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One Tank Trip for Alaska Camping
Total mileage / average drive time
355 miles – 7 hours, 4 minutes
Road travelers can basically be divided into two types: those who like it mild and those who like it wild. If you and your family are of that group that loves to go off the beaten track and plunge headlong into pristine, little-traveled regions bursting with nature and sparsely populated with friendly, rugged types of folks, then Alaska is the place for you. Everything here is on a scale much grander than the lower 48 — taller falls, wilder rivers, bigger salmon, wider skies, higher mountains.
Your first stop, Talkeetna, has around 850 residents, and what it lacks in population, it makes up for in location! Located just south of Denali State Park at the confluence of the Talkeetna, Chulitna, and Susitna rivers, Talkeetna is a dream come true for outdoor adventurers. From here, pick your wilderness adventure on any of the three rivers. Take a glass-domed river jetboat tour up through Devils Canyon on the Susitna River, enjoy some river rafting on the Chulitna River, or float on a raft through Talkeetna Canyon on the Talkeetna River. Or opt to take a two to eight-hour trek on horseback through the area, all the while taking in incredible views of the majestic Mount Denali as a backdrop. Visit the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum for an up-close and personal look into the history of Mount Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, and the tales of the many climbers who have braved the elements to ascend the mountain. Talkeetna is on the route of one of the last regular flag-stop train routes in the U.S. For a closer look at this incredibly gorgeous area, hop aboard the Alaska Railroad’s Hurricane Turn for the 115-mile, 5-1/2-hour, round-trip train ride between Talkeetna and Hurricane, The train, which operates Thursdays–Sundays from mid-May to mid-September, makes stops and starts any-where along the route for anyone wanting to get on or off and is used frequently by those living in the bush as well as by hikers and anglers. Talkeetna and its surrounding wilderness are the perfect portal for a quick wilderness adventure.
113 miles – 2 hours, 22 minutes
From Talkeetna, head for Anchorage, set between the mountains and the sea, with both the natural beauty of the Alaska wilderness and big-city amenities close at hand. Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city with slightly over 290,000 residents (41% of all the people living of Alaska!) and it enjoys a steady stream of visitors. Close by are the salmon-rich waters of Cook Inlet and the enormous peaks of the 495,000-acre Chugach State Park, the third-largest state park in the U.S. The surrounding area is awash with opportunities for dozens of wilderness adventures — from hiking the tree-line trailhead of Flattop Mountain to fishing in Ship Creek, from taking a glacier tour of Portage Glacier to hopping aboard a seaplane for Lake Hood. The winter months bring inch after inch of snow and in less than 45 minutes from downtown Anchorage, you can be at Alyeska Resort doing a little skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, or snowmobiling. If you need a break from just too much stupendous, indescribable, out-sized wilderness scenery, Anchorage has many attractions to keep you occupied. Head over to the Alaska Native Heritage Center where you’ll discover the rich heritage of the state’s 11 major cultural groups. The Center features six authentic life-size Native dwellings and stages many demonstrations of native arts, song, and dance. At the Alaska Wild Berry Park and Village, hang out with the reindeer; eat some lunch at the Wild Berry Park Grill; and buy some salmon jerky, smoked salmon, and local jams and jellies for the deprived folks back home!
158 miles – 3 hours, 4 minutes
Head south for Kenai, the largest city on the Kenai Peninsula. Gaining prominence as the port near Alaska’s first major oil discovery 20 miles northeast of Kenai more than 50 years ago, this city of 8,000 people is now a big draw for visitors seeking out the wealth of outdoor and wilderness recreational opportunities and astounding natural beauty that surround it. The biggest draw here? Salmon fishing! The Kenai River is well-known for world-class fishing, with four of the five species of Pacific salmon just waiting to be caught in the lower Kenai River and at its mouth between the months of May and September. Go on, try your luck. You might land one that could beat the largest salmon ever caught here that weighed in at 97 pounds!
83.4 miles – 1 hour, 39 minutes
Leaving Kenai, drive south for a little over 80 miles and you’ll arrive in Homer. If you dropped out of the sky, little could prepare you for the expansive beauty of Homer, but as you approach Homer by car, you will catch little glimpses of what’s in store for you when you arrive. Around that final turn you’ll watch the beauty of the area unfold with an incredible panoramic view of the mountains, glaciers, forests, Kachemak Bay, and Homer Spit, or simply, “The Spit.” In town, you’ll discover a pleasing array of art galleries and restaurants, the variety of which will surprise and entice your taste buds. Across the bay is 350,000-acre Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park, a veritable paradise of glaciers, mountains, and coves perfect for paddling. It’s a short trip via water taxi for hikers, backpackers, and kayakers who want to plunge headfirst into this idyllic wilderness. The summer months bring throngs of tourists to The Spit, a 4.5-mile-long strip of land stretching halfway across the bay, who are looking to charter boats in search of monster halibut, walk the needle of land in search of birds, or head to Homer Spit Lagoon to toss in a fishing line, then sit back and soak up this peaceful slice of heaven.
Check out the 2011 One Tank Trip for Alaska
Check out the 2010 One Tank Trip for Alaska
Woodall's Recommended Alaska Campgrounds