Denali

Old Oct 27th, 2016, 08:35 AM
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Denali

My wife and I will be driving from Anchorage to Denali June 2017; it sounds like the only way to see Denali is to drive to some parking lot and catch a bus?? Are all the buses same? Where is the best place to locate the night before, and what is the best bus to catch?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old Oct 27th, 2016, 09:00 AM
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Private cars aren't allowed on the main park road. The park service runs shuttle buses from the visitor center to various stops along the road, and there are separate tour buses that do the same. https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvis...ing-denali.htm

Note depending on when in June you're visiting, you may or may not be able to get all the way to Wonder Lake or Kantishna (at the end of the road.) It's also worth noting that the buses take a long time - 9 hrs. round trip to the main Eielson visitor center, 11+ hrs round trip to Wonder Lake, not counting time at those destinations. You should also beware that Wonder Lake in June is mosquito central - really quite horrible. Plus remember that something like half the visitors to Denali Park never actually see the mountain, due to weather.
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Old Oct 27th, 2016, 09:01 AM
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>>Plus remember that something like half the visitors to Denali Park never actually see the mountain, due to weather.
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Old Oct 27th, 2016, 12:59 PM
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MY DW and I visited Denali in June 2016. We took the shuttle bus (green)for $34/pp. The brown narrated tour bus was $130+.
We saw lots of wildlife from the shuttle bus and got to spend about 45 minutes at the Eilson Visitor Center.
https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/bus-tours.htm
The tour and shuttle buses start at the park headquarters about a mile into the park from the main highway.
Try for a bus leaving before 10AM.
The sad truth is that we did not see the mountain but saw moose (mom & calf), Mt. sheep (20+), Grizzly (2) and a few smaller species.
You can read the trip report by clicking my profile.
The bus tour prices are set sometime in December for 2017.
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Old Oct 28th, 2016, 03:46 AM
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We did the longer bus tour 4 years ago in June. Being there over summer solstice was incredible, and we got to see lots of baby animals, including moose mom with twins - apparently unusual. Entire Park roadway did not open until the week prior to our visit. We saw mountain - in all its beauty and had lunch and short hike at end of Park roadway system.

But 13 hours on a converted school bus got old. In fact, there was a pilot guy selling expensive flights around Denali and back to Visitors' Center for those not up for returning on the bus. The number of animals per hour was relatively low. And the unguarded precipices and drop-offs was very unnerving to me and son. The roadway is essentially the width of 1.5 buses and when you have to pass each other, if you are on the outside bus and have a fear of heights or death... Glad I did it, but buyer beware.
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Old Oct 28th, 2016, 06:01 AM
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Have done the school bus and, yes, it does get old and may not be for everyone. But I'd have to say we generally enjoyed it. The guide was good and informative, saw lots of wildlife. One warning: Bring your own box lunch. The one they provide is nearly inedible.
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Old Nov 1st, 2016, 12:52 PM
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I would think one would see animals on other drives? If seeing the mountain is the big deal, I can do that on a sightseeing plane... Why go thru Denali? 13 hours on a bus sounds absolutely horrible to me!!
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Old Nov 1st, 2016, 01:12 PM
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The bus wasn't a wonderful way to go, but I would do it again in a heartbeat and spend longer in the park if I could.

Different strokes.....
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Old Nov 1st, 2016, 02:10 PM
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I would think one would see animals on other drives? If seeing the mountain is the big deal, I can do that on a sightseeing plane... Why go thru Denali? 13 hours on a bus sounds absolutely horrible to me!!

Well, Alaska isn't the Serengeti; it's not like you have to slow down to miss the moose or the bears grouping on the roadside. You MAY see wildlife from the highway in other places than Denali, in fact the odds are pretty decent. But guarantees? Far from it.

In the park, I assume most people go as far as the Eielson visitor center on the bus, then turn around. It's pretty likely you'll see some animals on the way in or out; they might be close or you might need binoculars and a long lens to see them. Eielson is still a very long day if you spend any time at the center (8 hours on the bus.)

