I have mixed emotions about Denali, and I wish it was all love and positivity, but in our case it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful park, and going out of your way to see it may be for some people- but for us it was a bit of a let down. I think it was because we drove all this way, we were expecting to be able to do more.
I didn’t educate myself enough on the restrictions in Denali, and I didn’t realize dogs aren’t allowed into the park- and how much it costs to enter the park is crazy to us. Let me clarify- Denali National Park only allows commercial vehicles into the park the first 15 miles, the rest of the way into the park you need to take a bus- or walk/ride your bike in. We LOVE Alaska, and the beauty of it, but in our case we didn’t want to leave our dog in a kennel all day (and have to pay for that), as well as pay the almost 200 dollars, just to ride in a tour bus (for 8 hours) into the park.
Because Denali was just a short part of our 6 month road trip, we didn’t want to revolve everything around it, so we did the hikes we were able to do (still having to leave our dog in the car), and made the best of it.
The drive out to Denali is beautiful, and the colors of Denali are unreal. I just wish it was more easily accessible to people, and not sooooo restrictive. But, I do understand why they do it, trying to keep the park as natural as possible- and keep the wild in Denali. It really is a beautiful place to visit, in it’s vastness.
So we explored what we could of the first 15 miles of the park, and went on a couple hikes I would recommend, as well as visited the sled dogs of Denali for a free show.
The first hike we went for in Denali, was Savage River trail. This is the furthest you can go into the park, with your own vehicle. This was my favorite hike, and reminded me a bit of Norway. The round trip of the trail, is about 1.7 miles- however, there is a place you can go further beyond the designated trail- which we did- for better views.
The dog sled demonstration was pretty cool, and something I would recommend if you have time- also, it's free! The most exciting thing about this visit, was one of the sled dogs just had a litter of puppies, so I took like a million photographs of the puppies alone. But it was a pretty cool, and informative demonstration that I would recommend. The demonstrations are offered, at three different times each day, and they even provide a bus from the visitor center which is helpful if you don’t want to drive there. Overall, it was nice to hear about what the sled dogs actually do, and how they are a part of keeping Denali "wild"- helping to minimize the amount of vehicle traffic into the park- using the dogs to transport things instead.
Another hike we explored was Horseshoe Lake- this was a pretty hike; but it doesn't really feel like you're in Denali. Because the trail is sooooo not primitive, it just doesn't give you the feeling that you are really experiencing true wilderness. It is still a nice, and easy hike, (3 miles roundtrip), I would recommend it if you aren't able to take the bus into the park for some reason.
Hopefully this post informs enough of you, to figure out whether you want to make the trek out to the beauty, that is Denali!