Alaska Road Trip: The Perfect Mind Reset Location

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Alaska… The Last Frontier. It has a mysterious ring to it, huh? I always knew the landscape was beautiful, but I never really considered visiting, much less going solo. When I had the opportunity to meet up with my significant other, though, I thought, “Why not?” Even better, why not go early to get some much needed mindset reset? I could not have imagined how amazing the trip would be. Alaska solo travel is more than a recommendation, it is a must!

Being a country girl at heart, I do not mind the open road and the great outdoors. This is exactly why I immediately decided camping would be a part of this trip. I started looking into camper vans to begin with, as that seems to be the way to go these day. Although camper vans in Alaska are available, many of the companies require 7 or more days, and they tend to be on the more expensive side. I like to keep the budget low so I can continue this nomad life. This is why I was elated to find Alaska Adventure Rentals.

Alaska Adventure Rentals specialize in pop-up camper jeeps. It almost seemed too good to be true, as the camper jeep rental cost ($130  day) included 150 miles a day, and came with all the necessities for camping. He even threw in bear spray when I asked him about it so I didn’t have to spend $50 for my own. Ron, the owner and operator of this small company was so incredibly helpful and even gave me suggestions on where to visit! I was so grateful because I not only go for budget travel, but also do not like to make many plans and just go where the wind blows me. 

Camping Supplies Included with Jeep Rental

  • 1 Large Cooler
  • 1 Camping Stove + 1 fuel
  • 2 Sleeping Bags (cleaned & rolled)
  • 2 Pillows (clean, place in tall white trash bag)
  • 2 Pillow Cases
  • 2 Camping Chairs
  • Fry Pan / Skillet
  • Mess Kit (cooking pot set)
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 1 Spatula
  • 1 Chef Knife
  • 1 Coffee Pot
  • 2 Dishes and Utensils
  • 1 Large Bucket
  • 1 Small Dish Soap
  • 1 Blue Sponge
  • 1 Towel
  • 1 Trash Bag

Why I love this vehicle for solo travel in Alaska: it couldn’t  be easier to use! There are two locks on each side of the pop up you have to unlatch. After that, you simply pull on a latch, and the tent pops right up. To get in the tent, there are two panels above the back seat; you simply push up on one panel and you step up into the jeep. Once you are in the tent, you replace the panel and you have a full, cushioned area to sleep. It is on top of the jeep, which is great for all the critters, both large and small, roaming the wilderness. I didn’t have to worry about insects or bears! 

“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.”
John Muir

Places to Visit on Your Alaskan Road Trip

First Stop: Anchorage 

The first stop for my great Alaska solo trip was Anchorage. This is not only where I flew in, but also where I picked up the camper jeep. So, why not stay a while and enjoy? I had no idea Anchorage, Alaska was a military town. Normally this isn’t on my radar of things to look for when planning adventures, but solo adventures sometimes call for out of the box thinking to keep it interesting.

For most trips, I stay in hostels and meet people that way. Since there was only a handful of hostels (all full), I was grateful for the military town vibe.  Why, you ask? Well, military towns are usually full of transient mindset inhabitants. They are more willing to openly converse with complete strangers. This helps to pass the time and do great research on “must sees” in a new place.

Anchorage is a great town with a cool, laid back vibe. It is a large city, sitting at a population of just under 300,000, but it feels like a very small town. It is an especially great destination for female solo travel because there is zero pressure to get all glam to go out. You can throw on a flannel, jeans and mascara and be ready for a night out on the town. I happened to choose Darwin’s Theory for my first night in Alaska. It was not a disappointment. Drinks are affordable, there is free popcorn to fill the belly, and there is no shortage of locals willing to chat up about anything and everything. I cannot guarantee, but I am willing to bet you can skip the tourist traps like the Hard Rock in downtown. If you are looking for more than a dive bar feel, Chilkoot’s Charlie’s, also called Koots, is a great alternative. It is bigger and considered the “nightclub” in town.

On to Whittier, Alaska:

Next stop on my Alaska road trip: Whittier, Alaska, which sits about 60 miles south of Anchorage. Now, saying this town is unique is a complete understatement. At first glance, it seems very murdery, ghost town like. There is one main hotel that looks like it could be on the cover of the next great scary movie poster, a few businesses, and two multi-unit buildings. One of said buildings is where most all of the 200ish residents of the town lives. The other is an old abandoned barracks building from the cold war era. It definitely looks like you do not want to be roaming around that spot alone at dark. It quickly got nicknamed “Chernobyl” for its beyond run down look.

 

This old port town is only accessible by a 2.5 mile long tunnel that runs into the town every hour on the half hour. It runs for 15 minutes and costs $13 for toll entry. If you miss your shot, you have to wait around for an hour until it opens again. The direction to leave town runs every hour on the hour. You do not have to pay to leave town, but don’t miss that last tunnel out. 

 

Although the town looks very sketchy, the people in town are just as nice as can be. In fact, everyone encountered in the whole state was exceptionally nice. Most people you probably encounter are in the fishing industry. There are definitely stories to be heard!

Why did we go to Whittier? Well, it was recommended as the best glacier cruise in Alaska; like ALL of Alaska. The company cruising out of Whittier, is Philips Cruises. They offer two different cruises. One is a little more expensive, and goes to 26 glaciers over 5 hours. We chose the cheaper cruise, that hit 7 glaciers over 3 hours. It was plenty for me!