Sure, flightseeing is a terrific way to see the mountain if the budget works for you. To me at least, flying in a light plane toward Denali (especially from Anchorage, which is where I've done it) is like nothing else. The mountain grows in front of you until it fills the sky, then you realize it's twice as high as you're flying and it's still 20 or 30 miles away.

Or you could fly across Cook Inlet from Anchorage and go on a bear viewing trip, which would certainly fill part of your wildlife goals. Combine that with a cruise on the Kenai Fjords and you'll have seen plenty of terrestrial and marine mammals - bears, whales... Again, not cheap, but well worth it IMO.

Look at Rust's - http://www.flyrusts.com/ - for ideas and costs. Rust's is a leading service but far from the only one.

But why don't you give us an idea about your timing, budget, and what else you plan to do in Alaska? Maybe some more "targeted" suggestions could be forthcoming.
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Old Nov 1st, 2016, 03:11 PM
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> I would think one would see animals on other drives?

During our three week trip to Alaska, we saw about a dozen grizzly bears -- all of them in Denali, including this view:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pr77x/16543600982
Yes, there are bears all over Alaska, but going into Denali makes it MOST LIKELY to get a good view of them.

Myself, if the weather was half-way decent, I'd ride a school bus for twelve hours through Denali ANY time. I wouldn't have to see The Mountain even once; just let me get good photos of grizzly bears, moose (saw dozens of them), elk (scores of them), dall sheep (scores of them) -- and a porcupine!
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 11:35 AM
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rmgood -
You can drive your private car for the first 15 miles on the Denali park road. We rode the schoolbus to the Eielson Visitor Center and enjoyed it very much. It was about 4 hrs each way. The bus stops a few places to allow you to get out and enjoy the view . Our driver was friendly and informative and wanted to make sure we saw as much wildlife as possible. Our fellow travelers were birders and had excellent skills at spotting wildlife and birds. We saw grizzles, moose, eagles, elk and sheep. The weather was overcast and it snowed (date was June 20ish)but all and all it was a very special day and I recommend it highly.

The next day we drove our own vehicle the 15 miles in to the Savage River Trailhead. We enjoyed a hike along the river - the views were wonderful.

Be sure and stop and see the sled dogs at the Park. There is a sledding demonstration and the dogs are available for petting and photos. They seemed to love the attention.
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Old Nov 4th, 2016, 04:40 AM
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We took the shuttle bus to Wonder Lake and back, with a break at Eielson Visitor Center where you can walk freely through the tundra. However, we could walk one side only because right next to the visitor center there was a grizzly munching blueberries.

Actually, during our drive we had
- 8 grizzly bear sightings (11 animals in total), some of them very close,
- 3 moose,
- dozens of caribou,
- a fox,
- wild sheep,
- numerous birds.

The tour was not narrated, but the driver, a most knowledgable guy, told us the real interesting things.

The big advantage of the school buses is that you can open the windows and make excellent photographs out of the bus.

The last leg to Wonder Lake was a bit disappointing, because we had no wildlife sightings on this stretch and because we could not see Mount McKinley, which was in clouds (as most of the time).
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Old Nov 4th, 2016, 03:33 PM
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rmgood-
How many days you have with you to visit Denali, you should keep 3 days in hand at least, drive to Denali from Anchorage via Hacter pass is great. You may also stop at Talkeeta for few hours, take short excursion on seaplanes. That what we did last year on our trip to Alaska and Denali, we also traveled by road from Anchorage. As suggested by others, you can go few miles by car inside the park. Best way to See Denali is by BUS on a day trip, start early around 9AM and you should be back by 5PM, it is long trip but not so uncomfortable. We saw few bears, moose and other animals.
Parking the car is not an issue at park Gate, you can buy tkt same day or earlier if you are specific to timings (we bought our tkts the same day arrive at Park around 10AM and could board 11AM bus returned back by 6PM). `

U may need hotels around park to stay at least for 2 or 3 night, unless you are driving there same day and leaving by night. Which is not convient. Hotels get booked very fast so plan early for your hotel booking,. We had little struggle on getting hotel room for ourselves for 3 nights in July-15. Have a great trip
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