Pacific Northwest & Alaska Trip Overview
Dive headfirst into the beautiful, quirky world of the Pacific Northwest and discover the last frontier of Alaska, land of the midnight sun! This program is the perfect opportunity to traverse the lesser-traveled roads of these parts of the United States.
In Seattle, discover coffee culture at the first Starbucks at Pike Place Market, visit the Troll Under the Bridge in Fremont, and learn about the unique Scandinavia and Japanese influence on the city. Head south to Portland, one of America’s quirkiest cities, and dive head-first into the culinary scene of food trucks and Voodoo Donuts. After discovering how to “keep Portland weird,” we’ll hit the road for some of Oregon’s best national parks. Try your hand at summer skiing* at Mt. Hood before stepping foot at Crater Lake National Park where you’ll take in the stunning views shaped by a sleeping volcano.
Then we’re off to our next state to discover: California, where we will adventure around stunning Lake Tahoe before we head off to our final city on our tour: San Francisco! In groovy San Francisco, take the ferry to Alcatraz and see what it was like to be an island prisoner. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge on your way to marvel at giant trees in Muir Woods. Discover Ghirardelli chocolates and wander through the waterfront Ferry Building Marketplace, picking up local delicacies along the way!
Next we journey onward and upward to the expansive state of Alaska, where we will combine breathtaking beauty, meaningful service work, and adventures that will have the whole family wishing they could come! You’ll visit Homer, one of Alaska’s best-kept secrets near Kenai Fjords National Park. A true gem of an Alaskan town, Homer has managed to slide under the radar of Alaska’s typical tourists. Next, a visit to the fisherman’s haven Seward will bring even more Alaskan culture and adventure into your life. You’ll have the chance to hike to the top of a glacier, whitewater raft down a river surrounded by snow-capped mountains, kayak in a glacial bay while looking for seals, and spend your evenings around a campfire! To top off our adventures we will volunteer at a wildlife conservation center for bears, moose, and more!
On this journey through every nature lover’s favorite corner of the USA, we will explore the urban cities while hiking, kayaking, and skiing through some of the best national parks in the Pacific Northwest. From the mountains to the sea with countless forests in-between, there are plenty of things to do in the Pacific Northwest! This will surely be a summer adventure for the memory books.
During this program, you will…
- Stand at the top of the famous Seattle Space Needle
- Have lunch at Pike Place Market and check out other Seattle hot spots like the Fremont Troll
- Spend the afternoon on Lake Tahoe, trying your hand at sports fishing!*
- Soak in hot springs and jump into bright blue pools hidden in the forests of Oregon
- Kayak around Lake Tahoe
- Enjoy your afternoon in Bend stand-up paddleboarding*
- Try VooDoo Doughnuts in quirky Portland, Oregon
- Bike San Francisco’s iconic streets*
- Stand under the great redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument
- Earn 20 hours of community service at two volunteer sites
- Whitewater raft up to Class IV rapids in two stunning canyons
- Strap on crampons and literally “walk on water” as you hike across a glacier, or for those brave enough, learn how to ice climb!*
- Spend time in Kenai Fjord National Park and hike to the top of the Harding Ice Field
- Stargaze and, if we’re lucky, even see the Northern Lights!
- Channel your inner musher as we visit an Iditarod training camp and take the sled dogs out on a run!
- Hike to a glacially fed alpine lake filled with icebergs
- Explore the charming town of Girdwood, hike, play disc golf, and adventure to your heart’s content
- Visit the Anchorage Museum and gain insight into the Inuit way of life
- Enjoy delicious seafood fresh from the Pacific
- Kayak in a glacial bay and keep an eye out for seals and other wildlife
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN SEATTLE (SEA)
DAY 2: SEATTLE
Start this journey in the beautiful Emerald City. Seattle is a place full of character and endless entertainment for all ages. Take the elevator up the Seattle Space Needle to see the city below and look for Mt. Rainier in the distance! Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch in Pike Place Market, visit the quirky Fremont Troll and add your piece of gum to the infamous Gum Wall! Get to know Seattle on land and by sea with a unique duck tour.
