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Looking back now, I can see how lucky I was. Growing up in Alaska didn’t seem like anything special when I was a kid – after all, there were never any cool bands on tour in town and everything from fashion trends to new movies and music took months to reach us from the Lower 48.

But that was then… Now, I can see that I was lucky to grow up in Alaska. I’ve also continued to be fortunate enough to visit Alaska again, several times, as an adult. I know that Alaska is a bucket list destination and people usually only visit once – and I take it seriously that you’re here reading my advice on how to make that once-in-a-lifetime trip happen.

Despite my goofy faces, and love for colored walls and coffee, I’m here to help. I’ve put together not one but two itineraries for how to spend 7 days in Alaska, because I know that not everyone wants to do all the same activities. These two itineraries for a week in Alaska are my best suggestions, but you can also use these 7-day Alaska itineraries as suggestions and customize them for yourself.

As you plan to spend your week in Alaska, I’m happy to answer any questions you have! Once you’ve reviewed my suggestions for spending 7 days in Alaska, let me know any questions you have in the comments below.

7 Days in Alaska: 2 Itineraries to Consider

To be honest, I couldn’t choose between the two itineraries I typically recommend when friends and family ask for how to spend a week in Alaska. So… I put them both in this post!

 Itinerary AItinerary B
Day 1AnchorageAnchorage
Day 2AnchorageAnchorage
Day 3DenaliSeward
Day 4DenaliDenali
Day 5SewardDenali
Day 6SewardFairbanks
Day 7GirdwoodFairbanks

And here are maps of each of these itineraries for 7 days in Alaska, so you can get a sense for which one goes where:

Itinerary AItinerary B

Photo via Google Maps

Photo via Google Maps

The main differences between them are:

  1. Itinerary A works whether you want to rent a car, take the train, or a combination of both.
  2. Itinerary B is a little more complicated and specific. I recommend renting a car in Anchorage to visit Seward, taking the train from Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks, and then flying from Fairbanks to Anchorage for your return flight.
  3. Itinerary A gives you more time on the Kenai Peninsula in Seward and Girdwood; Itinerary B takes you to Fairbanks to see Interior Alaska.

Now that you’ve got the basics, let’s run through each one in a little more detail. Then you can choose the one that’s right for you and start planning!

7 Days in Alaska: Anchorage – Denali – Seward – Girdwood (Itinerary A)

Valerie in Alaska

My first suggested itinerary for 7 days in Alaska is based on a couple of trips I took in 2014 and 2017. This is an easy trip you can do by renting a car, but it doesn’t show you quite as much of Alaska as Itinerary B. Here it is, for your consideration:

Day 1: Anchorage

As I grew up in a small community just outside Anchorage, it’s funny to write about it as a travel destination – I just think of it a bit like ‘home,’ even after all these years!

I’m assuming that you arrive on Day 1, and probably some time in the afternoon or evening. Many flights to Alaska arrive ‘after dark,’ except that in the summer it’s light so late at night that you might arrive while the midnight sun is up!

On this first day, your only objective is to get to your hotel and get settled. If you’re staying in Downtown Anchorage, you can go for a walk around – but I’ve got lots of suggestions on that for Day 2, so if you’re feeling like a rest, that’s okay. You’ll see a ton tomorrow!

Resources for Day 1:

  • You’ll need a two-night accommodation in Anchorage:
  • For dinner, consider heading to 49th State Brewing. This brew-pub has great views across Cook Inlet and is a fantastic spot to have dinner and watch the sun go down – and enjoy a pint of local craft beer if that’s your style!

Day 2: Anchorage

Anchorage Market Vendors

Today is your day to explore Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. There are a couple activities I love whenever I’m in town, so you can choose a few of them and plan your own day to explore the city.

No matter when you visit, be sure to make a stop at the Anchorage Market & Festival. There you’ll find local food vendors, farmers and growers, craftspeople and musicians, and plenty of opportunities to snag great Alaskan souvenirs right off the bat. I highly recommend making your way to the food stalls to try the corn fritters with honey butter (left, below).

Similarly, seek out Tia’s Reindeer Sausage on 4th Avenue. Her spicy sausage and pineapple sauce (right, above) is an unusual but delicious combo for lunch, and affordable too!

