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Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

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Vinings, Georgia
posts: 8
Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

I have a reservation for Tek Campground for 4 nights with a Tek Pass, checking in on June 29th, out on July 3rd.. I also have a compact car rental reserved with a Fairbanks airport rental car agency for the entirety of my 3 week trip. At the time I made the car reservation I asked the agent at the 800 customer support if there was any road restrictions for my rental and they told me no. When I went to reconfirm all my trip reservations this past weekend, I called the airport rental location directly and they told me that was incorrect, and the rental contract will state I can only drive on paved roads. So now I don't know what to do, I checked into other rental agencies at Fairbanks and the only one I could find that didn't explicitly prohibit me from dirt roads was inconveniently located off airport an and at this late date more expensive. I could possibly keep the car I have and change my campground to Riley (Savage full) to abide by the letter of the rental agreement but multiple days of long bus rides is more expensive and a less appealing Denali experience to me. I could leave the car at the entrance and take a camper bus to Tke, but then I lose my hard sided vehicle at Tek. The other option is to just keep the car and Tek reservations as is and drive to Tek because the road is in a good enough state that potential for a problem, although possible, is minimal? I realize that would be at my own risk, but if the condition of the dirt road is no worse then the paved section, I wouldn't have a problem with that. Anyone who has been on it recently or in the past and could shed light on its condition would be helpful. Thanks

Cantwell, Alaska
posts: 63
reviews: 70
1. Re: Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

The road is absolutely fine. Keep your reservation to Tek. It will be much more fun. Any vehicle can make this trip.

If you drive a rental car on a dirt road and you are worried about getting charged for it, just make sure you wash it really well before you turn it back in. I've done this before. No biggie.

The road is wide and smooth. You won't have any problems.

MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 13,073
reviews: 24
2. Re: Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

I have a problem with rental car companies that say "no travel on gravel roads." That basically means if you travel from Anchorage to Denali you will almost always need to violate the rental contract. When I was there last week, several miles of the Parks Highway was torn up and only gravel. No "detour" to avoid the gravel. So in those cases, I just say, "Sorry, your restrictions are too onerous and not realistic." Same with the road between Savage and Tek. It is a bit rougher than in prior years, but it is wide and well-kept. You will have no issues driving those +-14 miles.

Vinings, Georgia
posts: 8
3. Re: Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

Thank you folks. Your opinions are valued. I will keep my Tek reservation. While were on the topic of Denali, I see you have a lot of knowledge/experience in the park. I was wondering what you might suggest for a 3 full days, 2 partial days hiking itinerary for a strong day hiker,,,no route finding experience... hiking solo...based at Tek campground. I got the Ike Watts book last week but am having trouble selecting hikes for my time at the park. If you or anyone else has the book and refer to hikes by number, that would be helpful. Don't mind doing multiple hikes in one day. Anyway, this is the schedule I will be working with:

Sat 6/29 Arrive at park entrance mid morning from Fairbanks. Should I do an entrance area or Savage area leg-stretcher hike on drive in to Tek or drive straight to campground to get best site possible campsite, then grab an afternoon shuttle bus to someplace close by like Igloo/Cathedral area for an afternoon hike?

Sun 6/30 Full day hiking

Mon 7//1 Full day hiking (this is the day I have my Tek Pass reserved seat to Wonder Lake)

Tue 7/2 Full day hiking

Wed 7/3 Could do Savage or entrance area activity on the way out...I was also wondering if its possible to leave your car parked at the Tek Campground somewhere after you check out of your camp site and then use your Tek Pass to do another hike in the park the day of your departure? From Denali I'm on to Talkeetna for 4th of July/Moose Drop Festival...doesn't matter what time I arrive in Talkeetna on 7//3

One concern I had was the space available nature of the Tek Pass and it being the beginning of the 4th of July holiday week. Will I have problems getting a seat? Do the earliest Eileson or Wonder Lake buses generally have more or less seats available than later morning ones? I like getting an early start but don't want to rush out in the morning to full buses when I could be enjoying a little more sleep or leisurely breakfast :)

MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 13,073
reviews: 24
4. Re: Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

There are two editions of Ike Waits' book and he renumbered all the hikes in the most recent edition so it is really tough going by hike numbers unless you tell us which edition you have.

I don't have the book in front of me as I type this, but I would suggest you look at the Top Questions about Denali NP in the Denali NP forum. There are some great suggestions there for day hikes (written mostly by denalicat).

One hike I have always wanted to do in Denali but finally just did last week was the Stony Dome hike. We made it harder on ourselves on the way up (took a more vertical route up!) but once up top we saw an easier route back. I think Ike Waits is more descriptive in finding the easier route - I just photocopied the wrong second page of that hike!

Another great place to hike is Highway Pass - easy to see across the tundra to be on the lookout for bears. A good source of hiking info is usually the bus drivers - one of our drivers told us about a waterfall back in a canyon south of the road near Highway Pass that we never would have known about otherwise for example.

