The tour to Denali National Park was rather spontanious. People we got to know in Valdez told us about it and we decided to go there although it was a bit far from the route we had in mind.
It took us a 9 hour drive to get there and when we finally arrived in the afternoon we discovered, that you need to book a campground in the park at least one year in advance. We tried 4 campsites more along the road, before we found a space at the Denali Outdoor Center.
We were lucky in several ways, as we wouldn’t have imagined how great the spot was!
The campground was located in the forest, directly at a lake with a fantastic view. Being an outdoor center they organize a lot of tours like paddling and rafting, unfortunately we hadn't the time, but the folks around us highly recommended it.
Well, after a day of driving we just were in the mood for a rest, a beer and something to eat. We lighted a campfire and found out about the downside of the place. Millions of giant mosquitos and all were in party mood!! So - if you are planning to go to Alaska in summer, bring the bug spray. And if in doubt, take the BIG bottle!!!
Getting up late next day, as we had enjoyed the campfire and the whisky bottle a bit too much, we drove back to the park entrance and bought tickets for the shuttle bus. Private cars are only allowed on the first 15 (paved) miles on the park road. The shuttle bus is a good option. It is kind of a hop-on, hop-off bus, that drives through the one park road, it is cheaper than the narrated tours, nobody annoyes you with constant talking and it stops for wildlife sights, too. What we didn’t think of: To go to the very end of the park road and back takes 12 (!) hours. As it was noon already, we „just“ took the 8 hour ride, what meant we still wouldn’t be back before 9pm.
The bus driver will drop you off anywhere, if you like to go hiking - which is possible everywhere in the park - and to go back you can catch just any bus on the road. That way you could easily spend several days in the park looking for animals, hiking up mountains or simply enjoying the beauty, quiet and loneliness. You should just be aware, that a you might find a bear - or rather that a bear finds you.
You don't run from bears (they do 50 km/h) and it is also not a brilliant idea to loose your backpack, as they are curious folks. They say you need to stand your ground, when encountering a bear, you should take your arms over your head to appear bigger and back away slowly. If a grizzly actually touches you, you should curl into a ball and play dead. Well, easily said… I rather wouldn't like to try out, if it really helps...
But we hadn’t the time for hiking anyway and stayed with the shuttle bus.
Here are some pictures of a fantastic day in the park!
Our first grizzly!!! The salmon season has not yet startet in this area, so the nice blond lady over here is on a veggie diet and verrry thin. Guess she doen't get to eat many tourists either...
A caribou, that ran around the bus, a bit confused obviously :-D
We saw a lot of caribous, the northamerican reindeer, but this one was by far the closest sight.
Markus got some close-ups of a fox, that walked at the side of the road. Not an easy task, as the bus was heavily leaning to one side while 30 people tried to see that little bugger :-)
Coming back at 10 pm to our campsite and finally eating something (Huuungryyyy! Good advice: Pack something to eat! Its 8 or 12 hours! :-)),
we found an incredible sunset awaiting us, showing all colors of the rainbow.
So, even if just staying 2 nights… Denali was worth the detour.