In the afternoon, choose between an outdoors stroll along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (keep an eye out for moose and cyclists!) or head indoors to the Anchorage Museum. The Museum underwent extensive renovations and improvements in the last two decades and has some outstanding exhibits on Native Alaskan culture, Alaska’s special relationship with Russia, and more.

For dinner, you have a few choices:

  • The Glacier Brewhouse is an Anchorage institution, with tons of microbrews on tap.
  • Similarly, Humpy’s is a local spot with great burgers and beer.
  • If you want something fancier, consider dressing up for dinner at the Crow’s Nest atop the Hotel Captain Cook.

Resources for Day 2:

  • Stay a second night at your Anchorage Hotel.
  • No other info needed for today.

Day 3: Anchorage – Denali

View of Denali from Savage River

Today is all about getting from Anchorage to Denali. I recommend taking the Alaska Railroad for Day 3 and Day 5; the train leaves Anchorage around 8am, and it takes the whole day to get to Denali.

If you choose to rent a car instead, it only takes about 5 hours to drive from Anchorage to Denali. You may want to stop off at some of my favorite Denali viewpoints or other towns along the way (like making a detour to Talkeetna) which could take longer.

If you arrive in time by car or by train, consider booking the Denali Glacier Landing flightseeing tour from Fly Denali on their 6:15pm flight; tell them I (Valerie Stimac) sent you. This is my top excursion recommendation in Alaska and it’s worth every penny!

For dinner, pop into Lynx Creek Pizza. This restaurant is located on one of the resort properties but it’s got a very local Alaskan vibe and their pizzas are fantastic.

Resources for Day 3:

  • You’ll need accommodation for two nights in Denali (Day 3 & 4):
  • Book everything in advance. Denali is expensive and sells out early – that’s just how it is!
  • If you take the train, arrange your hotel transfers directly with your hotel; they all offer this service so a car is not needed.

Day 4: Denali

Today’s the day: you’re headed into Denali National Park! This is one of two national parks that I grew up visiting (the other is Kenai Fjords which you’ll visit on Day 6 of this itinerary) and I love how open and wild it is.

The main thing people get stuck on when planning to visit Denali is that you can’t take private vehicles into Denali National Park. This means no rental cars either! Instead, you’ll need to book a bus tour which is a service offered by the National Park Service. Personally I love this solution: it protects the park, improves safety for wildlife and visitors, and cuts down on crowds and traffic. So please don’t email me asking why the NPS does this or complaining that you want to drive yourself into the park – I fully support the bus tours and encourage everyone to take one.

After your bus tour, head back to your hotel before dinner at another local restaurant: the Alaska Salmon Bake. This restaurant is even more funky in its Last Frontier vibe, and is known for their towering blue McKinley Margarita – named for the mountain you hopefully saw on your bus tour.

Which Denali National Park Tour Should You Book?

There are three Denali National Park bus tours:

  • Denali Natural History Tour (DNHT): 4.5-5 hours in the park to Mile 27 (Teklanika River)
  • Tundra Wilderness Tour (TWT): 7-8 hours in the park to either Mile 53 (Toklat River) or Mile 62 (Stony Overlook).
  • Kantishna Experience: 11-12 hours in the park to Mile 92 (Kantishna)

To be honest, I don’t believe it’s worth it to go for any less than the Tundra Wilderness Tour. The DNHT (so-called by the National Park Service) is interesting but caters more toward travelers that can’t handle sitting on a school bus for long periods of time. The TWT is much more palatable, and a good duration at 7-8 hours long. There’s an optimal chance to see wildlife, and you’ll ride along a significant length of the park road. In sum: book the Tundra Wilderness tour!

Resources for Day 4:

  • Stay at the same hotel in Denali for a second night.
  • No other info needed for today.

Day 5: Denali – Anchorage – Seward

By whatever way you got to Denali, it’s time to head back south. If you are taking the Alaska Railroad, you’ll board a 12:30pm train which arrives into Anchorage around 8pm. You’ll then need to rent a car and drive south to Seward; it’s a 90-minute drive from Anchorage to Seward.

If instead you’ve rented a car for this whole trip, I recommend heading out no later than 12:30pm so you can get to Seward by around 7pm.

