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Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

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Dallas, Texas
posts: 13
reviews: 2
Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

We were around Talkeetna from July 1 through July 12.

We tried to take a glacier landing with TourSaver coupon @7PM.

Tried 3 different days over that period and got shot down each time.

Wonder if the weather is just not permissible around 7PM, and if that is why the restriction on the coupon book in the first place.


Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
posts: 24,869
reviews: 31
1. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

Sorry it didn't work out for your McKinley flight. I guess that is why I always suggest booking when the weather is good - coupons aren't such a good deal if you don't get to use them. I would also base my flights more on company safety records than a discount, but that is my own opinion. If the weather is good in the morning, I would go, as it has been tending to cloud up in the afternoon/early evening this summer. As well, Denali is so high that it creates it's own weather, so that is why it's often very unpredictable. Better luck next time! :)

Dallas, Texas
posts: 13
reviews: 2
2. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

Thank you coalminer for your suggestions. I will keep that in mind.

I just wouldn't believe the weather pattern until I get there.

And Sandra from Talkeetna Air Taxi was very polite.

But the weather is practically changing hour by hour.

We were around Anchorage/Denali NP so we would drive 3 hours to Talkeetna and found out the plane will not fly in a matter of 10 minutes in one occasion, and the other time the plane turned around after 10 minutes in the air...

Quite a frustrating experience.


Manitoba, Canada
posts: 6,895
3. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

How disappointing as well as frustrating for you, Stone. But I'm sure you agree that there is no point in the planes flying if it is either unsafe or so cloudy that you won't see anything.

Perhaps next time consider doing flightseeing from where you happen to be (Denali, Anchorage) so that the weather for the next hour is known. Weather can chance a lot during the 3 hours it takes to drive to Talkeetna, as you found out.

I hope the rest of your trip was enjoyable to help make up for it.

Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 2,326
reviews: 91
4. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

Coalminer, how do you find out the safety records of the various flight companies?

Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 12,922
reviews: 24
5. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

I only had one chance for flightseeing earlier this month and unfortunately the weather also didn't cooperate (also on the 7pm flight but that day it was iffy all day, and all prior flights that day had been canceled). They offered an alternate flight but for the cost, we declined - we really wanted the Denali one.

Dallas, Texas
posts: 13
reviews: 2
6. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

Yes Manitoba_Maple, I will do it differently next time. Although it has been said the clouds from Talkeetna side should always favor tourists due to cloud patterns formed around McKinly.

On the day of our flight, we were encountering low clouds with blocking visibility and hence the return. On the other hand, the mountain has been said to have no problem. Low clouds just let the other plane took off about 10 minutes ago complete their tour, but not ours .

Be honest with you, I didn't expect the on and off again nonstop raining pattern we experienced. Maybe its just my luck or something. During my research, I was under the impression July is a relatively drier month. Well, we were going into a screen of rain, getting out, and repeat it twenty times during our driving, stopping, sightseeing, and whatever many times during our short 2 weeks of stay up there. Never could I put a straight expectation of anything. On the good side, everything is green, unlike 2 years ago the fire hazard season. The bad side of course is this unpredictability.

The local has responded that the weather wasn’t as stable within last and this year.

We missed the reds and the silvers. Caught some halibut. Could have done a lot more if I had the time.


Bristol, Connecticut
Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 3,794
reviews: 16
7. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

In Alaska there is a saying "if you do not like the weather...wait 10 minutes". You never know what you will get. On Saturday am Denali was out from the mi 135 rest stop. When we got to the park it was nice at the entrance and cloudy/rainy as we drove to the kennels, then on to Fairbanks where it was 86 and sunny. The drive home on Monday was about the same rain then sun then clouds then downpour then cool and rainy when we got home...we have some crazy wether here. I just commented to my husband while watching the Today Show this am "isn't it nice how there is one partly cloudy sun for the whole state of alaska on the national weather forecast...I guess that about covers it all".

Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 1,662
reviews: 5
8. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

I have heard of 4AM being a great time to see the mountain, but never that it tends to be shut out at 7PM. I believe my first tour flight was in the evening. Sorry to say, but you had bad luck.

One suggestion that took me very little time to accept was to never second guess a pilot on safety unless it is to point out something they might not see. If they turn around, fine. Well, not so fine, but you are alive to try another day. .You have about 65 air miles between Talkeetna and Denali, with a change in ground cover from northern forest to glacier covered mountains. That is quite a distance and change in conditions that can change weather locally. The pilot has both what he can see and what the weather projections are, as well as radio reports from pilots along the tourist route to and from the mountain. That is a quite but important advantage.

The air carriers are in competition, but they all want to fly - it provides their bread and butter, and that includes the Toursaver discount flights. More than all that, they want to be alive tomorrow to go up again. Breaking airplanes is not good for business. The pilots are not your average pilot - they have special Alaska flying time requirements that are normal up here, and that gives them an edge of good judgment that keeps them and the passengers alive. That is quite important.


posts: 102
9. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

>In Alaska there is a saying "if you do not like the weather...wait 10 minutes".

Funny, they have that saying in Ireland, too (lol).

Brooklyn, New York
posts: 678
reviews: 18
10. Re: Having a hard time to see Mt. Mckinly

Replying to HappyTraveler...you can get safety records here: