Alaska Driving | Denali National Park Day Trip Tips | Denali National Park

Denali National Park | Introduction

Denali National ParkDenali National Park, or Denali National Park as it is called in Chinese, is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Alaska. 24,000 square kilometers in size, Denali National Park remains almost untouched by development, and you can see wildlife everywhere in this park that you would not normally see. In addition, Denali National Park is home to North America's tallest mountain, which is now called Denali, although when I visited, the park officials still called it Mt. McKinley.

The best seasons to visit Denali National Park are summer and fall, while other times of the year the weather is not suitable. In the fall, the weather is more changeable and sometimes it snows very early, so most people choose summer to visit the park.

Although this national park is famous, not many people have visited it, because it is too far away for the general public. There is only one road outside the park, we drove from Anchorage, it takes 5 hours to drive here, and 10 hours to go back and forth. We stayed near the park for two nights, but we drove in on the first day and drove out on the third day, so we only had one full day to play. Although the transportation time is very long, coming to Denali National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it's worth it.

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Denali National Park | Transportation

Although we drove here, we could only drive about 15 miles in the summer, so how do we get around? Most of Denali is inaccessible by car, so if you want to go deeper, you have to take an official bus.

There are two types of buses, one is the cheaper shuttle bus, and the other is the tour bus. Tour buses include explanations, while shuttles do not. No matter which type of bus you choose, there are different fares for different destinations. There are four stops on the route, from near to far are Toklat River, Eielson Visitor Center, Wonder Lake and Kantishna, please see the detailed route. the official website.

Since we only stayed for one day, we chose to take the bus to Eielson Visitor Center, which is the middle stop, but it took us 8 hours to go back and forth, and 8 hours to go to Kantishna, the final stop of the route. If you want to go to Kantishna, we recommend camping in the park for at least two days.

Shuttle buses are green and easy to recognize. You can get on and off the bus at any stop on the way as long as it is within the boundaries of the ticket you bought. However, most of the people who have been there recommend to take the early shuttle bus and get off directly at their final stops, and then stop at the intermediate stops on the way back. The reason is that it is not easy to get on the bus after getting off the bus because of the large number of people on the way there. When we came here, we got up at 5:00am and went to Denali national park to catch the earliest Denali Shuttle bus. before we started, we heard that many drivers would explain to us about the Shuttle bus, after all, it is boring to drive all the time, so we chose the more economical Shuttle bus after considering the fare. The driver did explain a lot.

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Another point to note is that you have to register for the return trip when you arrive at your destination. It was only during our return trip that we realized we needed to register for the return trip. Because we didn't register in advance, we had to wait for about 40 minutes for three buses before we could get on the bus, which was a waste of time. At the same time, there were two other tourists with bicycles waiting for a longer period of time, because not every bus can carry bicycles.

Denali National Park | Accommodation

There are no lodges in Denali National Park, so if you want to stay in the park, you can only camp. The nearest lodges are outside the park, and it takes about 15 minutes to drive into the park. However, there are many hotels in this area, just remember to make sure that the transportation is convenient when you book the hotel. For example, the hotel we chose is called Denali Park Hotel, which is conveniently located near the nearby restaurants.

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Denali National Park | Attractions

Denali Park Road

The bus ride into Denali Park Road, in fact, the scenery is great all the way, the driver will also let us take a break to take photos. As rumor has it, our shuttle bus driver always slowed down to explain the scenery, especially when passing by the wonderful spots, he usually slowed down and was kind enough to tell us the right angle to take photos.

In fact, once you get deeper into the park, you'll understand why normal tourist vehicles are not allowed to enter, the only road is quite narrow and winding (especially for Americans who are used to driving on big roads), and because of the melting snow, many parts of the park are uneven, and visitors with small hearts will hold their breaths at some of the curves. But this is what makes the scenery so spectacular.

Besides enjoying the scenery, the most important task for all passengers on the Shuttle is to look for wild animals. Before boarding the bus, the driver told everyone to keep their eyes open and call the driver to stop immediately when they see an animal, because the driver must focus on driving. Therefore, it is the common responsibility of all passengers to find as many animals as possible.

Our most frequent encounters were antelope, we saw a couple of bears, and on the way back we got close enough to see a fox strolling past the front of the car. Other sightings included a big horn buck and a hawk under the bridge. The driver said the eagle's nest had been there for days, but this was the first time he had seen the owner at home.

