Denali Day Trip and McKinley Flight

Denali National Park is home to magnificent scenery and amazing wildlife.  It is also home to the majestic Mt McKinley (known as Denali), the highest mountain in North America. The National Park features six million acres of wilderness accessed by one road that goes 90 miles into the interior.  Private vehicles are allowed 16 miles into the park and then you turn round and come out (not really worth doing as there is very little wildlife in that area).  To protect the area and the wildlife – what they have done is organised these buses (called Tundra buses) that drive about 60 miles into the park (where you can view Mt McKinley) and then turn round and drive out.  We saw some fascinating wildlife including:

  • A Red Fox that had just killed an Arctic Squirrel and was having a good lunch.
  • A Coyote walking along
  • Dolls Sheep (those big horned, white hairy jobs that clamber about on the cliff faces) and we saw these really close which is unusual.
  • Caribou
  • A Hoary Marmot sitting on a rock

In the distance we saw a few grizzlies (would have been very disappointed if they were the only bears you saw on your total trip).  And in the distance some Moose – our only Moose on the whole trip.

Interesting there is a 20% chance of seeing Mt McKinley and a 95% chance of seeing bears. The mountain is so high it creates its own climate and can often be cloudy.

It was actually the scenery that was the highlight, it was utterly breathtaking. We didn’t get great views of Mt McKinley (those stats. were right) so on our return we organised a flight.  This was fantastic and I would highly recommend it.

Flightseeing Tour – these go about 5 times a day and we booked at the hotel, about $300 USD pp and we were picked up/dropped off and then we flew for over an hour in quite a fast plane. Only 6 people per plane so full window seat each. Our flight was at 8pm at night (still light of course). This flight is designed to fly around Mt McKinley – truly spectacular flight and the mountain and valley ranges are amazing.  We saw Dolls sheep on the mountain ridges and got to see quite a bit of Mt McKinley which is a spectacular mountain.  It is just over 20,000 feet high, but it starts at 2,000 feet so you have an 18,000 foot mountain straight up – it is impressive!  I would absolutely recommend this – everyone that did it was buzzing about it.  Almost better than the Tundra tour…

The Details:  The Tundra Tours need to be booked in advance and your tour or cruise/tour are likely to offer that.  It is a full day, you get a simple picnic lunch and the bus stops three times for rest stops.

If you are travelling independently (as I was), then you can drive/train/bus to the town of Denali and stay for a few days and enjoy the area.  There were lots of other activities to enjoy including hiking, biking, dog sledding etc.