6-Day Alaska Pioneer

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Historic mining trails, natural land forms, and the most unique and fun outdoor activities await your group as you explore the old Pioneer pathways of Alaska. Travel from Anchorage to Valdez, hitting every important mining town and excavation site along the way. Take in the breathtaking sites of the massive glaciers in this area and learn the importance of this changing geography in the past and present. Your group will have several opportunities to do some of the most unique and exciting outdoor sports, from kayaking and fishing the Prince William Sound to ice climbing or skiing the steepest slopes in Southern Alaska!




Tony Knowles Coastal Trail - Tony Knowles Coastal Trail - Start your Alaskan journey by taking a stroll down one of the most beautiful trails in the whole nation, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This trail is the most popular in Anchorage by far, and runs 11 miles from downtown Anchorage to the chalet at Kincaid Park. Following this trail will give you insight on natural and human history in this area, as you will be able to follow the fault line from the ‘64 earthquake that devastated the area. While walking along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail you will see multiple scenic beach vistas populated with beluga whales, the breathtaking Fire Island, the majestic Chugach Range, and even Mt. McKinley! During the summer visitors love to hike, bike, run, ski, and roller blade along the path, with a popular bike rental place near the beginning of the trail (Alaska Pablo’s Bicycle Rentals). Your group will also be able to take part in a portion of the Anchorage Light Speed Planet Walk on this trail, which is a scale model of the solar system along a much larger trail. 1 step equals 1 second in space, meaning that on your walk you can walk 5 hours and 30 minutes to get to Pluto! This unique learning opportunity mixed with the natural history and unbeatable Alaskan views makes the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail a must-stop for your group!

Kincaid Park - Continue your groups outdoor Alaskan adventure at Kincaid Park, the sprawling scenic 1,500 acre park built near Little Campbell Lake. Built by Ralph Kincaid, a local construction business magnate, this park is surrounded by plentiful birch, cottonwood, and spruce trees and as a guest you will have ample opportunities to see local wildlife such as lynx, fox, porcupines, moose, and most commonly, owls. Besides the incredible wildlife opportunities at Kincaid,  your group can also visit the deactivated Nike Missile Silo that now serves as an Outdoor Center. From this location you will be able to see the bounding Turnagain Arm, Anchorage International Airport, Denali, Cook Inlet, and the Alaska Mountain Range. The park itself boasts 8 full soccer fields, a motocross park, disc golf course, ice fishing are, archery course, and tons of trails to hike or bike down. You can also view the cross country ski trails that are highly popular in the winter!

Iditarod Headquarters - End your day with an important part of Alaskan culture and tradition at the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla, a short distance from Anchorage. Within this log cabin museum your group can see historical displays, video exhibits, past winner information and photos, and multiple winning trophies from the years Iditarod Dog Mushing Race! Immerse yourself into the past, when dog sledding was the only mode of transportation in Alaska and training dogs and riders was an essential part of life. Nearby kennels offer tours and demonstrations during the summer months, and you and your group can even take a leisurely ride with the on-site Redington dogs. Stop by the gift shop on your way out to pick up your official world renown Iditarod Race souvenirs!


Hatcher Pass - Deep within the mysterious Talkeetna Mountains, between the small towns of WIllow and Palmer, your group will find the local delight that is Hatcher Pass. Locals absolutely love this area for recreation and scenic drives along Hatcher Pass Road, a 60 mile narrow road winding through the Talkeetna Mountains. One of the biggest draws to this location outside of the amazing mountain views is the Independence Mine Historical Park. A visit to this historic landmark will show your group the history of 206 workers and 16 families who, in their time, brought 140,000 ounces of gold out of the mountains. The park shows how this mining effort, along with many others in Alaska, came to face major decline after WWII left its lasting mark. Hatcher Pass also offers unique hiking opportunities among the alpine tundra, dotted with Alaska wildflowers and ptarmigan, as well as phenomenal skiing. After learning about the mining history of this location, hiking the numerous offered trails, and taking in all the roadside scenery you can, enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner picnic at a breath-taking 4,000 ft altitude, a unique opportunity only Hatcher Pass offers its guests!

Independence Mine State Park - One of the most integral parts of Alaskan history is the history of the Gold Rush, the main economic and social enterprise in the area during the settling of the territory. At Independence Mine State Park your group will learn about what it was like to live and work in the mine camps on the intimidatingly large ‘last frontier’, as well as get vital information about the soft metal with such a strong history, gold!  Most people associate the gold rush with  the city of Fairbanks, but the first successful gold digging session was actually just Southeast of Anchorage in the Mat-Su valley. These quartz-filled creek basins as well as the Talkeetna Mountains provided ample lode and placer mining opportunities in 1886, and before WWII efforts halted gold mining (as it was deemed a nonessential effort for the war), the area brought out nearly 6 million dollars worth of gold. Take a look around at some of the old log cabins that belonged to the 204 men that worked in these mines, and even look at the entrance of the dozens of miles of tunnels within Skyscraper and Granite Mountains. Though the mines have been out of operation since 1951, the park is buzzing with gold rush excitement still today. The Independence Mine State Park is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as is a location deemed ‘culturally significant to America’, and is the perfect way for you and your group to get in touch with the true pioneer days in Alaska.


Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway - Start your day off with 135 miles of historic pathways and natural wonders as you travel along Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway. This ever-changing panoramic view of wild Alaskan beauty tells the story of the state’s past, present, and future, lined with historic mining areas and some of the best views of the hanging Matanuska Glacier. Just a short distance north of Anchorage, this byway gives your group the urban Anchorage vibe as well as the isolated beauty of the Talkeetna Mountains, and parallels paths carved by the moving Matanuska. Along with tracing the paths of the glaciers that formed the area, this road also tells the history of native tribes, the gold rush, and pioneer life in Alaska. On the road you will get the most accessible glacier viewing in the whole state, as well as perfect views of rushing rivers, clear lakes, rocky mountain ranges, and plenty of hiking trails! Stop at any of the rest stops or exhibit homes along the way to talk to true pioneers in the area and ask them how important the Glenn Highway has been to them!

Musk Ox Farm - Next take a look at the place where Musk Ox roam free, just as they did in the Ice Age with the Saber Tooth Tigers and Wooly Mammoths! Once an endangered animal, the Musk Ox is now an important part of Alaskan history, providing the finest wool in the whole world, qiviut. Qiviut is 8 times warmer than regular wool and softer than cashmere. The annual harvest of this fur economically stimulates the community just as much now as it did in the pioneer days, and the process by which it is harvested is just as interesting as the spinning of the fiber into useful garments. A visit to the Musk Ox Farm will allow your group to have a close up experience with these astounding paleolithic ruminants in a historic 1930’s era colony setting in Alaska’s heart of agriculture, Mat-Su Valley. Choose between a 45 minute walking tour of the farm or spend some time checking out the informative and interactive exhibits inside the museum. One opportunity you won’t want to miss at the Musk Ox Farm is checking out the gift shop in which you can buy hand combed qiviut fiber, yarn, and garments, a shopping opportunity that attracts hundreds of tourists and locals alike every year!

Matanuska Glacier -  The largest and most spectacular sight in this area is hands down the Matanuska Glacier. Voted #2 on the list of 49 Places to See in the 49th State, Matanuska is the largest glacier in the whole state that is actually reachable by vehicle. Matanuska Glacier is 26 miles long, 4 miles wide, and is considered a valley glacier, one that flows like a river under its own weight through already existing valleys. This massive glacier’s journey began 10,000 years ago and has undergone a visible shift in location, but has been fairly dormant the past two decades in regards to movement. The glacier stretches from within the Chugach Mountain Range and goes to the appropriately named village of Glacier View, Alaska. If you follow the highway to mile marker 101, your group will encounter the Matanuska Glacier Recreation Area, a 271-acre park setting designed to give guests the opportunity to walk the scenic trails or just rest and take in the views of the close by glacier. At mile marker 102 you will be able to enter Glacier Park, a privately owned park that is the only access point to the glacier, allowing you to drive right up to it and take in the wildlife and scenery as closely as possible. You can even hike on the glacier from here! While your group is here take notice of the nicer than usual weather, caused by the dynamics of the ‘weather hole’ that is the Matanuska Glacier!


Copper Center - Copper Center is a small village on an unused loop of road located on Old Richardson Highway in southcentral Alaska. This village is the essence of classic Alaska, serving as a historic supply center for mining as well as a gateway to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, a massive preserve created in 1980. In its prime Copper Center was the principal supply center for miners in the Nelchina-Susitna region. The first lodge providing a soft bed and hot meal for travelers was created in 1896, but this location was first a large, winter village for native Athabascan families for over 500 years. The community is now a full-service area providing restaurants, supplies, gas, tires, campgrounds, and hotels. Innovatively situated on the confluence of the Klutina and Copper Rivers, the natural setting and resources it provides has made this location an important part of Alaska’s pioneer history, as well as an important stop for tourists visiting the scenic national park nearby.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve - Welcome to the country's largest national park, the area where some of the tallest mountains, largest glaciers, and most important Alaskan history is found. Sitting on 13.2 million acres (yes that’s right, 13.2 million), Wrangell-St. Elias National Park can hold Switzerland, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite National Park all within its boundaries! Known for its natural boundaries formed by mountains, this area also holds 9 out of 16 of the tallest mountain peaks in the United States. Some of the many exciting things you will be able to see up close and personal during this trip is a view of Bagley Icefield, the largest sub polar icefield on the continent, Malaspina Glaciers which combined are larger than the state of Rhode Island, Copper River, the site of very successful copper, ore, and gold mining, and tons of native Athabascan Indian villages perfect for wildlife watching the abundant caribou or moose.


