Part of the experience of traveling to new places is experiencing great local cuisine. With so many of travelers to Alaska visiting Denali National Park, we get many questions about what to expect when dining at the hotels. We reached out to the Grande Denali Lodge to find out what they had on tap this summer at one of Denali’s premier restaurants, The Alpenglow. The Alpenglow sits high on Sugarloaf Mountain and has the commanding views of Denali National Park’s entrance area along the Nenana River Canyon. (more…)
One of the most common questions we receive regarding the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park is if lunch is included. The Park concessionaire that operates the tour calls the meal a “small snack.” Each year we inquire what the snack includes as it can change. Often, when we advise visitors to arrange for a box lunch from their hotel before they go we later hear back from them that the snack was a lunch and why did we tell them to purchase a box lunch for the trip? The reality is that whether you will need additional food on your tour depends on your appetite and what you ate for breakfast or lunch before you depart on either the morning or afternoon tour. (more…)
Denali National Park is the most popular National Park to visit in Alaska. Covering over 6 million acres it is home to Mt. McKinley 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!
The 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 6-8 hours and travels 53 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…)
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.
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…)
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.
We often get asked, “how do you get around in Denali if we don’t have our own car?” Well, it is fairly easy with a little planning and knowledge of the transportation options to get to Denali. Our recommendations include the Alaska Railroad and the Park Connection Motorcoach. Once in Denali, there is a network of National Park Service shuttles and local Denali hotel and tour operators that provide complimentary services to prospective clients. The next key to visiting Denali National Park without your own car is to select a hotel which provides a shuttle service into the Denali Park entrance area and to the Alaska Railroad Depot.
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, their 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 53 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…)