Trip to Anchorage, Alaska
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. One summer, we booked our flights and hotel for 5 days in Anchorage. 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.
Surprise Glacier in Prince William Sound
Day 1: For our first day in Anchorage, we booked a cruise tour in advance. We took the 5 and a half hour Prince William Sound glacier cruise with Major Marine Tours in Whittier, an hour and a half drive from Anchorage. On our way we had to stop at the one lane tunnel at bear valley for a 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.
Prince William Sound Waterfalls
Kittiwake rookery / Waterfalls
Our tour was 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. The scenery was breathtaking. We were mesmerized by the 100s of waterfalls. We had never seen so many waterfalls at one place before. We spotted few bears, sea lions, sea otters, bald eagles, 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 sounds and big ripples.
Day 2: We wanted to check out “The Seward Highway” that everybody went bananas about. So we drove to Seward, two and a half hours south of Anchorage.
This byway truly had jaw-dropping scenery of snow capped mountains, lakes and flowers, and many photo opportunities. Rain made the already beautiful drive more striking and picturesque.
When we arrived at Seward, we first 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.
After lunch, we hiked the trail to Exit Glacier. It was only a short hike on a barren rocky trail to the toe of the glacier. Though it was a good experience, the view of the glacier wasn’t the 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.
Trail to Exit Glacier / Exit Glacier in Seward
Day 3: 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, a 2 hour drive from Anchorage on Glenn Highway. A private property off an exit on the highway, maintained the road and the ¼ mile trail to the 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 visitors venture beyond the trail so we followed. Completely in bliss, we hiked till we reached a glacial pool and saw nothing but only blue ice around us. 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 but infested with mosquitos :)
Day 4: 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.
Turnagain Arm mudflats / Surfing in high tides
Then we visited Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. We leisurely drove around the loop and saw some of Alaska’s wildlife up close, along with some cubs and calves.
The park is in a beautiful setting surrounded by hanging glaciers and mountains.
Then we drove to Alyeska Resort in Girdwood to take the Alyeska Aerial Tram. But they were closed for a break and we had to wait for nearly an hour before they could start the rides. We chose not to wait. Instead we stopped again at the windy, cold and breathtaking Turnagain Arm on our way back to the hotel.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Bears having a moment / Deers relaxing
Day 5: 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. To see the actual glacier it required a boat tour. We did not book a tour in advance, so we just strolled around the lake for a bit and headed to Byron Glacier. We parked at the trailhead and took the easy scenic trail.
The hike itself was enjoyable with beautiful views and glacial rapids running alongside the trail.
It was cold and drizzled as we neared the glacier. The glacier was blue and peaking out of the fog. We were heartbroken to see the scenery change drastically during our next trip. There was less snow, the weather was hot and the glacier had retreated significantly.
Byron gGacier trail / Byron Glacier
We made a quick stop at Williwaw fish viewing observation deck (milepost 4) but we could not spot any fish. Our next stop was Potter Marsh for bird viewing. We pulled out our binoculars and saw some pretty birds up close from the boardwalk and more from pullouts across Seward highway. Very sad that our vacation came to an end, we had to forcefully drive ourselves to the airport for our flight back to LA.
Each day and experience during this trip was unique and felt like the best ever. It definitely beat our cruise tour, although that was very different, we had fun discovering the place on our own. By far Alaska is our most favorite destination and will always have a special place in our hearts.
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