View of a road with scenic view in Alaska, along this Alaska Road Trip itinerary

Alaska Road Trip: A Local’s Guide + 8 Day Itinerary (2023)

👉 Jump to: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Map | Getting Around | Tips | FAQs

Planning to visit Alaska, but not sure how to get the most out of your time in the Great Land? No problem! There are plenty of possibilities when it comes to Alaska road trip itineraries. 

I’ve put together an exhilarating 8-day road trip itinerary that shows you the best Alaska’s roads have to offer! 

I was born and raised in the 49th state and road trips are one of my favorite things to do in Alaska. I’ve put together this guide from my own experience to help you get the most out of your time in Alaska. I’ve also got a separate 10 day Alaska itinerary you can check out.

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8-Day Alaska Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 – Anchorage

Aerial view of Downtown Anchorage in Alaska during sunset
Downtown Anchorage at sunset

📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Things to Do in Anchorage

Anchorage is the best place to start your road trip. Arrive early in the morning to give yourself more time to explore. Pick up your rental car at the Anchorage Airport, then head downtown for breakfast at Snow City Cafe. Visit the Anchorage Museum next to get a glimpse into the fascinating world of Alaska’s different cultures.

Grab some grub at the Moose’s Tooth Pub in Midtown. Hit up the local REI after lunch for any gear from your Alaska packing list that you may have forgotten. The afternoon is also a great time for a hike. Flattop Mountain is one of the best local hikes. It offers a great view of the area and is right outside town.

Wrap up the day with brews and food at 49th State Brewing Co. and catch a show at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts

  • 🛎️ Where to Stay: Hotel Captain Cook ($$$, Anchorage’s top luxury hotel), Historic Anchorage Hotel ($$$, vintage boutique hotel), Aptel Studio Hotel ($$, best budget option)
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat: Snow City Cafe ($$), 49th State Brewing ($$$)
  • 🍺 Where to Drink: Darwin’s Theory ($), Avenue Bar ($)
  • 👉 Pro Tip: Bring or buy a small cooler or cooler backpack for your Alaska road trip. Many attractions have limited facilities, especially outside the peak summer season. You can also save a little money this way. This first day is a good time to buy some food for the next day or so. Most hotel rooms in Alaska have refrigerators for overnight storage.  

Day 2 – The Kenai Peninsula (North)

View of the Portage Glacier in the Chugach National Forest
Portage Glacier in the Chugach National Forest

📍 Google Maps 

Get an early start because there’s a lot to do and see on today’s itinerary. After breakfast, head south along the Seward Highway and take in the scenery at Beluga Point. You can even catch the sight of the bore tide roaring in if you arrive at the right time. 

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is your next destination. Take some time at this wildlife rehabilitation center to see some of Alaska’s most famous wild animals up close. Today is a good day to bring a packed lunch along. You also have the option to drive back up to Girdwood and get lunch at one of several eateries there, such as Chair 5 Restaurant.

Next, head east from the AWCC to Portage Lake. The Portage Glacier has retreated over the past several years and is no longer visible from the road. Grayline Alaska offers short cruise tours to take visitors across the lake for a look at this majestic river of ice.

After the cruise, head east again through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel to the tiny town of Whittier on the shores of Prince William Sound. Besides gorgeous scenery, Whittier has a remarkable feature: everyone lives in one large apartment building!

Next, head back through the tunnel and drive north to the town of Girdwood for the night. There are several great lodging and dining options to choose from here. Jack Sprat offers modern American cuisine. Seven Glaciers is the place to go if you’re feeling like some fine dining. 

Day 3 – Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward

Scenic view at the Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska
The majestic landscape of the Kenai Fjords

📍 Google Maps 

Start today off by going south to the town of Seward. Seward is the gateway community for Kenai Fjords National Park, second in popularity only to Denali. The Kenai Fjords are one of the best places in Alaska for wildlife viewing, especially a whale-watching tour.

