Days on Trails

Alaska- Traverse of the Talkeetna Mountain Range

A 20-day backpack trekking epic through the Alaskan wilderness

Quick overview

  • Full bacpack trekking traverse of the Talkeetna Mountain Range. A 20-day epic in Alaska’s backcountry!
  • Extremely wild and isolated landscapes packed full of wildlife, including bears!
  • There is never a path for too long so expect to be off trail for a lot (most) of the adventure.
  • Mid-way resupply by a light aircraft with tundra tyres.
  • Train ride to the town of Talkeetna which feels straight out of a western movie. It also boasts a massive burger which featured in Man vs food. Can you eat it all?
  • This trek will present all of the challenges that you can expect from a long expedition and will also present all of the rewards.
  • Informal lessons on how to camp in bear country, how to navigate trackless terrain, river crossing strategies etc.
  • Regarded by our guides as “probably the wildest place I’ve ever been to”.

The trek starts from the Matanuska Valley, just a couple of hours drive from Anchorage. Before we start, we take 2 days to arrive, deal with jetlag and get our gear prepared for the upcoming journey.  Over the next 15 days (205km) we will trek through some extremely wild and isolated landscapes although we will not be alone as the Talkeetnas are packed full of wildlife including black and brown bears (so we will have to be strict with our food/camp routines) moose, caribou, wolves, porcupines and many many more species, especially our good old friend the mosquito. 

Along the way we will pass the odd hunting lodge with some grizzly old neighbours, gold mining prospects and dusty old cabins. As stated earlier paths come and go but mostly we will be walking off trail, this certainly adds to the feeling of being very isolated. 

We will get a food drop around half way, where we can sneak in a light aircraft with tundra tyres to drop it off for us… perhaps a few beers too. This will make our packs a bit lighter over the first section of the trek. 

After 15 days we should make it to the Sustina river where we can catch a fantastic train ride to the pretty and nostalgic town of Talkeetna, gateway to the Alaska range. Here we can shower with hot water, drink beer, see if we can conquer this giant burger and best of all sleep on a real bed. 

This is not an easy trek and shouldn’t be taken on by just anyone. We don’t need ultra fit people but we do need folk who can trek for up to 8 hours a day with a reasonably heavy backpack. We also need people who are proactive in camp and can summon that extra energy at the end of the day to prepare dinner, collect water and even take care of others if needed.  On these longer tours it is paramount that we eat, look after ourselves and communicate well throughout the trip. 

This will be a challenging trip on a physical and emotional level however a successful expedition is infinitely rewarding and empowering for the human spirit . Alaska is probably the wildest place we have ever been to, the views are spectacular and the wildlife is beyond incredible, it truly is an amazing place. 

Due to the fairly early time of year we can expect some more wintery weather to play a part in our journey. However mostly it should be reasonably nice and much better than July for the mosquitos which are common in these regions.

When?
26/05/2020 – 14/06/2020
 

Date doesn’t work for you? Just contact us!

Departure is guaranteed at 6 participants. To keep the group small enough to ensure a quality experience, we have a maximum number of 12 participants per guide. 

Don’t wait too long to sign up! 6 Participants is easily reached and as soon as departure is guaranteed, we’ll let you know so you can still book cheap tickets well before departure! Last minute flights/trains are always more expensive.

Pricing

EUR 1600 / USD 1800 / CAD 2400
 
 
 

Book your trip!

To book, simply email us your interest (info@daysontrails.com) and we will respond with detailed information.

Feel free to mail/call us with any questions you might have!

What’s Included
  • Qualified and experienced guides with Wilderness First Responder
  • Accomodation in basic hotels on the evenings before and after the trek
  • Airport pick up and drop off
  • All local transport including train ticket
  • Fuel for the stoves or burners
  • Support from the Days on Trails team in the build-up to the adventure.
What’s not Included
  • Flights to and from Anchorage
  • Food x 17 days (as part of our jetlag/preparation day, we will go shopping together and will prepare our food packages together. We will be there with you to advise you on what to buy, how much etc. Estimate +- $200 in food)

  • Personal clothing / camping gear (we can help you with finding rental gear if needed)

  • Private planes/heli if you wish or need to leave the trek.
  • Anything not in “Included”

NOTE: This trip is a true epic. The price per day is extremely high value and cheap, however, we do understand the air fare may be a significant extra cost. Combined with air fare, the “price per day” for this trip is not more expensive than the average of our other trips. Not bad for 20 days in the Alaskan wilderness!

Note: Ground conditions, weather & group factors may lead to changes in the program by the guide(s). The goal is always to offer the best possible experience, but safety & wellbeing are always the priority and basis of all decisions made.

Day 1 – 26/05/20  

Airport pick up and relaxing. People will be arriving on different flights from varying time zones. Today is about giving people the opportunity to get there and not be rushed straight into jetlagged activity.

Day 2 – 27/05/20 

Briefing & preparing for the trip! The guide(s)  will give a presentation of how the trip will run and will answer any questions. Afterwards we go shopping for food and any last minute gear. Once everything has been prepared, we spend a relaxed evening adapting to the new time zone.

Day 3 –  28/05/20

Shuttle from Anchorage to Palmer. We spend the afternoon exploring the surroundings and doing any last preparing for the onward trip. 

Day 4 – 29/05/20

Drive to trailhead and start of the trek. This should be easy terrain with most of it being on    trail, However bags will be heaviest this day so expect to work. 