Worthington Glacier - One major part of Alaska’s history that may slip your mind is that of its natural history, including the effect that glaciers have had on the land and communities. Worthington Glacier is a valley glacier near Thompson Pass, 28 miles north of Valdez. This glacier takes up 5,774 acres and has been steadily retreating for 150 years. Considered a National Natural Landmark, Worthington shows guests the impact of local climate change and natural erosion factors on the landscape and how that affects nearby communities. Along Richardson Highway you will find a 113 acre recreation site in which your group can stop and get more in depth information on the glacier and its pace of retreat. There are also various displays along the road, which is useful seeing as this is one of the only other glaciers in Alaska that is accessible by road. Once you get to the glacier try to take the more undeveloped path to the top, the climb is easy and you have access to an authentic ice cave at the end of the path!

Columbia Glacier - Columbia Glacier is just a short drive further south toward Prince William Sound and is known as one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world currently. This glacier received its namesake from the Columbia University during the famous Harriman Alaska Expedition and is considered to be a tidewater glacier, meaning that though it is a valley glacier it is retreating quickly into the ocean, not into a valley. Retreating since the 1980s, the Columbia Glacier is currently a 32-mile long glacier but is looking to be complete in its retreat in 2020. The bald streak at the base of the glacier shows that the glacier has lost 1,300 feet of thickness, and has since then retreated an additional 10.5 miles. This ‘catastrophic retreat’ saw its peak in 2001, when it lost an average of 9 feet per day! The glacier twists through the Chugach Mountains and ends near the sound, making it another perfect scenic viewing location of the surrounding natural wonders!

Keystone Canyon -  Continue along Richardson Highway to get to Keystone Canyon, a gorge near Valdez that measures 3 miles in length and connects the upper and lower valleys of the Lowe River. With an elevation of 307 feet and nearly perfectly perpendicular walls, this destination makes an excellent location to do some serious rock climbing or winter ice climbing! The canyon is made up of 100% slate and was another important copper and gold mining are as well. While in Keystone Canyon your group can take advantage of some of the best rafting and kayaking opportunities on the Lowe River, climb the steep hills of the canyon, or hike along any of the many trails surrounding the canyon, including the local favorite wildlife packed Valdez Goat Trail. From this trail you will be able to gain access to the Bridal Veils Falls as well as the Horse Tail Falls, two of the most photogenic waterfalls in Alaska. Make sure you bring your camera and plenty of layers to get up close and personal with this natural landmark!


Fishing in Valdez - Welcome to the premier fishing town of Valdez, the pink salmon capital of the world! This fishing opportunity is an anglers paradise, offering salt or fresh water fishing, with complete access to Prince William Sound as well as local glacier fed streams and lakes. Your group will be able to choose from plentiful options for shore fishing, charter boat fishing, or deep sea fishing. Salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and halibut are all plentifully found in the sound, and guests and locals typically walk away with a full dinners worth of fish plus some to stock the freezer with. If you head over to Ruth Pond in central Valdez you will find stocked trout, or Blueberry Lake in the Thompson Pass offers regularly stocked rainbow trout. Valdez is also home to the oldest fish derby in Alaska, awarding thousands in prize money annually for record breaking fish. Be sure to check out the Solomon Gulch Hatchery to observe the spawning salmon, or catch raw and beautiful images of bears, eagles, sea gulls, or sea otters who often feed on the salmon at the hatchery. Be prepared for the fishing experience of a lifetime!

Free time in Valdez - Get ready to end your trip by taking in the breathtaking sites of wild Alaska as your group continues to explore Valdez, a destination popularly known for holding America’s most scenic roads as well as the infamous Trans-Alaskan pipeline. The 800 mile feat of architectural engineering that is the Trans-Alaska pipeline travels from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez and carries an astonishing 25% of the nation’s oil. Valdez, known also for its majestic tourist destination Keystone Canyon, and historic brush with the gold rush, is another destination where the scenery really does say it all. Boasting several glaciers, waterfalls, and towering mountains, this location is known for being a photographer’s paradise. Shopping in Valdez is an exciting adventure as well, offering several unique gift and sporting shops, as well as many local niche shops and cafes! Since Valdez was named after Port Valdez, make sure you head over to the site of the natural fjord and take advantage of kayaking, ice fishing, ice climbing, or any other of the many outdoor activities popular in this area that your group hasn’t done yet!