Go To See Alaska - Part 8 -
Denali National Park
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Polychrome mountains as viewed from Polychrome Pass in Denali National Park. The multi-colored volcanic
bluffs seen across the valley give the place its name.

Map: Click here to see Google Map showing location of Denali National Park
Part 9 of 11 of my tour of Alaska is about Ketchikan and fantastic Misty Fjord National Monument. It is at:

None of us got off the bus. After staring at us inside the bus for a while, the mother bear was satisfied feeling
not threatened. Then the mother bear turned to right side and walked a few steps to eat some berries in the

Our bus driver stopped the bus for us to take a good look and to take pictures of the grizzly bear and her cub.
Then the mother bear got up to take a good look of us inside the shuttle bus.
Then we saw some white colored Dall sheep high above on mountain slope.
A pair of swans on a lake
Zoom in for a closer view of one of the grizzly bears in the valley
There was a third grizzly bear much closer to us
On our return trip and after we finished the unpaved gravel road, we saw this mother moose and baby moose
on the paved Park Road.

George Parks Highway (i.e., Highway 3) from Wasilla to Denali National Park has several spots to see Mount
McKinley, the highest peak in North America. We drove on George Parks Highway from Wasilla to Denali
National Park on August 15, 2009 but we did not see Mount McKinley because it was a raining day.

The Park Road inside Denali National Park also has several spots to see Mount McKinley. But we did not see
Mount McKinley on August 16 because it was a raining day too.

Fortunately, on the third day of August 17, we saw the peak of Mount McKinley when we were driving on
Richardson Highway from Fairbanks to Delta Junction as shown on my Travelogue web page for Part 5  at:

Since the Park Road beyond the first 16 miles is not open to public vehicles, tourists must buy tickets and get
on the green shuttle bus or other tour bus to be able to tour deep into Denali National Park. You can purchase
a ticket in advance for a seat on the green shuttle bus, or in person when you arrive in the park. 65% of shuttle
bus seats are available for advance purchase. Advance purchases can be done by Online Booking System or
by Phone. Tickets may also be purchased in the park at the Wilderness Access Center located 0.5 miles along
the Park Road. 35% of seats are reserved for walk in purchase within two days of departure allowing travelers
to book seats upon arrival in the area.

However, due to the popularity of this tour, the tickets may be sold out and you may not get the ticket for your
desired date when you arrive. It is better to make reservation and purchase ticket several weeks in advance by
calling 800-622-7275 or 907-272-7275 or by using online booking system at the following website:

We drove our rental car from Whittier through Anchorage to Healy near Denali National Park on August 15,
2009.  The next morning, we took the 13-hour (round trip) bus tour of the Denali National Park on August 16,
2009. The 94-mile Park Road is the only road to tour the Denali National Park. The first 16 miles of the Park
Road to Savage River is paved and tourists are allowed to drive this first 16 miles. However, beyond the first
16 miles, the Park Road is unpaved gravel road and no tourists are allowed to drive on this unpaved gravel
Park Road. In other words, the tourists must buy ticket to get on the green Shuttle Bus or other tour bus to tour
deep into Denali National Park.

However, both August 15 and 16 were raining days and it rained on and off through out the entire day with
heavy low rain clouds. I took most of these pictures in Denali National Park from inside the park shuttle bus
through bus windows.  The bus windows often had rain drops and mud streaks from the muddy gravel road
affecting the quality of the pictures taken through them.
We saw a grizzly bear with her cub. The mother bear seemed to be sleeping.
Later at a different location, we saw some more Dall sheep at closer distance.
Then we saw this caribou with huge antlers at a lake
Views of the rolling tundra
More caribous on mountain ridge
We saw a family of Ptarmigan on the roadside. These are Alaska state bird.
A view from Eielson Visitor Center
This is the green shuttle bus. The bus windows often get dirty because of the unpaved gravel road.  At the
rest stops, there are windshield scrapers and water for tourists to clean the windows so that everybody can
get better views of the scenery and wildlife.
Seat Belt: The seats in these green shuttle buses in Denali National Park are all equipped with seat belts. All
tourists are required to have seat belt on and tight when the shuttle bus is moving. The reason is that the shuttle
bus may stop suddenly anytime for everybody in the bus to get a good look at the wildlife outside. The driver
will stop the bus if the driver sees an interesting wildlife for tourists to see. Furthermore, if any tourist in the bus
spots an interesting wildlife, the tourist just say stop, and the driver has been conditioned to stop the bus
whenever he/she hears the word "stop" from any passenger on the bus. There is no danger of vehicular collision
when the shuttle bus stops frequently because no public vehicles are allowed on the Park Road in this national
park and only a few shuttle buses are running infrequently at low speed on the unpaved gravel road. Most of the
time, there is no other vehicle in sight on the Park Road.

