Denali National Park and Preserve was established in 1917 as Mount McKinley National Park and renamed Denali in 1980. The Park lies on both sides of the Alaska Range, 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The Park road is open to the public to Mile 13. From mid-April to late Sept the shuttle buses start running. Transportation into the Park past Mile 13 can only be done on the Park Shuttle. The shuttle system is very organized and does a really good job of taking you through the park, with several stops and narration as we went along.
We moved up our plans to visit Denali by about 2 weeks because we saw that the weather was going to be nasty during our original visit dates. That meant we lost our camping spot at Teklanika, but having good weather made a huge difference to us. We camped about 27 miles south of the Denali entrance. Thank goodness because the camping closer to the Park was a nightmare. Lots of campers plus a huge Princess Cruise Line Hotel full for that week.
We came to Denali to see and learn about animals and our bus driver, Tina, was full of good information about the animals. The bus was surprisingly comfortable, it just didn’t look that good. There were several bus tours that we could choose from. Of course the one we picked was 13 hours round trip, all the way to the end of the road, 92.5 miles each way. Graham wanted to do it, and I said OK but was wondering if I could really do it. You could get off at any of the 4 other stops, but then you had to wave down a bus and hope they had room for you. We decided to just stay on the same bus the entire trip, figuring 13 hours was long enough.
Animals we did see. Here is one of the 12 bears that we saw from the bus.
Caribou. These a gorgeous animals. They loose their antlers every year. Here I am trying on a pair of Caribou antlers. I first put them on backwards. What do I know?
Dahl Sheep way up on the hill side.
Ptarmigan the Alaska state bird. These birds turn pure white in the winter.
We saw so many moose we stopped taking pictures of them.
Denali is Six Million Acres. It is huge and we only saw what we could see from the only road through it. The terrain changes dramatically every few miles, as you go further and higher into the park. There are giant mountains for miles.
You could see for miles across the vastness
This is Wonder Lake, very close to the end of the road. There is a tent only campground here.
There was a place where there used to be a huge glacier. The glacier has since melted and left this huge vast flat area where a small river runs year round. The river never gets much wider, since it is only glacial run off, but the water is obviously very cold.
I can tell you we were glad to be on a bus and not driving ourselves. The road got a bit scary sometimes. Rock slides are pretty common especially when it rains. The road had been closed for several days about a week before we got there because heavy rains caused a mud slide.
The weather also changed as we went along. Sometimes the sun was out and the beautiful fall colors were striking. Fall is a great time to visit the park. The hills were full of color.
Then we would get rain and black clouds for a few minutes
There were many bridges over the rivers. This one is over the Savage River. The river looked like its name “Savage”. We took a picture of us with one of the rivers in the background.
After 6 hours on the bus, we finally made it to the end of the road, mile 92.5. It wasn’t a bad trip.
The funny thing is that we never saw Denali Mountain the entire time we were in the park. They say that 70% of people never see the mountain. Well, we are not going to put up with that!
The next morning, early before sunrise, we set out to see the mountain. The forecast was supposed to be clear in the morning. The Denali Hwy is a dirt road, not ok to take the RV, but ok to take the truck. It runs east away from Denali. We had heard that was was a good place to see the mountain.
Graham is getting his camera set up. And now he is just waiting. He is so patient!
A hop in the truck to get warmed up. It’s in the low 40s. Burrr
The sun is starting to come up.
The mountain is showing up nicely.
you can just see the sun on the top of the mountain and it gets brighter
Now the full mountain is in view. Spectacular! I knew we would see it.
But only for a very short time then the clouds quickly cover it, once again. Maybe we will see it again some other day, but for today we are all smiles.
The next day we went searching for wild Alaska blueberries along the same Denali Hwy..
With my helper we picked over a pint. I brought them back to the RV and froze them to make jam or blueberry pancakes when we get home.
I wanted to find the Princess Cruise line bar that Graham and I had great memories from 7 years ago. Last time we were here we took a picture outside on the patio, so I wanted another of the same. Only this time it was bloody raining, but so what. Memories!
We caught the fall colors at the perfect time. The trees were just starting to go off.
Can you find Graham? He is in his camouflage clothes. We’ve had a great time in Denali but tomorrow we need to move on.