The reason this company is the best is because they take you VERY close to several glaciers. The other companies throughout Alaska apparently only show you the glacier from a distance. We not only got very close, the chef on board used a net to gather up glacier ice for us all to touch, and even to put in our drinks! There was also a park ranger on board to give us all kinds of unique information about the sites we were seeing. Although it was very cold, it was an amazing experience. If you choose to go, bring layers! 

Next Stop, Seward, Alaska

Seward (pronounced SUE-ward, not SEA-ward), is the home of Exit Glacier. When I was speaking to locals, I let them know my intent was to see as many glaciers as possible. I was immediately informed I needed to go to Exit Glacier. This is a public hike where you can get very close to a very large glacier. In fact, if you have the right equipment, you can take the trail that actually takes you out onto the glacier. 

I opted for the shorter hike, as I did not have crampons and was worried about the ability to safely hike on ice without them. The short hike to the glacier lookout is very easy and paved. All abilities from very young to aging can easily get to the lookout point. I decided to go down to the foot of the glacier. This part required a bit more skill. With that being said, I am a novice hiker and am very clumsy. I was able to climb down and back up without trouble. It is doable, but I do not recommend for young children, aging adults, or anyone else with limiting physical disabilities. Again, wear layer for this hike as your body temperature will fluctuate often. 

For the rest of the time in Seward, it was just a great camping trip. There are multiple spots to rent waders and fishing poles if you want to go out into the water to catch your dinner. There is also a great little brewery with delicious food and beer. As with everywhere in Alaska, there is a plethora of campgrounds, and places to pull up and set up camp.

“Adventure is worthwhile.”
Aesop

Why Not Denali National Park?

As stated before, I am a huge fan of speaking to locals to find out their opinions on things to do while visiting. They are experts, after all. This is rooted in the fact that I lived on Oahu, Hawai’i for 3 years. When people visit Oahu, they always hike Diamond Head because Pinterest told them to do it. I do not deny the views are amazing there, there are just better things to see and do, and hikes far less crowded. This was my intention with Alaska. Where do I go for the biggest bang for my buck.

Every local told me Denali has beautiful scenery and great opportunities to see wildlife. They also told me you have to get up early and catch a bus. You are stuck on a bus to enjoy all these wonderful sites. That is just not my jam. I prefer to be out in nature and not surrounded by many people. However, if you want the wilderness without the effort and do not mind many people, you should probably considered the stop. 

“When we are true to ourselves, and follow these impulses that sweat from our compressed and broken souls we may just find the beauty, and the oh-so amazing way life can sneak up and smash us in the face!”
Danielle Rohr

What About the Camping Part?

Alaska is not lacking in campgrounds throughout the whole state. From my experience, you could start blindly driving in any direction from any location and come upon several campgrounds within a few miles. Most all grounds cost anywhere from $10-$20 a night depending on the size of your camping accommodations. This is the way I decided to travel and was not disappointed. If you prefer to have a set plan, you can visit The Alaska Department of Natural Resources for a comprehensive list of Alaskan campgrounds. This site will also tell you which places have facilities to shower.

What a Sight to See

The first day in Anchorage, I just picked a direction and drove. I ended up on Old Seward Road. I just wanted to see some beautiful things. Let me tell you, I was NOT disappointed. Every lookout point was better than the last. I could not even begin to describe how exceptionally beautiful the mountains are from every distance. It is incredibly breathtaking at every stop. I got all the way to Girdwood before I forced myself to turn around to go back to enjoy my nights in Anchorage. Those 30 miles took roughly 2 hours because of the amount of times I stopped to take pictures and just take in all the beauty. 

Chugach National Park

This overwhelming love of the wilderness only grew over the days. Every stop has its own unique beauty. The air, the animals, the landscape… All of it is beyond words. There was even a conservation center on the way to Whittier that allows you to see Alaska’s unique wildlife up close and personal for less than $20 a person. My only advice is to make sure you do not let your gas tank get too low because some stretches of road do not have very many gas station stops.

What are the Cons to Visiting Alaska?

As amazing as visiting Alaska is, there are a few drawbacks.

  • Cost: It is pretty expensive for food and gas, as most items have to be imported from the mainland
  • Weather: It stays pretty chilly most of the time. Even in summer months, the temperatures can drip pretty low.
  • Sunlight: In the summer, the days are up to 22 hours long. It is reversed in winter for up to 22 hours of darkness. This definitely plays tricks on your mind.

Why is Alaska the Perfect Solo Travel Destination?

Whether you are looking for a mindset rest, or just looking to disconnect, Alaska is the place for you. With all the open road and beautiful scenery, you will want to be complete submersed in your surroundings. You won’t even care to check those emails or the latest on social media. The hours will just disappear as you are genuinely enjoying nature. It also helps the wifi situation is beyond spotty in most parts of the state. Nothing like lack of technology to disconnect. 

There is also an incredibly safe vibe. Of course, you have to be mindful of wild animals, but never once did I fear the people around me. There is clearly a drug issue in Anchorage, but no one ever got pushy or made me uncomfortable while I explored the city alone. People are also very quick to help and just be friendly. 

It’s no doubt great for singles travel or female solo travel, but it is also a great couples get away as well. I actually spent some of my time with my significant other and we not only enjoyed the state, we truly enjoyed each other’s company. With our fast paced lives, it has been a while for us to be fully present with each other. Road tripping and camping through Alaska allowed us to get back to each other. So, I would highly suggest this trip for anyone single, or coupled up! You will not be disappointed.

 

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