Denali walking on your own?

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#1
on the open sea
991 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Could someone please explain how this works...

We are arriving in Denali via the Princess bus at 12:30 in the afternoon. We booked the Denali on your own because we did not want to pay for the bus tour and train. I am trying to figure out the best way to spend our afternoon and evening. I would like to get into Denali park, but I don't want to spend hours on a bus as I prefer to walk/hike (my husband and I are only 42 and active). I think Denali Princess Lodge has a shuttle to the park, but do they let you walk around? I have heard about the bus tour (don't really want to do that) and also a "shuttle". I can't find out if this is a hop on hop off shuttle and if we need to get reservations.

Info would be greatly appreciated.
#2
8,371 Posts
Joined Mar 2003
The NPS buses are hop-on, hop-off and there are LOTS of great walks. You just need to decide what you want to see. http://www.nps.gov/dena/ has most of the info you need, and someone here can fill in any blanks. For a high-country hike right at the park gates, Mt. Healy is superb.
#3
Syracuse, New York
49,761 Posts
Joined May 2000
You need to do your homework. You have decided to go to Denali Park, but that is ONLY part of your decision. It seems you don't know about the options. Clearly, in my opinion, you need to get INTO Denali park. Opting to just stay outside at the entrance area, is missing out on a significant amout of what Denali park is all about. This does require a bus. I do not recommend a tour bus, for independent travelers. The shuttle buses are 1/3 the price and go further. In your case, however, I would definately think having a car would have been way more superior compared to your packaged Princess option. It is much more restrictive without it. As Murray mentions, there are many park activities to consider and ranger programs. A few trails. Once inside the park, there are few trails, and you just wander off on your own. Miles and miles of miles and miles. I recommend you consider going to at least Eielson. There are Discovery Hikes that may be of interest, and even taking the free Savage River Shuttle bus, offers good hiking and maybe a hook up with a ranger tour.

Think carefully about what you want out of this trip, and even perhaps making some changes to accomplish them.

You will need to have all reservations in place before you leave, unless you are staying at Denali park, multiple days and are open to what may be left over.
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#4
on the open sea
991 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Thanks for the advice. I am staying at the Princess Denali lodge, so I am just not sure how late the shuttle from the park back to the lodge runs at night. I heard it is only a mile, so we could walk, but I had heard you are not allowed to walk on your own (affraid bears will eat you). I cannot change the plans around as we are going as an 8 person group/family. The others are doing the bus ride and are probably not physically able to do what we have in mind.

My plan, so far, is to take the lodge shuttle to the park and then take the hop on hop off shuttle. We arrive at Denali Lodge at 12:30, so I figure I can be at the park gate by 3:00 and then stay for as long as I can since it stays light out for well into the night. I just have to know how late that lodge shuttle runs.

I will look again at the Denali Park website as I was really trying to find walking trails vs. taking the shuttle. Now that I know the shuttle is hop on/off I can take a look at all of the opportunities.
#6
on the open sea
991 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Well, I just found the shuttle I wanted...the Toklat. It goes 3-9pm. The good part is that the Princess Denali lodge has a free shuttle that will get me to the Wildlife Access Center; however the free shuttle ends at 7pm. I will be on the Toklat tour shuttle until 9pm; so by the time the tour is over I will not have a ride back to the lodge. Does anyone know how I can get back to the lodge?
#7
4,281 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by love2bonboard
Thanks for the advice. I am staying at the Princess Denali lodge, so I am just not sure how late the shuttle from the park back to the lodge runs at night. I heard it is only a mile, so we could walk, but I had heard you are not allowed to walk on your own (afraid bears will eat you). I cannot change the plans around as we are going as an 8 person group/family. The others are doing the bus ride and are probably not physically able to do what we have in mind.

My plan, so far, is to take the lodge shuttle to the park and then take the hop on hop off shuttle. We arrive at Denali Lodge at 12:30, so I figure I can be at the park gate by 3:00 and then stay for as long as I can since it stays light out for well into the night. I just have to know how late that lodge shuttle runs.

