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Denali Memorial Day weekend questions

Portland, OR
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Denali Memorial Day weekend questions

My husband and I will be taking the train from Anchorage to Fairbanks, stopping for the night in Denali on Saturday May 27th. We arrive at Denali around 3:45 in the afternoon and will leave Sunday at 3:45. We plan to take the NPS shuttle bus Sunday morning for a 6 hour tour.

I was advised to get a rental car, which I have looked into and will probably do. They will pick us up at the rail station, and I think we can drop the car back at the rail station the next day. If we did not get a rental car, I don't think we would be able to find a way to the early morning shuttle on Sunday morning.

I've got a few quetsions: I'm not sure where we should stay for the one night. Since we plan to take an early shuttle bus through the park, we won't spend much time in the room. I noticed that Denali Grizzly Bear Resort is new and opening in May. They have an availability for $149. Is this a good choice, or would somewhere else be better? My main concern is that we are not too far from the park since we have to be there early Sunday morning for the shuttle.

Regarding the shuttle, I have read that they are better in the early morning. If that is the case, does it matter if we take the 7AM or 8AM? It is supposed to take 6 hours roundtrip and I want to make sure we aren't cutting it close to get back to the train station for our 3:45 train to Faribanks.

I am also not clear on where we get on the shuttle bus. Do we drive the rental car into the park and catch it there? Or is there a pick-up (and parking lot) outside the park? Obviously, neither of us have ever been to Denali and we (okay, me) are having trouble picturing the logistics.

Any other helpful tips would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!!

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McKinley Village, AK
Healy, Alaska
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1. Re: Denali Memorial Day weekend questions

Hi there! Well, some of this really depends on where you stay. Many of the hotels in the Park entrance area offer transportation to the visitor center/wilderness access center etc., so then you wouldn't really need a car. BUT, I think you could do more exploring w/a car, as well as have more choices in your lodging/dining by having a car. Haven't seen the Grizzly Bear Hotel as yet, but it is brand new - that is often a plus and that is a pretty good rate. There are lots of places to stay in Healy as well - Motel Nordhaven for one, and many B&B's. You can check that out at www.denalichamber.com. If you need recommendations, I would be happy to help with that. It's only about a 15 minutes drive to the park entrance from Healy. Also, most business are use to people leaving at the crack of dawn for the shuttle bus as well as staying up late due to the sunlight, so don't worry about that.

As far as the earlier shuttle, I would do what ever works best for your schedule. The earliest busses don't necessarily see the most wildlife . . . remember, by then the daylight is pretty much 24/7, so animals don't necessarily act like they do in the lower 48 where they are only out first thing in the morning. I know you don't have the option of a later shuttle, but that is often what I recommend because there is usually less traffic later in the day on the Park road. If you haven't check out the Park website, that might help answer some of your questions, though I think they have a lot of room for improvement on their website, because they don't really answer some questions. Check them out at www.nps.gov/dena. All the parking places are well marked in regard to parking your car to catch the shuttle bus.

Now, if you do decide to have a car, go exploring that afternoon - you can drive to Savage River on the Park road - if Denali is out, there are a few great viewing places to see it, as well as wildlife on that stretch, and many hikes in the entrance area as well. Also you can scope out the Visitor center, Murie Science and Learning center, etc., and see where you catch the shuttle/park car, etc. You can either drive North or South for dinner, which I think would be fun. My favorites south of the Park are Mile 229 and McKinley Creekside Cafe. Dinner in Healy I would recommend the Black Diamond Grille, and there are many places to eat in the Park area - all the big hotels have restaurants and most have great food. Can hardly wait myself for tourist season to begin, as it way expands our selection for dining out. Hope this helps you -write back if you have more questions. Happy travels! :)

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jq
Sacramento, CA
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2. Re: Denali Memorial Day weekend questions

Kitty,

If you rent a car, you can drive to the transportation center in the park entrance and park in the lot there. If you can then drive car to the train depot and drop it off there, that would be the fastest and most convenient.

I have also taken the early shuttles but not always the first one in the morning. Either should be okay but earlier may be less crowded as some people just can't get up early for anything. That will probably be a busy weekend as it is the first weekend the park road is open and shuttles going as far as Toklat River. We did a few yrs ago on 5/31 and also on 6/1, didn't seem overly crowded. Don't forget you need to take food and drink with you on shuttle.

Portland, OR
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3. Re: Denali Memorial Day weekend questions

Thank you both for your help! I really was having trouble figuring out how we would work things, so your advice comes in very handy. I think we have decided to rent a car and I am hoping they will let us drop it back off at the train station on Sunday. I am pretty sure we will stay at the new Denali Grizzly Bear Resort. The rates look good and it's always nice to stay somewhere fresh and new! Thanks for the suggestions on dining, it's nice to have an idea of where to eat.

I may come up with some additional questions, hope you don't mind. Thanks for your help.

Mentioned in this post
Denali Grizzly Bear Resort
Denali Grizzly Bear...
383 Reviews
McKinley Village, AK
Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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43,222 posts
44 reviews
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4. Re: Denali Memorial Day weekend questions

sure - you betcha . . . we don't mind more questions! :)