denali shuttle destinations

Old Dec 5th, 2005, 02:11 PM
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ljv
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denali shuttle destinations

As of now, I'm planning to travel as far as Fish Creek,since my 65year plus parents might not ejoy an overly long bus ride. Before I finalize my reservations, would we be seriously missing out if we went only as far as Polychrome Pass? There's also a 7 year old on the trip!

Also, hiking seems to be a bit random in Denali. Is it really easy to get off the bus wherever you want, then flag one down to get back on? Sounds like you might be setting up for some very long waits.

Any advice or input is appreciated. Also, is it true that you can only drive yourself to mile 15 if you hold a camping permit?
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Old Dec 5th, 2005, 04:24 PM
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If they don't want a long bus ride, Fish Creek might not be a great choice. You're probably looking at 6-7 hours round trip. There is lots of beautiful scenery and the chance to see animals, but it can be a long ride.

You can certainly jump off at any point (just ask the driver) and get picked up later. Pretty easy to do, but timing is always interesting. Also, there are VERY few trails once you are in the park... you're basically blazing your own.

That said, there are some nice trails in that start near the park entrance... the trail up Mt. Healy is a nice but somewhat strenuous hike. The hike back from the dog sled demo is really nice. Also, the hike down to Horseshoe Lake is nice.
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Old Dec 6th, 2005, 04:38 AM
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As mentioned there essentially aren't any "trails" in Denali Park. You just tell the bus driver to stop and get out of the bus. Then when you want to return, get to the road and wait for a bus. There are the most buses available between the entrance and Toklat, since you can get that bus, plus Fish Creek and Wonder Lake returns. As for distance in, between Toklat and Fish Creek, it's a big bear area. But I would definately think twice about taking a 7 year old. Just not a good idea for most, since that age couldn't care less about scenery,of which is the majority of the trip and wildlife is more often than not, far off with binoculars required.

Most people stay on the same bus, and I would definately bring twice as many games and batteries with games and a portable DVD player if you take the child. So to your orginal question, yes consider only to Toklat, you'll get the best scenery of Polychrom Pass and save 2 hours.
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Old Dec 6th, 2005, 06:31 AM
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Thanks for the input!
BQ, you mention the area between Toklat and FC as being big bear area. What's the likelihood of an up close and personal encounter with a bear while hiking the Denali backcountry?
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Old Dec 7th, 2005, 06:42 AM
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Remote chance to hike into a bear, since you have to abide by the hiking rules to make your self known. The areas are huge, and your hiking will only cover a small fraction even if on multi days. The bears want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them.
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Old Dec 7th, 2005, 05:35 PM
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We got off the shuttle both days we took it, and would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend it. They keep 4 seats reserved to pick people up (at a minimum). We always got on the first bus that came by, never had to wait, this was in early August 2005.

That said, I'm not so sure I'd want to venture out on a long hike with a 7 year old and two 65+ parents.

We saw our best bears between Toklat & Fish Creek (both days), but we did see bears before Polychrome both days. Of course there's no predicting the wildlife sightings. When we were on one hike, we did see a mother bear & 2 cubs about 200 yards away. We went up to the road and talked loudly and just waited for the next bus. The bears ignored us, and when we got up on the bus, they came over to the bus and we got some great photos. Too cool!

All in all, I would say most people should leave their comfort zone and get off the bus to hike independently. Find a river bed you can hike down into. It is just amazing being out there alone. From what the rangers told us, there hasn't been a bear attack in Denali in many decades (if ever) because the bears do not associate people with food. If a bear takes a pack (to eat the food), then the rangers set up a fake camp site with a pack full of good smelling food to lure the bear in. When it goes for the pack, a bunch of rangers jump out and spray the bear with rubber bullets. The bear runs away and does not go near packs again. We were told this is called "spanking" the bear. I wasn't sure if the ranger was being tongue-in-cheek but that is what we were told!
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 04:08 PM
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Birder,

How far back did you go into Denali? I was thinking about going to wonder lake. Can you tell me the name of the trail or where you stopped to take this trail?

Thanks
Jamie
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 04:39 PM
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The first day, we went to Wonder Lake. You can actually walk back about a mile or so on the road and it takes you to the reflection pond - the view you always see of McKinley reflected in water. We didn't do that but someone on our bus did and thought it was fantastic. At Wonder Lake, we just ate lunch and then walked partially around the lake - there are no "formal" trails but there are social trails, meaning trails that have been worn by people walking the same route. It was absolutely stunning. McKinley was out, it was about 80 degrees, the birds were about, the breeze was blowing lightly, and it was totally bug free. (We went in early August.)

We hopped on the next bus and got off at Eielson Visitor Center (which was closed). There are trails that take you down pretty close to the river bed, but if you want to get to the river bed, you've got to make your own trail for part of the way. We were running late on time so we didn't, but I wish I had. The views from Eielson were some of the most beautiful I've ever experienced. The wind was blowing softly and it was so quiet, you could see caribou moving through the river bed, with the mountains arching into the sky. I've got to go back and get into that river bed!

We had so much fun getting off the bus, the next day we booked tickets again (could only go to Fish Creek b/c the tickets to Wonder Lake were sold out). We got off the bus before Polycrome, to hike down into a river bed. We just waited until we saw a spot where we could easily hike into the river bed from the road, and called "stop." The driver commended us for getting off the bus to hike! We hiked for about an hour. Again, it was so quiet, and so beautiful. We were really freaked out, though, because we could see the buses from where we were, and they were all stopping about 1/2 mile away from us, looking into the river bed. We were like, "Um, what type of wildlife are they looking at? Caribou? Or grizzly?" We kept cracking jokes about how the tourists were pointing out the bus window saying, "Look at those hikers about to get eaten by those grizzlies!" But we talked loudly the whole time and didn't have any problems. We hiked back up and easily got on the next bus, and could then see that the buses had been stopping to view a group of caribous. (Whew!)

Our final hike was the longest. We got off at Stony Mount, which is in view of Fish Creek. We ate lunch at the top and then started hiking back along the road. We went off road quite a bit, hiking down this stream and up that mountain. That's when we ran into the grizzly and her two cubs. We found these beautiful mountain streams, full of bright green moss. We saw an artic tern sitting on her nest in the middle of the tundra. I was surprised how springy and spongy the tundra is. It felt like you were bouncing! We hiked down almost to Toklat - we calculated it was about 7 miles total. We had hiked into the area where the wolves were hanging out (we had seen them the day before). Of course that river bed is off limits so you don't disturb the wolves. I kept hoping to spot them, but we didn't. So we finally got on our last bus for the night, and again, were able to get right on - no waiting for a seat.

We saw several other spots we'd like to hike into. What we'd really like to do is spend a few days camping in the backcountry! I'd be game for it even though it would be a little spooky with the bears out and about! But for sure, the next time we are in Alaska, I want to spend several days in Denali.
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 04:52 PM
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Thanks Birder for your reply. This will help me with our vacation to Denali.
Jamie
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Old Dec 12th, 2005, 02:45 PM
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Hello, all!
In response to hiking "alone" - is it safe to hike alone alone - as in, just one person? When you say hiking "alone" do you mean without a guide, or do you mean it would be fine for a single woman to hike alone?

Just starting to have the inkling of an idea of going to Alaska next year - enjoying reading everything you all have posted!!!
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