10 Best Alaska Road Trip Ideas

07/15/2024 Back To Blog A road leading to Denali

An Alaska road trip is guaranteed to be an adventure like no other. Traveling by car is one of the best ways to see Alaska, bringing you close to its expansive nature. Whether you’re a local or first-time visitor, planning your Alaska itinerary helps make the most of your journey. From the tallest peak in Denali National Park and Preserve to the coast of the Kenai Fjords, here are some of the best Alaska road trip ideas with must-see destinations and activities.


The Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge is the ideal location for exploring the interior of Alaska. Located along the Chena River, the lodge offers a tranquil retreat and convenient access to Fairbanks. From there, you have multiple options for road trips to further explore Alaska.

1. Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs

A favorite road trip includes a visit to the Chena Hot Springs Resort. The one-hour and 20-minute drive east takes you to the rejuvenating natural hot springs. After a refreshing soak, explore the Aurora Ice Museum, a year-round attraction on site made entirely of ice. Inside, you can even belly up to an ice bar and enjoy a signature drink served in an ice cup. Take a lunch break at the resort’s restaurant before heading back to Fairbanks. On your drive back, stop at the Chena Lake Recreation Area for a leisurely hike on the Chena River Nature Trail.

2. Fairbanks to Coldfoot

Six hours north along the Dalton Highway, Coldfoot is one of the few accessible towns by road within the Arctic Circle. Due to its northern location, Coldfoot is famous for northern lights viewing in the fall and scenic flightseeing tours over the Brooks Range. The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center is a great stop for learning about the region and life above the Arctic Circle. Coldfoot also serves as an entry for exploring one of the least visited national parks in the United StatesGates of the Arctic National Park. We recommend hiring an air taxi or tour guide given the park’s inaccessibility — there are no roads, trails, established campsites or cell service in this remote terrain.

Copper River

Overhead View of Copper River Lodge and the Wrangell mountains

The Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge is situated near Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the U.S. It offers endless opportunities for exploration with its towering peaks, expansive glaciers and active volcanoes. Nine of the 16 highest peaks in the U.S. call this park home, including Mount Saint Elias, Mount Bona, Mount Blackburn and Mount Hubbard as some of the most well-known. The park’s visitor center, just 10 minutes from the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, provides a perfect starting point for understanding the vast Alaska wilderness. Road trips to Valdez and Kennecott Mines in McCarthy are easily accessible from this serene lodge.

3. Copper River to Valdez

Still, reflective lake in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

A road trip to Valdez, less than two hours away, takes you through breathtaking mountain passes along the Richardson Highway. We recommend a stop at Worthington Glacier for a close-up view of this icy giant. Valdez offers a rich history and beautiful fjords in a charming coastal town. Surrounded by mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and diverse wildlife, there is no lack of nature and adventure here. See Prince William Sound and the Columbia Glacier on the Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise. For a more hands-on experience, the Valdez Coastal Kayak Adventure is a great opportunity to paddle along the coastline and explore the hidden coves and a marine life view of the glaciers. On shore, you can visit the Valdez Museum to learn about the town’s past, including its role in the Gold Rush, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and the impact of the 1964 earthquake.

4. Copper River to McCarthy

Historic Kennecott Copper Mine

For a historical road trip, journey three-and-a-half hours to McCarthy within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. McCarthy is a remote town that serves as a gateway to the Kennecott Mines. Once a bustling copper mining hub in the early 1900s, the mines now stand as a well-preserved ghost town, offering a glimpse into the past. The Kennicott Explorer guided tour takes you through the town and hikes to Root Glacier, blending some outdoor adventure with history.

Denali National Park

Denali Alaska Wilderness Lodge with sweeping tree-covered hills in the distance

The Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is the premier lodging destination for access to Denali National Park and Preserve. One of the most breathtaking nature destinations in the world, visitors can take in the majestic Mount Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. The Denali Lodge is not only the perfect home base for exploring the park but also for taking road trips to see even more of Alaska.

5. Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge to Denali

View of Denali from inside Denali National Park

You can’t stay at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge without going to Denali National Park and Preserve. While private vehicles can’t drive past mile 15, you can take a guided bus tour to embark on a unique “road trip” through the park. These tours provide access to deeper parts of the park and are led by knowledgeable guides who share insights about the park’s wildlife, ecosystem and history. In addition to the guided tours, Denali National Park and Preserve has so much to offer. Walk through the educational exhibits or participate in a ranger-led program to learn about the park’s ecosystem and history. Hiking enthusiasts can venture on one of the numerous trails, from easy strolls like Horseshoe Lake Trail to more challenging routes such as the Mount Healy Overlook Trail.

