Why Denali ?

Old Feb 11th, 2005, 10:18 AM
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Why Denali ?

Please do not consider my message as "attack on a sacred cow". Nor am I trying to disrespect opinions of such valuable members of this forum as BudgetQueen, Gardyloo and Repete. But having read and analyzed everything said about Denali I started questioning this destination:
1. The landscape of Denali Park is "tundra", i.e. open spaces with sparce vegetation. I do not believe it can compete with beatiful, stunning variety of Kenai Peninsula.

2. Town of Denali is as crowded as Disneyland.

3. You won't see much of wildlife without binocular during 8 hours (!) trip on full, uncomfortable school bus, but you will swallow lots of dust.

4. Hiking opportunities are severely limited unless you stay in one of the very expensive Lodges inside the Park. I understand $400 / night at Katmai NP where you're 20 ft from a bear and are surrounded by nature second only to New Zeland, but $400 / night for a cabin in tundra...I doubt it.

5. It takes 4+ hours to get to Denali by car from Anchorage. It takes only 45 min to fly to Homer on Era commuter plane.

Has anyone tried this place http://www.cariboulodgealaska.com as alternative to crowds and dusty school bus?
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Old Feb 11th, 2005, 12:27 PM
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It's a worthy discussion. My perspective is a little warped because I lived there for years and was able to get to Denali at a variety of times during the season, peak and non-peak.

I love the Kenai Peninsula. I kept a boat in Seward for years and have wonderful memories. I recommend it highly.

But I think Denali has plenty to offer for the average tourist.

1) Other than moose, your chances of seeing bears, wolves and caribou are all much better at Denali. I can't count the times I've seen grizzlies within 50 yards of the road. (It's probably about even on Dall sheep.) Finding caribou on the KP is pretty tough, while not seeing them at Denali is difficult. (I realize though that my experiences might not be typical.)

2) Yes, there's plenty of tundra, but it's got a specactular backdrop in the Alaska Range. The tundra also allows for those long views for wildlife. Catching Polychrome Pass at low light can be amazing.

3) Backcountry hiking is wonderful there. With the tundra, there's little need for bushwhacking. For those you try backcountry camping, the rewards are tremendous.

4) If I wanted to pay $400/night, Katmai would be my preference or maybe a lodge on a river or along the coast. Yhe ``inholding'' places don't have as much appeal to me either.

5) While the area around the entrance to the park is tacky, unappealing sprawl, the drive up is fine, especially if you build in a stop at Talkeetna.

To sum, I recommend both areas if you have the time. Katmai is a great rec if you've got the time AND money.

Coastal Alaska and the interior are two different animals -- if you have to choose one or the other, it's a matter of interests and logistics, but both are spectacular places IMHO.
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Old Feb 11th, 2005, 02:44 PM
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I myself have recommended Kenai over Denali, so it's not like I'm prejudiced in favor of DNP. HOWEVER, I do note that the opportunities for viewing wildlife in DNP are far greater than in the Kenai. To say you need binoculars to see them is ridiculous; in two days we saw eight bears either right on or just off the road. We also saw moose, elk, and a porcupine (only wild one I've EVER seen) close enough to see without any aid. And we only rode the bus for three hours. It's too bad your experience was so exceptional in your failure to see wildlife, but it was. You see more wildlife in DNP than in Kenai, unless you're EXTREMELY unlucky.
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Old Feb 11th, 2005, 07:03 PM
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It's kind of hard to explain this to someone who has never been there and obviously has his mind made up he'd hate it. If you despise desert, I wouldn't send you to the Sahara, and if you hate sand, I wouldn't send you to Hawaii. You're probably best staying away from Denali.

But you sure have a false idea. Our cabin in the wilderness of Denali (Denali Backcountry Lodge) wasn't exactly in the tundra. It sat amidst beautiful trees beside a small running river with the sight of Denali itself hovering over us. Our hikes in the day were to beaver lodges and we passed numerous bear sightings, and lost count of the caribou. Our "dusty" bus trip to and from, particularly back out on the final morning was amazing for our wildlife sightings, including a pack of 5 wolves which circled the bus when we stopped, a lynx, caribou, and many bears out for their morning feed.

