Posted January 7th, 2011, 11:59 AM
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.
Happy Alaska travels