There are many aspects about the park that may be appealing: camping, hiking, biking, climbing, photography or chilling at a wilderness lodge. The great thing is – you don’t have to choose just one!
My most recent trip was with my friend Emma from Sweden, who had limited time to visit. So we only spent one day in the park, and took a “shuttle” that was rickety school bus (we were forewarned!) 85 miles back to Wonder Lake.
I found myself wanting to stay longer to camp or hike. However, we all have to work within our limitations and the day trip seemed the best combination for nature and wildlife.
The Wonder Lake shuttle runs from early June to mid September and is $40. It stops at campgrounds, the visitor center and Wonder Lake. The latter has a lovely view of Denali if the weather cooperates. You can get on and off throughout the day to do a bit of hiking. I was concerned about teeth rattling on the school bus, but the road was freshly groomed and it was a relatively smooth ride.
There are luxurious buses operated by private venders, although they have less access. On a previous occasion, I stopped at the Princess Lodge and bought a ticket for an extra seat on one of their charters. I haven’t had an opportunity to visit the North Face Lodge, but we also saw many of their buses in the park.
For a rare opportunity, if you plan to be in Alaska in mid-September, consider signing up for the “Denali Road Lottery” in the previous May. Where normally private vehicles can only be driven for the first 15 miles to the Savage River stop, winners of the lottery can take their own vehicle all the way into the park. The park also tries to keep the campgrounds open through lottery weekend, weather permitting.
Photos: Courtesy of Emma Kristensson