Having visited my fair share of national parks, Denali tops the list—mainly for its wildlife and off-trail hiking. Dreaming about going yourself? There are many options to consider but a few key questions will help you start your research:
- Do I want to camp?
- Do I want to hike?
- How long do I plan on visiting?
Getting around in the Park:
Before we discuss the options for the above questions, it is important to understand how the park is navigated as it may influence your decisions.
Park Road is the only road through the park. While personal vehicles are permitted to travel to Savage River, 15 miles into the park, visitors must turn their vehicles around at that point unless they are staying at Teklanika Campground, another 14 miles in.
It is fairly easy to obtain a shuttle pass while in the park. I reserved our campsite, with shuttle pass, through the park’s concessionaire. Although it is not necessary to reserve this ahead of time if you aren’t staying in the park, it will cut down on wait time in lines.
Start your planning by first figuring out accommodations. I highly recommend staying in the park; doing so translates into less shuttle rides. If you plan on doing day hikes, Teklanika is a great option because it further decreases shuttle travel time. However, there is a three-night minimum stay in order to drive there. There are other campgrounds within the park, but vehicles are not allowed at these.
If you are not a camper, there is a great hostel south of the park entrance: Denali Mountain Morning Hostel, which offers free shuttle service1 to the park, free wifi, use of the kitchen and linens for your stay. If a hostel isn’t your thing, there are hotel options; just remember that hotels closer to the park will be more expensive.
Planning to hike in Denali? Keep in mind that there are few trails within the park, and depending on where you hike, bushwhacking becomes an art. My confidence in hiking within Denali grew after reading Denali National Park, Alaska: Guide to Hiking, Photography and Camping which provides detailed descriptions for each of its 46 dayhikes and 12 backpacking trips. Denali National Park also outlines its own hiking tips, which is a must-read, especially if hiking off-trail.
Many of the park’s hikes follow animal trails; it is important to be bear-aware at all times. Day hikes can be extended into backpacking trips, but you must obtain a permit to do so and be equipped with a bear canister to store your food.
If you are only in the Denali National Park area for a day or so, keep in mind that it is roughly an eleven-hour roundtrip ride from the park entrance to Wonder Lake, the closest shuttle-accessed area to Denali (Mt. McKinley). However, even if you only have a few hours, going into the park to see wildlife is worth the trip.
Author: Angela is travel blogger sharing how to make the most of vacation days. She enjoys hiking and backpacking trips to city touring. When she is not traveling and blogging, she lives in Seattle and enjoys the great outdoors, photography, and crafts. Follow Angela at http://angelatravels.com.
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