Alaska has all the ingredients for the perfect bucket list destination; screensaver-worthy vistas, fascinating wildlife and endless outdoor adventures no matter the season – it’s by far the largest state in America. With such vast lands, combining sleep with travel is the best way to optimise a short week stint (plus it is the safest, most Covid-friendly option and you don’t need a special licence).
Outdoorsy is the most trusted RV rental platform on the planet with over 56 million RVs worldwide from luxurious Class As to pet-friendly campervans. LLM writer James Wong snagged a nicely sized Class C, aka ‘Chateau’, promptly picked up from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Here’s how he did the best of Alaska with Outdoorsy.
Drive Denali National Park
It’s hard to put into words what you’ll experience in Denali, consisting of six million acres of wild land with a ribbon of road running through. This facilitates driving, and though the RV we rented was a bigger vehicle than what we’re used to, the wide open roads were a dream to cruise along. Wild animals roam the un-fenced national park, the way nature intended, and mountains soar over the landscape. It’s worth staying at least 24 hours, and hooking up in one of the many RV campgrounds is easy. Simply call or reserve a spot online, turn up to check in, fix your water and electricity, and you’re good for the night. Outdoorsy partner with Encore RV Resorts and Thousand Trails Campgrounds, meaning you can book spots without leaving the platform. Otherwise you’ll need to research individual campgrounds, which are privately run or owned by the state parks.
Discover Alaska’s wildlife up close
Animal lovers may want to find out more beyond catching glimpses out in the parks. We drove to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), a huge 200-acre sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education, research and care. Most of the animals there have either been orphaned or injured, but given another chance and a beautiful new home. Visitors can even find out more with an informative 90-minute Walk on the Wild Side Tour with a chance to get in the pen with a (surprise) friendly creature. Don’t worry, it won’t be a bear – you can view those from a safe distance.
To focus on reindeer, however, head to Palmer’s awesome Reindeer Farm, where you can book a hands-on tour to meet and feed their plentiful residents. At the time of our visit, the reindeer had just calved, and there were adorable babies everywhere. The farm also is home to moose, bison and elk, and it’s honestly a must do.
Visit zoos and sea life centres
These aren’t like any zoo or sea life centre. The offerings in Alaska are the best of the best. First, the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage is a huge non-profit home to hundreds of birds and mammals, with a focus promoting the conservation of Arctic, sub-Arctic and like-climate species. We witnessed species we’d never seen. They also have a brilliant walk with wolves whereby you’re able to join the keepers as they take the wolves outside to stretch their legs. These wolves are incredibly calm and it’s a joy to watch them roam and discover the path.
Meanwhile, Seward’s Alaska Sealife Center is the only facility in Alaska that combines public aquarium with marine research, education, and wildlife response. It’s featured on plenty of documentaries and you can get up close with their beautiful puffins and sea lions, while learning about the work of their researchers in the field and in their laboratories. The puffins are especially friendly and cute and you’re given a good amount of time with them.
Allow for some pampering
Well, we had to incorporate a dash of luxury didn’t we? Toward the end of the week we drove our dear ‘Chateau’ down to the Alyeska Resort to take a short break from cooking and hook-ups and also to soak up a hot pool and tub. The parking lot out front had plenty of space for our 30ft vehicle. Alyeska Resort is 40 miles from Anchorage and in winter, is a skier and snowboarder paradise – with 1,610 skiable acres, 76 named trails and over 669″ of snow per year. In the summer it is a lush nature wonderland and the Alyeska Aerial Tram runs from the hotel up to the top of the slope.
We arrived with the goal of total relaxation. Guests can take advantage of the pool, hot tub and sauna, as well as book treatments on the second floor spa. Dining wise, the resort has a variety of restaurants, bars and cafes, but the extra ‘treat-yourself’ option is Seven Glaciers. This hadn’t yet opened at the time of our visit but the locals were raving about it.
See the glaciers
Alaska’s gems aren’t all on land. You’ll need to board a ship in order to get the best of what’s on water – from the marine wildlife to the huge glaciers, especially down the Seward end. We drove down our final day to Seward (tip: hook the RV up by the waterfront – the views are amazing). Pursuit’s Alaska Collection has lots of options that depend on what you want to see, but we chose the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour, the most popular wildlife and glacier cruise in the region. It’s six hours long, but the time flies by. The cruise glides past seals and whales, exploring the picture perfect islands of the Kenai Fjords area. Lunch is included, and the boats are full of windows to retreat inside when it gets too windy, plus it’s not at all crowded.
Get your Anchorage photos done professionally
Alaska is a once in a lifetime destination, and whilst selfies are nice, you may want some professional ‘LLM article-worthy’ snaps. Before we departed back from Anchorage, we booked a 60-minute shoot with a local photographer on Flytographer alongside the RV, as a keepsake of the experience. The service is available all over the world, but in Alaska where the scenery is breath-taking, it’s essential. The photographer delivers the best selects via email days after the shoot.
Actually enjoy airport time
Whether or not you’re flying with Alaska Airlines, at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, you’ll want to stop at the Alaska Lounge and purchase a day pass (just $50 per person). After dropping off the RV with your wonderful host, skip into the relaxing lounge for food and beverages, plenty of space to open your laptop and reconnect with the world again, and a concierge service is on hand to help with your onward journey. The new lounge in Seattle Airport is also worth checking out.
Top tip – what to wear
Most important of all is dressing right for the extremes of Alaska – you wouldn’t want to get sick or spend the trip uncomfortable. We were outfitted by REI Co-op – a store, travel company and community that supplies everything adventurers need for a trip out in the wilderness. Our day and night gear included jacket, bottoms, a base layer, mid layer top, hat and gloves. Even in the summer, temperatures can dip harshly out here, and I honestly couldn’t have made it without my water-resistant orange down hoodie.
Top tip – what to eat
You’re in remote areas for a lot of the trip, so stock up on groceries. We ended up going to Walmart grocery store (there was no Wholefoods, sadly) and filling up the fridge. Thankfully, ‘Chateau’ was fully equipped with a stove, microwave, fridge, sink and dining set. All that we needed to do was buy the supplies.
Top tip – how to be extra Covid safe
You’re pretty safe in an RV – it’s your transportation, accommodation and fun all rolled into one. At most sites you’ll be at least six feet away from other campers, just don’t forget to pack masks and sanitisers.
To rent on Outdoorsy and for more information, visit outdoorsy.com.