Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, is seen on a rare clear day.

Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, is seen on a rare clear day.

In January of 2014 my husband began to do some planning to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  We ended up celebrating three times over the course of six months.  Our first trip was a winter  two night trip into Seattle, our second was a trip to San Juan Island that our mother’s decided to gift us, and our third trip was two weeks in Alaska.

This third trip was inspired by the realization that, though we had been warning our kids their entire lives that we would be dirt bagging as soon as the youngest graduated, our life long vague adventure plans would need to remain on hold.

We packed our backpacks, hoped on a flight to Fairbanks with Alaska Airlines, took a nap in the airport and then grabbed a taxi to the train station where we boarded the Alaska Railway.  At he Alaska Railway Station at Denali National Park we caught a park bus to Riley Creek Campground.

I will be reporting out about this trip in six parts:

  • Part 1:  Beginning of trip to Wonder Lake Campground
  • Part 2:  First 3 day/2 night back country trip
  • Part 3:  Front country and travel backpack tips
  • Part 4:  Second 3 day/2 night back country trip
  • Part 5:  Leaving Denali and hanging out in Anchorage
  • Part 6:  Back country recipes  and  some Alaska beer  (Edited 11/12/14, Part 6 part 6 ended up being a good length without the beer.)
To enter the depths of the north side of the park, one must ride a bus.  Camper buses have a few seats removed to accommodate gear and are available to drop backpackers off anywhere along the road and to take other campers to designated campgrounds.  Day hikers and day tourist can take tour buses.

To enter the depths of the north side of the park, one must ride a bus. Camper buses have a few seats removed to accommodate gear and are available to drop backpackers off anywhere along the road and take other campers to designated campgrounds. Day hikers and day tourist can take tour buses.

There are several stops along the road where travels can step out of the bus to take photos and very short hikes.  If you wish to take a longer hike, let your bus driver know so that they can expect you to catch another bus later in the day.

There are several stops along the road where travelers can step out of the bus to take photos and very short hikes. If you wish to take a longer hike, let your bus driver know so that they can expect you to catch another bus later in the day.

The park recently began mining their own gravel for road repairs.  In the center of the Toklat River an excavator fills a large dump truck.  You may need to zoom in to see these vehicles.

The park recently began mining their own gravel for road repairs. In the center of the Toklat River an excavator fills a large dump truck. You may need to zoom in to see these vehicles.

You are encouraged to display park provided bling on your head for your personal photos.

You are encouraged to display park provided bling on your head for your personal photos.

A driver points out some interesting road features as passengers become increasingly appreciative of the right away rules of the two way road.

A driver points out some interesting road features as passengers become increasingly appreciative of the right away rules for the two way road.

Looking east from our campsite at Wonder Lake Campground.

Looking east from our campsite at Wonder Lake Campground.

Alaska is experiencing major climatic change. Wonder Lake is known for rather unpleasant mosquito experiences but my only experience worse than anything in Western Washington was at 12:15 in the morning when I awoke to find Denali glowing pink in the sun set (which never fully set). I almost opened the tent screen to take a good photo but stopped when I realized that the entire screen above me was covered with the creatures. I wanted to watch the mountain in the never ending sun glow but I was anxious to catch the bus to my first Alaska back country experience.

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3 thoughts on “Denali National Park, part 1 of 6

  1. dbp49

    It looks absolutely wonderful. I’ve been an avid hiker all my life, and that looks particularly inviting. Thanks for the view.

  2. TheyRode Post author

    dbp49,

    If you are an avid hiker then I highly recommend giving Denali National Park a visit. A handful of primitive campsites are available if you don’t want to backpack but would like to stay in the depths of the park and take up several day hike opportunities.

    Happy hiking,
    -Marina

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