I will look again at the Denali Park website as I was really trying to find walking trails vs. taking the shuttle. Now that I know the shuttle is hop on/off I can take a look at all of the opportunities.
Not sure where you got the info that you are "not allowed" to walk on your own - totally inaccurate. And very rare that you would see a bear that close to the entrance.

I would make friends on the shuttle bus, see who might be staying near you or in Healy, or just walk back from the WAC.

Note that with the 3pm Toklat shuttle, you won't have much any time to hike unless you get off the shuttle before Toklat and hop a different shuttle back. Or get off at Toklat, walk along the road toward Highway Pass and catch a different shuttle back (the last bus out of the park gets back about 11pm to the entrance).

But as I think you now realize, just utilizing the hiking trails near the entrance and not taking a shuttle into the park severely limits your enjoyment of all the park has to offer.

You can check www.nps.gov/dena for the shuttle bus times. But the last (camper) bus out of the park hasn't changed for at least 2 years (before then there was an even later bus, but they stopped that).
#8
more or less in TX
10,418 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
Right. Who told you that you aren't allowed to walk? I've walked miles and miles and days and weeks in and around Denali NP with no problems at all.

But I know what I'm doing.

Book the shuttle in advance and have a great time.
#10
more or less in TX
10,418 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
As usual A.I.P. is correct. If you are cruising first and then going to Denali, you will have a slightly better chance of getting into the National Park but if you are cruising 2nd, you are going to be too early for a great deal.

According to this link: http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisi...CP_JUMP_228455 limited shuttle bus servvice starts about 20 May but that is not a guarantee if the road is not open due to snow cover.

I have never visited Denali NP in May and appreciate this date conflict being pointed out.
#11
4,281 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
The shuttle buses will almost certainly operate to Toklat starting May 20th. The road is actually clear even further than Toklat by then (search on nps.go/dena for spring road opening - usually totally cleared of snow by mid May, just needs to dry out and be graded.

So try at all costs to get to Denali on May 19 (or later) so you can take the shuttle on May 20.
#12
2,421 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
The shuttle buses operate in mid-May, but on a limited schedule. In the past, the latest Toklat shuttle into the park has been at 2pm until full service starts later in the month.

If you are going to be in Denali this early, I HIGHLY recommend you consider renting a car and doing this on your own. You will save a bundle of money, as most of the hotels are running specials for $99 per night - way less than you are paying on your cruise tour. If you get there before the shuttle starts to run, you can drive your car into the park as far as Teklanika.

PLEASE realize that the cruise companies are not very upfront about how limited the services are in Denali during the early part of the season. There is a very shortened tour called the TWT (Teklanika Wilderness Tour) that goes only 30-odd miles into the park. It would help to know the exact dates you are in Denali as you may be stuck with only this option. You can drive your car as far as the Tek tour operates, again saving lots of money over the cruise tour. As BQ says, do your research and know what you're getting for your money!

Another factor to consider is the weather. Hiking may be very limited if there is still a lot of snow on the ground. This is a La Nina year, and the spring may be quite cold and snowfall significant (Fairbanks just had 25 consecutive days of below zero temps and the 11th coldest December on record!).
#13
8,371 Posts
Joined Mar 2003
Originally posted by wolfie11
Fairbanks just had 25 consecutive days of below zero temps and the 11th coldest December on record!
That's a very Inconvenient Truth
#14
Syracuse, New York
49,761 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by love2bonboard
Thanks for the advice. I am staying at the Princess Denali lodge, so I am just not sure how late the shuttle from the park back to the lodge runs at night. I heard it is only a mile, so we could walk, but I had heard you are not allowed to walk on your own (affraid bears will eat you). I cannot change the plans around as we are going as an 8 person group/family. The others are doing the bus ride and are probably not physically able to do what we have in mind.

My plan, so far, is to take the lodge shuttle to the park and then take the hop on hop off shuttle. We arrive at Denali Lodge at 12:30, so I figure I can be at the park gate by 3:00 and then stay for as long as I can since it stays light out for well into the night. I just have to know how late that lodge shuttle runs.

