Visiting Denali National Park and Other Cruise Stops in Alaska

July 19, 2022

It’s been a dream of mine to visit as many National Parks as possible but I thought Alaska would be a hard one to achieve. I just knocked off another National Park from my list by visiting Denali National Park when we needed to take a trip to visit some of my husband’s clients. Andy’s company services the cruise industry so we were able to visit many of the ports that the cruise ships stop at for excursions for their vacationers.

First Stop – Anchorage, Alaska

We started our trip flying into Anchorage right before the July 4th holiday. We rented a truck so that we could easily explore the area. I had forgotten that in July it’s sunny for about 20 hours a day in Alaska so when we arrived at 10 pm and had a hard time finding a restaurant I realized why. We found a quick bite to eat and then headed off to bed to try and head off the jet lag. Andy had a meeting the next morning so while he was away I researched some trails near our hotel so afterwards we could head out for a hike to experience the beautiful Alaskan mountain range. We hiked the Flattop Sunnyside Trail in Chugach State Park and it was a workout! (Probably not a good idea to hike while experiencing jet lag – it was only a 3.5 mile hike but it was brutal with an elevation gain of 1,650 feet.) The scenery was breathtaking and the temperatures were wonderful. It was a nice break from the sultry summer weather of North Carolina. Later, we explored Anchorage and visited a few breweries and restaurants over the next few days. We caught ourselves so many times saying, “Let’s go have a glass of wine and watch the sunset on that rooftop bar,” only then to laugh and remember we won’t see the sunset!

Next Stop – Talkeetna, Alaska

After Anchorage, we headed up to Talkeetna to begin our journey to Denali National Park staying at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. We opted not to take the highly rated train experience because that would take 8 hours so instead we took an air taxi with Talkeetna Air Taxi. We only had a couple of days there and didn’t want to spend it traveling to get to places. The air taxi experience was unique because we got to see Denali and its other peaks up close and personal while landing on one of its glaciers. We even got to see a basecamp for a group of hikers! We were also blessed to join the 30% club we learned. Our weather was sunny and fantastic and apparently only 30% of those who visit Denali get to see it because of the usual cloud cover that hides the peak. This experience only took two hours out of our day, which allowed us time to grab a pizza afterwards and wander through the small village of Talkeetna. We still needed something to do for the afternoon so we booked an excursion with Sled Dog Tours, aka Dallas Seavey Racing. This was really fun and highly recommended because we actually got to ride in the trainers for the dogs and they pulled us through miles of dirt roads. We learned all about Iditarod dogs, the race itself, how they train and why they are the champions they are. Dallas Seavey is a 5 time Iditarod champion and when you see his dogs and learn about his training and feeding program, you’ll understand why. One of my highlights was holding puppies at the end of the tour with my dusty and dirty face!

Juneau, Alaska – Huge Cruise Destination & Day Trip To Hoonah

Next we traveled to Juneau, the capital of Alaska, for a day trip to Hoonah. At Hoonah, we checked on another customer of Andy’s at a cruise ship port and visited the small village of Icy Strait Point. Andy supplies bollards and fenders to the piers where the ships dock up so it was cool to see his products in action. We also perused many of the historical museums and learned about the Tlingit people. Their totem poles and art are scattered throughout southeastern Alaska but the entire Hoonah village seemed to be a hub for their history. It was captivating to learn how the encroaching glaciers from Glacier Bay forced them to move and settle in Hoonah. The village was small so just one day of touring was adequate for this trip.

Last Stop – Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan was our next port to visit and this was a larger port town than Hoonah. The airport was situated on a tiny island so we actually had to take a ferry off the airport island into the city. We stayed at a quaint inn called the Black Bear Inn. We loved this place because we had an entire one bedroom apartment to ourselves. The view was amazing and there was an outdoor kitchen and patio to watch the cruise ships pass by. One of the best parts was talking with the owners, Jim and Nicole. The stories that Jim shared of his life in Alaska were amazing. He can tell a great story and you’ll hear about his experiences as a DuPont Explosive distributor, float plane pilot, tugboat operator, fisherman and business owner. We were generously cared for by this couple. A friend of mine told me the fishing is amazing in Ketchikan so I hope to get to head back to fish and stay at this inn again.

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  • Yvonne

    This trip is on my bucket list!! And I want to do it soon – before the kiddo goes to college. This is such an inspiring post!

  • I love nature and Alaska is a long life dream! Thanks for the extra inspiration!

  • I have so many National Parks on my list that I dream of visiting one day and Denali has been on there for a while! It looks so beautiful! I am really not a fan of small planes though so I might have to wait and opt for a cruise. Looks like you guys had a fab time, thanks for sharing!

    • A
      Tessa Travels

      Me too! I want to see as many NPs as possible!

  • I would love to visit Denali National Park in Alaska and explore these cruise stops. It’s so beautiful!

  • All of these views are amazing! Planning a trip later in the year and am so excited to go.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    A long road trip to Alaska is on our travel wish list. And we would definitely want to explore Denali when we are there. We would probably want to enjoy the train experience. But an air taxi sounds fun too. The sled dog tours sound like a lot of fun.

    • A
      Tessa Travels

      The air taxi is the way to go if you want to see Denali unless if you love trains!

  • This is so helpful! I plan on doing Alaska next summer so this guide will definitely be coming in handy!

  • Danielle

    Denali National Park looks like a lovely place to visit. The scenery from your hike is amazing, definitely worth the walk!

    • A
      Tessa Travels

      Thank you Danielle. Denali is very beautiful; however, that hike was actually outside Anchorage. It’s tough to hike in Denali NP now adays since the main road in is closed. Viewing the park through train and air taxis are the main ways.

  • Kelly Francois

    I’ve been to Alaska on a cruise but I’ve never been to Denali which I’ve always wanted to visit. The dog sledding too is on my bucket list. It would be so much fun cuddling the pups.

    • A
      Tessa Travels

      Hi Kelly, thank you for the comment. Cuddling the puppies was my favorite (although Denali was a close second)!

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