Utterly blown away by our Glacier Bay cruise trip few years ago, we made this trip to Anchorage to check out more of what Alaska had to offer. We booked a 5 day trip package to Anchorage one summer. It was 12:30am when we arrived at Springhill Suites Hotel University Lake. Thanks to midnight sun we were able to get our first glimpse of the city without having to wait till morning.
We took the 5 and a half hour Prince William Sound glacier cruise with Major Marine Tours in Whittier (one and a half hours drive from Anchorage). On our way we had to stop at the one lane tunnel at bear valley for good 30 mins as there was a fixed schedule for vehicles going both ways. It was not a problem for us at all as we got out of our car and soaked in the surrounding beautiful scenery. Around noon, we sailed off on the calm waters of Prince William Sound.
It rained steadily and the clouds lingered so low that they almost touched the waters. We were able to see few bears, sea lions, sea otters, bald eagles, 100s of tall waterfalls, 1000s of nesting kittiwakes and countless salmon at the salmon hatchery. Our catamaran came to a halt amidst floating icebergs at Surprise Glacier. It was amazing to witness huge chunks of ice calve and drop into the water causing loud thunderous sound and big ripples.
We wanted to check out “The Seward Highway” that everybody was going bananas about. So we drove to Seward two and half hours south of Anchorage. This byway had truly spectacular scenery of snow capped mountains, lakes, flowers and many photo opportunities. Rain made the already beautiful drive more striking and picturesque. At Seward we grabbed lunch at Chinooks Waterfront Restaurant. Their Salmon Chowder was just delicious and we couldn’t care for anything more on a cold rainy day.
While we were there we hiked to Exit Glacier. Only a short hike on a barren rocky trail took us to the toe of the glacier. Though it was a good experience the view of the glacier wasn’t best. Wish we had taken the longer trail to get the top view of the glacier. On our way back to Anchorage we stopped along the highway again for more pictures.
A stroll along the University lake loop trail next to our hotel was a pleasant start to the day. Then we headed to Matanuska Glacier which is a 2 hour drive from Anchorage on Glenn Highway. A private property off an exit on the highway maintained road to the glacier and the ¼ mile trail to face of the glacier. Then we could go off on our own as far as we wanted to, at our own risk of course. We saw many go beyond the trail so we followed. Completely in bliss, we hiked till we reached a glacial pool and saw only blue ice in every direction. It was incredible.
Read more about our Walk on Matanuska Glacier.
On our way back to Anchorage we stopped at Lake Eklutna. It was a beautiful serene lake surrounded by deep green mountains and infested by mosquitos :)
Turnagain Arm was the most surreal of all places in Anchorage. With tall mountains jutting out on both shores the mud flats stretched to the other end during low tides and by evening surfers were riding the incoming tides. Unfortunately we could not witness this phenomenon happen as it takes place at particular times everyday. We stopped at Beluga Point - except there were no belugas; McHugh Creek - a short hike to a small waterfall; and Bird Point along the stretch.
Then we visited Alaska Wildlife conservation center. We leisurely drove around the loop and saw some of Alaska’s wildlife up close along with cubs and calves. The beautiful setting surrounded by hanging glaciers and mountains made it even more special. Then we drove to Alyeska Resort in Girdwood to take the Alyeska aerial tram but they were closed for a break and we decided not to wait. We stopped again at the windy and cold breathtaking Turnagain Arm on our way back to the hotel.
It was time for more glaciers. But first we craved something hot and comforting. So we stopped for a hot vegan soup at Portage Glacier Lodge Cafeteria near Portage Lake. We did not book the glacier boat tour in advance so we spent sometime around the lake area and headed to Byron Glacier. We parked at the trailhead and took the easy scenic trail. It was a beautiful hike with glacial rapids running by the side. (We were heartbroken to see the scenery change drastically during our next trip. Less snow, hot weather and the glacier had retreated significantly). We made a quick stop at milepost 4 at Williwaw fish viewing observation deck but we did not see any fish.
Our next stop was Potter Marsh for bird viewing. We could see some of the birds up close from the boardwalk and pull outs across Seward highway. Very sad to end our vacation, we had to forcefully drive ourselves to the airport for our flight back to LA.