Best way to see Denali in July?

Old Dec 15th, 2008, 12:58 PM
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Best way to see Denali in July?

Anyone have recommendations on best way for group of 7(teens through retirees) to go into Denali and see wildlife. The choices i've seen are the Shuttle to Wonder lake and the Kantishna Experience which is a tour following the same route. We would like to go into the park for the day and take a couple of short hikes. Question is whether its practical to get off/on the shuttle a couple of times for hikes and/or bathroom breaks? Are there areas to hike that have rangers to discuss wildlife and provide for safety or is it worth being on the tour that provides a naturalist?
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Old Dec 15th, 2008, 03:16 PM
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Question is whether its practical to get off/on the shuttle a couple of times for hikes and/or bathroom breaks?

Getting off for hikes is no problem. They will make several bathroom stops too, at Teklanika and Polychrome and Eielson and maybe Toklat, for example.

These are REALLY long bus rides if you go to Wonder Lake or Kantishna, I think 11-12 hours. Would be a very long day if you also hiked.

If you want to get off and hike I'd advise riding the Eielson bus instead, which is about 8 hours round trip, or mile 66. I would ride all the way to Eielson on an early bus, scouting out likely areas on the ride in, then on the ride back I'd ask the driver to stop and get out for your hike. Or talk to one of the friendly rangers at the Eielson Visitor Center and get their suggestions.

I think the area between Highway Pass and Eielson is perfect for this kind of hike (High for this (open tundra), or also maybe near Polychrome Pass (very high tundra).

You want a high area that's open so you'll be safer from grizzly bears. So avoid brushy areas. Hiking in the river channels (Toklat, East Fork Toklat) is also popular but you will have to cross the streams several times and can't see as much as you can from up high.
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Old Dec 15th, 2008, 04:51 PM
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The Kantishna experience goes all the way to the end of the road. It takes about 10-12 hours. There are numerous stops along the way for restrooms, photos, and strecthing your legs but no real hiking opportunity. We enjoyed it and saw a lot of wildlife (which was our main purpose). We spent the next day doing some shorter hikes near the entrance of Denali.
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 12:20 AM
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We also took bus to Kantishna. Saw a lot of wildlife and 2 of the 4 of us enjoyed it immensely. It was a really long bus ride (13 hours door to door) on an old school bus. It stopped every 2 hours for brief photo op and bathroom and 2 hours in Kantishna.

It was the most terrifying trip I have ever taken. It is a dirt road, a portion of it perched on the side of a cliff about 2 inches wider than the bus, with many switchbacks. And then you meet a bus going in the opposite direction. Not for those with any fear of heights - but wonderful for others. They should at l;east warn you about this.
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 06:02 AM
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If you take the SHUTTLE bus to Kantishna, you are extremely limited at the end where you can go, since it is mostly private property. I do NOT recommend the day trips run by the lodges. These allow you no time for more than a brief short walk around and none of the activities offered to overnight guests. It's a mightly high cost lunch. It's triple the cost of the shuttle bus to Wonder Lake, where there is plenty of area to hike around.

Be well prepared for bugs at Wonder Lake prior to mid August. I just don't go there prior to this.

There are no trails in the park. You make your own way. The only area for ranger activities is at Eielson and Savage River. You can also consider the Discovery hikes, booked in advance.

No, in no way is it "worth it" to be on the tour buses. These are general at best with a lot of filler information. You also can not get off the bus if you want to hike, unless you are willing to pay your triple costs and only be able to reboard the cheap shuttle buses. You can NOT get on another tour bus.
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