DAYS 3-4: PORTLAND > MT. HOOD NATIONAL PARK
Then our adventure will head south to the hip city of Portland, Oregon! We’ll take the coastal route to Cannon Beach to see the iconic beach where the Goonies was filmed. Admire the unique rock formations that dot the shore and take in the stunning beaches of the Pacific Coast.
Then it’s time to “Keep Portland Weird,” where quirky PNW culture is thriving in this West Coast city. Famous for having over 500 food carts celebrating a wide variety of cuisine, we’ll grab lunch from and then hit the town to discover all the fun, interesting things Portland has to offer!
In addition to enjoying Portland’s amazing cuisine we will experience all of the incredible outdoor activities on offer. Hike the Columbia River Gorge and try to photograph all of Multnomah Falls in one shot. Gaze at the reflection of Mt. Hood in Trillium Lake.
DAY 5: BEND > CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Bend will be our jump off point for Crater Lake National Park. Hike to stunning waterfalls hidden in lush forest, including an epic basalt column waterfall, before reaching the ultimate view: Crater Lake. You’ve never seen a lake quite like this! The result of a volcanic eruption almost 8,000 years ago, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the America and one of the most pristine lakes in the world. As you gaze from the rim down at its splendor, you can imagine the 1,949 feet (594 meters) of crystal clear water that fills the caldera.
DAYS 6-7: LAKE TAHOE
The third state on this action-packed adventure is sure to not disappoint. Your first view of Lake Tahoe will leave you speechless. The massive pool of bright blue water beneath the peaks of the Sierras is unlike anything in the world. Kayak, hike to Eagle Falls, and take a sunset cruise around this magnificent landscape. We’ll even ride the Heavenly Gondola to get a bird’s eye view of the lake in all its splendor. By the time we leave Tahoe you will have experienced all of the action this area has to offer!
DAYS 8-11: SAN FRANCISCO
Leaving the adventure haven of Lake Tahoe behind is hard, but not when you’re headed for the greatest city in Northern California! Cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco and get ready to live it up like a local. Bike or walk through the famous neighborhoods and stop at sights like the Painted Ladies and Lombard Street. Go out for dinner in Chinatown and indulge in a chocolate sundae from Ghirardelli Square for dessert. Take the ferry to Alcatraz and imagine what it was like to be a prisoner on this island less than 60 years ago! Before leaving California, hike through the iconic mighty redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument.
DAYS 12–14: ANCHORAGE > WILDLIFE CONSERVATION CENTER > GLACIER TREK
We’ll fly to Anchorage, the capital of Alaska, a city holding 40% of the state’s population yet only the 4th biggest city (in square miles). Here we will explore the city, see what survived the famous quake of 1964 and get an insight into Alaskan history and culture while visiting the Anchorage Museum.
We’ll spend time volunteering at Alaska’s Wildlife Conservation Center. We’ll have a walking tour of the property with a naturalist guide and immerse ourselves in the natural history of the 13 species of Alaskan wildlife housed here. Working alongside staff and naturalist interns we’ll work on projects to better the lives of the animals through husbandry, maintenance, and enrichment projects. We will even get to feed moose and make “toys” for wolves and bear cubs! Not only is this a fantastic opportunity to give the animals unique experiences, it is a once in a lifetime chance to see Alaskan wildlife exhibiting natural behaviors up close and personal!
While in Anchorage we will take a day trip out for a surreal experience literally “walking on water” as we trek across the Matanuska Glacier. Those who are looking for an adrenaline-pumping experience will have the option to ice climb instead! Our expert guides will help us navigate the glacier to discover stunning formations and bright blue ice.
DAYS 15–17: HOMER
Continuing with our theme of service we will be spending time at a living laboratory on the south shore of Kachemak Bay. This is only accessible by boat from Homer and we will stay overnight in traditional Yurts. Our group will learn about natural history and assist with maintenance and light construction projects.