Day 5 – 10 

This first section of the expedition will begin seemingly quite flat and forested as we penetrate into the Talkeetna range. Be prepared for plenty of bush bashing (dense alder forest that can make progress quite slow) and also plenty of river crossings, this is the proper wilderness so don’t expect any bridges!

We will try to average around 15km distance per day which will be easy for some days when the terrain is open and can alternatively be extremely arduous when walking in a straight line is not an option anymore due to terrain, flora or weather. 

These early days will also include informal lessons in the evening ranging from camping and hiking in bear country, river crossing strategies and techniques to leave no trace principles and navigation. Basically lessons that will be relevant to our expedition and will help us travel smoothly and also thrive within the backcountry. 

Day 11 – 05/06/20

This will be a well deserved rest day as we await our bush pilot Mr Meekins to come and drop off our food for the rest of the trip. 

Take the opportunity to care for your body and any gear that may need some repairs. Perhaps you would like to sit alone and read or just stay in bed all day. There are no wrong answers. Just enjoy.

Day 12 – 18

By now we should be moving as a streamlined machine built to walk. We have some interesting mountain passes to navigate and also some larger river crossings. 

Towards the second half of this section we will gain a vantage over a higher plateau where we can begin to see the start of the mighty Alaska range. Home of Denali (Mt Mckinley) Finally we will begin our descent down and eventually to a track which will take us nicely to the Susitna river and the railroad.

Day 19 – 13/06/20

There are not many places in the USA where you can stick out your thumb and a train will stop but this is one of them.

The train ride to Talkeetna is fantastic with incredible views throughout. 

We will stay in accommodation in Talkeetna for the night and celebrate.

 Day 20 – 14/06/20

Travel back to Anchorage and part ways.

This trek is certainly challenging. We will be walking for two weeks while carrying full packs with our camping gear, food & clothing. The only time we will be resupplied is around half way.

Packs of around 20 – 24kg are not exceptional, especially not at the start of the trip or after resupply. We will be carrying these packs for up to 8 hours a day. Sometimes on trails, often not. Trackless terrain and river crossings can make the day quite challenging because of uneven ground and the volume of hours carrying the pack.

Another aspect is the social one. This is a trek for team players. We need you to maintain good spirits even when the weather is bad for a day or two. After setting up camp, we need you to still be proactive enough to prepare your food, help with small camp tasks and to keep an eye out for all the other people on the trek.

Please check out our “summer bivouac kit list” on our website. This should cover anything you need. Anchorage has outdoor shops, so in case you forgot anything, we can still get it before the trip starts. If you are lacking pieces of gear or are unsure, please just contact us and we’ll do all we can to create clarity and help you get what you need.

Staying at a wilderness campsite is very different than staying at a campground.  The wilderness campsites are completely surrounded by nature and by staying here, you agree to be on nature’s terms. We need to be aware of the wildlife and don’t expect toilets or showers.  We recommend the book “How to shit in the woods”. It’s a great life skill!

The hotels we’ll be staying at are modest frontier town accomodation with facilities.

On day 1 (26/05) you can pretty much arrive at any time during the day.

On the last day (14/06) we should be in Anchorage in time to catch potential afternoon flights.

As with any product or service, you will find seemingly similar offers at different price ranges. Offering something “cheap” usually means selling something in high volumes or compromising on quality. As a small dedicated team, we do neither. We are not a large operator that (re)sells bulk trips, to which we assign volunteers as leaders. Instead we do nearly all trip development “in-house” and assign only experienced and qualified leaders. This comes at a cost both for us and our guests. Compromise often comes at the expense of the guest. Remember, this might be your main holiday this year!

There are big mammals such as black & brown bear and moose. We will take all precautions to keep from disturbing the animals or to have any unwanted encounters. Part of this trip is educating people how to travel in bear country.

This time in Alaska is late winter / spring. We might have some colder nights and some places can still have snow on the ground. The conditions should not be so extreme that a standard well rounded trekking kit list as described in our knowledge base shouldn’t be enough to keep you happy.

We hope that won’t be the case, but you won’t be stuck out on the wilderness. Private planes or helicopters can reach most places and we have a sat phone to communicate. They cost a couple of hundred dollars, but shouldn’t be extremely expensive. With good travel insurance, you should be able to recover those expenses if they should occur.

As much as we intend to avoid setbacks, they can be expensive. It is compulsory to prove that you have travel insurance covering search & rescue and repatriation. We strongly advise you to get cancellation insurance so you don’t lose any non-refundable deposits in case you can’t make it to a trip because of circumstances or due to unsafe weather conditions or natural disasters. For Canadians, travel insurance may be purchased through Georgia Hardy Tours Inc. at the time of registration. GHT and its insurance partner, T.I.P.S, offer a wide range of travel insurance plans, including but not limited to: Ultimate, All-Inclusive, Emergency Medical, Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption. People from Europe have multiple options available from insurance providers and can be purchased online. Feel free to contact us for advice.

Most European countries are part of the VWP. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a U.S. visa.

These citizens can use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). A program managed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security.

When in doubt, please contact your local US embassy te enquire about the needs for a passport/visa.

It is important that you let us know about any pre-existing medical conditions you have so that we can make sure we can support you fully throughout the trip. If you are concerned that a medical condition will prevent you from completing the activity, it is essential that you see your doctor and show them the itinerary. Please remember that failing to declare a medical condition could invalidate your insurance, and if there is an incident, put yourself, our guides and other members of the group at risk.