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Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip
  
 
douter
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


I'm planning a vacation to Alaska this coming July. Was thinking about taking an "inside passage" cruise, but also want to photograph some brown bears and moose. Are the two ideas incongruent or can they be done in a one-time trip? If anyone has suggestions for services, I would greatly appreciate some guidance.
Thank you,
Douglas

Edited on Jan 01, 2018 at 05:04 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2017 at 03:43 PM
elkhornsun
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


For bears the best bet is to take one of the float planes that fly out of the Anchorage area. Moose are easy to find in the town of Anchorage and of course in the adjoining Chugach State Park that is 20 minutes from town and covers 5,000 acres, making it the third largest state park in the USA.

Personally I would not waste time by spending it on a large cruise ship. Anchorage is very centrally situated for excursions to Denali and Valdez (and Copper River) and to the Kenai areas.

By the way, you can rent an RV in Alaska and pick it up in Anchorage.

Best places I have found for information on an area is with the tourism bureaus and chambers of commerce, as with www.anchorage.net.



Dec 29, 2017 at 07:13 PM
stanparker
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


When I took the Alaska cruise, weather was an issue all week, but I was stuck with it. The biggest takeaway from the cruise was the awareness I needed to go back and see the interior. In 2004, took my RV and spent two months touring Alaska. Not everyone has the time I did, but I believe an inland visit is far superior to the cruise.Fly nin and rent a car (or RV) and go where you like. If the weather is bad in one area, go elsewhere. You have options not available on a cruise.




Dec 29, 2017 at 07:40 PM
GroovyGeek
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


Cruises on large ships are a giant waste of time and money. You are on land typically between the hours of 10am and 3pm if even that. The ships are too big to get close to the coastline, and nobody will stick around a particularly interesting area because the light is about to break in 15 minutes. If this is about photography as a primary objective do yourself a favor and take the previous two posters advice. Fly to Alaska and organize trips there from whatever you choose to be your base camps. If you dont want to self arrange there are plenty of photo trips in Alaska by good photogs that will probably cost you about what a cruise will.


Dec 30, 2017 at 09:39 AM
bflood
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


As a photo outing, the cruise (Seward to Vancouver) was a bust. However, my wife loved it, and she has as much to say about where we go and how we get there as I do. So we did the cruise - it was comfortable, but photographically disappointing.

But a few years later, we did my version of an Alaska trip - 2 weeks in a rented car, one week on the Kenai Peninsula and another around Denali and Fairbanks. Of course, I liked my trip better, but my wife still talks with friends about the cruise and not Denali.

The point? If you are traveling with someone, then the decision to cruise may involve the preferences of someone else, someone important in your life. Some of the recommendations seem to overlook this aspect. But if the purpose of the trip is your photography (like my second trip), then a land-based visit using a rental car or RV is the better way to go, by far. And cheaper - the 2 week inland visit cost half what the one week cruise did.

Bears in July - look into flights based in Anchorage, Kenai, and Homer, and search on both grizzly and black bears. Skip the Kenai River - it will see some bears during the summer salmon run, but the river will be elbow to elbow with fishermen, and rangers run them off if a bear appears along the river. Not good for photography.

The Brooks River and the lodge there are famous for viewing bears, but an expensive place to stay. A day visit will be a lot cheaper if less convenient (obviously shorter). But there are flights to other locations. Ask about how much hiking the trip involves (some require too much for me - disabled) but others require little to none. Ask about how much gear you can take on the plane - it will dictate how much you can take and how much has to be left behind for the day.

Vehicle - I discovered that my employer had a contract with a rental car company and the contract could be used by employees for personal rentals. That cut the cost of 2 weeks rent on a car in half - worth looking into maybe.



Dec 31, 2017 at 04:25 AM
RansomRR
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


Anchorage is probably the best bet for moose, but with all of the leaves on they can still be tough to find. Kincaid Park and the Coastal Trail, both by the main airport are about the best bets that time of year. Between 8 PM and and 8 Am tend to be better bets in the summer, especially if its hot ("hot" is over 60 - 65 F for a moose.)

Flights into Katmai NP are the best bet for bears if you have the budget. Homer has more air taxis offering day trips and its the closest to the best places. You will probably see bears if you visit Denali, but photo ops are just what you can get from the bus. The NPS has a 300 yards safety buffer for bears and they definitely enforce it- especially if you have any sort of camera gear.

If you're visiting for a week or more, I'd get a motor home. They are good values when you consider the flexibility. If you do get a motor home, get "The Milepost" too. Its an excellent reference for whats available along all of the roads in AK and western Canada.




Jan 01, 2018 at 05:11 AM
RansomRR
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


Oh yes, add "Alaska" to your topic heading- you'll probably get more responses.


