Alaska Excursions for Everyone
We traveled to Alaska with 28 people. 10 adults and 18 kids ranging in age from 3-16. While we did split up into age appropriate groups a few times, for the most part we wanted to stay together. Read what we liked and what we would do different next time. For more on how to plan an Alaskan Family Road Trip read my article here.
Denali is huge and beautiful. The park, like the mountain is also difficult to see. I stand by my choice to see it, however, it was challenging. We liked the campground that we stayed at; Riley Creek and the facilities near the entrance of the park. Beware; there are A LOT of bugs. However, the problems in my opinion arose when we tried to venture into the park. There are really only a few options if you want to see Denali. Unless you are camping for 3 nights at one of the campgrounds deep in Denali; private vehicles cannot drive past Mile Marker 15. So, you need to rent a space on a shuttle or tour bus. You can also fly over Denali by plane, but our group was way too big.
We opted to do the Denali Shuttle from the Wilderness Access Center. We made reservations, but our group was too big to get on the same bus. You buy tickets to a certain point on the park road. We picked the middle option which was the Eilson Visitor’s Center 56 miles up the park road. It would be a 6 hour round trip ride on a green school bus. We figured we would get on and off to hike around and maybe turn around before we got to Eileson. We were wrong.
Once you get on your bus, that is the only place that you are guaranteed a seat. Most of the other buses were full as well and we didn’t want to chance getting stuck on the park road with little kids and no ride. So we stayed on all the way to our destination. Our driver was great and we had a few scheduled 10 minute stops. We also saw quite a bit of wildlife (bears, moose, caribou and a wolf), however, we didn’t do any hiking.
In the end; Denali is beautiful. However, next time I will book a trip with a guide and really get out and experience it.
Girdwood was our second stop. We stayed at Portage Glacier RV Park, which was no frills but had great views and a cool lake with a small ice field behind it that our kids had fun climbing on. However, it also had mosquitos the size of small birds that you could hear coming a mile away. In the interest of not getting eaten we spent most of the evening in our RV’s.
Girdwood was our first stop on the Kenai and we had several great options of fun things to do. Our group ended up splitting up and doing different things. We were happy with all of them. They were;
Portage Glacier Vistors Center; This was an awesome place to learn about glaciers. View Portage and take in some gorgeous scenery. There are also some great hiking trails around Portage lake. I recommend driving through the Whittier Tunnel and hiking on that side. The tunnel is SO cool and the hiking is better. We wished we had more time here.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center; Such a fun spot to view animals. You can stay in your car and get up close and personal with all of Alaksa’s wildlife. This is a popular place.
Gold Mining; Crow Creek Gold Mine in Girdwood was tons of fun. You got to pan for gold and have a real Alaskan mining experience. My family didn’t do this one, but they wish they did.
I LOVE Seward. I really think it is so beautiful. It is about an hour and a half from Girdwood. It sits right on the water and at the edge of Kenai Fjords National Park.
We camped right on the water and had the best view of the bay and the mountains. Seward was our our list specifically to take a day cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park. I ended up picking Kenai Fjords Tours and they were awesome. We booked the 4 hours Fox Island Dinner Cruise. We chose this cruise because we didn’t think that our little kids could handle anymore time on the boat. In the end, it was the perfect amount of time. Fox Island was beautiful, the dinner was great and our captain and boat crew did a great job.
After our dinner on the island we rode over to the entrance to the Fjords. There was a small ice berg floating in the water which they fished out and chopped up so that we could taste glacial ice. We also saw whales, puffins, sea otters, eagles and porpoises while we were out. This was the highlight of our entire trip for me. I really love everything about this beautiful place.
On our way out of Seward we decided to drive back into Kenai Fjords NP to hike up to Exit Glacier. This was a great moderate hike that our whole group was able to do. It was about 4 miles round trip and even our littlest kids made it without too much difficulty. It was also awesome to see a glacier up close.
Cooper Landing sits in the middle of the Kenai Peninsula at the convergence of the Kenai and Russian Rivers. It is a fisherman’s dream. We decided to stay here because my brother in law Steve said it was one of the most beautiful places he’s ever seen. It was beautiful. We stayed at the Russian River Campground, which was unanimously our favorite campground of the trip.
Both the Russian River and Kenai River are big salmon spawning and fishing rivers. Near our campground was a spot called Russian River Falls where the salmon go to spawn. It was a five mile roundtrip hike from where we were and we decided that we couldn’t be that close and not see it. So after dinner (which was about 8:30pm). I should also add that were in the middle of bear country. My sister in law Sierra came prepared with both bear spray and a bear gun which she strapped to her chest complete with bear bullets. I stuck next to her the entire hike.
The hike was beautiful, super fun and the Falls were amazing!! We saw SO many salmon jumping and spawning. It was incredible. My oldest son Jackson was catching salmon with his bare hands. All of the teenagers were having the time of their lives.
The next day we did a 3 hour float trip down the Kenai River with Alaska Rivers Company. ARC was such a professional group of guides and rafts. We put all of our kids except the babies on one raft with Molly and we raced them down the river. We had the best time. There were eagles and fish all down the river and we had a perfect day of with lots of sunshine and 70 degrees.
Homer was our final stop of the trip and we stayed there for two nights. We stayed at Bay Crest RV park. They views of the mountains around Homer were spectacular. It is such a beautiful place.
We came to Homer to fish for Halibut. My husband and his brothers, brother in law and my oldest son Jackson all went Halibut fishing with O’Fish’al Charters and Captain Chad. The weather was not ideal, but they tried a bunch of different places and ended up catching their limits for Halibut. They came home that night happy and tired and with 50 lbs of fish. We have a freezer full now which makes me SO happy.
We really had the best time. There were a few hiccups along the way, but over all it really could not have gone better. I think everyone should experience Alaska at least once in their lifetime.