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Eielson or Wonder Lake?

Warwickshire
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200 posts
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Eielson or Wonder Lake?

We're visiting Denali late June 2011 and will only have one full day in the park. We will probably visit the Savage River area the evening we arrive and do the Mt Healy Overlook trail the morning before we leave. For our full day, which is the best shuttle to take, Eielson or Wonder Lake? We will do some hiking from Eielson but would like to stop at one or two other places for short hikes as well.

Also, is it better to get off to hike on the way into the park or go to our furthest destination first and stop for hiking on the return trip? I'm a bit worried at being left stranded if there is no room on the shuttle buses (there will only be two of us). Appreciate any advice.

fti
MN
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for Alaska
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1. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

Welcome to the forum. When in June are you going? Wonder Lake buses don't start until June 8. I will be at Wonder Lake June 8-11.

My personal opinion is to for sure book the bus to Wonder Lake. Here is why. Fewer buses go to Wonder Lake than to Eielson. If the weather is good and the Mountain is "out" definitely go to Wonder Lake. Views of the Mountain from just past the campground are incredible. If the weather is perfect (i.e. no wind) you could even get the classic reflection photo from Reflection Pond, which is near but not at Wonder Lake.

if the weather is not great, you can always get off the bus at Eielson and catch a bus in the other direction. There is a bus dispatcher at Eielson, which makes catching a different bus a breeze.

Note that in June you need to be prepared for mosquitoes at Wonder Lake. A mosquito head net ($3 at Fred Meyers, Wal Mart, REI) is a wise investment.

I think it is better to get off the bus to hike on the way back. That way you already have seen all the possible places to hike. Talk with your bus driver about options while you are at the rest stops. Most usually have good knowledge of the park.

I would suggest that you not stop at two places for short hikes, but stop once for a longer hike. Realize that you will only average about 1 mile per hour when hiking on the trailless tundra. Check the Top Questions about Denali for great ideas on where to hike. My personal suggestion is to do a nice hike near Eielson (the rangers lead a stroll near Eileson in early afternoon and they lead a hike up to the ridge of the mountain across from Eielson about noon). Not sure I would do the second hike - it gets quite crowded at times and seems silly to hike with so many others when other parts of the park are literally empty.

You won't have a problem getting back on a bus to the entrance. If the first bus is full, you just wait for the next one. They run fairly frequently, especially east of Toklat. Bring a bus schedule with you that you can get at the WAC when you get your bus tickets. I have been in the park the past two summers with two others. The only time we had a problem with buses was when one broke down and they put all the shuttle bus people on a camper bus (we needed the camper bus!). So it took us a couple more hours (we were heading TO Wonder Lake later in the day and very few buses go that way that late in the day, so that would not happen to you). Just leave a little extra time in case you really want to be back to the entrance by a certain time. No one has ever been left in the park against their will, so don't worry about that.

Edited: 30 October 2010, 22:18
Warwickshire
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200 posts
13 reviews
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2. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

fti, thanks for the detailed reply, things are much clearer in my mind now. We will be in Denali area from 26-28 June 2011, so no problem with the Wonder Lake shuttle. When do the shuttle bus reservations open for 2011? I know it's early but with only one day, I don't want to miss out.

fti
MN
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for Alaska
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3. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

Reservations start on Dec 1st but you can safely reserve a shuttle into next spring and be totally fine. Even if you miss out for some reason (highly unlikely) they hold back 30% of the shuttle seats for reservation 3 calendar days in advance.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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40,876 posts
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4. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

John answered really well, but I thought I would just add with him - I would book Wonder Lake and if for some reason, the weather is bad or something, you can always turn around at Eielson. But if it is a good day, you won't want to miss going all the way to Wonder! :)

st louis
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264 posts
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5. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

We went all the way to Wonder Lake at the end of August.The mountain was out all day and it was a beautiful drive.The day on the bus went by really fast.

Anchorage, Alaska
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for Anchorage
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6. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

John,

You should clip & save (& reuse) that response. It's such an easy & intelligent way to decide how to use the options there.

fti
MN
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for Alaska
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7. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

I can link a Top Questions to this thread. Thanks.

New England
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8. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

agreed .this post is very helpful

fti
MN
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for Alaska
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9. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

bump to keep open through 6/11

Portland, Oregon
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10. Re: Eielson or Wonder Lake?

We are visiting the park on July 12th and bought Eielson tickets. We are family of 4 with 14& 6 boys. Not sure if 6 yr can handle more than 8 hours of bus ride, so we have Eielson tics.

If the weather is very good, and if our 6 yr old is OK with extra 2 hours of bus ride, can we not upgrade our tickets and pay extra 10 bucks and go to Wonder Lake?

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