Once the project is completed we will have a chance to explore Homer, the halibut capital of the world. Our group will go on a stunning hike in Kachemak Bay State Park to an iceberg lake and explore the town of Homer, including the unique Homer Spit, a 4.5 mile piece of thin land jutting into the bay where the harbor, restaurants, hotels, and some of the more historic areas of Homer are located.
DAYS 18-20: SEWARD
Seward is considered one of the best adventure capitals in the state. During our time here we will get our adrenaline pumping while whitewater rafting down Six Mile Creek between two stunning canyons. We will sea kayak in Resurrection Bay and learn about the history of the area, discover wildlife, and check out the coastal rainforest. We’ll also visit the Alaska Sealife Center to provide a close up look at many of the species that make up the waters.
To top off our time in Seward we will experience what many people call the most beautiful hike they have ever done, heading up to the Harding Ice Field at Exit Glacier.
DAYS 21: GIRDWOOD
What better way to end a dream trip than channeling our inner Iditarod dog sledding champion? We will visit a camp for the dogs, get to know the team, ride on a circuit, listen to some incredible Iditarod stories, and to top it off, get to cuddle some pups who will someday be racers themselves! Spend the rest of the day hiking, playing disc golf and soaking in the beautiful sights of Girdwood before taking a tram 2,000 feet up and enjoying a fancy final dinner overlooking the spectacular valley and the Turnagain Arm.
DAY 22: DEPART FROM ANCHORAGE (ANC)
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in grades 9th through 11th and approximately 14 to 17 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. We do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities; we prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
All accommodations on this trip have been selected to ensure quality while still maintaining the character of the places we are visiting. In Seattle and Portland, we’ll stay in hotels in proximity to downtown in order to fully take advantage of the food and entertainment scene. In Bend, we’ll opt for a unique lodging experiencing to feel closer to the outdoors. In Tahoe, we’ll stay in South Lake Tahoe in a boutique hotel designed to feel like you’re camping indoors in bunk style dorms. In San Francisco, quality is priority in this older city. All hotels will be clean and safe with 24-hour security.
In Anchorage, you’ll get your first taste of what it’s like to stay in a college dorm, as we’ll eat breakfast in the dining hall and live dorm-style for the four nights of our stay! Designed for student housing with privacy and security in mind, rooms are available in single suite, double suite and quad suite arrangements. All rooms have single-person beds and private bathrooms.
In Seward, we stay at one of the top-rated hotels, with Simmons pillow-top beds, cozy blankets, free wifi, flat screen TVs with HBO, and all the comforts of home!
Our Girdwood accommodation is Alaska’s premier year-round resort destination. Nestled in a lush valley surrounded by mountain peaks, hanging glaciers and spectacular ocean views, the hotel offers guests luxurious accommodations and convenient access to the magnificent Alaskan wilderness.
This program does not involve camping.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for the program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students like most about this program?
Students love that they are able to explore four of America’s greatest states. From Seattle to San Francisco and all the way to Anchorage, you get a taste of the best cities in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska while stopping at all the natural wonders along the way.
What is unique about this program?
This program is a road trip designed with teens in mind. Intimate sized groups make this an incredible experience for everyone on board. You’ll see cities and spend time outdoors in some of the greatest places the Northwest has to offer while building lifelong friendships with like-minded peers.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Our USA: Pacific Northwest & Alaska service program is an exciting combination of our USA: Pacific Northwest Explorer and our Alaska Service & Adventure programs. The flight between programs is not covered in the cost of tuition and is considered part of your airfare. TFT will have a set group flight path from San Francisco to Anchorage. You can choose to book this on your own, but we recommend booking through our office as we usually are able to get better flight deals.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
What is the food like on this trip?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
Seattle is famous for its seafood but plenty of options will be offered for those who aren’t a fan. Pike’s Place Market is a perfect spot to have lunch and for coffee lovers, there’s no better city for a cup of joe! Portland is known for its many food carts (over 500!) and the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, both of which we’ll indulge in. And did we mention that the seafood doesn’t get any fresher in Alaska?
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
Any US citizen will not need a visa or passport but will need a government-issued identification to get through airport security.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.