Most of the park is only accessible by sea, and most Kenai Fjords tours are cruises departing from Seward earlier in the morning. Tours range in length from a few hours to all-day outings. Most provide lunch, but no extra drinks or snacks, so pack accordingly. 

I recommend a shorter voyage. This gives you time for other attractions, such as the Exit Glacier just north of town. The Alaska Sealife Center in Seward is a great place for a close-up view of local marine wildlife such as sea lions.

Stop in at The Cookery after the day’s adventures for oysters and New American fare. Catch a pint or two at the Seward Brewing Company, then retire for the night. Stay in Seward tonight because the next closest accommodations are back in Girdwood, two hours away.

Day 4 – Kenai Peninsula (South)

Colorful flower field at the Kachemak Bay in Alaska
Kachemak Bay, with the Homer Spit jutting out into the sea (left corner)

📍 Google Maps 

Wake up early and head out of Seward after breakfast (which most lodgings offer). Take the Sterling Highway west and then south to see the rest of the Kenai Peninsula. This area is, in my own experience, one of the best parts of any Alaska road trip.

This highway takes you along the shores of Cook Inlet, offering epic views across the water. The surroundings are even more beautiful in mid to late summer when the magenta fireweed is in bloom. The picturesque Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in Ninilchik is one of the best places to take in these views.

You’ll reach Homer by lunchtime if you leave Seward by 8 or 9 am. Fat Olives Restaurant is a great place to get wood-fired pizza before exploring the rest of town. Homer bears the title of “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World and local charter companies offer their services to visitors wishing for some fishing.

Take a walk along the scenic Homer Spit and pick up some souvenirs at one of the many gift shops there. The Pratt Museum and Park is an excellent place to learn local lore. Visit the Wynn Nature Center if you fancy a walk in the woods.

Head back down to the Spit for dinner at Captain Pattie’s Fish House and then stop in at the famous Salty Dawg Saloon for a while. Homer has several great hotels, but you can also camp along the seaside in certain designated areas.

Day 5 – Anchorage and The Matanuska Glacier

View of locals at the town of Talkeetna
Talkeetna is a tiny town with a ton of charm (photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | 👉 Top Cities in Alaska

Get up on the earlier side because today is a bit more of a long haul. Drive back up to Anchorage and get lunch at the Middle Way Cafe. Head north again after lunch and follow the AK-1 Highway to the Matanuska Glacier.

You’ll reach the glacier by mid-afternoon, so the full-day glacier treks have already departed. There are companies offering shorter treks starting at 2 pm, though. You also have the option to take in the surroundings from the parking lot. Glacier treks can be demanding, so they won’t be on everyone’s list.

Spend tonight in the Mat-Su Valley’s twin towns of Palmer and Wasilla. Staying north of Anchorage shaves a little travel time off your schedule tomorrow. Grab a little Greek grub at Evangelo’s Restaurant and then hit the hay.

Afternoon Alternative

The drive from Homer to Matanuska takes at least six hours. If this is a bit much, you also have the option to spend the afternoon in Anchorage. The Eagle River Nature Center just north of town is a great place for a walk. I recommend staying in “the Valley” tonight even if you choose this alternative so you can save some time driving to Denali tomorrow.

Day 6 – Denali National Park (Day 1)

Caribou wandering at the Denali National Park in Alaska
Caribou at Denali National Park

📍 Google Maps | 👉 Anchorage Day Trips

Today is your day to visit Denali National Park! Leave early because the drive from the Mat-Su Valley to the park entrance takes about 3.5 hours. I recommend either stopping for lunch along the way (McKinley Creekside Café is an excellent choice) or packing a lunch today. Services inside the park are limited. 

Stop by the Denali Visitor Center first to learn more about the park. Make the Denali Kennels your next stop–the staff at Denali National Park includes four-footed members, as well as two-footed ones! The dogs pull sleds in the winter when the rangers need to traverse the tundra and the roads are too snowed-over for trucks or SUVs.