6. Denali to Fairbanks

Photo was taken looking into the rearview mirror on a car with scenery of Denali National Park ahead and blue skies behind

Drive north on the Parks Highway for two hours to Fairbanks, taking in views of the Alaska Range and the Nenana River. On your drive, stop in Nenana, famous for the Nenana Ice Classic and being the completion site of the Alaska Railroad. Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska and is renowned for the northern lights and midnight sun, offering an unforgettable experience all year round. For a summer adventure, the Midnight Sun ATV tour will take you on an exhilarating ride through local trails in the boreal forest. If city sightseeing is more your style, the Fairbanks Highlight Adventure gives a comprehensive tour of the city’s most iconic attractions including the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North.

Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge

Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge in Denali State Park - Princess Lodges

The Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, off the Parks Highway, is another option for a true wilderness retreat. Right outside of Talkeetna, guests can enjoy their retreat tucked away while adventuring to close attractions and must-see spots in Alaska. Whether heading north to Denali or south to Hatcher Pass, a road trip from the Mt. McKinley lodge is a memorable experience.

7. Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge to Hatcher Pass

A two-hour drive from Talkeetna to Hatcher Pass offers outdoor activities and Independence Mine State Historical Park. Summer in Hatcher Pass brings a trove of hiking and wildflowers, while fall shows off fiery hues of foliage. From July through September, the road is open to drive through the entire pass, offering breathtaking scenic views, opportunities for hiking, berry picking and more. Be sure to save time for walking through the preserved mining buildings and panning for gold.

8. Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge to Talkeetna

Mama moose and baby

A quick 45 minutes from the lodge, the small town of Talkeetna charms visitors and locals year-round. Along the drive, keep an eye out for pullouts to capture stunning views of Denali and the entire Alaska Range. Once you’re in Talkeetna, stroll through downtown and pop in the different local artisan shops for art, clothing, gifts and more. There are plenty of delicious food spots for lunch or dinner such as Mountain High Pizza Pie or Denali Brewpub. Talkeetna is also a hub for adventures, offering numerous flightseeing tours around Denali, river rafting on the Chulitna River or meeting Iditarod sled dogs.


Exterior photo of Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge shown from the main entrance with mountains behind

The Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge is an idyllic haven in Cooper Landing on the Kenai River, renowned for its world-class salmon fishing. Visitors can enjoy guided fishing excursions, wildlife viewing and strolls along the riverbank. From the lodge, there are many amazing Kenai Peninsula day trips.

9. Cooper Landing to Homer

Low tide of Turnagain Arm with mountain in the background.

Travel south on the Sterling Highway, a designated National Scenic Byway, for two-and-a-half hours to Homer. As you drive, you’ll have stunning views of the Kenai River and Cook Inlet. Upon arriving in Homer, known as the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World,” there’s an abundance of activities and sights to enjoy. Walk down the Homer Spit, a narrow four-and-a-half-mile-long strip of land extending into Kachemak Bay, dotted with charming shops, restaurants and art galleries. As any local will tell you, be sure to check out the Salty Dawg Saloon at the end of the spit — this quintessential bar has a history dating back to 1897. Visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center to learn about the local marine life. There are excellent opportunities for fishing, kayaking and hiking, with trails like the Grace Ridge Trail that provide views of the whole bay. To round off your road trip, take a ferry across Kachemak Bay to Seldovia. Accessible only by boat or plane, this small village is a peaceful nook perfect for enjoying the scenery.

10. Cooper Landing to Seward

Taking a road trip from the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge to Seward is an easy one-hour scenic drive along the Seward Highway. As you drive, Kenai Lake appears on your right, stunning you with its bright, Mediterranean teal blue hue. In Seward, there is no shortage of things to do. Begin by exploring Kenai Fjords National Park, an amazing combination of mountains, glaciers, ocean and wildlife. Take a cruise through Resurrection Bay and cross your fingers to see orcas, sea lions, otters, beluga whales and more. For those who enjoy hiking, Exit Glacier has a range of trails offering an up-close look at this famous glacier. Downtown, the Alaska Sealife Center is a must-visit for its interactive exhibits and wildlife rehabilitation efforts. If you don’t see a sea lion or seal on your cruise, you’ll definitely see one here! Lastly, there’s nothing like strolling through downtown Seward with a vibrant arts scene, local eateries and picturesque harbor.

Any Alaska road trip promises adventure, whether you’re hiking glaciers, exploring coastal towns or immersing yourself in cultural history. To make the most of your journey, consider booking your stay at one of the Princess Lodges, where you can relax and recharge after each day’s explorations.