Results 1-5of 5 Reviews
August 18, 2006
The next thing to determine is whether you want to stop and do any hiking/exploring or not. If you plan on doing some hiking and/or backcountry camping, you’ll definitely need one of the shuttle buses. The shuttle leaves from the Wilderness Access Center (this is also where you’ll go to pick up your reserved ticket.) The shuttles stop about once an hour for rest stops (at outhouses with antibacterial hand gel supplied), and also stop to pick up hikers and view wildlife. If you’re a hiker, you buy a shuttle bus to the point you eventually want to end up at. Along the way, if you want to stop and get off at any point, you let the bus driver know, and he will drop you off. When you want a ride to another spot along the road, you just go out to the main road and flag down one of the shuttle buses. The shuttle bus isn’t only for hikers, however. There are many people who ride it to the end and back, as we did. Although the bus drivers on the shuttles aren’t required to give any sort of guided tour, we found that the bus drivers do give somewhat of a narrated tour along the way in addition to answering relevant question. In order to travel this route, make sure you pack plenty of water, snacks, a lunch, bug spray, and a camera with a decent zoom lens (for the wildlife) since there are no places along the way to purchase these sorts of items.
If you prefer more of a structured tour, the other option is to buy a bus tour from one of the various tour companies that can be purchased through the park concessionaire. The guided bus tours come with a boxed lunch, and they also pick up and drop off from various locations inside the park. If you don’t have a car while there, this may be an important consideration. When we checked these out, they were running around $130/person to Kantishna.
From journal Denali and Seward with My Parents
From journal 4th of July Excursion to Denali Nat'l Park
by J. Stephen
July 25, 2005
You can get off the bus to explore on your own anywhere along the way and catch the next bus going in either direction. On my first trip to Denali, several years ago, I disembarked the bus about half way, near the Polychrome Overlook, and took a three hour solo hike, both along the road and cross-country. It was a fantastic experience, rewarded with sightings of a grizzly mother and cubs (on a distant ridge), many dall sheep, other wildlife and scenery that caused both my heart and my imagination to take wings.
From journal Stalked by a Grizzly in Denali National Park
District of Columbia County, District of Columbia
August 23, 2004
The Denali National Park Visitor Transportation System was created to help preserve the park's wildness by limiting access to the park road and interior sections of the park. While this does make Denali more expensive to visit than other national parks, the bus system has helped discourage people from trashing the park, destroying the fragile tundra ecosystems, and protected wildlife. As a result, bears, caribou, and moose that have never been hunted do not see people as an automatic threat to their safety or as a source of food. By keeping the animals wild, they are more likely to be visible from the park road and to not run and hide when a bus full of tourists approaches.
A visit to the interior sections of Denali is a real adventure. Unlike the more structured Tundra Wildlife and Natural History tours, the shuttle buses give you the freedom to get off the bus wherever you want (provided no wildlife is nearby) to hike and then get back onto another bus later. You are also able to go further into the park on the shuttle buses than you are on the narrated tours. The downsides are buses that are slightly less comfortable and have no included meals or "official" narration. However, if you luck out and get a great driver like I did, this will not be an issue.
Some things to keep in mind when planning your trip. Food and beverages are not available inside the park, so stock up with enough to last you for the full duration of your trip. Drinkable water is available at the Eielson Visitor Center, although after 2004 the center will be closed for construction of a new building, so do not count on getting water here until Eielson reopens. You will be riding on a modified school bus. There are fewer seats and more legroom than the average school bus, and surprisingly with my long legs (I'm 6'4") I was comfortable all day long. Luggage racks have been added above the seats to store your things. There is no air conditioning, so expect windows to be open, letting in dust, so expect to get "gritty". Also, at each rest stop (about every 90 minutes) be sure to get out, walk around, and STAND the entire time. This will go a long way toward avoiding a bad case of "numb butt." Finally, do not wait until you arrive at the park to book a bus tour. You may have to wait several days to get on a bus, especially during the height of the season.
Overall the Denali bus system gets five stars from me. However, I was very lucky when it came to getting on a bus with a good driver that was not 100% full and having gorgeous, clear weather all day long. My trip was not typical; but even if it I had not been as lucky my trip to Wonder Lake and back would still be an adventure I’d never forget.
From journal Experiencing the Wilderness in Denali National Park
by Jack Ventura
October 26, 2002
We would soon board Denali Park’s Visitor Transportation System--a fleet of aged, green buses--with tickets picked up the day prior at the Visitor Center. Except for several commercial tours, it is the only means to see the National Park’s interior. Our departure was 6:00am, earlier than some of us like to start our vacations. The prepaid fare to go as far as Eielson Visitor Center was minimal. Frankly, none of us were looking forward to an 8-hour bus ride. It was tempting to desert our friends, commandeer the minivan, drive to Fairbanks 120 miles further north, party hearty, and ask upon our return, "Did anyone get mowed by a moose while we were gone?"
The hotel’s cafeteria was open for paper bag lunches. We arrived at the Visitor Center just in time to greet a Ranger opening the building. Inside, the whiteboard on one wall used to schedule buses and campsites was almost entirely covered in hand-lettered X’s. Our advance reservations were prudent.
The bus driver was a lanky man with a wiry red beard. From Ireland, he chanced to visit Denali and decided to stay a while. This was his fifth year as a docent. I’ve forgotten his name, but he was terrific; even along hair-raising stretches of the road, I always felt we were in good hands. Speaking of hands, it was interesting that busdrivers conspiratorily use them to signal each other about what animals had been seen up ahead.
We were instructed that, should any of us spot an animal, we were to shout, "Stop! Stop! Stop the bus!" The first several miles, through dense taiga and meadows warming to the morning sun, was uneventful. As we rounded a bend, up ahead was a car, a bridge, and a checkpoint booth. I looked up the surrounding hillside and was the first to scream, "Stop!" My volume and urgency startled me. My friend Kaz, who was sitting next to me and sleeping, woke in a rush of adrenaline and glared at me as I explained, "It’s a fox. Look, there’s a photographer trying to get close to it." We had arrived at the Savage River. This is as far as private vehicles are allowed on Park Road.
Others got into the spirit of breaking the scrolling panorama of Denali National Park with a rousing alarm. Most of the animals were distant, but on one occasion, the bus had to stop and yield to a Grizzly Bear crossing the road. It got up on its haunches and scratched its back on a signpost!
We were blessed with clear weather. Around noon, we topped a hill and saw: Denali. A few miles further, Eielson Visitor Center provided the perfect venue for a celebratory sack lunch, before re-boarding for the ride back.
From journal Road to Denali