After hanging out with the huskies, it’s time to explore the epic wilderness of the park! The most popular of Denali’s many trails include the Mount Vista, Savage River, and Triple Lakes trails. 

There are several options in and around the park for tonight’s accommodation. They range from bare-bones campgrounds to luxurious lodges, so you’re sure to find something to your tastes.

Dinner today depends on where you stay the night. The small towns near the park entrance have several restaurants and bars, and a few lodges inside the park also offer food. Check out Moose-AKa’s for a taste of far-away Eastern Europe in the heart of Alaska if you’re staying outside the park. Cooking your own dinner may be the best option if you stay inside the park.  

Day 7 – Denali National Park (Day 2)

A moose crossing the street in Denali National Park
Moose rule the road in Denali

📍 Google Maps 

Today is a great day to explore Denali National Park with a private tour. Many tours start early in the morning, but a variety of tours take place throughout the day. Tours range from ATV and Jeep tours of the backcountry to aerial tours of the majestic peaks of Denali and the other snow-capped mountains of the Alaska Range. 

One caveat about flightseeing tours: check the departure point for the tour. Some tours depart from Talkeetna, others from the airstrip in the park itself. Today is also a good day to pack lunch (if not provided on the tour). Options inside the park itself are limited.

You can also explore the nearby Denali State Park, just south of the territory of Denali National Park. Views of Denali’s northern and southern peaks are great from here and the state park has tons of great hiking trails of its own. The Black Bear is a great place to get coffee and sandwiches if you are popping out of the park during the morning or early afternoon.

I recommend booking the same place for both nights when visiting Denali. It saves time and effort and the next destination isn’t too far away. Feel free to mix it up a little, though. Camping in Alaska is an unforgettable experience. Being far from artificial lighting also increases your chances of seeing the northern lights (outside summer, that is). 

Staying at the same place also allows you to check out a few other local restaurants and bars. The Overlook is a popular place for some of the best fine dining in the area. Prey Pub & Eatery offers a more budget-friendly menu of craft beer and pub fare.

  • 🍽️ Where to Eat: The Black Bear ($$), The Overlook ($$$$) 
  • 🍺 Where to Drink: Fanny Q’s Saloon ($$), Prey Pub & Eatery ($$)
  • 👉 Pro Tip: As of the 2023 summer season, Denali Park Road is closed past Mile 43 due to a landslide. The famous Eielson Visitor Center is now inaccessible by road. Efforts are underway, though, to open up access for future visits. Projected dates for the future opening are later in the summer of 2026.

Day 8 – Fairbanks

Aerial view of people during the Midnight Sun Festival at Downtown Fairbanks
Downtown Fairbanks during the famous Midnight Sun Festival (photo: Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps 

Alaska’s northernmost city is the next stop on your Alaska road trip itinerary. The drive north to Fairbanks lasts about 2 hours. Upon arrival, visit the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and Pioneer Park for a glimpse at Fairbanks’ frontier past. Stop by the suburb of North Pole for a little Christmas cheer, especially at the Santa Claus House.

The Museum of the North is also well worth a visit. Take some time here to learn about everything from local Native Alaskan culture to the dinosaurs that once roamed Alaska long ago. After that, grab lunch at Brewster’s Restaurant.

There’s plenty to do and see in the area around Fairbanks, too. Dog sledding tours of local trails are available year-round because mushers attach wheels to the sleds when there is no snow. The Chena Hot Springs Resort lies a little over an hour east of town and is the perfect place to unwind after the day’s adventures.

Head back into town and get dinner at the Pump House Restaurant. Today’s the last full day of your road trip and you have several options for wrapping up your travels. 

You can drop off your car at the Fairbanks Airport, if the rental car company you booked with in Anchorage has an office there also, and fly back to Anchorage (and onward). The Fairbanks airport is one of a few airports in Alaska with direct flights to the Lower 48 (although they are rather limited in Fairbanks). 

You could also drive back down the Parks Highway, or, for a little more exploration, the Richardson Highway. The last option is to book a ticket on the Alaska Railroad. This takes the most time (12 hours with stops along the way), so either book an evening flight or stay another night in Anchorage and depart in the morning.

