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Great American Road Trips #4: Alaska’s Seward Highway

Written by  Thursday, 24 July 2014 14:58

Driving to SewardDriving to Seward by Jon Konrath

Alaska’s natural beauty is truly breathtaking and unlike any other state in the union. From fjords to snow peaked mountains, the diverse landscape has something for every traveler to enjoy. Virtually untouched, Alaska’s wild terrain is the perfect locale for our next Great American Road Trip.

To begin with though, a quick note on safety – Alaskan winters can be rough. For the safest road conditions, it is advisable to only make your sojourn during the summer. Sections of the Seward Highway are occasionally closed off due to inclement weather and safety hazards in the colder, winter months. Even during the summer, the terrain can be a bit rough, so make sure you rent a car that is suited to the conditions.

Anchorage to Portage

Alaska Wildlife Conservation CenterAlaska Wildlife Conservation Center by Toni Poikeljärvi

The easiest way to start your exploration of the Seward Highway is in Anchorage. Easily accessible from other US cities, via the Ted Stevenson Anchorage Airport, Anchorage is the perfect base for your Alaskan excursion. Once you arrive in Anchorage, head to one of the many rental car services available to find the perfect vehicle for your journey. There are plenty of campsites along the Seward Highway, so you could also consider renting a campervan.

As you continue southeast along the AK-1, you’ll notice the expansive waters of Turnagain Arm and the domineering, 3000-foot high Chugach Mountains. Just 20 minutes from central Anchorage, the Chugach State Park offer three different campgrounds and access to activities such as hiking, fishing, cycling and whitewater rafting.

If you’re an animal lover, there are plenty of opportunities to view the local wildlife. Beluga Point lies just beyond the Chugach State Park, where visitors can watch Beluga whales feeding on Salmon in the Cook Inlet.

Another 31 miles southeast from Beluga Point, you’ll find the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage Valley. The Center, billed as 'Alaska’s most popular developed visitor attraction', offers up close and personal wildlife viewing and educational tours. You can go on a caribou walk or even feed some of the porcupines .The Center is also leading an initiative to re-introduce the once nearly extinct wood bison to the area. Admission fees and sales from their gift shop go towards helping hurt animals and conserving local wildlife populations.

 

Portage Valley

Byron PeakByron Peak by Paxson Woelber

Once you’ve finished at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, take a slight detour from the AK-1 to venture deeper into the Portage Valley via the aptly named Portage Glacier Highway. Start your exploration of the valley on the Moose Flats Wetland Trail. A boardwalk trail weaves between the ponds and wetlands and offers many chances for bird watching and viewing wild moose. On the uncommon warm summer day, the ponds are also a popular swimming spot for locals. Another word of caution: there are wild bears in this area and visitors should take note of their surroundings.

Continuing on the Portage Glacier Highway brings visitors to the Byron Glacier Trail. Near the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, the trail brings you right in the path of the Byron Glacier and surrounding mountains. A Portage Lake glacier cruise is also available, along with ice caves and rivulets.

 

Portage Valley to Seward

Breaching Humpback Whale at Kenai FjordsBreaching Humpback Whale at Kenai Fjords by Greg Smith

The drive through Turnagain Pass takes drivers up over 1000 feet above sea level and features gorgeous panoramic vistas of the glacier valley below. There are multiple spots to turn off and take photos, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity.

As you journey south, Seward Highway continues along the AK-9, so make sure you don’t miss the turn and accidentally stay on AK-1. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you get to Moose Pass. A charming little community, Moose Pass offers food and lodging as well as some additional outdoor activities. You can take an Alaskan coastal safari, go backcountry fishing, or there’s even a flightseeing tour operator, where you can charter a private flight tour of the nearby mountains.

Just north of Seward, you’ll drive alongside the gorgeous turquoise waters of Kenai Lake. Here, you can take part in even more fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, berry picking and hiking. After making a pit stop in Seward, head further south to see the famous Exit Glacier and the Kenai Fjords. If you’re lucky, you might even see a colony of basking sea lions or even a humpback whale breaching the water.

 

Considerations

In light of the snowy and sometimes hazardous driving conditions in Alaska, it is very important to make sure that you are covered by the correct insurance policies. As such, you should check the details of your personal auto insurance and credit card coverage to see if you have policies that cover damage or loss for rental cars.

If you were to make a claim for damage or loss with your personal auto or credit card policy, you may have to pay a deductible (the first part of the claim). If you are not covered by your personal auto insurance or credit card, you may have to pay for the full cost of damage or loss to your rental car, which could potentially be thousands of dollars. However, if you purchase a CDW/LDW from the rental company, the entire cost of damage or loss to your rental car may be covered, minus a deductible.

For these reasons, your car rental company will try to sell you a CDW/LDW over the counter as an extra when you pick up your vehicle. Yet purchasing this type of insurance direct from your car rental company rather than from a supplementary insurer before you travel is usually expensive. Insuremyrentalcar.com offer LDW policies from $5 a day, potentially saving you up to 70% on over the counter prices. Click here for more information on LDW and to get a quote from insuremyrentalcar.com that suits the need of your road trip vacation.

There are also additional benefits to buying a LDW with insuremyrentalcar.com, even if you are covered by your personal auto insurance. Usually, if you have an accident, you will have to pay your rental car company compensation for the loss of income caused by the vehicle being out of commission. If you have purchased a LDW with insuremyrentalcar.com though, you are protected from paying this extra cost.

Furthermore, if you make a claim with your personal auto insurance for damage or loss in your rental car, your renewal premiums could increase. However, if you purchase a LDW you could protect yourself from potential increased premiums, by bypassing the need to make a claim with your personal auto insurance provider.

 

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