What Matters Most
Perhaps the most difficult task in planning a trip is deciding which trip will work best for you.
Matching a trip with you, or more accurately, tailoring a trip to best match you, your interests, goals and experience is an important task.
My recommendation to you is to spend some time really trying to define what kind of trip you want to have.
Here are few common types
1. a more leisurely basecamp trip, dayhiking and wandering around without heavy backpacks every day,
2. a combination of backpacking and basecamping, maybe not moving camp every day, or maybe having shorter backpack days and afternoons to wind down, dayhike and explore the area from camp,
3. a moderate backpacking trip, probably backpacking every day, focused more on getting from point A to point B,
4. a more strenuous backpack, completely off-trail, on a little explored route.
There are plenty of other choices. My suggestion, if you’re new to Alaska hiking, is to consider #2 and #3 above. You don’t want to get in over your head and end up on a hike that is more challenging than you’re up for. Allowing yourself a day or 2 more than you think you might need is also a good consideration.
Most folks who’ve hiked a bit in the Lower 48 states typically have that “trail mentality”, which steers them to want to do a Point to Point route, with little time for any exploration along the way. I generally don’t suggest this for Alaska. There’s simply too much great stuff to poke around and explore along the way.
The beauty of a fly-in trip is that the air taxi essentially takes you from the trailhead to where you want to be. You don’t need to do those long arduous hikes to get where you’re going! Step out of the plane and you’re “there”.
Secondly don’t overestimate your own experience and hiking strength. As a general rule of thumb, I’d suggest that what is rated a ‘moderate’ hike in Alaska is very probably more of a ‘moderate to strenuous’ rated hike for most places in the Lower 48.
The lack of real trail system is a game changer. It’s harder than you think it is. Particularly for (most) folks who’ve never backpacked off trail before.
It’s impossible to accurately gauge this kind of thing, as it’s so contextual. We all have our own points of reference to measure things by so the ratings really just help you find a ballpark to get started in.
Also consider your time frame. Most trips will involve some travel time before you even hit the backcountry. Travel to Alaska, a day to travel to the trailhead/departure place (eg, McCarthy), and then fly in to the backcountry. When we finish a trip we schedule a night back in McCarthy.
Then a day to return to Anchorage (and I strongly recommend you spend the night in Anchorage before flying home – weather delays, especially with backcountry flights do happen).
So 5 full days in the backcountry really means you want 7-9 days for your vacation time. Alaska’s a big place!
The best thing we can do at this point is start a discussion to identify your strengths and desires, and build a framework to find what will work best for you. Any trip itinerary on this website is really a skeletal outline of what a trip might possibly be. I need to learn from you about your experience, your background, your interests and goals, then flesh out a trip and tailor it to meet that. This is possibly the greatest strength of dealing with a smaller guide company like myself; you’ll be discussing this stuff and planning your trip with the same person who’s guiding the trip, an immeasurably more productive process.
A simple example could be the Seven Pass Route. I’ve done that hike more than a dozen times. Sometimes in 4-5 days, with strong, experienced backpackers who wanted a challenging route. I’ve also done that walk over 10 days, with a mix of basecamps, exploratory dayhikes, and shorter days backpacking. The hike might be tailored further, by basecamping in the Iceberg Lake area, or hiking to Allie’s Valley instead of Bremer, or taking a different route across the Bremner Glacier, and so on.
It’s simply not enough to say ‘oh, that’s a 6 day hike’, or that a particular trip is rated ‘moderate’. That trip, like every other trip you might consider, can be many, many different things. Our goal is to discuss those things you would like the trip to be, and find a way to plan a trip that fits your interests and experience.