I'm putting together my trip to Alaska in May 2008. There are three of us, we are avid outdoor fans, rock climbers and backpackers. We've done some kayak trips on the east coast on some rivers and lakes, a few with class I/II rapids... I have some questions
1) If you were to choose between Glacier Bay National Park and Kenai National Park, which one would you do?
2) How to do get to Glacier Bay/Gustavus? Are there any companies that will pick us up from Juneau, provide kayak rental, drop us off somewhere in Glacier Bay, pick us up in a few days and then take us back to Juneau? Or do I have to get my self into Juneau, find a bush plane/hire a boat/find a ferry to Gustavus and then get a kayak and a water taxi? Any suggestions?
3) How bad are the waters in Kenai? I know the Park Service highly recommends a guide, but is that them being over cautious? Can a bunch of beginner/intermediate kayakers survive out there for a few days? Are some fjords easier to navigate then others?
4) Any suggestions for outfitters in any of two places (Glacier Bay or Kenai?). Pretty much every place I've found charges $45 a day for a kayak and $200 for drop-off and pick-up...
5) Any suggestions for hiking in Denali? Any particular areas we should definitely hit or avoid? We are looking for featured terrain (that doesn't include glacier travel...), great views and abundant wildlife...
6) If we do Glacier Bay, from Juneau to Anchorage, fly or ferry? I think flight is slightly cheaper, but is the ferry ride worth it? And where should we go Valdez? or Seward?
7) Anything else we should do while we are there?
Any other suggestions and comments are welcome! Thx!
While I'm not a big sea kayaker, I can probably offer you a little bit of advice....
One of the biggest hazards in Alaska's fjords can be the tides, which can reach 30 feet in places. When they come in and out they can create very powerful currents, and in some places like Turnagain Arm (which isn't near where you'd be going), the incoming tide forms a wave called a bore tide. Make sure you're planning your travel times accordingly. I did a sea kayaking trip out of Whittier a few years back that was totally awesome! We rented boats in town and paddled into Harriman Fjord, College Fjord, through Ester passage, and back. You're wise to plan your trip in May, that can be the best weather window on Alaska's coast.
To get from Juneau to Anchorage or Valdez I'd recommend flying with Alaska Airlines, it's much cheaper and faster....depends on how much time you have.
Hiking in Alaska in May can be difficult due to lingering snow in lower elevations, but it is certainly not impossible. While Denali is a spectacular place, it is a bit overcrowded and overrated (in my opinion), and there is a tedious permitting process involved in hiking there. Denali State Park is much easier to deal with and still has great views of THE mountain. You might also consider Wrangell - St. Elias National Park as another option. It is AMAZING and relatively untouched. Here's the Park link:
And a good list of area information:
I agree with AK-guy.....Denali is overrated and Wrangell-St. Elias is underrated and far, far, better for hiking.
There are also some great hikes closer to Anchorage, near Girdwood and Portage, and on the Kenai. Late-lying snow can be a problem at higher elevations, and I'm not sure the road into the Wrangell-St. Elias will be in the best of shape.
I have no experience kayaking in the area.