Denali wilderness tour or park shuttle bus?

Old Jan 27th, 2006, 05:48 PM
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Denali wilderness tour or park shuttle bus?

We will be at Denali at the end of June for 3 days. If we want to see as much wildlife and scenery as possible, which would be better to take--a Wilderness or Tundra Tour or the park Shuttle Bus?
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Old Jan 27th, 2006, 06:46 PM
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We took the Shuttle Bus all the way to Wonder Lake. We saw tons of Carribou, 3 grizzles (2 very close up) and many other great animals. It was a long dusty bus ride but very worth it. The bus driver was very educational and gave us the scoop as we went along. I recommend it! (take binoculars, water and snacks).
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Old Jan 27th, 2006, 09:29 PM
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Thanks, princess for sharing your experience. What time of day did you board the shuttle?
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Old Jan 28th, 2006, 07:37 AM
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We also took the bus to Wonder Lake in August 2005 and I also highly recommend it. We had our first bear sighting about five minutes into the trip and ended up seeing a total of 15(mostly on the way back from Wonder Lake). We also saw caribou, moose, and a gray wolf. Wonder Lake itself was a bit of a disappointment as it was very cloudy when we reached the lake, but I guess that is to be expected most days. We took the first shuttle out in the morning, which I think left at about 6:45 a.m. Definitely bring food. We stopped at the 24 hour Subway on the way to the park and got subs to go. Not ideal, but it worked.
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Old Jan 28th, 2006, 12:24 PM
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I never recommend the tours to independent travelers, always the shuttle buses. Why would you consider paying triple the cost for less distance?

Especially in Denali Park, distance yields more scenery and wildlife opportunities with my min. recommended distance in mile 63 Fish Creek, 10 miles past the longest tour.

I am always on the first bus out, just my preference. I also make the 16 mile drive to Savage River several times while there, have always seen something. Last trip I watched 3 bears for close to an hour on the wash out before Savage River. Binoculars are necessary, I recommend at least 10 power.

Last couple years, I have late booked my bus reservations- they are necessary. BUT they hold back 35% of the seats and release them 2 days prior. So I'm on the phone when they open at 7 am for my prefered bus and always get my tickets. In August, all Wonder Lake seats were gone and only 3 Fish Creek buses had seats. So unless you are a couple days there with flexable plans, book ahead the shuttle tickets.
You do have to bring all your own food and drink with you. There is now some box meals you can purchase at the Denali Park transportation center, but as already mentioned, Subway is popular. Some lodgings will pack for you and if you want groceries- last full service available coming north is Wasilla, south Fairbanks. I alway pick up a 4 pack of muffins, container keeps them from crushing. along with my bread, peanut butter and jelly.

www.nps.gov/dena
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 06:27 PM
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Probably a dumb question but are there restrooms on the shuttle buses?
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 06:38 PM
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No restrooms on buses, but there are stops along the route with restrooms every few hours. Mostly outhouse type things, but lots of them & pretty clean.
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 04:40 AM
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NO restrooms on ANY of the Denali Park buses. Bathroom breaks are about every 1 1/2 hours.
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 06:36 AM
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My opinion: Shuttle bus, earliest trip of the day to at least Fish Creek-which may be as far as it goes if early June.

You will stop often enough for bathroom breaks, unless you have a condition that requires many frequent trips to the restroom. (The shuttle busses are literally school busses.)

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 08:44 AM
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We saw dall sheep, grizzlies, caribou, brown bears, lynx and a lot more from the shuttle bus in late May. It was a great way to experience the park without hiking in yourself.
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Old Feb 4th, 2006, 11:41 AM
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I tried to reserve a seat on a shuttle bus while we are there, but the website says that all seats on all buses to all destinations are already booked. Then I check and found out that according to the website every seat on every bus for the entire month of June is sold out! Do big companies come in and buy up those tickets?
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Old Feb 4th, 2006, 12:04 PM
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Hmm, I just logged on to the Denali reservation system (www.reservedenali.com), randomly selected a date and a destination (shuttle) in the middle of June for 4 tickets, and they were available - actually available for 10 different times...tried another date, same thing. Looks like there is still plenty of June availability to me. Of course, Wonder Lake shuttle doesn't start until like June 8, if that is one you are interested in. Maybe there was a problem with the system when you tried it? Or were you on some other site?

