Denali NP

On August 24th, we boarded the train for Denali National Park from Anchorage. The Alaska Railroad and Denali National Park have been intrinsically linked for nearly 50 years, the park served solely by rail. The Parks Highway opened in 1971 making the place accessible by car. The Park was served by rail 50 years longer than by road, and thus we wanted to be a part of the grand history of Alaska’s most famous national park and go by train. The railroad’s flagship Denali Star train runs the scenic 234-mile route, (7 1/2 hours) from Anchorage to Denali Park. We settled into comfortable seats in the GoldStar Dome car and if it was a clear day we would get glimpses of Denali just 30 minutes into the trip, however, our view was cloud covered so we enjoyed different views as we passed through Wasilla and north into the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. We walked through the cars and stopped in at the Wilderness Cafe car for a snack and drink. After reaching Broad Pass, which marks both the highest point on the Alaska Railroad and the lowest pass in the Alaska Range, the train winds through a wide taiga plateau before pulling into Denali Depot. We departed the train and boarded the bus to take us to the Denali Bluffs Hotel, where we are staying for 3 days. We had beautiful vistas of the Denali Canyon and the Alaska Range from the hotel,  located next to Denali National Park on the slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain. Click on thumbnail to view image

The Denali Star train to Denali National Park

Exploring the Park

Then next morning we took a bus tour into the Park on a cold and cloudy day. The road into Denali National Park is 92 miles long, no cars are allowed after 15 miles, so everyone has to take a bus tour. We took the narrated bus tour on this mostly gravel road that traverses boreal forests and sub-arctic tundra, crossing rolling mountainsides and scenic river valleys. The driver pulled over whenever there was a wildlife spotting, and we did see Caribou, Dall sheep and moose from the bus. At mile-42 the bus turned around due to the ongoing Pretty Rocks slide that has closed the road to the end. We were disappointed that we did not get any views of Denali but that is rare for most visitors. Back at the Hotel we changed and drove north to Healy where we had dinner at the 49th State Brewing Co, the first one that opened in 2010. Outside the restaurant is a replica of the bus that was in the movie “Into the Wild’, where Christopher McCandless, aka Alex Supertramp, lived in for 113 days. The original bus was lifted out of the wilderness last year because so many hikers had to be rescued when they went in search of the bus. It is now at the UA Museum of the North in Fairbanks. We had a great dinner and beer, Bob even splurged on the Alaskan Yak burger!! Click on thumbnail to view image

Self Driving Tour of Park

Today we rented a Jeep and went exploring on our own. We drove into the Park for 15 miles to explore the Savage River area. We also visited the Denali National Park Kennels where the Alaskan Husky live. These dogs are the only transportation in the Park in the winter. Denali National Park has had sled dogs since 1922. The dogs and the kennels where they live, represent important pieces of the American story. These are the only dogs in the US that help protect a national park and the wildlife, scenery, and wilderness therein, and it has been this way since the birth of the park. After a fun day in the Jeep, we returned it and went to the Moose AKa’s Eastern European Restaurant in Denali Village. Trip Advisor has named this restaurant in the top 1% of restaurants in the world, and #20 in the US!!! Pretty good recommendations and of course there was a line to get in for dinner. For dessert we had the Nutella banana crepes, amazing. Click on thumbnail to view image