Riding on a shuttle bus enhances your chances of spotting wildlife, since there are many pairs of alert eyes, not  
just your own, concentrating on searching the landscape for wildlife. Keep in mind that the more time you spend
in the park, the better your chances of seeing more wild animals.

Quiet and Non-Threatening: The driver further instructed all tourists on the bus to be as quiet as possible.
Upon seeing an wild animal, the natural tendency of tourist is to shout in excitement. The driver told everybody
to be quiet and just whisper if we had to say something. The reason to be so quiet is to minimize the threat of
the bus and the excited tourists on those wild animals or birds so that those wildlife are more comfortable to
stay near the Park Road for all tourists to get a good look. Otherwise, the exciting and shouting tourists may
scare those wildlife to stay far away from the Park Road such that nobody can see those wildlife anymore in
the future.
Another grizzly bear near a creek
The Park Road here is hair-raising hugging and spiraling along the polychrome steep hillside.
A pile of rocks on mountain slope that looks like the face of a person looking up.
A bull elk on the tundra
Two grizzly bears far away in this valley
The 94-mile Park Road leads to Kantishna, the end point deep inside the Denali National Park. There is a
Kantishna Air Taxi service here with small bush airplanes as shown in the following photo. After 6.5 hours of
bus tour to this end point, some tourists change to airplane here for their return trip by scenic flight to see the
Denali National Park from the air for approximately 55 minutes. The flight takes tourist to the north face of
Mount McKinley, then traverse the expansive Muldrow Glacier, following the spine of the magnificent Alaska
Range to Denali Park's train and bus depot. Two ladies on our bus were interested in such scenic flight for the
return trip. Unfortunately, the weather was bad on August 16 such that the Air Taxi Service was not available on
that day.

Kantishna was a historic gold mining camp during gold rush period when gold was discovered here in 1905.
About  100,000 ounces of gold were produced from here.
Wonder Lake. On clear day, Wonder Lake has a gorgeous view of Mount McKinley which is 27 miles to the
south, its north face – the Wickersham Wall – rising more than 14,000 feet in a simple precipice, one of the
great mountain wall in the world. There is a camp site here. Some campers camp here for several days to get
a clear day to enjoy the gorgeous view.
Some more caribous that we saw.

A braided river
A greater white-fronted goose at a lake.
The sequence of our 2-week Tour of Alaska is the Following:
One-week Alaska Cruise:

Vancouver in Canada, the starting point of 1-week Alaska Cruise -------->  Ketchikan in Alaska (Misty Fjords
National Monument) -------->  Juneau (Mendenhall Glacier, Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, Gold Creek Salmon
Bake)  --------->  Skagway (8-hour Excursion Land Tour into Yukon Territory in northwest Canada) -------->  
Glacier Bay National Park -------->  College Fjords -------->  Whittier, the end point of our Alaska Cruise.

One-week driving tour of Alaska starts from Whittier as follows:

Whittier -------->  Denali National Park -------->  Fairbanks  (Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge,
Georgeson Botanical Garden, Large Animal Research Station of the University of Alaska) --------->  Town of
North Pole -------->  Scenic Richardson Highway going south -------->  Boundary of Wrangell-St Elias National
Park --------->  Scenic Glen Highway going west --------->  Scenic Seward Highway going south -------->
Seward, (Kenai Fjords National Park, Exit Glacier) -------->  Seward Highway going north to Tern Lake, then
Sterling Highway going west to Kenai, then south --------->  Homer -------->  Sterling Highway going north to
Kenai, then east, to Tern Lake, then Seward Highway going north --------->  Alaska Wildlife Conservation
Center -------->  Anchorage, the end point of our driving tour of Alaska
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