Denali National Park
Jul 5, 2012
|I woke up at 4:30AM to a cool (39 degrees) and windy but bright day with scattered clouds. I left my RV at 05:23AM and arrived for my 06:00AM Denali tour starting at Denali Cabins at 05:39AM – 16.4 miles.
We left Denali Cabins at 06:05AM in a 35 passenger bus. We stopped for one more pick up and had a full bus. We arrived at Denali National Park at 06:25AM and started the long drive to Kantishna – the furthest you can go into the park at approximately 90 miles.
We had stops at Teklanika River, Polychrome Overlook, Toklat River, and Eielson Visitor Center along with stops whenever someone would see wildlife and holler out to stop. On our stop at Toklat River (approximately half way to Kantishna) we had coffee, hot chocolate, soft drinks, and snacks (cookies, granola bars, peanuts, etc.) that was really a welcome relief as it was cold and windy there.
The road through Polychrome Pass will take your breath away. Steep narrow winding mountain road with very steep drop-offs with no guardrails. There was another area after that which was kind of bad but then it started to level out.
We arrived at Denali Backcountry Lodge in Kantishna at 12 noon. They had a nice restaurant where we were provided a good lunch of various meats and cheeses for sandwiches, coleslaw, potato salad, soups, salads, along with water, ice-tea, and lemonade. After lunch you could either pan for gold in the stream that ran in front of the cabins or go on a botany walk. I chose to pan for gold but did not find any.
We left the Lodge for the return trip at 14:30PM. This time everyone agreed we would only stop at Toklat River where we again had the same snacks we had in the morning. Everything was replenished during our stop at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. Even the bus windows had been cleaned while at the lodge for the best possible views on our return trip.
During the drive back the tour bus driver said we were again entering an area where we should be on the lookout for bear. An older lady in the right front seat asked how she could see any bear when she was afraid to look out the window. It seemed like every time we turned a corner going over Polychrome Pass I could hear her gasp. She was looking right over the edge. We had to stop and back up once to get a wide enough place to let a road grader by that was coming up the pass.
We saw six grizzly bears, a couple of big bull moose and a handful of other moose, a lot of caribou, and quite a few Dall Sheep (on the mountains, you could only see them with binoculars and they were too far away to get pictures), a lot of ground squirrels, porcupine, a few golden eagles, and a ptarmigan family consisting of a male, female, and six young. And we were lucky and got to see Denali – Mt. McKinley before the clouds set in. The bus driver said he has not been able to see the mountain the last couple of weeks so we were quite fortunate.
Some of the pictures my look a little blurry as they were taken quickly through the window as we were not always in a place we could stop the bus and get out. Some others show a reflection of the glass.
The day turned out to be quite sunny and warm with not a lot of clouds except around the mountain. When we arrived back at Denali Cabins at 19:25PM is was 64 degrees out. We were gone just under 13 and one half hours. I left immediately and returned to my RV at 19:45PM.
A long bumpy ride but an unbelievable day and a highly recommended tour. The scenery and wildlife were spectacular.
32.9 SUV miles today.