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Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

California
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Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

Beginning preliminary planning for an 11 day trip of a lifetime in summer of 2011. Am trying to get an early handle on things in case we need to book some things a year in advance like staying at Brooks Falls Lodge if we decide to do that, so figuring out the itinerary early is important. I am reading about the Denali flightseeing tours and they are one of our "must do" activities in Alaska. I understand that you should be able to be flexible in case a flight is canceled for weather and you need to take a later flight. So I figure we should have a second day in Talkeetna just in case we can't fly on the day we want. Is this the case? We had thought about going over to Whittier/Prince William Sound as a back-up plan but that's three hours away and doesn't seem reasonable unless we are taking the Denali flight from Anchorage, perhaps with Rust's. But I don't think Rust does a glacier landing, and Talkeetna air does. SO, my question is, 1) other activities to do in Talkeetna that you would highly recommend(salmon fishing, rafting, sightseeing), or 2)any reasonable way of having Whittier or somewhere else be that back-up plan for day 2? I really don't want to get shut out of the Denali flight, but also don't want to spend the second day on activities that are more "killing time" rather than really great things to do if we get to take the flight on the first day, we want the second day to be great too. . In terms of where we are going from there, probably south, We THINK, at this point we may skip driving to Denali and just see it from the flightseeing tour, we have really tried to get enthusiastic about the bus tour but just can't, and would rather spend the time and money for up close bear viewing and wildlife tours and guided fishing expeditions, perhaps a fly in wilderness lodge, etc, on the Kenai Peninsula. . At least that's how we feel today, who knows how this plan will eventually look, it has changed alot already. Anyway, any input is appreciated, thanks.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

I think what many travelers do is plan on Talkeetna for flights on their way to and from Denali. Then you have opportunity in Denali to do flight sees as well. While Talkeetna is a cute little town, there is much more to do in the Denali Park area. Truly, I can't imagine coming to Alaska and NOT seeing Denali National Park. Yes, you can hang out in Talkeetna for an additional day - you can go on a river boat trip or various other activities. But remember, flightseeing is from up in the air - if you want to see animals close, Denali is one of the best ways of doing that. You can easily take the shuttle to go hike and explore the park - you don't just have to sit on a bus. But I will admit to being biased . . . good luck with your planning! :)

California
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2. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

I do struggle with the Denali question. I haven't been able to give it much thought because the fishing and bear questions were more complicated. When I've figured that out I need to figure Denali. I guess my thinking was that I would see the mountain from Talkeetna and the flightseeing, and I would get tons of wildlife on the Kenai Penninsula, especially with the extras like the bear viewing trip and guided fishing trips or a wilderness lodge, and that we would only have a day at Denali, and the mountain isn't out half the time. Most of all everytime I mention the bus ride to my husband he grimaces. The bus doesn't appeal to me either. But I'm willing to be convinced. :) I'll wait a while but eventually I'll probably post a question about this and see what people recommend, but when I read about the Kenai activities I can't wait and when I read about Denali I'm left flat, except for the flightseeing.

Healy, Alaska
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3. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

Well, flying into known bear places like Kodiak or some other areas that are packed with bears, Denali can't compete with that. But I spend several weeks every summer down on the Kenai fishing/camping and I usually don't see much wildlife - nothing like what I have seen on one bus ride into Denali. I have seen a few moose, one grizzly and one black bear - that is total of several summers. I have seen lots of bald eagles, something I don't see in my area - that is very cool.

In Denali, you can see caribou, moose, wolves, bears, etc. As well, the scenery up here is very different that you would encounter in the Southcentral or Kenai areas of Alaska - the terrain is totally different - the experience is very different. I think if you looked at the bus ride more as transportation out in to an amazing wilderness area, it would seem different. I have heard many people over the years express their worries about the long bus ride, only to report that it was an amazing day and it didn't seem as long as they thought it would. Getting on/off the bus to hike and explore really helps as well.

