Denali National Park was the top destination of the whole trip. After picking up my son Oliver and his family at the Anchorage airport and joining us in their rental RV for the next 14 days, we drove straight to Denali.
The park is larger than Switzerland and is basically a vast wilderness area, comprising tundra, boreal forests and a part of the Alaska Range with North America’s highest mountain, Mt. McKinley. There is only one road leading into the park, 95 miles long and mainly with a gravel surface. Only the first 15 miles are paved and open for the public; the next 14 miles are limited for vehicles using the last RV campground on this road (Teklanika River Campground), and the remainder of the road is accessible only by using buses operated by the National Park Service or by concessionaires.
At first we considered that a major disadvantage for exploring the national park, but we quickly learned that otherwise there would hardly be any wildlife to view because of the nuisance caused by extensive traffic. We also learned (by experiencing it!) that there is only one chance to have a close-up encounter with grizzlies: through the windows of a bus. See yourself:
We encountered this grizzly sow with her two about 18 months old cubs walking at the side of the road while passing by in the bus. I don’t think we would have seen them from that distance outside a vehicle – and survived it!
We stayed in Teklanika River campground for 4 nights (and an additional two nights at the Riley Creek CG, close to the park entrance).
|Dam building in a side arm of Tek River|
|Mt. McKinley is free of clouds only 30 days a year – almost never in summer. We never got an unobstructed view on the mountain; this one was as good as it gets in summer|
|Mt. McKinley as seen from the north. The previous photo shows the west side of the mountain|
There are 5 “large” animals every visitor wants to see in the park: bear, moose, wolf, caribou, and dall sheep. We were lucky to be able to see all of them, albeit the dall sheep from too a large distance for picture taking.
|At one of the bus stops along the 95-mile park road|
|Part of the park road|
Only bears and caribous are relatively easy to spot. Moose are much shyer and a rare view, therefore.