Kenai was wonderful too, and I won't take the time to talk about it, but let me assure you I enjoyed Denali every bit as much. It isn't a contest. Each is wonderful it its own way.
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Old Feb 12th, 2005, 04:02 AM
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Oleg- have you been there??? This is certainly a worthwhile descussion. It isn't for everyone and it does require enough time- which some people underestimate. But Denali Park has just significant scenery- if you only see Polychrome Pass- that is a highlight. It also is the best bargain around for the opportunity of varied wildlife. The Kenai Peninsula is far less accessable and the highlight certainly are the boat tours- significant for varied marine wildlife and birds and very close up extended glacier viewing. Bottom line- both are indeed spectacular and worth visiting with the bonus of being able to do both in a single vacation with enough TIME budgeted. I do agree that binoculars are necessary in Denali Park, some close up viewing is possible, but why not bring them to see even more???
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Old Feb 12th, 2005, 04:38 AM
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I am considering a trip to Alaska with a group of four adult couples. Our budgets can't stand the $400 per person rates at most of the Denali backcountry options and we are not campers. We have previously stayed in the Denali Princess would prefer a more secluded experience on the next trip. I am interested in knowing if anyone has tried the Caribou Lodge, which oleg mentioned in his post. It is expensive at $265 per person.
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Old Feb 12th, 2005, 12:04 PM
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Dear friends,
Thanks for your responses. Once again, I'd like to say that I did not intend to offend Denali fans. No, Patrick; I did not "make up my mind I'd hate it". A word "hate" associated with ANY place in Alaska is nonsense.
I definitely want Denali experience. But I thought, may be there's a way other than "traditional. I'd rather stay in secluded Eco Lodge in the wilderness for a few days than go on a full school bus for 6-8 hours. The problem with Denali eco lodges is that they are prohibitevely expensive. However, Caribou Lodge is more affordable. The only question is how does this place compare to Denali NP? It should not be much different - it is next to the Park! As the site describes it:
" Caribou Lodge is located on a remote lake above the timberline in the Talkeetna Mountains just southeast of Denali National Park ."
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Old Feb 13th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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This sounds like a very nice lodge!!! If you are interested in the activities there, I certainly would give it a try? But it wouldn't be an overnight area for me, at least 2 nights, especially with the add on flight cost. It also sounds like common bathrooms/shower?
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Old Feb 13th, 2005, 05:13 AM
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We went to Denali in June 2002. It was one of the best travel experiences I have had. The drive from Anchorage was long, but it was very interesting...very, very different than what we are used to & it's always fun to experience something like that (the remoteness, lack of shopping centers, etc). Also there are many beautiful spots along the way.

We stayed at a B&B (Touch of Wilderness) outside of Denali & it was wonderful. Not too expensive either. I loved talking with the people who worked there and learning about how they live. Again, very different than us & so interesting.

The park itself was just breath-taking. I was a bit apprehensive about the long bus ride, but it was worth it. We saw so much wildlife, including bears right in the middle of the road! My favorite was the mom bear with her 2 cubs. We didn't need binoculars. Our guide was also great & we learned a lot about the park.

The one thing that I would say about it is that it would be more appropriate for adults. I saw several little kids complaining & bored during the bus trip. Some kids might be OK with it, but I wouldn't bring mine.

We went to the Kenai Peninsula also & that was wonderful too. It's just different...apples & oranges. Both are wonderful & I am very glad that we did both.
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Old Feb 14th, 2005, 06:07 AM
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OK. Denali NP is back on my list of destinations to visit. Thanks for helping me make sure that I do not miss an essential destination in Alaska.
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Old Feb 15th, 2005, 07:14 PM
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Oleg,
You should see plenty of wildlife from the shuttle bus. We have done it three times and have seen grizzlies close up on all three, tons of caribou, sheep,eagle, and on the last trip, about 13 wolves in two packs. The business area outside of denali is not quite as bad as you say, not pretty, but provides the services needed. There are still plenty of cabins or BnB's near by for that isolated experience outside the park. Many of the outside vendors who offer trips go on a fixed route and won't go looking for wildlife. We also spent couple of days in Homer and Seward on last trip. We flew over to Katmai NP to Halo Bay and spent the day sitting on the river bed with the large coastal grizzlies. That was definitely a great experience and different from our shuttle trips. But it also cost us $1,000 for the day and didn't include hotels or getting to Homer. I posted some pictures if you wish to see: http://community.webshots.com/user/jq4653

We enjoyed Homer but would go see more areas of Alaska rather than go back next time.
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Old Feb 16th, 2005, 07:26 AM
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jg-
Thanks for your reply. You and other fodorites changed my mind about visiting Denali. Rather than taking chances with unknown Caribou Lodge, I will go with the "sure bet".
As for Hallo Bay - I am going there for 3 days camping trip. It is not just bears. In fact, I would not go if for bears alone. There are other animals, marine life, and of course landscapes. I do not have to tell you about Kenai landscapes since you've been there. Alaska has many beatiful places. Inside Passage,Denali NP,Wrangell-St.Ellis NP to name a few. However, Kenai Peninsula will always have a special meaning to me. And a special magic. It is a gem within a gem.
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Old Feb 16th, 2005, 04:53 PM
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oleg--I'm really glad to hear you changed your mind. Everyone who visits Alaska seems to love the Kenai. I liked it too, but I liked Denali just as well---in some respects maybe even better. For me there's something almost spiritual about it that I have trouble putting into words. I think you'll be glad you went.
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