Anchorage isn't just the starting point for our Alaska road-trip loop; it's a city where you can steep yourself in all things Alaskan. Walk the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Survey the land on a flightseeing tour.
While in Anchorage, go to Jens' Restaurant to truly taste salmon for the first time (it's just better in Alaska) or, for some of the tastiest pizza (and beer) in the West, plan a not-on-the-day-you-drive trip to the Moose's Tooth Pub & Pizzeria. Spend the night at the Inlet Tower Hotel & Suites where rooms offer stunning views.
We suggest renting an RV at Great Alaskan Holidays for maximum road-trip fun. Before picking up your ride, fuel up with some reindeer sausage or a crabby omelet at the city's popular breakfast spot, Snow City Cafe. After watching the required how-to RV video and signing all the necessary papers on your temporary wheels, turn the key and head straight to Fred Meyer for groceries.
Anchorage to Denali
225 miles; 4.5 hours
Stay: Hook up at the Denali Grizzly Bear Resort at mile-post 231.1 on the George Parks Highway.
Do: Head to Denali National Park for some hiking, cycling or a bus ride deep into the park. Don't miss the Denali Visitor Center; built in 2005, the center's rangers and exhibits will help you figure out how to tackle your first trip to the 6-million-acre park. On day 2, sign on with Denali Raft Adventures for a dry-suit-required white-water adventure on the Nenana River. Hold on tight when you hit the "Coffee Grinder" rapid.
Denali to Fairbanks
125 miles; 3 hours
Do: Kayak an easy 1.5-hour route down the Chena River -- and straight through Fairbanks -- with Alaska Outdoor Rentals & Guides.
Eat: If your day of rafting and driving left you pooped, go no farther than the Chena Grill at the River's Edge Resort -- the hotel attached to the RV park. Or head to one of Fairbank's excellent Thai restaurants, including Thai House Fairbanks or Lemongrass. For lunch on day 2 in Fairbanks, grab a seat on the Pump House's deck for a burger or Alaska-caught seafood.
Fairbanks to Copper River Valley
250 miles; 4 hours
Stay: The gateway to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, Gakona Junction Village
Do: After spending the night in Gakona, drive to Chitina for a flight into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and the former copper-mining towns of McCarthy and Kennecott. Don't even think about driving your RV into the park -- that road is bumpy. After your flight out, drive 30 minutes back to Kenny Lake RV Park.
Kenny Lake to Valdez
115 miles; 2.5 hours
Stay: With Prince William Sound in sight, Eagle's Rest RV Park offers up one of the prettiest views you'll see.
Do: It's time to get out on the Sound. Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises have been introducing visitors to the area's waters since 1971. Still family-owned, they know where to go to show you what you want to see (and that includes whales, puffins, seals, sea otters and more). Dress in layers -- even mid-summer, it can get chilly out on the Sound.
Eat: Post-boat ride, warm back up with some chowder (or a burger) at The Harbor Café.
Valdez to Anchorage
304 miles; 7 hours
Do and Eat: It's a big driving day. Even if you lose your mind and decide to skip out on photo ops along the way, do not even think about rolling by the Sheep Mountain Lodge without stopping in for one of their delicious and bigger-than-your-head cinnamon rolls. The rest of the menu is pretty tasty, too.
You can't road trip through Alaska without a copy of The Milepost. Published annually for more than 60 years, The Milepost is a mile-by-mile guide to the state. Buy it. Use it. It'll be there for you when you can't get service on your SmartPhone.