Most of the time, the animals were quite far away because we were looking at them from the car. The photos taken on the way there were all taken with the focus as far as possible or even through a telescope. If you look at them with your naked eyes, you can only see a few white dots at most. If you like to see wildlife, you should bring a telescope with you. We didn't bring our own, but the kind tourists at the back seat lent them to us every time, thank you very much.

Polychrome pass

Denali has a pleasant climate in summer, and when there is sunshine, it feels very cool, not too hot and not too cold. Although the bus was driving all the way to the destination, there were one or two rest stops for us to take a rest, each stop could last for about 10 minutes, Polychrome pass was one of the stops. When we got down here, we realized that there is a small hill and a short trail at the back of the pass. As we walked up a little bit to the high point, we could see the beautiful snow-capped mountains on the other side of the road. The year-round snow at the top of the mountain and the vast grassland below are the standard equipment of Denali in summer.

Eielson Visitor Center

Four hours later, we reached our destination, Eielson Visitor Center, after getting off the bus, we could take a rest at the visitor center, most of the people prepared their own sandwiches for lunch, so they would eat their food during the rest time and then go out again. There are a lot of trails around here, and in the afternoon, there are ranger-led tours, so you can choose your own route according to your preference. From the Visitor Center, you can see the spectacular view of Mt.

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Mountain trails | Eielson Alpine

Behind the visitor center, there is an Eielson Alpine Hiking trail (currently renamed as Thorofare Ridge Trail), which is a bit more difficult and not among the official recommended hiking routes. However, we talked to Ranger on that day, and he said that it should be quite easy for young people, and the scenery is beautiful. We thought we were young and strong, and we were compelled by the ranger to take the trail behind the tourist center. We thought the Eielson Alpine hike behind the visitor center is an easy and steep hike, so we went straight up and walked for about 3 hours. My legs were so weak after the hike, but after checking on the internet, I realized that this hike is considered difficult, probably because ranger was too kind to us.

Although the climb was tiring, the trail was really beautiful and the whole wide mountain view was spectacular. And the feeling of reaching the top is an indescribable sense of accomplishment. The view of Mt. McKinley from the top is amazing. The weather was a bit cloudy that day, and Mt. McKinley was covered with clouds on the way up, but luckily it cleared up after we stopped at the top for a while! We were able to catch a glimpse of McKinley.

Hiking Trail | Tundra Loop

In front of the visitor center, there are two other trails, Tundra trail and Tundra spur trail, collectively known as Tundra Loop, which is only about 1/3 of a mile. Although our legs were weak after climbing the previous Eielson Alpine, how can we give up an easy trail after we have conquered the difficult one? So we did a loop. This trail is much easier to walk, and the view is also facing Mt McKinley, but from a different angle and a bit closer.

Entrance Area | Horseshoe Lake Trail

There are a few trails around the Denali national park visitor center in the Entrance area, which is a part of the area where you can drive without a shuttle, and it's actually not that big of an area. So we arranged to come back at 8pm after dinner while it was still light (don't forget, we are in Alaska in summer).

Our goal was the Horseshoe Lake Trail, which starts at the Visitor Center, follows the Taiga trail, and then picks up the Horseshoe lake trail, which is a bit long, but the first part of the trail is easy, and compared to earlier in the day it's a piece of cake, but there is a steeper part of the trail if you want to get down to horseshoe lake. However, if you really want to go down to horseshoe lake, there will be a steeper section. If you go hiking here at night, you can see a lot of animal tracks, because wild animals such as deer will come out to feed at dinner time. We even followed the fresh moose footprints for a long time, but still couldn't see the moose. we turned back after seeing the horseshoe lake, the photo looks like the sky is still bright, but in fact, it's almost eleven o'clock already. When we went to Alaska in summer, we were really not afraid of darkness, only afraid of not having the energy to play.

Denali National Park | Food | Prospectors Historic Pizza

If you want to eat in Denali national park, you have to go to the outside town, there are many tourists in summer, and it is hard to find a good restaurant. We stayed in the hotel opposite theProspectors Historic PizzaThis is probably the best rated restaurant in the neighborhood, the pizza is really good and there is free WiFi, we dined in this restaurant on both nights, and it was still crowded until 11pm. On the first night, we only ordered one pizza, called Elk Crossing, and on the second night, we had more time, so we could have a good meal, and ordered Hard apple ale and Alaskan white ale, and Calamari, Buffalo wing, and specials salmon pizza. I ordered Calamari, Buffalo wing, and specials salmon and pizza.

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Elk Crossing

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