Encounter majestic landscapes and diverse wildlife on an expedition into the heart of Alaska’s untouched wilderness. Experience the rugged beauty of Denali National Park on naturalist-led excursions and search for moose, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears and Dall sheep. Hike amid the soaring peaks of the Alaska Range and journey along the stunningly scenic Seward Highway. Cap off your adventure with a cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park, home to humpback whales and towering tidewater glaciers.
Hear tales of the Iditarod from trail veteran Mary Shields, and interact with sled dogs at her log home outside Fairbanks.
Meet with a member of the National Geographic-funded Eyak Language Revitalization Project, which is helping to bring one of Alaska’s endangered languages back to life.
Ride to Denali aboard the scenic Denali Star, and learn about the park’s dynamic ecosystem from a National Geographic expert.
Get up close with Alaska’s wildest residents at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, an animal rehabilitation facility.
Itinerary - 8 Days
Day 1 — Fairbanks, Alaska
Arrive in Fairbanks mid-afternoon Later, meet the remarkable Mary Shields at her log cabin outside of town. An Iditarod veteran and special friend, Mary introduces the group to her sled dogs and shares some of her 40 years of Alaska stories. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a welcome reception and dinner.
Springhill Suites (D)
Day 2 — Fairbanks/Denali National Park
Today begins with a scenic ride aboard the Denali Star to the entrance of Denali National Park. The glass-domed, Gold Star Service car provides panoramic views as Alaska unfolds along the tracks and an outdoor, upper-level viewing platform offers fresh air and an excellent vantage point for photos. Upon arrival, we travel into the heart of Denali. In summer, the road is closed to private traffic so the ride is unhurried and uncrowded. Along the way, your expedition leader and naturalist will explain the nature and history of the Park. There will be chances to stop for photo opportunities and wildlife sightings-moose, caribou, gray
wolves, grizzly bears and Dall sheep.
Denali Backcountry Lodge (B,L,D)
Days 3 & 4 — Denali National Park
Spend the next two days exploring Denali's magnificent
interior from your home-base at Denali Backcountry Lodge, one of National Geographic's "Top 10 Adventure Lodges of the World". Set out on your choice of guided hikes depending on interest and energy level. Options include a hike to a ridgeline summit for commanding views, striking out across the trail-less tundra or meandering in a lush valley looking for ground-nesting birds and meadow wildflowers. There are a variety of activities available at the lodge as well; mountain biking, fishing or relaxing with the family. Kids also have the opportunity to try their luck panning for gold. Whatever you choose, naturalists are there to share their deep knowledge and help you experience this magnificent setting. Weather permitting, take an optional flightseeing trip around Denali, North America's highest mountain to photograph its soaring 20,237-foot
peak. Denali Backcountry Lodge (B,L,D daily)
Day 5 — Denali National Park/Talkeetna/Anchorage
Take advantage of an early morning drive out of
the park to spot wildlife during this active period. Traveling through the Alaska Range southward along the picturesque Susitna River, we stop for lunch in the classic Alaskan town of Talkeetna before arriving in Anchorage this evening. Hotel Captain Cook (B,L)
Day 6 — Anchorage/Girdwood/Kenai Peninsula
This morning, meet with a member of the Eyak community to learn about the National Geographic-funded Eyak Language Revitalization Project and their efforts to maintain their unique culture and language. Then drive south of Anchorage along the stunningly scenic Seward Highway, past Turnagain Arm and the snowcapped Chugach mountains, which seem to rise out of the mirrored waters of Cook Inlet. This is part of a route that
National Geographic has named one of its “Drives
of a Lifetime.” Later, take the tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska for panoramic views or visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center who's mission is to provide refuge for orphaned, injured, and ill animals that can't survive in the wild. Seward Windsong Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Kenai Fjords National Park
Embark this morning on a scenic cruise through the Kenai Fjords. Today is filled with breathtaking views of glaciers and offers great wildlife watching opportunities for all manner of marine life. Steller sea lions can be seen on the rocky islands and Harbor seals are often spotted on ice floes and in the bays. Sea otters bob on the surface, porpoises leap beside the boat and orca, minke, gray and humpback whales are all frequently sighted. Thousands of seabirds call this area home and fill the skies and sea rocks. The highlight of the day is a stop at the base of a tidewater glacier in the hopes of seeing it "calve"-shedding gigantic chunks of ice into the ocean with a thunderous crash. This evening gather for a farewell dinner at a harbor-front restaurant in Seward. Seward Windsong Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Kenai Fjords National Park/Anchorage
This morning begins with a visit to the Alaska Sealife Center to meet some of the marine life of the area up-close. The Center is dedicated to maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem of Alaska through research, rehabilitation, conservation and education. Return to Anchorage mid-afternoon for your flight onward. (B)
Geographer, adventurer, environmental educator, and 2017 National Geographic Emerging Explorer M Jackson studies and writes about glaciers and climate change. M earned a doctorate from the University of Oregon in geography and glaciology, where she examined how climate change transformed people and ice communities in Iceland. A veteran U.S. Fulbright Scholar in both Turkey and Iceland, M currently serves as a U.S. Fulbright Ambassador. M holds a Masters of Science degree from the University of Montana, where she focused on climate change and Alaskan glaciers. M served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia, and is a nationally registered emergency medical technician with extensive experience "in search and rescue, firefighting, and removing cats from trees" in Southeast Alaska. She’s worked for more than ten years in Alaska and the Yukon Territory guiding backcountry trips and exploring glacial systems. Her 2015 book While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change weaves together the parallel stories of what happens when the climates of a family and a planet change. M has led National Geographic Student Expeditions programs in Alaska and Iceland.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
This expedition is designed to accommodate guests at
different activity levels. In Denali, guests can choose
easy, moderate, or challenging hikes each day, ranging
from one to nine miles.