Visiting Denali National Park, Alaska

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One of the things that, for me, was a must do on a visit to Alaska was to go into Denali National Park.  What I didn’t know until I looked into it was that you can’t drive a private vehicle into the park much past the entrance.  You have to take one of several bus tour options.  I had mixed feelings about that kind of trip but I was determined to go anyway.  We took the longest one to the end of the road at Kantishna. The only complaint I have is that the bus driver had been driving there for several summers and was pretty jaded about the animals we wanted to see, especially Caribou.  That is NOT good for a tour guide!  In the end we saw several Caribou, including 2 big bulls like the one below.  We had some really nice weather and got to see Mt. McKinley before & during our time in the park.  That put us in the “30% club”.  The mountain is only visible 30% of the time in the summer.  It was breathtaking!

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After the mountain, the animals are the main attraction in the park (the scenery isn’t so bad either).  We were rewarded with several of the most popular animals.  We saw at least 9 different brown bears (Grizzlies), several Caribou, the huge bull Moose at the top of the post and other creatures.  Unfortunately, a lot of your pictures have to be taken from the bus because they won’t let you off in very many places.  After living near Yellowstone for many years, this seemed a little goofy to me!  It was pretty exciting to spot a big grizzly, like the one above, foraging for berries.  As you can see, he was a bruiser!

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On one of our stops, I saw this little ground squirrel sitting on a rock just taking it all in.  It looks like he is surveying his realm.  Because of the extreme spring run-off some of the river valleys are pretty bare of vegetation in places like the area above with the bear crossing the valley.  It made him pretty easy to spot.  There were berry bushes on both sides and he was moving from one side to the other.

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The picture of Mt. McKinley above was the closest we got before it clouded up.  It really is a very impressive site.  I grew up in Washington State and I have seen my share of really pretty mountains like Mt. Rainier so for me to be blown away, it had to be spectacular.  You just can’t imagine how huge it is until you actually see it.  The flowers above were at their most beautiful while we were there.  It’s called Fireweed because it is the first thing that comes back after a forest fire.  It’s everywhere and adds a lovely splash of color.

I would highly recommend a trip to Alaska sometime in your lifetime.  “The last frontier” is a really accurate description of how unpopulated and unspoiled it really is.  If you look on a map, there are very few roads compared to the lower 48.  For us, the cruise was a means to see some areas that are difficult to get to and a good way to get to the Kenai Peninsula and use it as a gateway to Anchorage and Denali.  We rented a motorhome for that part of the trip and that is a great way to go in Alaska!  In the end, I am really glad we made the trip.  Another one crossed off the Bucket List!!