Oh, you said end of June - just tried June 30 to Wonder Lake, got like 6 available trips. Tried to get 4 tickets for one, they were available. Maybe if the website isn't work for you, call the park & ask about it...

Of course, even if you don't get tickets in advance, like BudgetQueen says, they release a lot of them later.
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Old Feb 4th, 2006, 02:57 PM
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I sent a reservation in for June 8th, two people for a shuttle bus tour to Wonder Lake online through their web site. I received the order right away, stating that it was NOT a confirmation until a agent contacted me, which they finally did. The agent had problems sending the confirmation as a attachment to my email, but is mailing them on Friday. The agent gave me the confirmation number so I have that, but tickets will be coming in the mail.
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Old Feb 4th, 2006, 05:42 PM
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Maybe you're more "plugged in" than I am! I'm definitely on the Reserve Denali website and I've plugged in every single date in June and every time the message comes up: Sorry, but all available tickets are sold out. I had sent an email to the park last week but haven't received a reply. I know that telephone reservations aren't available until later this month. I will take your advice, however, and try a general number for the park! Thanks!
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Old Feb 4th, 2006, 07:48 PM
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Hmm, very curious falcon! When you put in your date - did you make sure it was June? For some reason, their little default calendar comes up February & you have to change the month...if you click on a date while the calendar is in 'February' it doesn't tell you that the bus isn't running then...it tells you it is sold out (which would sure make me think I put in a valid date! & I can see assuming that the calendar would come up to start on a valid/early month, like June).

You could verify that, or you could quit fighting with the computer (wouldn't blame you at this point!) - Feb. 15 isn't that far off & from what I have seen there really are tons of June dates & times available.

If it makes you feel better, I think you will still have a great shot at getting what you want. I checked the reservation system a TON last summer, because my husband & I had just moved up here & took the summer off & kept trying to get around to going up to Denali - every time & date I got around to looking at potential last minute trips, there was always availability. (Now, coming up on vacation, I wouldn't recommend the last minute route if you can avoid it, my only point is I think you are planning far enough ahead that it is not going to be a problem, even if you have to bail on the online system.) Good luck!!
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Old Feb 5th, 2006, 06:54 AM
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You are NOT going to have any problems booking ANY bus you want if you wait until the phone reservations open up. BE sure you are firm with your plans. There are small cancelation fees if you change your mind, which first time visitors who get caught up in the booking "rush" sometimes do.
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Old Mar 26th, 2006, 05:45 PM
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First, thanks everyone for their response to this thread. This forum has been invaluable for our trip this summer. Booked at the Denali Lakeview Inn because of good reviews seen here. Now we are looking to book park shuttle bus. Finally, for my question. We are trying to decide between Fish Creek and Wonder Lake destinations. My husband is not sure his behind can take that long in the bus and is pushing for Fish Creek. Is there really that much more to see and do you believe that it is worth the extra 3 hours on the bus? A quick response would be great so I can get my tickets booked. Thanks, Gwen ps. Is it also better the earlier you go?
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Old Mar 26th, 2006, 06:57 PM
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I know you want specific answers, but the bottom line is, you can't get them.
One day you could spot tons of wildlife and the very next day at the exact same times see nothing. So there really isn't a definite answer. It's not unlike asking where you'll get the best view of Denali. Thousands of people spend days there and never ever see the mountain.

But the bottom line is, the further you go and the earlier in the day you go, the more likely you are to spot wildlife. No guarantee, mind you, just more likely to.
 
Old Mar 27th, 2006, 03:52 AM
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The big problem at Wonder Lake is bugs, so I never go there before mid August. Just my preference. But having been to Wonder Lake many many times, the wildlife has ALWAYS dropped off significantly most of the trip. You can see beavers, which you don't any where prior, but not a big issue for me. With Fish Creek now at mile 63, you can get some more prime bear viewing for about another 5-10 miles.

You could get off at Fish Creek from a Wonder Lake bus, IF you decide once there you don't want to go further?? Since the seat prices are so cheap, the money difference is only about $10pp.

But,Wonder Lake buses do not pull into Fish Creek until the way back, so you would have a walk- maybe 1/2 mile??? Do verify this directly.
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Old Mar 27th, 2006, 12:45 PM
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ges123, when are you going this summer? BQ has given you very specific and great info to plan your shuttle trip. Also, if the weather is good, why not get off to hike awhile, then catch another bus . . . will definitely alleviate the tired bottom. ;-)
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