Things to Do in Denali Park

Denali National Park is the most popular National Park to visit in Alaska. Covering over 6 million acres it is home to Mt. Denali and provides spectacular scenery and wildlife viewing. With over 400,000 visitors each year it is not surprising the range of activities varies as much as the weather!

thingstodoindenaliblog2The most popular way to see the park is by a Denali bus tours. Three different fully guided, narrated tours are available during the summer season. The shortest tour is the Denali Natural History Tour; this tour is 4-5 hours in length and travels 17 miles into the park focusing mainly on the history of the park. If you are looking for wildlife you can take either the Tundra Wilderness Tour or a Kantishna Tour. The Tundra Wilderness Tour is 8-9 hours and travels 62 miles into the park. This is the shortest tour you can take to get a good chance to see wildlife. These tours have morning and afternoon departures, which make them easy to fit into any schedule! To really see everything the park has to offer I recommend either the Kantishna Wilderness Trails Tour or the Kantishna Experience Tour. These tours travel the full 95 miles of the park road and are 13 hours in length. They both offer exceptional narration and lunch with a stop in Kantishna for an hour or so. (more…)

Which Bus Tour in Denali is Right for Me?

There are many options when it comes to touring Denali National Park.  I will breakdown the choices so that you can choose the one that works best for you and your traveling companions.

Shuttle Bus versus Tour Bus
The Denali Park Road travels 92 miles into the heart of Denali National Park and Preserve.  Only the first 15 miles of this road are paved and accessible to private vehicles.  The Park Road, beyond Savage River (mile 15), is only accessible by shuttle or tour bus.  The first choice you need to make is to travel by tour bus or by shuttle bus.

Tour buses offer more of a deluxe Denali experience.  They offer narration which includes the history and geology of the Park, a boxed snack, wildlife viewing and restroom stops.  The drivers work hard to spot wildlife and to give you a complete picture of the national park.  The tour buses are upgraded school buses that have been altered to accommodate motor-coach seats.  This comfortable seating becomes even more important on the longer tours.  The tour bus departs from various Denali hotels.

The shuttle bus offers a less expensive trip into the Park and a way to see the Park at your own pace. This bus does not offer narration or snacks but does make stops for wildlife viewing and restrooms.  The shuttle bus offers traditional school bus bench seating. This bus offers more flexibility for visitors who want to hike and explore the Park.  You can board one bus, get off and explore, then re-board a later shuttle bus either going further into the Park or returning to the Park entrance.  The re-boarding process is based on seat availability so you may have to wait for up to an hour for a bus that can accommodate you.  The shuttle bus departs from the Wilderness Access Center.
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Seward Alaska Day Trip from Anchorage

I have defined many words in my years of high school. Ranging from ascorbic and acidic, to picaresque and punctilious, I have covered a great breadth of vocabulary. But if I were to be put to the task of defining Alaska, I would be forced to fall short. In a task too daunting, I would simply be forced to write “You must see for yourself.” After exploring Alaska on a recent day trip to Seward, I saw that it could not be simply defined through its glaciers and mountains, or its wildlife and human life. I saw that it could only be defined through a firsthand experience.
 
Many people know the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but I would take it a step further in saying that an experience is worth a thousand pictures. Millions and millions of photographs exist that depict many aspects of Alaska. But until a person truly experiences Alaska, those pictures will not have any real meaning. Take a picture of a breeching orca, if you are amazed by that still candid, then the true experience will be like no other. To witness such a monstrous creature arc and spout, knowing it is outside all human control, is both breathtaking and new. For it is a natural show, nothing planned, but still much more than any scheduled event.

My girlfriend and I set forth on our day trip to Seward on an early summer morning from Anchorage. We had made the decision to take the Park Connection bus down, and the Alaska Railroad back later that day. Boarding the bus from the Egan Center in Downtown Anchorage, we left at around seven that morning. Because travelers often prefer to take the afternoon bus, our morning departure only had five or six other passengers on the bus with us. Through the first portion of our ride the driver had a good amount to say about Anchorage, Seward, and many of the places we were passing along the way. As we reached the more scenic portion of the drive, our driver allowed us to sit back in the comfortable seating and enjoy all that Alaska had to offer for us. It was almost surreal to watch the rivers flow by, accented by the bright green pine trees and vibrant wildflowers of every color. I soon drifted off to sleep, lulled by the beauty of Alaskan nature.  (more…)

Kantishna Roadhouse Surprise

My friend Elaine and I had the opportunity to visit the Kantishna Roadhouse this past week, a true journey into the wilderness, yet with the comforts of home:  home spun, healthy meals, up-to-date firm mattresses on the beds, good shower heads, fresh coffee early in the mornings, and best of all the sweetest and most pleasant service personnel and guides one could ever ask for.