Alaska Road Trip Itinerary Map

Here is a Google Map with all the stops, attractions, and hotels mentioned in this post.

How to Get Around in Alaska has some of the best deals for rental cars in Alaska. A great alternative to renting a car is to rent an RV with Outdoorsy. This can save you some money, given how expensive hotels can be in Alaska during the summer. You’ll also have a mobile kitchen at your disposal to save a little on meals.

The Alaska Marine Highway System has car decks on all of its fleet should you choose to venture further afield in southern Alaska to destinations such as Kodiak Island.

Be sure to download our Google Map before setting out on your Alaska vacation. Many of the remote places don’t get good reception, especially for out-of-state networks.

Alaska Road Trip Itinerary Planning Tips

Visit in Summer

Scenic view during sunset in Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak, Alaska 10:30 pm on June 29th. The daylight only increases the further north you go.

Summer is the best time to visit Alaska. It has the best weather and longest days (see the photo above). More attractions are open and more tours operate in the summer. There are still plenty of things to do when winter rolls around, but a road trip may not be one of them. The roads are often icy or even completely snowed over and attractions operate on limited hours.

Stay Fueled Up

This applies primarily to traveling through the Interior where towns are few and far between. Running out of fuel in the wilderness is the last thing you want on your Alaska road trip, so be sure to top up before heading up north. Gas prices are also often higher in remote areas.

Pack Layers

People covered with layers during a hike in Alaska
People at the topo of a mountain in Alaska
Spare layers help you build warmth and cool off as needed.

It gets cooler in the evenings and the major attractions of the state include mountains, glaciers, and coastal areas. Always have an extra layer, such as a fleece jacket, on hand or even a pair of lightweight gloves.

Rain Gear

A man wearing a rain jacket during his hike in Alaska
Rain gear is a must, but you won’t need rain pants unless you plan on taking longer hikes.

Good weather isn’t guaranteed in Alaska, especially around the coastal regions. In addition to warm extra layers, pack a rain jacket and some waterproof shoes or hiking boots. Umbrellas are, in my own experience, limited in their use. Rain and wind go hand in hand on the Alaskan coastline, so the rain often falls diagonally! 

Bring Bug Repellant

Chances are very good that you’ll encounter the “unofficial state bird” while out enjoying nature. Mosquitos and other pesky insects come out in summer, especially in areas closer to water, but can be found anywhere. Keep them at bay with TL staff-recommended Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Balm.

Spend at Least One Night Camping

A camping tent on a hill in Kodiak. Alaska
Epic wilderness? Yes and no. This is literally just over the hill from the city of Kodiak.

Set aside at least one night for camping out along the way. There’s no better way to experience the Alaska wilderness than to rough it a little. Many popular attraction sites (such as Denali or the Matanuska Glacier) feature campsites with fire pits and outhouses, so you won’t have to rough it too much. 

Be Bear Aware

A mother bear with her cubs on a forest in Alaska
Mother bears with cubs are the ones to be most careful of.

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one. You should be safe as long as you follow best practices for bear safety. Plenty of people camp out in Alaska every year and bears tend to be more curious than deliberately aggressive. Actual attacks are quite rare.

Alaska Road Trip FAQs 

When should I go on a road trip to Alaska?

Late summer is the best time to go on an Alaska road trip. The weather is best, and attractions such as Denali National Park are open with full services. The northern lights tend to become visible from mid-August onward and most services and tours operate into early or mid-September.

How many days is enough for an Alaska road trip?

Six days is the bare minimum for a road trip in Alaska. You would need to cut some of the stops mentioned above a little short (such as one day only in Denali and skipping Homer). An 8-day Alaska road trip itinerary is better, allowing more time to see things in this spread-out state.


I hope you’ve gotten some great ideas for your Alaska road trip! Check out my 10-day Alaska itinerary if you have a little more time to spend in the Great Land! 

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