I can only share what I know - from myself and other travelers, but only you can decide what experience will work best for yourselves.

fti
MN
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4. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

Remember that with the flightseeing and glacier landing, there is no guarantee you will see the mountain. I took a flightseeing trip last August from Talkeetna. Great trip, great time on the glacier. But it was cloudy enough that we did not see Mt. McKinley.

After the flightseeing we spent 2 nights at Denali National Park. We got to see the Mountain from near Wonder Lake our last day there.

As coalminer said, totally different experiences on the ground vs. in the air. I too could not see going to southcentral Alaska and not going to Denali. If scenery and wildlife are not your "thing" then skip it. Also hiking is excellent in Denali if you like that. But it sounds like you want to see wildlife. Nowhere else in Alaska can you see wildlife for such a bargain of a price. Some animals will be closer, some further away. The more trips you take into the park, the greater your chances of seeing wildlife. The bus ride goes by surprisingly quickly. Read some of the trip reports of people who were surpried how quickly the 8 hour ride to Eielson and back seemed to go.

Tough decisions I know. But if it were me, I would include Denali in a heartbeat.

John

Manitoba, Canada
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5. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

" I would get tons of wildlife on the Kenai Penninsula... Most of all everytime I mention the bus ride to my husband he grimaces. The bus doesn't appeal to me either. But I'm willing to be convinced. :) "

Don't count on seeing "tons" of wildlife anywhere. Most people don't see much of anything except during wildlife tours.

Your best chance to see a variety of wildlife is taking a shuttle into Denali. However, no one can guarantee you'll see lots of wildlife in Denali either. My first tour into the park (9 hrs), I saw ONE bear, ONE moose, and some Dahl sheep, all way off in the distance. My other 2 trips I saw lots of wildlife, including bears and a moose right up on the road. Each trip is different.

Keep in mind too, that hubby doesn't have to go on the shuttle if he is convinced he'd hate it. (If he has a trip like my first one, you might never hear the end of it!) However, he can do other things. I'm not sure what fishing there may be available, because most of the rivers in that area have glacial silt in them, but there are lots of other things he could do. Would he enjoy rafting, ATV, jetboat, golf, etc? Here are some more ideas: http://alaska.org/denali/ Or...maybe hubby wants to stay in Talkeetna and fish? You could drive to Denali yourself and do exactly what YOU want to.

Bottom line, though, is that taking a shuttle into Denali isn't on everyone's wish list. You are the only one who can decide if it's on yours.

California
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6. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

I didn't think there were many other acitivites in Denali besides the bus. Can you see wildlife from the things you mentioned, like ATV, rafting or jet boat? We'd be into all of those. We really do love wildlife and scenery, that's why we are coming to Alaska, but to take 2 days out of our trip and then ride the bus all day and maybe only see animals through binoculars was the impression I have of Denali. Plus, frankly, several of the lodge owners, fishing guides, etc, that I spoke to this weekend told me upfront to skip Denali except for the Flightseeing, so they confirmed my thinking. We love to hike but really wouldn't want to meet a grizzly in an uncontrolled situation so hiking wasn't really in our plans in Denali. A guided hike would be cool but I didn't think they had much of that in the backcountry. If we could see enough of Denali to make it worthwhile by taking a guided hike or seeing what we could from where we can drive or some of the activities you mentioned above, maybe with a short piece of the bus ride, we may be back into it. Manitoba, your idea about splitting activities is a fine one, but Hubby already has a day or two to himself while in Cooper landing going on guided fishing trips, and I'll be rafting and horsebackriding, we don't want to split up more time or it will be like taking separate vacations! I guess we learned from our recent trips to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone that even if everyone says we must do something, if it doesn't feel like us, we shouldn't do it. I was thinking Denali was like that. But if we can do it in a way that works, it does seem dumb to come all the way up there and not see it a little. But it will have to be quick, arrival evening, one full day and maybe the next morning. I should probably post a new topic on this but what are the difference about Denali, how is is very different than the terrain and atmosphere on Kenai?

fti
MN
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7. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

If I were a lodge owner or fishing guide and wanted your business, I guess I would tell you to skip Denali and spend more time near where I am located too!!

