Bicycles are permitted on the main road through Deanli National Park only (do not ask about mountain bike trails - you'll only be greeted with a shudder of revulsion). You can bicycle the entire length of the Park road (90 miles), whereas cars are permitted only 15 miles into the Park. Shuttle buses go much further than the 15 mile mark, but even they, depending on the particular bus, cannot go all the way to Kantishna at the end of the road.
On the other hand, the shuttle buses are annoyingly numerous for a bicyclist. If you bicycle, you'll be competing with those shuttle buses, and you do have to give them priority on the road. At some points, the road is narrow and there is no bike lane anywhere in the Park. The road is paved a short distance, but most of the 90 miles is a dusty dirt road.
If you are interested in cycling through the Park, consider doing it in the evening. The shuttle busss stop going around the park by 5:00 to 6:00 pm. During summer, it stays light all evening long, so you could easily bicycle into the wee hours of the morning. Alternatively, start very early in the morning (like 4:00 am - again it will be very light) and get a jump start in front of the shuttle buses. On a bicycle you may have more opportunities for wildlife sighthings - a little bicycle is not as threatening to the animals as those humongous shuttle buses.
Oh ye of little patience! You could charter a small plane to Kantishna. Far more expensive, but spectacular in its own right.
We were bussed in to Kantishna, but had a pilot fly us around Mt. McKinley on a beautiful day. More about that in one of my other tips. This is a picture of the Kantishna Air Taxi plane that flew us around the mountain. The Air Taxi service will also fly to and from the Park entrance as well as to Anchorage.
This is what taxi drivers do in Alaska.
As a cheaper option to the train, is a coach ride from Anchorage on the Park Connection. Two trips a day during the summer (6/3 - 9/10) departing Anchorage at either 0700AM or 0300PM the 5.5 hour bus ride is very scenic. Buses are new coaches with A/C and very comfortable.
OW ticket runs $76/adult or half that for kids.
I hesitated at first to take the McKinley Summit Tour because it cost $225, which is serious money to me. However, it was such a beautiful day and the mountain was "out," so I swallowed hard and bought a ticket. It was one of the best travel investments I ever made.
The McKinley Summit Tour departed from the airport in Talkeetna and climbed to over 20,000 feet in a twin engine, oxygen equipped airplane. There were five passengers on board, in addition to the pilot, and since I was the odd man I was asked to take the co-pilot's seat to help balance the load.
"Breathtaking," "Stunning," and "Stupendous" are not strong enough words to describe the flight. We circled the highest mountain in North America, soared close right over the summit, wove in and out between towering peaks, skirted frightenly close Denali's fabled Wickersham Wall, dipped down into shadowed canyons, and flew for miles through the great gorge of the Ruth Glacier, one of the longest rivers of ice in the world. It was definitely an experience I will always remember and treasure.
Yes, it is possible. However, make sure you are in shape and have the right gear for this. Watch the bus traffic carefully, especially where the road narrows. Polychrome Pass is one of those areas. Be vigilant for wildlife as you turn those corners. The photo is of one of my short excursions from the park entrance on a warm day. I have gone all of the way from Wonder Lake back to the entrance. The trip was broken up into two days to really enjoy the park and to camp overnight. This is a really rewarding way to see the park. Every one in a while, a bus will come by, but you will have a lot of solitude out there.
Near the park entrance and the visitor center is an airstrip. Here, you will find the planes that can fly you around the park. Sure, they can be expensive. However, the ride will be unforgettable in a setting such as this. It is a good way to see Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range.
There are trains and buses that get visitors to Denali, but if you go that route you are then at the mercy of tour operators. I strongly recommend having your own transportation so that you have flexibility.
It is true that you cannot drive your own vehicle past the ten mile mark on the Denali National Park road, but we found that we made many other excursions outside the boundaries of the park. We also needed transportation to get to various restaurants further than walking distance from our lodging.
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