ALASKAN GRAVEL EXPEDITION July 23-31

Anchorage, AK, USA

Rc
3 reviews
Jul 23 - 31, 2023
Group size: 6 - 25
ALASKAN GRAVEL EXPEDITION July 23-31
Anchorage, AK, USA

3 reviews

$NaN
Jul 23 - 31, 2023
Group size: 6 - 25

About this trip

THE LAND OF MIDNIGHT SUN

“Alaska herself can be a Sleeping Beauty in one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next.” – Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone


The world’s greatest destinations often measure distance in time instead of miles. Places where the journey is as much an end goal as the finish. It then comes as no surprise that a place with eternal summer daylight is no different: The Land of the Midnight Sun, Alaska.  

“Wait,” you might query. “Alaska? Nobody rides bikes in Alaska.” Wrong. The global pandemic might’ve slightly dampened our ability to travel abroad, but our undaunted curiosity got the better of us. We pored over maps. Spent hours on Google Earth. We kept looking north, to the one logical conclusion to the search, The Last Frontier. The venerable moniker is still valid. While we may delude ourselves into knowing every square inch of the planet thanks to GPS, cell coverage, interstate highways, and human spaceflight, Alaska delivers the mystery of the unknown and untamed in spades. 


The RAID Alaskan Gravel Expedition pulls back the curtain on the wilds of the Alaskan interior, venturing from the metropolis of Anchorage into the wilds of Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks, homes of the tallest peaks in the United States. Unlike our other departures, this one visits little in the way of population (apropos in the time of COVID-19), and much in the way of natural splendor. 


Nine days of exploration await, but this trip isn’t for the faint of heart. While the copious amounts of gravel riding is relatively smooth, very little else is. Unpredictable weather. Long days. Excessive elevation gain. Distracting vistas. Choking dust. And moose. Days will be hard, but the rewards are plenty. After all, nothing less would suit a RAID trip to the Last Frontier.

WHAT IS INCLUDED

 Our departures are all-inclusive. All prices 
include hotel accommodation on a double-occupancy basis (single-occupancy is available on most trips for an additional fee), professionally guided rides, on-road
 vehicle support, limited laundry & recovery (massage boots), most meals (excluding alcohol), and ride nutrition/food (hydration, energy bars, etc.). Baggage transfer, porterage and all gratuities at restaurants are also included.  

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

Airfare is not included and gratuities for our trip leaders and personal expenses. Bicycles are not included on this departures. 

Arrival & Departure airport

  • Arrival Airport:  Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
  • Departure Airport: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)

DEPARTURE
Day 9 MORNING FLIGHT TO ANCHORAGE 

Your hotel is NOT included on D9 of the trip in Anchorage. 


A morning bush flight, in true Alaska fashion. We’ll have coffee as we watch the sun come up over the Root Glacier before boarding a short plane ride bound for Anchorage, back to civilization. We’ll be there at the airport, helping to streamline your departure from Alaska – and plan your next. 


You can elect to fly out of Anchorage in the late afternoon or early evening on this day.  Please confirm with us before making your booking.  

Available Packages

DOUBLE OCCUPANCY
only 2 left
$6,700
Deposit: $800
SINGLE OCCUPANCY
only 3 left

During this expedition, three (3) of our selected accommodations will  have shared bathroom facilities, they also may have simple twin-bed  rooms and it's unlikely, but bunk-bed's may be provided for a few  participants. These three lodging properties are in very remote  destinations with no other options.  They are family operated, clean,  simple and charming.

$7,700
Deposit: $1,000
$NaN


Itinerary

ALASKA
ALASKAN GRAVEL EXPEDITION

Day 1 ARRIVAL DAY – ANCHORAGE 

25 mi   

Welcome to Alaska. Don’t let Anchorage’s façade as an urban metropolis fool you – past its outskirts lies the tempestuous interior of the 49th state. Our arrival day takes us on tranquil spin lead by our resident local guide, Sean Martin, who we worked closely with to plan the entire trip. Views of Denali, wildlife, and perhaps a Beluga whale or two proffer a tasty appetizer of what’s to come later in the week. Tonight, we dine at Orso, a renowned Anchorage restaurant that focuses on local suppliers, many of whom we’ll ride past in the days to come. The evening’s stay remains in town at the Hotel Captain Cook, one of the area’s most acclaimed upscale hotels. 