You can also consider signing up for a Discovery Hike with a ranger. I like those myself. They don't go super fast, but you get a small group (11 max) and good input from a ranger. Sign up at the visitor center upon arrival, perhaps with the Tek Campground host or at Eielson when you pass through there.

On the trail-less tundra, you have to figure only hiking about 1 mile an hour in Denali NP.

>>Sat 6/29 Arrive at park entrance mid morning from Fairbanks. Should I do an entrance area or Savage area leg-stretcher hike on drive in to Tek or drive straight to campground to get best site possible campsite, then grab an afternoon shuttle bus to someplace close by like Igloo/Cathedral area for an afternoon hike?

If you leave Fairbanks by 8am, you arrive at Denali at about 10am. You might want to try and catch the 10am sleddog demo (drive there yourself to the park HQ) then continue to Savage and to Tek CG after that. Set up your campsite then take a space-available bus further into the park that afternoon after lunch.

>>Sun 6/30 Full day hiking

>>Mon 7//1 Full day hiking (this is the day I have my Tek Pass reserved seat to Wonder Lake)

>>Tue 7/2 Full day hiking

If the Mountain is not "out" on 7/1 I would get off at Eielson and take a different bus back to the entrance, getting off for a hike. This will give you more time to hike than if you go all the way to Wonder Lake. Also, I suggest only one hike a day so you maximize your time hiking and not waiting for buses, etc.

>>Wed 7/3 Could do Savage or entrance area activity on the way out...I was also wondering if its possible to leave your car parked at the Tek Campground somewhere after you check out of your camp site and then use your Tek Pass to do another hike in the park the day of your departure?

Unfortunately they want you out of the campground by 11am so you really need to leave with your vehicle. But you can spend time at the entrance area - maybe the Savage River hike, maybe the visitor center film and exhibits, etc. before driving to Talkeetna.

>>One concern I had was the space available nature of the Tek Pass and it being the beginning of the 4th of July holiday week. Will I have problems getting a seat? Do the earliest Eileson or Wonder Lake buses generally have more or less seats available than later morning ones? I like getting an early start but don't want to rush out in the morning to full buses when I could be enjoying a little more sleep or leisurely breakfast :)

The buses can be full by the time they get to Tek. A couple of suggestions. Try to aim for a camper bus and not a shuttle bus. Often but not always they have more room than shuttle buses. Also, you might consider walking 1/2 mile to 1 mile eastward (toward the entrance) and flag down a bus before it gets to Tek. With needing just one seat, you can also just get to the Tek bus stop 15 minutes before the scheduled arrival of the bus and you will probably be first in line.

Generally the earliest buses are more full, but who knows. Also, all buses go out with at least 4 empty seats to pick up day trippers and backcountry campers. But who knows by the time they get to Tek if there will still be those 4 seats available.

MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 13,073
reviews: 24
5. Re: Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

PS the index in the back of Ike's book is really good - it will tell you if the hike is easy, moderate or difficult and will also tell you the elevation gain as well as estimated time/mileage. You can select easier or more difficult hikes based on that info. You can also read through the hike descriptions and get a good feel for each hike you are considering. If you find 2-3 you might like, you might ask your bus driver at a rest stop about it, where to get off the bus, and even a possible route if it seems a bit complicated. Many of the drivers spend their days off hiking in the park and are very familiar with it.

FYI, I also often hike alone in Denali NP. After an incident several years ago with some dumb seasonal workers who got lost for days in the park, I now always carry a beefed-up day pack with a mirror, whistle, water purifying tablets, first aid kit, more food than I really need, etc. I also notify someone before leaving to go into the park that I will call them within 24 hours of returning to the park entrance. If they don't hear from me within 24 hours of that agreed-upon time/date, they should call 911. I do that because if I sprain an ankle, can't get to the park road and no one can see me, who knows how long I might be stranded. It is just one more safeguard when hiking alone in the park. You might consider something similar, or whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

USA
Destination Expert
for Alaska, Denali National Park and Preserve, Yellowstone National Park
posts: 9,301
reviews: 44
6. Re: Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

I would get to Tek CG, get a good campsite, set up & then take a shuttle to a hike.

My experience with camper bus drivers has been they don't stop at Tek CG. So we would hike out west of the campground & wave down the camper bus driver just because we preferred the casualness of the camper bus.

Print out a couple of shuttle bus schedules. I even laminate one since they get so destroyed with rain, folding, etc.

Cathedral Mt is a fantastic hike with potential views of bears down in the Sable closure, dall sheep on the sheep trails, etc. Ike does a great job describing how to cross Igloo Creek & find the social trail. In the same location, Sable bench is another great hike but must keep out of Sable closure.

The waterfall at Highway pass is another hike I love.

After you read thru our Top Questions on day hikes in Denali, holler with questions.

Edited: 11:06 am, June 18, 2013
7. Re: Condition of dirt portion of Park Rd from Savage to Tek?

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