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  • Photo: Ruth Peterkin/Shutterstock

    Alaska is inherently intimidating, which is why so many people are willing to cough up a small fortune to see the state’s greatest landscapes by bush plane. But if you fly into Anchorage and rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can put together a two-week, life-list-worthy itinerary complete with epic wilderness hiking, remote lodges, and heart-stopping raft trips. Much of the route presented here follows main arteries, with plenty of roadhouses for supplies or car repairs. But you should still know how to change a flat. And bring bear spray.

    Stephanie Pearson

  • Photo: M. Cornelius/Shutterstock

    Days 1–2: Talkeetna

    DRIVE TIME: 2 HOURS 40 MINUTES
    The jagged Talkeetna Mountains make for great photos and even better hiking. Get the best views on a portion of the 36.2-mile Kesugi Ridge Trail, and scan the horizon for brown bears. Or join Alaska Nature Guides for a 3.5-hour heli-hike through the tundra ($399). Then grab a stack of sourdough hotcakes at the Roadhouse hotel (doubles from $69).

  • Photo: NancyS/Shutterstock

    Days 3–5: Denali National Park

    DRIVE TIME: 3 HOURS 30 MINUTES
    Most people make for Denali’s lodges and overlook Savage River, a quiet 33-site campground that’s 13 miles down the park road. It has a two-mile hike along the Savage River and a shuttle stop to take you deeper into the park (from $27, purchased in advance). For plusher digs, you’ll have to wait: Camp Denali fills up a year in advance ($1,635 per person for three nights).

  • Photo: Ruth Peterkin/Shutterstock

    Days 6–7: The Lodge at Black Rapids

    DRIVE TIME: 5 HOURS
    You’ll head past iconic rivers like the Nenana, with plenty of bear and moose sightings along the way. But they can’t beat the destination. The timber-frame Lodge at Black Rapids lets you access hiking in the eastern Alaska Range, fishing for arctic char, and rafting on the Class IV Delta River (doubles from $195).

  • Photo: Pecold/Shutterstock

    Days 8–9: McCarthy

    DRIVE TIME: 7 HOURS 45 MINUTES
    Yes, it’s a long drive, and the last 60 miles are over rough road through Wrangell–St. Elias National Park. But you arrive in America’s last great frontier: a Switzerland-size stretch of mountainous forest. Join Kennicott Wilderness Guides for pack-rafting lessons (from $165 per person), feast on local Red Angus beef at the McCarthy Lodge, and crash at Ma Johnson’s Hotel (doubles, $189 per night).

  • Photo: Gail Johnson/Shutterstock

    Days 10–12: Valdez

    DRIVE TIME: 6 HOURS 20 MINUTES
    The Tsaina Lodge has an impressive menu: ocean fishing on Prince William Sound, glacier hiking in Wrangell–St. Elias, and whitewater rafting on the Class IV Tonsina River. It’s more than enough to justify the price tag ($1,650 per person for three nights and two days, all-inclusive).

  • Photo: IDAK/Shutterstock

    Day 13: Anchorage

    TRAVEL TIME: 7 HOURS 30 MINUTES
    Head for home, but not before a picturesque ferry ride through lush Prince William Sound and a night at the hundred-year-old Historic Anchorage Hotel (doubles from $219). (And feel free to crib from these step-by-step road-trip instructions.)

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