Worthwhile side trips

Take time to explore along our route, and you'll find plenty of discoveries just off the road.

Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
Long, wide boardwalks stretch into the more than 500 acres of the refuge, which is the home or migratory stop of more than 130 species of birds. Other resident critters include bears, coyotes, lynx, moose, and river otters. On the Seward Hwy. (State 1), 1/2 mile south of Rabbit Creek Rd. exit; (907) 267-2344.

Alyeska Aerial TramwayOffering spectacular views of neighboring peaks and glaciers, this ski-area cable car accesses great hiking. The posh Seven Glaciers Restaurant serves meals worthy of the scenery; there's also a cafeteria. Tram operates 10:30-9:30 daily; $16 adults (free for diners). Alyeska Resort, Girdwood; (907) 754-2275.

Portage Glacier Recreation Area
The Begich-Boggs Visitor Center offers displays and an excellent film on glaciers, including the one calving icebergs into the lake fronting the building. 9-5 daily. Mile 5.2 on Whittier/Portage Glacier Access Rd.; (907) 783-2326.

Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site
See the entire face of the 2,500-foot-tall glacier from wide asphalt trails (stay on designated paths; touching or walking on the glacier can be hazardous). Interpretive plaques answer questions about this glacier and Alaskan natural history. Mile 28 on Richardson Hwy. (State 4).

Trans-Alaska Pipeline
The 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline usually isn't easy to see, but the overlook at Pump Station 12 has a fine view of it. Mile 65 on Richardson Hwy.

Denali State Park
Denali State Park offers magnificent views of Mt. McKinley and other Alaska Range peaks ― including Denali and the Moose's Tooth ― when it's not cloudy. Viewpoints are well-marked highway turnoffs; milepost 147.1 has an interpretive kiosk, spotting scopes, and a small visitor center. (907) 745-3975.

This charming town is filled with serious mountain climbers and delightful old frame buildings. Stop at the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum ($3; First St.; 907/733-2487), in an old schoolhouse, to see bush-pilot and McKinley-climbing exhibits and to obtain a travel planner. Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce, (907) 733-2330.

Salmon fishing
Three rivers converge near the town of Talkeetna to offer the state's best road-accessible salmon fishing May-Sep. Talkeetna fishing guides offer half-day (from $135), full-day (from $185), and longer trips for sockeye, silver, or king salmon. Prices include use of tackle, gear, and boats. Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce, (907) 733-2330.

In 1935 the Matanuska Valley Colony, a New Deal program, brought 203 families here to farm cooperatively; the program dissolved in 1939. Visit Colony House Museum (open Tue-Sat; $2; 316 E. Elmwood Ave.; 907/745-1935) in the historic district. The nearby Palmer Visitor Information Center (723 S. Valley Way; 907/745-2880) has an excellent gift shop featuring local artists.

Eklutna Historical Park
Built of hand-hewn logs roughly 150 years ago, the Russian Orthodox Church in this Athabascan native village is surrounded by a cemetery filled with colorfully painted spirit houses. From Glenn Hwy. (State 1), take Eklutna Lake Rd. west about 1 mile to park; www.alaskaone.com/eklutna or (907) 696-2828.

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