You can flip through my photos if you are interested. I took three trips to Denali last summer. Here are links to just a handful of photos from both trips. All the photos in Denali were taken from the bus, the park road or just a very short walk off the road (1/4 mile or much less off the road).

…google.com/johnn.photos/…

…google.com/johnn.photos/…

I think you have a totally wrong perception of Denali. Honestly, it makes no difference to me whether YOU go there or not. I just think you might be skipping something that you might later regret. I strongly suggest you spend 1/2 hour or more reading through www.nps.gov/dena. You will see that they have several ranger-led hikes, including the Discovery hikes that are a bit lengthier and a bit more strenuous. You can drive the first 15 miles of the road yourself, you can see the dogsled demo, the visitor center exhibits and film, the WAC film and more.

While hiking in Denali you will rarely encounter a bear. The website I mentioned above gives great tips on being bear aware. I have been hiking in Denali for years and only once was a bear close to me (though he never saw me and didn't really care). I just moved away.

So my main suggestion is to do some more research and reading and decide for yourself whether you should go to Denali. If you go, you absolutely need two nights - like you said arrival one afternoon, a full day in the park on day #2 then leave on day #3.

John

Healy, Alaska
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8. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

If you have hiked in Glacier, then you'll be fine in Denali - much less chance of bear encounter here.

As far as the difference btw Denali and the Kenai - well, people are surprised what a contrast these areas are like but that is true of all of Alaska. The Kenai peninsula is relatively flat in some areas, though it is surrounded by some stunning mountains - and some of the ocean views/towns are very scenic. Denali is located in the Interior region . . . trees are smaller, tundra goes on for miles. The rivers are braided with huge valleys - great expanses to view - leading up to the grandeur of Denali.

I saw that John just shared links to some of his photos. I enjoy his as well, and I also loved these photos. When you have time, check out these: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k30077… He has a link to his photos - and they are stunning. While he doesn't have any of the Kenai Peninsula, you'll have a much better idea of what some of Denali is like. Remember, Denali is one of these largest National Parks in the system.

Manitoba, Canada
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9. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

"Can you see wildlife from the things you mentioned, like ATV, rafting or jet boat?"

It's possible, but very unlikely. I've taken two raft floats and an airboat, and all I saw on the first two were a couple of eagles, nothing at all on the third. The websites of course were chock full of animals that MIGHT be seen. I asked our guide on the Kenai, and he hadn't seen anything but birds in over a week (he takes several trips per day) and the guide on the Talkeetna float said he once in a while saw a bear.

"several of the lodge owners, fishing guides, etc, that I spoke to this weekend told me upfront to skip Denali except for the Flightseeing, so they confirmed my thinking. We love to hike but really wouldn't want to meet a grizzly in an uncontrolled situation"

You love to hike and you're not interested in going to Denali???????????

Denali is a hiker's dream. If you're worried about bears, then do your hiking in the more open areas (like the tundra around Eielson--magnificent view of McKinley if it's out and you can see for miles, so no chance of surprising a bear). This thread will get you started: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k30065…

Also read this for a description of the terrain: alaska.org/denali/advice-drive-to-denali-par…

Alaska
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10. Re: Denali flight-seeing, back-up plan?

As a back up plan you can also make your Mt McKinley glacier landing flight from Denali/Healy if the weather is bad while your in Talkeetna. Fly Denali/Talkeetna Aero does both glacier landing as well as summit flights from the park entrance. The flights are a little more expensive from Denali because it is farther away from the mountain than Talkeetna. However you see much more on the flight from Denali/Healy. There are no companies doing Mt McKinley glacier landing flights from Anchorage. There are companies doing Mt McKinley flight seeing trips from Anchorage but they will be more expensive than the flights from Talkeetna or Denali/Healy. Anchorage is farther away.