Resources for Day 5:

Day 6: Seward

Rise early and board a cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park. This national park can only be accessed by boat, and there are several other tour operators to choose from.

I prefer Major Marine Tours, who I’ve cruised with many times growing up in Alaska and visiting since. Their 7.5-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise is ideal because it takes up most of the day, but also gives you extra time to see wildlife like whales and otters, and to view glaciers in the national park.

After your cruise, try dinner at The Cookery. They have insanely good fresh seafood and plenty of other options if you’ve seen enough marine creatures for one day.

Resources for Day 6:

  • Stay another night in your Seward hotel.
  • No other info needed for today.

Day 7: Seward – Girdwood – Anchorage

On your final day in Alaska, it’s time to make your way from Seward back to Anchorage. As I said, it’s a 90-minute drive, and you can set out after breakfast in Seward (try Sea Bean Cafe to fuel up before you hit the road).

Stop for lunch at Jack Sprat in Girdwood. This small town is a short detour off the Seward highway, but it’s popular year round for skiing in the winter and arts in the summer. If you have the time before your flight home, you can also ride the Alyeska tram up Alyeska mountain for some stunning views. It’s a great way to end your time in Alaska, looking out over the mountains and scenery.

7 Days in Alaska: Anchorage – Seward – Denali – Fairbanks (Itinerary B)

5 Days in Alaska Hero

If that itinerary for 7 days in Alaska doesn’t quite strike you as the perfect Alaska itinerary for you, here’s another 7-day Alaska itinerary you might like.

Day 1: Anchorage

Like Itinerary A, what you can do on Day 1 depends a lot on what time your flight arrives to Anchorage. If you arrive quite late, you should make your way to your hotel and rest for the night. Instead, if your flight arrives in the afternoon or early evening, consider some of my suggestions for Day 2 (below).

If you arrive in time for dinner, try the Glacier Brewhouse49th State Brewing, or Humpy’s.

Resources for Day 1:

  • You will need 2 separate nights in Anchorage (Day 1-2 and Day 3-4). I recommend researching which hotel you want to stay at, then contacting or calling them to book the nights directly:

Day 2: Anchorage – Seward

Today you have the morning and early afternoon to explore Downtown Anchorage. Similar to my recommendations for Day 2 in Itinerary A, I suggest:

  • Wandering the stalls at the Anchorage Farmer’s Market & Festival to find great Alaskan souvenirs and sample local foods.
  • Visiting the Anchorage Museum to learn more about Anchorage history, culture, and art.
  • Walking along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to admire scenic views.

You can also explore Anchorage by just walking around! The downtown core is pretty small and set up on a grid system, so it’s easy to stroll blocks and find interesting gift shops, galleries, and more. (Pro-tip: 4th & 5th Avenue are the best streets to ‘get lost’ on.)

In the late afternoon, pick up your rental car and drive south to Seward. It’s a 90-minute drive along the Seward Highway; go slowly and don’t rush this drive to be safe as it’s a pretty dangerous two-lane highway. Depending on when you arrive in Seward, you may have time to visit the Alaska SeaLife Center. There you’ll be guaranteed to see some marine mammals that are living at this center for rehabilitation and treatment.

For dinner, try Seward Brewing Company or The Cookery, as I recommended above.

Resources for Day 2:

Day 3: Seward – Anchorage

In this itinerary for 7 days in Alaska, this day is the same as Day 6 of Itinerary A above. That is, I recommend spending most of the day on the Major Marine Tours’ 7.5-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise to explore Kenai Fjords National Park. Keep your eyes peeled for Humpback whales, puffins, sea otters, and more!

After you disembark from your cruise, it’s time to make the 90-minute drive back to Anchorage. You’ll want to do this in order to make an early morning departure from Anchorage on Day 4 (tomorrow).

Once you get to Anchorage, consider dinner at the Crow’s Nest atop the Hotel Captain Cook. You’ll have stunning views and a splurge-worthy dinner on your last night in Anchorage.

Resources for Day 3:

  • You’ll stay another night at the Anchorage accommodation you’ve already arranged.
  • No other info needed for today.

