Canada & Alaska

Michele & Stephen's trip in 2013

Denali National Park

Denali National Park is considered one of Alaska's top attractions.

It is certainly very different to all the other national and provincial parks we have visited. Firstly you can not drive (far) into it. Secondly you actually do have to book in advance. Thirdly it is expensive.

Denali is quite complicated with many administrative centres to visit to organise your visit (Riley Creek, The Mercantile, The Wilderness Access Center, The Denali Visitor Centre etc.). As you are not able to drive your own vehicle far into the park you have to use the park's busses. Some are "tours" with tour guides, these are very expensive. Some are shuttle buses with drivers who (may) act as guides these are expensive (except for the free ones).

Sometimes you can drive your own vehicle into the park if you manage to book an RV camp site deep in the park (but only to and from the camp site and you must stay three days).

Most people seem to end up booking an 11 hour bus trip into the park to Wonder Lake - 85 miles (or Kantishna - 92 miles).

The primary attraction of the park is Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley). This is probably the tallest mountain in the world (tallest base-to-peak not highest peak). Unfortunately only about 30% of visitors get a good view of Mt. McKinley because it is often obscured by cloud. When we were there the temperature was around 35°C and the views were excellent. (Note that you can also get very good views of Mt. McKinley south of the park, for free.)

The other reason for visiting Denali is the animals. Even before we took our 11 hour bus trip (not tour) we had already seen a moose. In fact there was a moose and calf wandering around the camp site.

On our bus trip into the park we saw one very sleepy brown bear, a lot of caribou, a few Dall sheep in the distance and one ptarmigan!

Eleven hours is a long time on a bus.