Car-less in Denali

We often are 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 and around Denali. Traveling to Denali, we usually recommend traveling one way via the Alaska Railroad or the Wilderness Express and the other way by The Park Connection Motorcoach.  The Park Connection departs from and drops off at all of the major hotels in Denali and the hotels we recommend are selected in part because they pick up and drop off at the railroad depot.  Once in Denali, there is a network of National Park Service shuttles and local Denali hotel and tour operators that provide complimentary transportation to clients. The next step to planning a visit to 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.

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Experiencing the Glaciers of Southcentral Alaska

Matanuska GlacierA glacier is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as a very large area of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley or over a wide area of land – a fairly bland description of a breathtaking sight! A common Alaska definition of a glacier is a river of ice. Glaciers common to Alaska include tidewater glaciers, hanging glaciers and valley glaciers. Tidewater glaciers flow down mountains and end in the sea, hanging glaciers rest on mountain sides and only descend a part of the way down the mountain and valley glaciers fill mountain valleys.

Glaciers are one of the top Alaskan attractions. Alaska is home to 100,000 glaciers, two-thirds of all of the glaciers on earth. Whether seen from the air, from the water or on a hike, your first sight of a glacier can be an awe-inspiring, humbling experience. It is amazing how accessible these massive rivers of ice can be! Below is a guide to the glaciers of Southcentral Alaska. (more…)

The Denali Park Village – More Than Just a Name Change

dpr_Village_OutdoorSince its development, the area 7-miles south of the Denali National Park entrance has been called the McKinley Village, the area’s name associated with the McKinley Village Lodge located on an arching river bank cut long ago by the Nenana River. The Village name remains in part, but the owners of the lodge have now replaced “McKinley” with “Denali Park”. This change is welcomed by those who support ridding North America’s tallest peak the name associated with President William McKinley in favor of Denali, the Athabascans’ name meaning “The High One.” The new name is therefore is The Lodge at Denali Park Village.

Denali-River-Cabins-with-KaThe Denali Park Village has expanded to include its former neighbor, the Denali River Cabins, which was purchased by Denali Park Resorts early last winter. The River Cabins, considered an economical, value property in the past with its small cabins located on the Nenana River has been re-branded as The Cabins at Denali Park Village. The Denali Park Village owners have spent the winter freshening up The Cabins’ interiors and replacing the double beds with one king bed. Other amenities include a wall-mounted television, telephone, alarm clock, hair dryer, coffee maker and complimentary Starbucks coffee. You can upgrade to a deluxe cabin that in addition to the standard room amenities also includes a bathrobe, complimentary bottled water, and feature either a wilderness or river view. (more…)

Guided Hikes in Alaska

k2-ultimateIf you are like most independent visitors coming to Alaska, you are seeking active experiences that thrust you into Alaska’s scenic wilderness. As a result, one of the most popular activities you may take part in are guided hikes into Alaska’s backcountry. Alaska Tour & Travel offers guided hiking tours in Seward, Girdwood, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali State Park, and at Denali National Park and the great news is that when surveying our past clients, we discovered that the guided hikes we offer were among the highest rated tour experiences included in packages. Hiking allows you the opportunity to “get off the beaten path” and to experience Alaskan destinations which even many Alaskan’s haven’t seen. Typically, guided hikes tend to have a smaller maximum number of participants to reduce the impact on the environment. Your safety is always the priority on any professionally guided hiking excursion. Most guiding services keep the guide to hiker ratio to less than six to one, which allows participants to not only to get to know their guides personally, but also provides the guide the opportunity to provide more interpretation about the ecosystem.

Alaska’s wild expanses result not having any two hikes being alike, which is terrific for avid hikers who want to include multiple hiking trips in their trip. Difficulty wise, hikes range from novice hikes which are little more than a walk through the woods to more technical hikes which require participants to suit up with glacial gear while hiking on accessible glaciers. Hikes also range by the means of transport it takes to “being able to hit the trail” – whether the trail head is just outside a lodges front door, a short van ride, a ride on a tram up to the top of a mountain, or by helicopter or float plane to a remote location all of these options are available. Here are a few hikes to consider including in a travel itinerary.

Anchorage

chugach-hikingRising to the east of the city of Anchorage are the Chugach Mountains and one of Alaska’s best state parks – the Chugach State Park. The Anchorage Day Hike provides visitors a chance to explore an alpine environment with beautiful vistas of the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet, and on a clear day view as far away as Mt. Denali. Transportation is included, and the name itself doesn’t do the experience justice as the best thing that the Anchorage Day Hike does is quickly transport you away from the city up into one of Alaska’s most accessible and scenic wilderness areas. Our staff loves spending time in Chugach State Park and the views from our office of the Chugach Mountains beckon us often into the mountains during summer months. Each Anchorage Day Hike is tailored to your fitness level and transportation is included from Anchorage hotels. (more…)

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…)

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