Denali National Park | Summer day trip

Posted by lwpetersen | July 26, 2011 | travel alaska

*I will be adding to the flickr set over the course of the summer. Check it out later. There are still a few hundred more pictures to go through at least!

Kate’s parents, Dave and Sandi are in town and we took a little trip and tour in Denali National Park the other day. I’m not sure what I think the highlight of the trip was. We started at a little before 4 in the morning. Kate and I were at the hotel a little after 4:30 and just a few minutes later we were on the road. The Sun was already up and we saw a moose within a minute of getting on the Parks Highway. We saw another moose a few miles down the road. At 6:45 we were at the park and right after 7:30 we were on the bus into the park.

Our first stop was at the Teklanika rest area on the Park Road. This is where Jason, Kate and I drove to during the Spring opening. It’s closed to public vehicles in the summer. We saw a bear from really far away; just a little dot down in the river bed. It wasn’t that exciting, but we had no idea if we would see anything else so I tried to soak it in as good as I could. Then a mile down the road we saw our second bear of the day:

brown bear in the teklanika riverbed

brown bear in the teklanika riverbed

We were all pretty happy to have seen a grizzly pretty close up. Then we saw another. Then another, and another with cubs.

Rounding a corner we see some stuff on the hill to the south of us. It looks like wolves. We all get excited about wolves. It is a wolf pack eating a caribou that they killed earlier in the day. The alpha male was working pretty hard on the rib cage while a couple of others fought over the head and antlers. We watched them for about 15 minutes before we had to move on.

DSC_0224-1

A little ways down the road there were some Dall Sheep sitting on a little ridge.

At this point I think we were all feeling a little overwhelmed with all the animals we had encountered. The wildlife experience was already so incessant it was easy to not always notice the remarkable landscapes:

Park bus crossing the toklat river

On the Toklat River looking back at the Park Road and the Alaska Range.

Large open landscapes

There were also a lot of sleeping bears on the hills.
3 brown bears sleeping on a hill

A willow ptarmigan family crossed the road in front of us. I hadn’t seen any this summer yet, only in the winter when they are all white.


Willow Ptarmigan waits for its chicks to cross the road. It’s the state bird of Alaska.

Coming around a corner and some dips in the road there was a bus stopped in front of us by a pond. There were some ducks in a pond. Mallards. We were stopped for a while. No one could figure out why they had stopped for ducks. The other driver made an ‘L’ sign with her hand and our driver shouted lynx. Sure enough, stalking the ducks on the other side of the pond was a good sized cat. It walked around in the bushes and I really wished I had a bigger lens.

lynx

The summit of Denali was covered in clouds, but we still saw quite a bit of it.

The Park Road winds around the rolling hills surrounding the tallest mountain in North America, Denali (‘The High One’ in Athabascan). We couldn’t see the summit this day because it was a little too cloudy and hazy. Denali towers over the park at 20,320 ft (6,198 meters).

There was moose in a pond.

After getting to mile 92.6, we got to walk around a bit near wonder lake and Kantishna. A park ranger gave us a history tour of the old gold mining town and people from the area and then it was time to head back. On the way back there was a little more Sun poking through the clouds so the scenery was even cooler.

We saw were more sheep,
dall sheep

caribou,

and there was still one wolf left on the kill.
wolf on caribou kill

Right when it seemed like it couldn’t possibly get any better, out pops a grizzly bear on the side of the road eating soapberries.
grizzly in denali eating soapberries

After 12 hours it was all over and we were heading back home. Our driver said that he has been doing this for 17 years and this was by far the best day he has ever had in the park. I think we were pretty lucky. Kate and I were definitely smiling the whole time.

Lee and Kate at Eielson

Blog Comments

I want to go back now! Great pictures!

thank you so much for sharing. left Alaska 23 yrs ago but part of me is always still there!!!

Thanks for sharing these really amazing photos. You must be really thrilled to have so many great shots to remember the day with.

Great pictures of Alaska. Such a special awsome place. Glad you enjoyed it so much and thanks for sharing the wonderful pictures.

Thanks everyone!

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