I will look again at the Denali Park website as I was really trying to find walking trails vs. taking the shuttle. Now that I know the shuttle is hop on/off I can take a look at all of the opportunities.
Well. you are on this board asking for advice. IF it is correct you are on the 5-21 southbound sailing- You have made a big mistake with your selected date. There will not be a "Toklat" shuttle, and if you plan on starting out at 3pm, you are not going to get very far, even at the entrance, without your own transportation. You state you can not change plans, but, frankly, you may want to reconsider this. A simple switch to a southbound sailing is FAR superior. And more important, offers way more.

There are always, "growing pains" early in the season with Princess lodges. New staff from all over, on their first trip to Denali. There is always some disorganization. Lodge shuttle buses, do have restrictive hours. You are spending considerable time and money for this trip. Be certain it isn't a big compromise for you.
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#15
on the open sea
991 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Thanks again for all of the advise. No, I cannot change my plans, nor do I want to. I did research the Denali National Parks page and found that the shuttle does indeed start 5/20/11 which is the day I will be in Denali. They do have a 3:00 shuttle. So, I think that I will be doing that and then walk back to the Princess Lodge.
#16
on the open sea
991 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Originally posted by Budget Queen
Well. you are on this board asking for advice. IF it is correct you are on the 5-21 southbound sailing- You have made a big mistake with your selected date. There will not be a "Toklat" shuttle, and if you plan on starting out at 3pm, you are not going to get very far, even at the entrance, without your own transportation. You state you can not change plans, but, frankly, you may want to reconsider this. A simple switch to a southbound sailing is FAR superior. And more important, offers way more.

There are always, "growing pains" early in the season with Princess lodges. New staff from all over, on their first trip to Denali. There is always some disorganization. Lodge shuttle buses, do have restrictive hours. You are spending considerable time and money for this trip. Be certain it isn't a big compromise for you.
There is a Tolkat shuttle on 5/20 at 3:00...I just booked it.
#17
on the open sea
991 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Originally posted by frugaltravel
The shuttle buses will almost certainly operate to Toklat starting May 20th. The road is actually clear even further than Toklat by then (search on nps.go/dena for spring road opening - usually totally cleared of snow by mid May, just needs to dry out and be graded.

So try at all costs to get to Denali on May 19 (or later) so you can take the shuttle on May 20.
Yes, I will be there 5/20 and looking forward to the Toklat shuttle even if it is snowing.
#18
on the open sea
991 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Originally posted by PennyAgain
Right. Who told you that you aren't allowed to walk? I've walked miles and miles and days and weeks in and around Denali NP with no problems at all.

But I know what I'm doing.

Book the shuttle in advance and have a great time.
The Princess Denali Lodge said you are not allowed to walk around on your own, but they are probably just trying to push their tours.
#19
New Hampshire
501 Posts
Joined Nov 2009
Originally posted by love2bonboard
The Princess Denali Lodge said you are not allowed to walk around on your own, but they are probably just trying to push their tours.
It's a ways from the Park entrance up to the Princess Lodge, but I wouldn't call it a hike. We were not on a Park bus or a Lodge shuttle, so maybe there is a route that is more natural or actual trails not road?? The way we went would to me be a trudge walk along highway, strip mall, tourist trap spots. That's why it's called Glitter Gulch. Nothing that I wanted to take a picture of from the bus window, except as an example of where we did NOT stay or stop, except to pick up more passengers.

Also, don't rely on the people in the entrance area, especially early in the season to be exceptionally helpful or knowledgeable. When we got off the train and asked the train desk people about overnight bag storage since we were going into the park for two days, they tried to put me on the free shuttle up to Glitter Gulch, not knowing there was bag storage was just up the walkway at the top of their own parking lot on the way to the beautiful visitor center.

The first miles along the road into Denali are paved and go UP through forest, before opening out. Nice and pretty but not awe-inspiring until you get well into the park, past the little ranger in the road.
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#20
Syracuse, New York
49,761 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by love2bonboard
The Princess Denali Lodge said you are not allowed to walk around on your own, but they are probably just trying to push their tours.
Where did you hear this, is it in writing?? Sorry, absolutely NOT true. Everyone here, who have been there multiple times can confirm this. What are the walkways, that go all the way to the Access Center and Visitor Center for?????????
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