Day 4: Anchorage – Denali

This day is exactly like Day 3 in Itinerary A, described above – except your only option here is take the train:

  • Rise and shine early to catch the 8am Alaska Railroad departure from Anchorage.
  • Arrive in Denali around 4pm.
  • Book the 6:15pm Denali Glacier Landing flightseeing tour from Fly Denali. Tell them I (Valerie Stimac) sent you!
  • Have dinner at Lynx Creek Pizza.

It’s a long day but offers some of Alaska’s best experiences: the AKRR, seeing Denali*, and some of the best pizza in the state!

Resources for Day 4:

  • You will need two nights in Denali (Day 4 & 5). I recommend TK.
  • Book everything in advance. Denali is expensive and sells out early – that’s just how it is!
  • If you take the train, arrange your hotel transfers directly with your hotel; they all offer this service so a car is not needed.

Day 5: Denali

Best National Parks - Denali National Park

Day 5 in Itinerary B is identical to Day 4 in Itinerary A. Here’s a reminder of what it includes:

  • Rise and shine to catch an early Tundra Wilderness Tour into Denali National Park. This is an 7-8-hour bus tour and the best option to see as much of the park as you can in a single day. (If you need a refresher on different Denali bus tours, click here to jump up the page.)
  • Return to your hotel in the afternoon before dinner at the Denali Salmon Bake. Be sure to try the McKinley Margarita!

Resources for Day 5:

  • Stay at the same hotel in Denali for a second night.
  • No other info needed for today.

Day 6: Denali – Fairbanks

Since you’re still enjoying the Alaska Railroad, you have the morning and early afternoon to yourself in McKinley Village, the town near Denali National Park. This is a great opportunity to walk around and do any souvenir shopping you still need to buy.

The Alaska Railroad departs Denali at 4pm and arrives in Fairbanks at 8pm. Based on my recommended accommodation below, you’ll head straight there for dinner and relaxation on your last night in The Last Frontier.

Resources for Day 6:

Day 7: Fairbanks – Anchorage

5 Days in Alaska - Fairbanks

Your departure time will have the biggest effect on how much you can do during your day in Fairbanks. You may choose to spend the whole day at Chena Hot Springs – and seriously no judgment if that’s the case!

If you choose to wander into town, here are some options:

  • Fairbanks has some surprisingly dynamic museums, including the Museum of the North (all about Alaskan culture and history) and the Fairbanks Ice Museum (the name says it all; open in the summer!).
  • Pioneer Park is a quirky historic theme park that will teach you more about Interior Alaskan history, including the Pioneer Air Museum (focused about aviation in Interior Alaska) and Tanana Valley Railroad Museum.
  • If you can arrange transport, Gold Dredge No. 8 is a little way out of town but offers an interesting peek at the gold mining history in this part of Alaska.

This itinerary for 7 days in Alaska ends in now, in Fairbanks… so how do you get back to Anchorage to fly home??? To do this, you’ll take a one-way flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage, then catch your flight (or cruise) home. Check the links in the resources section below.

Resources for Day 7:

  • Book your flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage with Alaska Airlines, or compare flight times and prices using Kayak or Skyscanner

Which 7-Day Alaska Itinerary Will You Choose?

Still not sure which itinerary to choose? Try this quiz! Make sure you select ‘7 Days’ on the first question and your final result will be one of the two itineraries listed above:

Okay, with that, I’ll step back from the computer and eagerly await your comments, questions, and emails to help you finish planning the rest of your trip.

A Few Quick Tips to Wrap It All Up
Want to know more about Alaska? Snag a Lonely Planet Alaska Guidebook.
Take great photos of Alaska! I shoot on a Sony A6000 & my iPhone 11 Pro.
Or get pro photos of your Alaska trip: Book a Flytographer shoot.
∙ You can never go wrong with travel insurance: I recommend World Nomads.

Have other questions about how to spend 7 days in Alaska? Let me know in the comments!

2 comments

Reply

I would like to use Trip One but I have 11 days. I would like to drive to Homer and fish for halibut. Where should I stop for hotel along the way. I don’t want to drive back to Anchorage until the very end.
Need hotel recommendations AND fishing charters for 5-7 hours?

thanks.
carol

Reply

Thanks for your question, Carol! This is something I’d be happy to help you with on a custom itinerary. You can purchase one here if interested: https://www.valisemag.com/product/custom-alaska-itinerary/ Have a great trip!

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