Alaska – its national parks, wildlife encounters, outdoor adventures, and scenic wonders draw visitors by the thousands. However, it can be daunting to plan a trip to a state as vast and diverse as Alaska. Pursuit is a company that provides a collection of experiences, hotels, and restaurants throughout Alaska making it easier to plan that trip to the Last Frontier. From Kenai Fjords to Denali National Park, Pursuit offers tours on water and land that enable guests to immerse themselves in authentic Alaska adventures. When the tour is over, families can enjoy fine dining and accommodations at Pursuit lodges. Our family was hosted by Pursuit, and experienced some of the best of what Alaska could offer. Continue reading for a recap of our experience with Pursuit’s Alaska Collection, as I share some memories our family will savor for years to come.
The adventure started on the Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic route from Anchorage to Seward. The four hour journey is easily one of the most scenic train trips in the country as it follows the Turnagain Arm coast, passes multiple glaciers (one only accessible by rail), and offers wildlife viewing all along the way. We spotted moose, eagles, and sheep throughout the ride. In Seward we stayed at Pursuit’s Windsong Lodge just outside of town that integrates seamlessly with the railroad. Baggage tagged in Anchorage is taken directly to the hotel allowing visitors to explore Seward upon arrival at the depot.
We spent our first day in Seward at the Alaska SeaLife Center. The facility is the only rescue and rehabilitation center for marine life in the entire state and an active research facility. Our family found the visit a fantastic way to get oriented to the ecology and wildlife of the Kenai Peninsula. After observing the rescued otters, seals, and seabirds, we stepped outside for the free shuttle to Pursuit’s Windsong Lodge.
The Seward Windsong Lodge is nestled in the woods just outside the downtown area, but is incredibly easy to get to with the free shuttles provided (a car is not necessary). The lodge consists of multiple smaller wildflower-named buildings, making Seward Windsong Lodge feel like a summer camp. Our cozy room had two queen beds and a private deck with a table and chairs – perfect for sipping my morning cup of coffee. In the evening we dined at Resurrection Roadhouse that featured local Alaska seafood such as a flaky Alaska halibut with birch glaze.
In Seward, Pursuit operates Kenai Fjords Tours that depart from Seward’s Small Boat Harbor on Resurrection Bay, and they offer a number of packages that bundle your stay at Windsong Lodge with a day cruise. We opted for the longest cruise offered, the nine-hour Northwestern Fjord tour that ventured deep into Kenai Fjords National Park. This excursion was the highlight of our Alaska trip and we spotted seals, sea lions, eagles, puffins and killer whales in addition to calving glaciers, waterfalls and dramatic scenery. We capped our day by devouring a mountain of nachos at Goliath Bar & Grill washed down by local craft beer.
Seward Windsong Lodge sits in the Exit Glacier Valley, the only glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park accessible by land. Pursuit offers daily guided hikes of Exit Glacier (for an extra fee), or head to the national park nature center yourself for ranger led hikes or walks on your own.
After a couple of days in Seward, we headed back to Anchorage on the railroad. The Coastal Classic route from Seward back to Anchorage is so scenic you won’t mind doing it twice. Knowing when the glaciers and notable sights appear only enhances the journey. You will be more ready with the camera, and it gives you a chance for different weather and lighting. Plus, you never know what wildlife, like the stately moose, will appear along the tracks.
Following an Anchorage overnight, our ultimate destination was Denali National Park. At 20,310 feet, Denali is the tallest peak on the continent, and Denali National Park and Preserve was a must-do for our trip to Alaska. Alaska Railroad’s seven hour Denali Star route was our longest leg of the trip. However, it can be broken up with a stop at Talkeetna. Pursuit’s Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge offers views facing Denali and the Alaska range as well as fine dining.
Give yourself time to explore Denali National Park. The mountain is only visible 30% of the time. Therefore, the longer you stay, the greater your chance of seeing the peak. We opted for two days and wish we had a third. Pursuit’s lodging options at Denali National Park and Preserve include cozy and rustic Denali Cabins as well as the all-inclusive Denali Backcountry Lodge.
During our visit to Denali National Park, we opted for Pursuit’s Denali Backcountry Adventure, a 13 hour tour of the park that is the only one that travels the entire 92 mile park road. Along the way we spotted caribou and bear, and enjoyed a buffet lunch at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. After lunch we took a short hike to century-old homestead of iconic frontierswoman Fannie Quigley, and learned a bit about what it was like to live in the Alaska wilderness during the 19th century. On the return trip we saw Dall sheep and moose. Even during a cold, rainy, foggy day, when the mountain was not visible there were plenty of wildlife active.
Denali National Park also hosts sled dog demonstrations at the Denali Kennels. These canine rangers work the park as they have since the 1920’s. During a tour of the kennels, you can meet and pet the dogs, and watch how they are hitched and pull a wheeled cart during the 30 minute demo. After taking in the sled dog demo, it was back on the Alaska Railroad for the final leg of the 500 mile journey. We took the Denali Star on to Fairbanks, where we had arranged to fly home.
Pursuit combines food, tours, and lodging, to give their guests a full and authentic picture of Alaska. They curate experiences for all types of travelers from those looking for high-adventure to multi-generational families looking to cross Alaska off their bucket-list. And because Alaska’s the size of California, Montana and Texas combined, once you get back, you’ll be looking to plan your next trip with Pursuit’s Alaska Collection to take in those experiences you couldn’t fit in this initial tour.
DISCLOSURE: The Alaska Railroad and Pursuit Collection hosted Adventures by Daddy on this trip to Alaska including travel via the railroad, accommodations, and some meals & experiences. However, all opinions are those of the author. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagram, twitter and “like” our facebook page too.