Just the word Alaska brings to mind images of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, and untouched wilderness. And that’s what you’ll get – and more – over the course of 13 adventure-filled days. More than twice the size of Texas but with the population of less than North Dakota, Alaska is an outdoor-lovers paradise. We’ve designed Alaska Mountains & Coast to strike the perfect balance of stunning backpacking in the Chugach Mountains, idyllic sea kayaking through coastal fjords, and awe-inspiring glacier hiking and ice climbing on the legendary Exit Glacier. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoors person or just excited to explore “The Last Frontier”, there’s no shortage of adventures to be had.
Hiking & Backpacking Chugach State Park
On arrival, we’ll head straight from the Anchorage airport to the nearby Chugach State Park – the third largest State Park in the country. Over the next several days, we’ll hike and backpack the Chugach Mountains, taking in panoramic views of the Alaska Range, Talkeenta Mountains, and, of course, Denali, the highest mountain the United States. Our trails will take us through glacier-cut valleys, we’ll sleep on the shores of pristine backcountry lakes, and we’ll keep our cameras at the ready for moose, mountain goat, and Arctic ground squirrel sightings. After three nights in the Chugach backcountry, we’ll transit to our next basecamp in coastal Seward.
Sea Kayaking Aialik Bay
Upon arrival in Seward, we’ll meet our kayaking guides and prepare for our two-day sea kayaking expedition. Two full days of paddling the numerous, stunning fjords of Aialik Bay, highlighted by a visit to the massive Holgate Glacier, will follow. We’ll watch for snuggling sea otters, playful seals, iconic eagles, and adorable puffins. Paddling along the shoreline of towering mountains, we’ll gaze in awe at aquamarine waters of the Pacific Ocean. We’ll spend the night camping under the stars while listening to nearby glaciers calving before eventually heading back to basecamp, scanning the sea for humpback or orca whales.
Exit Glacier Hiking & Ice Climbing
Returning to Seward, our final adventure will bring us to the Antarctica-like landscape of Exit Glacier, one of the most notable glaciers branching from the Harding Icefield, the largest contained icefield in the country. After a gorgeous warm-up hike to our entry point onto the glacier, our professional guides will provide crampons and other safety equipment, along with a detailed safety briefing, before we head onto the ice. In addition to exploring the various features of the glacier by foot, we’ll also have an opportunity to ice climb out of the crevasses. After our day on the glacier, we’ll spend our last full day together working on a service project with a local organization before celebrating our two weeks of adventures in Anchorage.
Please see our General FAQ page for many more frequently asked questions and answers!
How physically challenging is AKMC?
Given a rating of Challenge Level 5 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider AKMC to be a intermediate hiking trip that any moderately fit, motivated student can successfully complete with some prior preparation. Compared to similar hiking trips, we believe that AKMC is slightly more challenging than Maine’s Downeast Explorer (mostly due to the extended backcountry portion and slightly longer mileage), but easier than Northwest Explorer. We consider AKMC to be comparable in challenge level to our California Mountains & Coast trip. Please note that all of Apogee’s Challenge Levels are not scientific and are subjectively calculated by the Apogee staff.
Where will my child be sleeping on this trip?
Our AKMC groups will be camping every night over the course of our trip; we will spend eight nights in established, front country campsites, and four nights in the “backcountry” (one night island camping and three nights backpacking). Leaders will separate students by gender into tent groups, and will rotate those groups several times over the course of our trip. Students will share a tent with one or two other students.
What is the difference between front country and backcountry hiking? What will the backcountry portion of AKMC be like? How much weight will my child carry during this portion?
Generally speaking, the front country is any area that is easily accessible by vehicles and day users. Hiking in the backcountry, on the other hand, involves hiking and camping in more remote locations without running water or immediate access to advanced medical care. Hiking and camping in the backcountry requires more preparation because of the need to carry in all food and equipment, and treat drinking water prior to consumption. Our AKMC trip has three backcountry portions: two backpacking trips in Chugach State Park (a one-night and a two-night trip) and an overnight sea-kayaking expedition to the Aialak Bay. Your child should expect to carry somewhere between 20 and 35 pounds in their pack during this backcountry section.
Are bears and other wildlife a factor in Alaska?
What does the community service portion of this trip entail?
The specifics of our community service projects and the number of hours we volunteer might vary slightly, but we plan on working with a local land trust or community organization on a variety of tasks including seed spreading, invasive species removal, and trail maintenance. Students can expect 3-5 hours of community service work, usually over the course of one day.
How will I communicate with my child while they are on this trip?
We are a technology-free program, meaning that your child won’t have access to their phone or other electronics over the course of their trip. That said, students will get a chance to call home on their trip leaders’ phones once over the course of the trip (usually around Day 8). We also have one mail stop on Alaska Mountains & Coast; parents, relatives, and friends are welcome to use this to send letters or packages to a student. If you have an urgent message to get to your child, please call our office and we’ll work to get you connected with your child.
My child will be flying to this trip start. How will they connect with their leaders?
Please note that Apogee staff members do not travel with students; our trip leaders will already be in Anchorage on arrival day and will stay in Anchorage after the trip ends. Apogee staff and trip leaders will have a detailed flight itinerary for each student who is flying to the trip start and will be at the airport to greet them on arrival. Once students are with their leaders, they will call home to let their parents know they have arrived and are with their group. Please see our blog post for specifics regarding students traveling as Unaccompanied Minors. Further, we encourage you to coordinate travel with other attendees; we’re happy to put you in touch with other enrolled families from your region. We will provide enrolled families with a Travel Information document covering details specific to traveling to and from Anchorage, including airport information and arrival and departure time windows. Please contact Apogee with any specific questions or concerns regarding drop-offs and/or pick-ups
Aside from the trip cost, what are the additional expenses for this trip?
Apogee’s tuition costs are meant to be all-inclusive and include all meal, accommodation, and activity fees. The most significant additional expenses on our AKMC trip are pre-trip expenses, including travel to and from Anchorage, a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, a backpacking pack, and hiking boots.
Will the COVID-19 pandemic affect this trip? Is it running in 2021?
While there may be modifications to some aspects of trip life in order to maintain necessary COVID-specific health and safety protocols, we are currently planning to run this program in the summer of 2021. For more information on how COVID-19 may affect Apogee trips in the summer of 2021, please visit our COVID-19 page.