I loved the peace and quiet of the surrounding woods around the cabins and sounds of the rambling brook in front of the roadhouse. Sitting in a rocking chair, soaking in the warm sun, and listening to the birds chirping was just what I wanted to do as I left behind the hectic city of Anchorage, the usual phone calls, and my busy fingers at the computer.  Elaine enjoyed the hiking more than I did. We did get a van ride up to Wonder Lake to see the mountain. It’s the closest either of us had been. The sun was shining with just a touch of cloud at the tip. Wow! What a sight. (more…)

New Off the Beaten Path Adventures

We’re always on the look out for adventures which get visitor’s off the beaten path and that can reasonably be experienced in a day or less while in Denali National Park or in the South Denali – Denali State Park region. So working with two of our local Alaska guide services, we’re excited to be able to showcase two new adventures which we’re sure will be among the highlights for visitors this summer.

The Denali State Park Raft & Kayak adventure starts with a visit to Byer’s Lake in Denali State Park, one of my own favorite places to visit. Byer’s Lake is located in a pristine setting at the foot of the Kesugi Ridge and offers spectacular views of Mt. McKinley. Along with your guide, you’ll use sit-on-top kayaks to paddle through the tranquil waters while on the watch for resident trumpeter swans, loons, and beavers. If you haven’t ever tried a sit-on-top kayak before you shouldn’t worry as they are easy to use even for new kayakers. One of the highlights for me while at Byer’s Lake is kayaking over pools of spawning salmon – I’ve also seen signs of bears along the far shore of the lake and the local guides say they occasionally see them from a safe distance away while kayaking.

From Byer’s Lake you’ll head to a unique, Alaskan lodge & café called Mary Cary’s where you’ll have lunch while enjoying views of Denali and the Alaska Range. Then its onward to your launching ground on the Chulitna River to embark on a peaceful, scenic raft trip that takes you through the stunning Chulitna Canyon and ends 19 miles downstream in the town of Talkeetna. Transportation is provided from both Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and McKinley Princess Lodge, or if you have your own car you can meet the guides at Byer’s Lake and they’ll bring you back to your car at the end of the day.

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A Visit to Denali’s Eielson Visitor Center

Denali National Park has three visitor centers inside the Park.  The Denali Park Visitor Center and the Murie Science & Learning Center are both located just inside the Denali Park entrance, about a mile up the Park Road.  The third is the Eielson Visitor Center which is located at mile 66 of the Park Road. A stop at Eielson Visitor Center is included in both the Kantishna Wilderness Tour and the Kantishna Experience Tour.  Because these tours are about 12 hours long, they are best suited for adults and families with older children.  The most popular park tour, the Tundra Wilderness Tour, is shorter but does not go to Eielson due to only traveling to mile 62 of the Park Road.  You can also reach the Eielson Visitor Center by purchasing a shuttle bus into the Park.  This option is popular to local Alaskans and other returning visitor’s to the park as well as those who are camping inside the park.  But be sure to not purchase the Toklat shuttle if a visit to Eielson is important to you as it turns around before the visitor center. (more…)

Alaska Travel Photo Contest Winner Selected

Over 550 photos were submitted for our 2010 Alaska Travel Photo Contest.  Our staff and several other Alaska travel industry managers have spent the last month judging which photo would be selected from among many amazing photos depicting Alaska’s wildlife, scenery, people, and adventure.   This year the photograph Denali Cow and Calf in Amber by Edward Krumanaker has been selected as the Contest’s grand prize winner.    (more…)

Dining in Denali

For the past five summers I have been visiting Denali and enjoying the locally owned restaurants. When you arrive in the Denali National Park area you find several large lodges and of course each of these has one if not multiple restaurants, ranging from casual cafés to more upscale restaurants. These restaurants are great but somtimes you want to explore the local fare, and there are several located within a few miles from the Denali Park entrance.

In the area known as the Denali Canyon you will find a full service restaurant & bar, a fish and chips restaurant, two beer and pizza joints, a hot dog stand and, and a burger joint with the best views in the canyon. The Denali Park Salmon Bake is located across from the Denali Princess Lodge and serves a hearty breakfast, has a full service bar and has a great lunch and dinner menu with local favorites such as Salmon Quesadillas and Halibut Tacos. (more…)

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