Denali National Park is about 5-6 hours drive from Anchorage along Parks Hwy. Along the way we stopped at Thunderbird falls which is an impressive waterfall you can view from a platform. The hike to the platform is about 1 mile gaining a little elevation and is a great way to stretch your legs. We stopped at Talkeetna for lunch. This is a small outpost where one can book small plane rides flying over the national park peaks. However, most days the peaks are shrouded in clouds. If you want to go for the plane ride, you need the spend the night in Talkeetna and take the early morning flight for the best chance of clear weather. We did not do the flight. We ate at Talkeetna Roadhouse where you sit at a large table with other folks. This works out well if other folks at the table are friendly which was not the case. It is not any worse than restaurants where the tables are really close together. Food was good or we were very hungry 🙂
This was our first glimpse of the Denali National Park, visited beginning of September.
Early September is the most amazing time to visit this incredible location – you can see the beautiful fall colors, red, yellow, green with snow capped mountains in the background! This is also the time grizzlies are feeding voraciously before going into hibernation so you see many of them gorging on the berries by the park roadside. To make it even more enjoyable, the crowds start thinning out at this time and so do the mosquitoes.
We took the park shuttle bus to wonder lake location. This is a much better and economical alternative to the “tour bus’. The driver gives a running commentary and the bus stops at various locations so you can stretch your legs, enjoy the scenery and take photos. In addition the bus stops if driver or passengers spot any wildlife. On our 13 hour trip, we saw seven grizzlies, including a sow with two cubs, four moose, many bald eagles and big horn sheep. It is a school bus so do not expect luxury bus amenities but you do see more on this bus route than the tour bus which covers only 1/3 distance into the park.
We were very lucky since Mt Denali decided to reveal itself in its full glory on that day – see the cover photo for this post.
We had booked the shuttle bus for two days just in case we did not turn out lucky on the first day. Since we were able to see all we wanted to on day 1, we went hiking by the savage river on day 2. This is an incredibly beautiful hike, not too strenuous, with a well marked path. If you like to encounter safe wildlife (not lions and tigers and bears oh my) when hiking, this is the place for you! We saw many mountain goats on this hike.
We also visited the huskies and watched the sled demo. These are working dogs that help the rangers get around in winter. Shuttle bus from visitor center will get you to this place. Spend some time interacting with the huskies. They are very friendly and playful. When it was time for the sled ride, each one of them wanted to be picked 🙂 The ones who were not picked for the sled ride were visibly upset. It was like watching little kids.
Here is the link to sled dog demo schedule. Denali NP Sled Dog Demo
Lodging within the park is either outdoor camping where you bring your own tent or the various expensive lodges. We stayed at Denali Park Cabins right outside the park entrance for three nights. Cabins are small but clean & modern and include a kitchenette so you can prepare a hearty breakfast. We had brought groceries and prepared sandwiches, fruit, snacks, water etc, that we took with us for picnic lunch. This saved a lot over purchasing prepacked sandwiches at the visitor center.
There are restaurants / cafes right outside the park entrance. We tried three when we were there. All were good for standard fare like burgers and pizza. We tried Prospectors Pizzeria (excellent), Perch Restaurant (excellent) and Creekside cafe (good).