ALASKA TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
Schedules listed here reflect seasonal hours, generally in effect from late May into early September. Always call ahead ― especially if you'll be traveling early or late in the season.
Planning your trip
Lodging, ferry, air, and tour reservations are essential. Two invaluable resources: The Milepost ($26; 800/726-4707) is updated annually, has detailed maps and visitor information, and has been Alaska's essential driving guide since 1949. The Alaska Travel Industry Association (800/862-5275) publishes a free travel planner and is an excellent source of tour and travel information.
Alaska weather is capricious, ranging from rainy and cold to sunny and hot ― sometimes all in the same day. Pack rain gear and layers of warm clothes; serious hikers should pack a change of boots. Take insect repellent and consider a head net for hiking and camping. Outside of Anchorage, "dressing up" means clean jeans.
Driving and road conditions
All of the roads on our route can be driven with a standard rental car; higher clearance and all-wheel drive may come in handy on gravel roads. Be certain to ask about driving restrictions and insurance coverage when you make reservations; get applicable information in writing. On our route, Denali Hwy. (State 8) and Fishhook-Willow Rd. are mostly graded gravel. Sections can be rough and suffer potholes and washouts in bad weather.
To check weather and road conditions anywhere in the state, visit www.dot.state.ak.us and click on "Traveler Info." Or dial 511 for recorded information once you arrive. Top off the tank and check fluid levels in towns; carry extra food and water.
Be cautious of animals
Wild animals ― especially moose and bears ― are unpredictable and dangerous. Never approach or feed any wildlife.
Camping and camper rentals
There are plenty of campgrounds along our route, and camping is a great option ― especially for families. A 24-foot camper that sleeps five rents for about $155 per day and 15 cents a mile; propane and incidentals (like bedding and supplies) probably will cost another $100. Reserve ahead; for a list of rental companies, contact the Alaska Travel Industry Association.
Mini Grand Tour
Don't have the 10 days our Grand Tour requires? You can hit the highlights in 5 full but exhausting days.
DAYS 1-2: Seward and around the Kenai Fjords.
DAYS 3-4: Seward to Denali National Park, with a day in Denali.
DAY 5: Back to Anchorage via Independence Mine.