the Gastineau Channel to the Juneau UU Fellowship building, where the UUs will host a delicious dinner. Since the Juneau congregation is small, some of us will be hosted by Juneau UUs, and some of us will be in a hotel.
Day Nine (7/13, Sat.)
After breakfast with our hosts or at our hotel, we will meet at the Juneau boat dock. We’ll board a small boat for a visit to the 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 2,000 foot granite cliffs rising straight up from the water. Our incredibly deep and narrow fjord winds past waterfalls to massive glaciers, their icebergs dotted with fur seals. We often see humpback whales, orcas, goats, bears, and bald eagles. You won’t find the big ships here, they are simply too large. A box lunch will be provided on the boat. After our tour, you’re on your own for dinner($). There are several restaurants within walking distance of the dock. This would be a great time to treat your host to dinner, if you are so inclined. You will spend the night with your host or at your hotel.
Day Ten (7/14, Sun.)
After breakfast, we will fly to the historic town of Sitka, Alaska’s original territorial capital. We will shuttle to the Sitka UU Fellowship Building, which will familiarize you with the small town. Our destination will be the Sitka UU Fellowship building, where the UUs will host us for lunch. After lunch, we will walk 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 work. We will walk back to the UU Fellowship building, where we will have 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, the Sitka UUs will prepare dinner for us. The small Sitka UU Fellowship will host most of our group, and the rest of us will stay in a hotel or guest house.
Day Eleven (7/15, Mon.)
After breakfast at the Fellowship building, we will walk to the Sitka National Historic Park Visitors Center. There’s a Sitka Spruce forest behind the Visitor’s 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. Rangers lead interpretive walks at various times throughout the day – an opportunity you won’t want to miss. After our visit, we will walk to 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, or even brown bear – 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! A delicious lunch will be included with this tour. After our tour, we will walk to the clan house, or “Sheet’ka Kwaán Naa Kahídi” for a Tlingit 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. Dinner($ )is on your own, at one of Sitka’s many fine restaurants. If you are staying with hosts, this would be a good opportunity for you to take them out to dinner and learn more about what it’s like to live in Sitka. You will return to your host’s home, your guest house, or your hotel for the night.
(Option #5, Guided half-day Kayaking Tour: $153)
Instead of going to the Sitka National Historic Park Visitors Center, you will paddle through mazes of reef and kelp forest – areas accessible only by kayak – to look for colorful marine life visible below, including crab, sea stars, anemones, and sea urchins. On the surface, you might see harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions, and bald eagles. The tour begins with a thorough orientation and safety demonstration, and ends at one of the many islands. A passenger boat picks us up and transports us back to Sitka. No experience is necessary. The guides are highly trained and safety-conscious. They teach us how to paddle, and double kayaks are used for added safety. If you opt for kayaking, you are committed “rain or shine.” Kayakers will have an opportunity to go to the visitor center tomorrow during their free afternoon. (Maximum weight is 275 pounds. Space on this tour is limited. Ask about availability before registering.)
Day Twelve (7/16, Tue.)
After breakfast at the UU Fellowship building, we will walk to the historic Russian Bishop’s House, which was once the center of Russian Orthodox Church authority in a diocese that stretched from California to Siberia. A National Park Service ranger will give us a fascinating tour that includes a discussion of local history and of the relationships between the native Tlingit and the Russian conquerors. Many of the original furnishings and icons of the house are preserved inside. From there, we will walk to the Sheldon Jackson Museum. This jewel of a museum is Alaska’s oldest. It contains a superb collection of Alaska Native cultural artifacts gathered from 1888 to1898 by a prominent missionary. Lunch($) is on your own. Sitka has many nice restaurants that are within easy walking distance. You will have the afternoon free to explore Sitka. If you opted for the kayak trip on Monday, this would be your opportunity to visit the Sitka National Historic Park Visitors Center. Other options include visiting the historic St. Michael’s Cathedral, relaxing by the harbor, renting a bicycle, hiking one of Sitka’s trails, or visiting Baranof Island Brewing Co., Sitka’s craft brewery. We will meet at the UU Fellowship building for a delicious dinner, often featuring locally caught salmon. We will view a slide show of pictures of the tour and say our goodbyes.
Day Thirteen (7/17, Wed.)
Your tour ends this morning. You are responsible for arranging and paying for your flight home from Sitka. After breakfast with your hosts, you will be transported to the airport if you have a morning flight. Our last transport to the airport will be at 11:45 am. If your flight leaves later in the day, you can either go to the airport at 11:45 am and relax, or arrange your own taxi (2 miles) later in the day.
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.”