Surprise Trip to Fairbanks/Valdez

Discussion in 'Alaska' started by CKutzGO, Jun 27, 2017.

  1. CKutzGO

    CKutzGO Been here awhile

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    My girlfriend has a good friend stationed in Fairbanks and she surprised me a couple weeks ago with deciding we are going to go and visit her for about a week.

    Despite all the silly shows on TV and various ride reports and things, I really didn't expect to be going to Alaska anytime soon. One result of that is I haven't got the slightest clue what we're in for, what we should plan to do, etc.
    I thought getting some feedback from the lovely inmates here would be a good start! I think for a trip like this, doing some typical tourist stuff might be a necessity, but I really appreciate local knowledge, insight, and suggestions because that is how you really get to know a place.

    Right now we are planning to fly out the 9th and fly back the 16th. So far there has been an overnight kayak/camping trip mentioned, something about Denali, and other than that, who knows. Would love some insight from you guys! Thanks
    #1
  2. Sunflash

    Sunflash Been here awhile

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    Get out to Chena hot springs

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  3. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    You should visit the Knotty Shop just past Eielson, go to one of the pipeline viewing points (you can do that in conjunction with your trip to Chena), eat at the Alaska Salmon Bake in the Pioneer Park, head down the Dalton a ways and take a picture by the sign, and what trip to Squarebanks would be complete without a vist to the Santa Clause House in North Pole.
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  4. CKutzGO

    CKutzGO Been here awhile

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    haha sounds like some awesome suggestions so far! It made me realize, we might need a way to get around. Her friend has a vehicle but it is not 4 wheel drive and told us there is an Avis and Enterprise. So I guess we'll look in to that.
    #4
  5. ThatGuy

    ThatGuy Brownie

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    Unless you're going up all the way on the Dalton, you won't need a 4x4 for any of those things mentioned.
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  6. Solarmoose

    Solarmoose electric

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    Agree with above comments; drive out to Chena Hot Springs road (CHSResort is 57 miles from turn off from Steese hwy) is nice.
    Watch ponds for moose. The resort and restaurant (clam chowder) is nice; pool good too. A little farther up the Steese past CHSR
    is the pipeline viewing station. Go further north on the Steese (turn right at weigh station to stay on the Steese), is a picturesque
    drive and no traffic, go all the way to Eagle Summit to see the sun at midnight.
    Pioneer Park on Airport road gives local history with a couple museums and a restored paddle wheel boat.
    Lemon Grass is best Thai food. Bid Daddys for BBQ.
    The museum at UAF is a must see for Alaska and natural history.
    If you go Denali Park be prepared for lots of people. Best way to see it is from the air. Charters out of Talkeetna ($$.)
    Given sufficient time a loop drive down the Richardson hwy, south on the Glenn hwy to Palmer and then north on the Parks
    hwy back to Fairbanks, approx 700 miles, will reward you with spectacular scenery. Or stay on the Richardson to Valdez.
    The hiways have numbers, don't know what they are, we use the hwy names.
    Have lived in Fairbanks since '70, "los Anchorage" before that. have seen a thing or two.
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  7. AKDuc

    AKDuc Alaska Born Ducatisti

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    Cool. Lots of good info in above comments.

    Not sure where you're thinking of kayaking but FBKS is a long way to access to the ocean in Valdez, Whittier, and/or Seward. If you're into kayaking and have further questions, shoot me a pm as it was one of my main gigs before motorbiking. I still teach the intro classes to kayaking and stand up paddle boarding at the Anchorage REI. Fun!

    And if you get out to the Howling Dog bar north of FBKS, ask Ralph the owner how much fun he had at his first adv 'Dust2Dawson' gathering in Dawson City this year. Good times!

    Good luck and have fun, Mark H.
    #7
  8. CKutzGO

    CKutzGO Been here awhile

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    Thanks for all the great suggestions so far guys!

    I'd love to ride one of the bushplanes and see denali, i'll have to look in to the cost of something like that.

    We aren't planning on doing the ocean kayaking thing as far as I know because of how far it is. I think her friend mentioned that kayaking on the river is popular and there are overnight trips you can do and I think that is what we have in mind. Not sure what all we need to pack along for something like that so i'll figure that out i guess once i find out who we are doing it through.

    Any notes on things to be prepared for? Like, the sun at midnight as mentioned. I'm under the impression that mid August will not be bad for mosquitos. Typical temperature range?

    Any "don't miss" festivals/fairs going on around Fairbanks at that time? (I'll check their website eventually but in case there's something special or lesser known).
    #8
  9. Solarmoose

    Solarmoose electric

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    August. That's past time for midnight sun near here.
    Paddling the rivers: upper Chena River rec area on Chena Hot Springs road is nice. The road crosses the Chena River several times
    between mile 37 (or is it 39?) and mile 50, makes for nice day trips between bridges. Not really whitewater but spirited current. Several
    campgrounds in the area or camp on a gravel bar. Lots of access to the river. Paddling downriver below Colorado Creek is not recommended
    since river slows and meanders, takes forever to get to the next take out point. Its a state park so should be something online.
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  10. AKScott

    AKScott Adventurer

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    As others have said, Fairbanks and the surrounding areas do not need 4 wheel drive in the summer. The bus tour in the park is pretty awesome, tend to see a good bit of animals.
    Chena Hot Springs resort is unique and fun, and a fairly short drive.
    There is a pretty good museum at UAF, covers a lot of Alaska history, and is free for military/students and something like $3 for everyone else.
    Check out the Santa Claus house out in North Pole, see his "reindeer " (aka Caribou) and all.
    If gold mining is on the list, there are options around Fairbanks for that as well.


