Posted by: sunnyharvy | August 26, 2015

Denali Denial


I know this is what you all want to see, so I’ll get it out of the way immediately. Yes, Denali (Mt. McKinley) did make a brief appearance for us. Not entirely clear, but we were very happy to see this much. They say there’s only a 30% chance of seeing the mountain during a typical visit.


Our wait to see Denali encompassed 12 days, beginning back in Talkeetna. We spent several days there hoping the weather would clear. I walked out to the most recommended viewpoint at least twice a day to make sure Denali didn’t sneak out when I wasn’t looking. No such luck.

There could have been a spectacular view of the mountain from the train ride reported in my last post, but no appearance then either.

We planned to visit Denali in August because virtually everyone we spoke with said that month usually provided the clearest weather. Not this year.

We reluctantly headed north towards Denali along the George Parks Highway, knowing that thick cloud cover would likely obstruct views of many snow capped mountains along the way. This drive is reportedly one of the most scenic in North America. Not for us…


This is a little tough to make out, but the bottom half of the photo shows a depiction of the view we should have gotten from the Denali View South pullout.


No kidding. No it is not out today, or yesterday, or tomorrow…

We camped for a couple of rainy nights at Byers Lake and another boondocking a few miles east alongside the Denali Highway.


Dinnertime view from boondocking spot. Is that blue sky?


Denali Highway looking east – nice hard pack gravel. We boondocked off the road to the right.


Beautiful country (and not raining). Panoramic below – click to view larger.

Cantwell Boondock

The logistics required to accomplish a satisfying visit to Denali National Park are staggering. We rarely make advance reservations, but in this case they proved essential. Through perseverance I was able to book everything online I felt was necessary for what we wanted to do during our proposed 9 day stay. This included a few nights at each of the campgrounds inside the park, a special permit to drive haRVy on the park road, and shuttle bus tickets to Wonder Lake and the Eielsen Visitor Center where no private vehicles are allowed.

The campgrounds include Riley Creek, which is at the entrance near the Visitor Center and other guest services (laundry, showers, dump, etc.), Savage River, 15 miles into the park along the paved road open to everyone, and Teklanika, the one I felt would garner us the most genuine experience because it is 30 miles into the park (last 15 dirt/gravel).

Riley Creek was very convenient and, although large and adjacent to a lot of activity, the sites were large and private. We took advantage of all the amenities, visited the various visitor facilities, hiked, biked, and rode the free shuttle to Savage River Creek.


Cow Moose seen from the shuttle bus.


Fresh snow on mountain peaks seen from Savage Creek.


Didn’t see any, but we carried bear spray at all times just in case.


Hike along Savage River.




Wildlife along the trail. Arctic Squirrel above, hiker below.


Later that afternoon we visited the historic kennels and watched Dog Sled Demonstrations conducted by Park Rangers. Denali is the only National Park that utilizes dog sleds for winter ranger duties. The only other alternative would be snow mobiles, which would disturb the wilderness.


Isn’t Sultana a beauty?


Six dogs pulled the sled behind the ranger above, but I didn’t get a good photo of that. The dogs were amazingly eager to do their share of the work, seeming to love every minute of it.

*** to be continued ***


One very important bit of advice to anyone planning to travel to Denali: bring plenty of food! The nearest grocery stores selling real food are over 100 miles away. Wish we had known that in advance. Of course, my 2-cubic foot fridge can only hold so much, but I know how to utilize other cool spaces in haRVy. 

As the NPS website states, “More than a mountain. Denali is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. Travelers along it see the relatively low-elevation taiga forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America’s tallest peak, 20,320′ Mount McKinley. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility and wilderness await.”


  1. WOW! Thanks Leslie and AL.

  2. I LOVE the NPS website quote – to know this spectacular vast swath of nature is relatively undisturbed – and all your beautiful photos.

  3. spectacular photos despite the weather!! love the moose photo

  4. Really enjoyed this and all your other posts. Denali is an incredible place and your writing and pics bring back vivid memories of our 1977 visit. Maybe you should invest in snow tires for haRVy.

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