Day 2 ANCHORAGE - TALKEETNA 

94 mi / 6,552 Ft
151 km / 1,997 m  

Today, the “real” riding begins, but not before a full Alaskan brekky (ft. reindeer sausage or sockeye salmon) – necessary fuel for our ride today. We’ll take a quick auto transfer to the farming town of Palmer, the setting for the start of one of the most epic climbs in North America: 12 mile-long Hatcher Pass. It begins paved and gradual, but don’t let it fool you – by the last half, Hatcher features 16% ramps and gravel. What goes up must come down, and the descent off the pass is nearly as unforgiving, entirely on dirt. Covered in grime and via the famous Parks Highway, we’ll wheel into the colorful historic bush burg of Talkeetna. Stay on the lookout for climbers staging for the summit of the tallest peak in the United State, Denali, as this is where most leave from. We’ll bed down for the night here, at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, taking in sights of the majestic mountain from the porch. Dinner comes at acclaimed Café Michele, with post-dinner drinks at the local watering hole, the Fairview Inn. Tomorrow, we venture farther into the interior.  


Day 3 TALKEETNA - DENALI 

138 mi / 7,995 Ft *We ride as far or as little as we like today.
222 km / 2,436 m   

While today doesn’t feature any gravel, it’s rewarding in its own right. The Parks Highway features for the entirety of the day, but we won’t be bored by it. Regarded as one of the most scenic roads in the world, the whole of the day features stunning views of Denali as we skirt the edge of Denali National Park. Each stop on today’s route is as rewarding as the last – viewpoints, the massive Hurricane Gulch bridge, and the anachronistic Atlas Obscura-featured Igloo City. We’ll roll over Broad Pass to cross the lowest gap in the Alaskan Range, finishing in the town of Denali-Cantwell, the filming location for 2007’s “Into the Wild”. Unsurprisingly, tonight’s theme will mirror a bit of the film: Pack light, travel far. Organize your equipment, bike spares, and clothing needed for tomorrow’s hard ride. 


Day 4 DENALI pARK ROAD

103 mi / 10,195 Ft
165 km / 3,107 m   

Today’s venture is one of lifelong memories made in sheer solitude. Our route is a mostly-gravel 42 mile-long road that gains OVER 5000 vertical feet and is barred to automobiles, save occasional Park Service shuttles. Piercing into the heart of the park, Denali Park Road vaults over four mountain passes and past the tree line, crossing vast swaths of pristine arctic tundra and taiga. The feeling is otherworldly – yet it is our own world, simply one untouched by civilization. The vastness and scale is, at times, totally overwhelming. Keep an eye out for grizzly bears, moose, and the ever-present Denali, looming high above the clouds. **Due to the roads closure at milepost 42, todays route is an out and back venture, so ride as much or as little of the road as you prefer.  And if you like to take the bus to mile 42, you can elect to do that and ride back, making it a slightly easier route. We will return after a day of hard exploration, to the Denali Cabins.


Day 5 DENALI / CANTWELL - ALPINE CREEK LODGE

94.5 mi / 5,785 Ft
152.2 km / 1,763 m   

On tap for the next two days is the imposing, unpaved Denali Highway, listed as one of the most scenic roads in the world by National Geographic. Like our venture into the park, this is a mostly-gravel jaunt, with more sweeping views of the untamed wilds of the Alaskan interior. Glaciers and the mountains of the Alaska Range frame the day’s views out from above the tree line. Lolling tundra rolls below, pocked with shallow lakes, like spilt tears from ancient deities.  Breaking this arduous road into two days gives us a truly immersive  and unforgettable experience. On our first day, we’ll pull into Alpine Creek Lodge, a rustic bush outpost run by a warm Alaskan family. The lodging tonight might be simple, but hearing the stories of the Alaskan interior over an outstanding home-cooked meal will buoy the spirits for tomorrow’s continued adventure. If we’re lucky, we might even get a peek of the Northern Lights, a phenomena the area is known for. 


Day 6 ALPINE CREEK LODGE TO PAXSON / TRANSFER TO GAKONA

67 mi / 5,925 Ft
109 Km / 1,806 m   

Fresh hotcakes drenched in maple syrup will fuel our second day on the Denali Highway. Saying goodbye to Alpine Creek, we’ll keep climbing, almost entirely on dirt. Hard riding with more views of massive glaciers and endless tundra as we soar above the tree line awaits. Today ends contemplatively, with a quick auto transfer on the Richardson Highway, a rarely-used road with views of massive ice falls and the ever-controversial Alaskan Pipeline. We’ll stop at the Gakona Lodge and Trading Post for the night, the oldest roadhouse in Alaska. In years past, roadhouses were a staple of the early 20th-century bush, offering miners, travelers, oilmen, hunters, and explorers a welcome place to rest, eat, and drink en route to their destinations. Gakona is an historic collection of log buildings where cold beer, whiskey, a friendly innkeeper, and an authentic – yet comfortable – stay awaits us.  