Jan 01, 2018 at 05:12 AM
 

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douter
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


Okay, thank you, we will be making Anchorage the hub for our adventure. Looking at 10 -14 days. Now looking for specific suggestions for side trips with a central focus on photography, more wildlife than landscape, but also native cultural events that you may have attended and enjoyed. Also any specific outfitter recommendations you might be able to make.
Thank you all for your help.
Douglas



Jan 01, 2018 at 05:09 PM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


douter wrote:
I'm planning a vacation to Alaska this coming July. Was thinking about taking an "inside passage" cruise, but also want to photograph some brown bears and moose. Are the two ideas incongruent or can they be done in a one-time trip? If anyone has suggestions for services, I would greatly appreciate some guidance.
Thank you,
Douglas


While I agree that cruises are not necessisarly a good photography rich event because of mid day and tight schedules
- They often make your spouse happy
- They accommodate lots of different family members (mom, grandchild) on different schedule
- They permit a introductory tour of lots of great spots and excursions albeit in a crowded environoment covering lots of ground


You could consider if you have lots of time - take a one way cruise to Alaska on inside passage, then get off and spend 5 days visiting the bears by plane, go to Denali for 5 days looking for moose, [and send the spouse home if he/she does not like rustic], and then fly home.

You can do both.




Jan 03, 2018 at 07:47 PM
stanparker
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


One of my favorites was the Portage Valley, south of Anchorage. There are hanging glaciers and waterfalls in the valley, and you can visit Portage Lake which has icebergs from the glacier. An inexpensive boat tour takes you right up to Portage Glacier. Then you can, on the proper schedule, go through the tunnel to Whittier, a quirky little town on Prince William Sound. The tunnel alternates directions each half hour, except when the train comes through. I actually stayed in a campground in the valley and enjoyed it immensely. I liked Whittier better than Seward, but you can do both.


Jan 04, 2018 at 01:26 AM
OSOFAST
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


I do not know if I should tell you this but I guess whats one more lottery player!!
I looked at Brooks River area, very nice and very pricey. Did look like a lot of bears. I might go there this year if my lottery does not pay out.
Now the lottery is for the McNeil River area. The State of Alaska governs this wildlife area and issues less than 200 permits a year for access there, back country camping only, float plane transportation is needed to get there. But IMHO this is the best area for viewing bears in Alaska. Now I will admit I have never been there, but from my research it is the best for bear viewing. I applied already for this summer so I am keeping my fingers crossed for a permit.
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewingpermits.mcneil_apply
Jeff



Jan 11, 2018 at 08:16 PM
RansomRR
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


Anchorage day trip ideas-

Portage Valley is a nice place to visit and camp if the wx is decent. Portage Glacier has receded a great deal in recent years so there is less ice calving into the lake. Portage Glacier is a lot smaller than Holgate Glacier (which you'd visit on a full day tour out of Seward) or several of the glaciers you'd visit on the 26 Glaciers Tour in Prince William Sound.

Whittier is a nice add on if you're in Portage. The 26 Glaciers Tour is a great way to see some of the nicer areas in the Sound. You'd want to have decent wx for the 26 Glaciers Tour. The ceiling and visibility are the important thing since the summer waves aren't big enough to be a problem on that big catamaran.

Crow Creek Pass near Girwood is a nice day trip if you want to do some hiking. There is a moderate chance of seeing mountain goats near the pass on that hike.

The Eagle River Visitor Center is another nice place to visit. There are quite a few moose near the visitor center, as well as a lot of bears. Although spotting them requires luck since the vegetation is pretty thick in the valley.

Arctic Valley, between Anchorage and Eagle River, is a nice alpine hiking destination. It can be a good place to find willow ptarmigan, and if you're up at the top of the ridges you might spot a rock ptarmigan.

Powerline Pass, aka Glenn Alps or the Flat Top Trail head, is another good area for alpine hiking, although its very popular. Its always very busy on nice weekends or even week day evening- the parking lot fills by 9 or 10 AM on many weekends. Its a good place to see moose starting in early Aug thru late Oct.



Jan 14, 2018 at 05:41 PM
GregWCIL
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Alaska - Once in a lifetime trip


douter wrote:
Okay, thank you, we will be making Anchorage the hub for our adventure. Looking at 10 -14 days. Now looking for specific suggestions for side trips with a central focus on photography, more wildlife than landscape, but also native cultural events that you may have attended and enjoyed. Also any specific outfitter recommendations you might be able to make.
Thank you all for your help.
Douglas


I suggest you not actually stay in Anchorage every night. Assuming you are more mobile, I'd suggest two main side trips.
First, I'd go to Homer. The drive has many places where you can hike and hopefully see some wildlife. Right now, I would reserve a trip to the north side of the Cook Inlet (Lake Clark National Park area) to fly in and photograph coastal brown bears. You will get very close to them. These trips range from $600 for half a day to several thousand for several days at a lodge. We've done both. For the one-day flight K Bay Air did a great job. The overnight lodges are probably already booked for the summer.
Lots to see in Homer including eagles, moose, etc. On the way to or from Homer go to Seward and do a cruise into Kenai Fjords NP. Lots of birds, sea mammals and beautiful scenery.
On the south edge of Anchorage is Potter's Marsh. A great place with boardwalk access to photograph lots of waterfoul, shorebirds and possibly eagles and moose.
Thats the first main subtrip which would take 4 to 6 days.

The second would be to drive about 6 hours north to Denali National Park. You simply shouldn't go to Alaska without seeing it. There is a day-long bus ride clear to the end of the park road at Wonder Lake. The bus will stop frequently so you can photograph any wildlife you see. You can drive the first 15 miles of the park road in your own vehicle. There are almost constant sightings of wildlife there and you are on your own schedule.

The last time we rented an RV. It was much cheaper than hotels and rental cars and gave us much more flexibility.
Have a great time.



Jan 15, 2018 at 09:22 PM







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