    Enjoy the visit, it is really an amazing place.
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  11. Tim McKittrick

    Tim McKittrick Long timer

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    The Fountainhead auto museum is worth a visit- They have an astonishing collection and a world class facility. If you like that sort of thing.

    http://www.fountainheadmuseum.com
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  12. Sunflash

    Sunflash Been here awhile

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    Good call Tim! I always forget to direct people there but it really is world class.

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  13. CKutzGO

    CKutzGO Been here awhile

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    Hello again all. Can't believe this trip is right around the corner.

    Any preferred companies for Flightseeing tours of Denali? It seems like they all have different options of duration and flight path.. if i'm spending the money I want it to be worth it but it seems like a middle of the road option is good enough (don't NEED to fly around the summit?) and I just don't get the fuss over glaciers so I don't think I'll add a glacier landing unless it's included.

    Also, looking at renting some ATV's, it seems like there is just one company around the area that does that, any thoughts on that? I'd love to be able to explore the wilderness a bit so I'm hoping it's not too "tame" and you can really explore off the beaten path a bit.

    I've also discovered that Alaska is freakin huge. who knew. Should we be trying to fit in trips to prudhoe bay or anchorage, or given a week trip is that just trying to do too much? I have a feeling you can't do Alaska in a week and we should just plan to visit again someday and check out the other areas, but if it's much more doable than I'm thinking maybe we'll do it.
    #13
  14. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    HA, you just realised that Alaska is a big state. One week IS TOO SHORT if you are trying to see as much of Alaska as possible. Maybe if you stayed in the Fairbanks area but, yeah a trip to Anchorage, the Valley, or the Kenai is probably not in the cards in a week. Unless you fly there, spend one or 2 days and then fly out.
    #14
  15. Ullr

    Ullr C+ Racing

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    I can't imagine wasting my time flying to Denali and not landing. That said I wouldn't pay for a landing unless it was in the amphitheater.
    #15
  16. CKutzGO

    CKutzGO Been here awhile

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    update!
    Her friend has been considering a trip to Valdez since she hasn't been there yet and wanted to know if we'd be interested, so we said why not. Far, but this way my gf gets to do some travelling and stuff with her friend. Her friend was able to rent a camper (she's in the military, i guess they have them for people to use).

    So our current itinerary looks like:
    Thursday - Arrive Fairbanks in the evening (maybe hit up the Howling Dog)
    Friday - explore Fairbanks (Riverboat Discovery), trails, UAF, Leave for Valdez around 4 when they get off work.
    Saturday - Kayak to Valdez Glacier with Anadyr, explore Valdez (Fat Mermaid looks good)
    Sunday - Breakfast at Totem Inn, Go fishing off Allison Point, Head back to FBKS via Bridal Falls and Worthington Glacier
    Monday - Wed will be stuff around Fairbanks area and ATVing around Northpole (where our friend lives), probably hiking Angel Rocks and maybe visiting hot springs, Creamers Trail, canoeing, maybe some other hikes, restaurants suggested were the Cookie Jar, crepery, Alaska Salmon BAke, Banks Alehouse, and Chena Grill.

    Since we are heading to Valdez for a couple days we might be skipping the Denali stuff unless we give up one of the other days activities.

    So Excited!! We fly out tomorrow morning!
    I'll be reading back through suggestions here and seeing what we can fit in!
    Thanks everyone!
    #16
  17. branchkin

    branchkin Adventurer

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    IMHO, the Richardson hwy from Glenallen to Valdez may be the most scenic paved road in the state.
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  18. VDZride

    VDZride Adventurer

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    The Totem inn is no more, torn down couple weeks ago. Old town burgers has a decent breakfast.
    Might think about crossing the Denali hwy either on the way down or back if the weather is good.
    You'll pass worthington and bridal veil twice, they're on the only road into Valdez.
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  19. legion

    legion Ancient Chinese Stir Fry Tool

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    If you've got to get to Valdez try the highway one way and the fast ferry from Valdez to Whittier then back to Anchorage.
    #19
  20. CKutzGO

    CKutzGO Been here awhile

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    Thanks everyone for the suggestions!

    I think with leaving for Valdez Friday evening and leaving Valdez Sunday afternoon we might not be able to do the ferry option. But making the loop Fairbanks Valdez Whittier Anchorage, passing Denali on our way home (or vice versa) is tempting since we are probably cutting Denali out of the trip.. hmm.. keeping it in mind!
    #20