Day 7 GAKONA - KENNICOTT / McCARTHY

100 mi / 6,603 Ft
160 km / 2,012 m  

The final riding day of our trip is easily the most remote, and likely the most historically fascinating. We’ll take leave of the warm shelter of Gakona early in the morning for a difficult route that takes us to the southern flank of the largest National Park in the United States, Wrangell-St. Elias. As big as it is remote, the park is littered with remnants of the Alaskan mining booms of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s also one of the least-visited national parks in the United States, a marvel considering its incredible beauty and history. Our route into its environs tracks along the McCarthy Road, a former railroad bed now serving as one of only two routes into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It’s a dirt road infamous for its brutality to automobiles, with most rental car companies explicitly barring travel on it. Derelict railroad ties buried in the roadbed provide ample opportunities to puncture an oil pan or tires – or both. As we journey through the bush to the tiny town of McCarthy (pop. 40), boreal forests loom imposing along the route, with occasional lakes peeking through the dense foliage. Near the end of our ride, as we round a non-descript bend, the Saint Elias Mountains explode into view, heralding our arrival at the bridge leading into McCarthy, the terminus of our ride.


Day 8 KENNICOTT GLACIER EXPLORATION 
(REST DAY)

Our final day in Alaska isn’t one on the bike, but it’s stunning all the same. We’ll wake at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge in the ghost town-cum-historical landmark of Kennicott, a few short miles from tiny McCarthy. Once one of the world’s most prolific copper mines from the 1900s into the late 1930s, Kennicott was effectively abandoned until the 1980s and the establishment of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, when it became a national historic landmark. Now a collection of former mining structures and the Glacier Lodge, it’s a marvel to behold, effectively frozen in time. Today, we’ll explore Kennicott and its locale with the famous Root Glacier walk in the morning and an afternoon spent in the camp.  Our icy walk in an alien landscape consists of crevasses, ice canyons, frozen waterfalls, blue pools, and moulins (glacial boreholes) – a truly unique, unusual experience. Later, step back a century into Alaska’s past, exploring the former Kennicott Mine’s mills, copper works, and laborer accommodations. 


Day 9 MORNING FLIGHT TO ANCHORAGE 

A morning bush flight, in true Alaska fashion. We’ll have coffee as we watch the sun come up over the Root Glacier before boarding a short plane ride bound for Anchorage, back to civilization. We’ll be there at the airport, helping to streamline your departure from Alaska – and plan your next. 

Your Organizer


Rc
RAID cycling
3 reviews
Brad Sauber | Owner Brad brings 25+ years’ experience creating and running cycling and cultural trips around the globe. From Bolivia to Bhutan, the Himalayas to the Alps, New Zealand to the Rockies, Brad has a passion for helping guests uncover the magic of destinations, their people and culture. In addition to guiding all over the world, Brad was a founding partner at inGamba and the founding Head of Rapha Travel in 2012. When you get to know Brad, you understand cycling just isn’t part of his job, it’s a key aspect of his life. Raised in Washington State, Brad now lives in Mill Valley, California – with his wife, Dawn, and undisclosed number of bikes. Let him know if you’re passing through as he’s always up for a ride down the road or up the mountain. @bsauber

Reviews

What a great adventure! This trip exceeded expectations with spectacular scenery, roads less traveled, quirky hotels and great food. Brad would appear in his van as if by magic whenever the hunger pangs threatened and as a local knew exactly where to stop to ensure we got the full adventure tourist experience.
By Nina M for Portland - San Francisco Raid on 25 Jun, 2019
The trip was great, Brad is an amazing person, 100% committed for the well being of the riders (food, hotel, bike, nature, road advices...) When your are on your bike you just have to think of your ride, your pace, your leg... because your know that raid-cycling is100% handling everything else. It was the 2nd ride with Brad, I will do Japan next year
By jean luc B for Portland - San Francisco Raid on 21 Jun, 2019
I wish there were more than 5 Start to award! The team’s local knowledge regarding pristine, off-the-beaten-path routes & cuisine options combined with top-level service and hospitality made this a trip of a life-time. Thank you Brand & team/Studiovelo!
By Webb T for JAPAN -The Southern Islands on 27 May, 2019