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A (very) limited time available

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Virginia Beach...
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A (very) limited time available

Hi, my first ever question for Trip Advisor and first a thank you for all the amazing information I have gotten for many past trips we have taken. My husband is going to Anchorage on business, and invited me (yeah) but we only have a few days (boo). Should we take the three day two night Princess Rail Tour and try and see Denali and McKinley or is that too much? I see posts about how much there is do and wonder if we would not be better seeing Denali and skipping McKinley or vice versa this trip, returning in the future to do it right. We are both +/- 55, renting a car is an option but with so little time to plan (we leave July 15!) I am not sure if we should just take a package tour.

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1. Re: A (very) limited time available

Welcome to TA-AK, Zevas_Mom!

Exactly how many days/nights do you have?

The Princess rail tour sounds like it will take you to the McKinley Princess Lodge & the Denali Princess Lodge. The McKinley Princess Lodge is in the middle of nowhere, accessed from the train station in Talkeetna. The Denali Princess Lodge is at the entrance to Denali National Park, but with very little time left to get into the park!

I assume you are looking at a tour like this:

www.princesslodges.com/itinerary-b5.htm

As you can see, by the time you actually get to Denali National Park it will be 4 pm.

Train travel is slow & expensive. With such limited time, a rental car & 2 nights in lodging near Denali NP would get you a full day on a shuttle bus within the park. Plus the afternoon you arrive & the morning you leave, you could go to the visitor center, go to the dogsled demo, and drive in your rental car the first 14 miles into the park & back looking for moose & other animals.

Plus, there are stops at the Denali viewpoints & the veteran's memorial on the 5 hour drive up.

Just my humble opinion!

Edited: 05 July 2013, 14:07
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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2. Re: A (very) limited time available

Hi there, and yes, welcome to TA and the Alaska forum.

My very first trip to Alaska was also for work, a 3 day (Wednesday through Friday) conference in Anchorage. For that trip, my hubby joined me and we went in the weekend before and stayed through the July 4th weekend after.

Before the conference we arrived on Saturday evening and made the most of our Sunday through Tuesday doing stuff south of Anchorage.

After the conference was over (Friday at noon) we packed up and headed north for Denali, arriving to our hotel in Healy around 7 or 8pm. We spent Saturday and Sunday inside the park (one day on the shuttle, the second on a tour . . . don't do a tour!). Monday we had a leisurely morning around the park entrance and headed back to Anchorage for our late evening flight home.

So yes, it can be done with limited time. But I would not do the package you asked about. Rent a car and drive it yourself. Hopefully you can find accommodations closer than the Princess Lodge. I think you'll be very happy if you do it!

p.s. This comment confuses me >>>wonder if we would not be better seeing Denali and skipping McKinley or vice versa this trip<<<

Denali is the name of the National Park. (There is also a Denali State Park, but I don't think you're asking about that.) Denali is also the original/native name for Mt. McKinley, which is "the mountain" INSIDE Denali National Park. It is visible when the skies are clear from vantage points along the Parks Hwy as well as some lookout areas in Fairbanks and Anchorage (on REALLY clear days). Mt. McKinley is also visible from inside Denali National Park, but again, only when the skies are clear.

Some people will do flightseeing tours of the mountains in and around the National Park, but I doubt that is what you are walking about.

So you see, no need to feel like you must choose between "Denali and McKinley". Do Denali NP and HOPE you get to see Mt. McKinley too.

I hope this helps!

Healy, Alaska
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3. Re: A (very) limited time available

Yes, go - but don't do the pkg trip - you will waste precious time doing that. If you need help with lodging, give a shout. :)

www.denalichamber.com will help with that.

Lake Tahoe...
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4. Re: A (very) limited time available

I have not looked over the princesslodges.com website recently. If they offer one that goes to Mt McKinley Princess Lodge and not Denali Princess Lodge you could do that one, and include a flight seeing (with or without glacier landing). Most here will suggest renting a car and doing it on your own. But, it is already July and you may have trouble finding a car and lodging. If Princess has space on their tour I would recommend doing that. Hope your husband's company can pay for your airflight.

5. Re: A (very) limited time available

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Virginia Beach...
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6. Re: A (very) limited time available

To begin, I am humbled by the terrific information from TA members! I had an inclination to rent a car rather than spend hours on the train but needed confirmation of it, which I have gotten overwhelmingly. When I wrote about Denali and Mt. McKinley I was not clear. The Princess train tour for two nights has you spend one night at their Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and then a the second night at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. It seemed like a lot of bus and train travel, now I know it is.

My husbands company won't pay for my airfare, but since they are paying for his and the Anchorage hotel I consider this a half price vacation. We land in Anchorage at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday and fly back out late Saturday evening. He has a half day worth of business to do, we could very feasibly be on the road Tuesday afternoon.

Another Alaska-novice question: when people write about the shuttle bus is that from a private company or through the park service? I am overwhelmed by the number of choices available. Again many thanks for all the great advice!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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7. Re: A (very) limited time available

NPS has contracted with a company to provide shuttle service inside the park. Other than the (high cost) tours, it is the only way to go beyond MM14 (out of nearly 90) into the heart of the park. Ideally, most here will recommend booking the shuttle bus to Wonder Lake. W/L is the recommendation in the event that "the mountain" is visible. If it isn't many will stop at Eielson and turn around there . . . I've done both including going the distance to W/L as there are some kettle ponds beyond Eielson where Moose are often seen. I've also seen caribou on the tundra beyond Eielson so I'm not so quick as to make the W/L go/no go decision based on the mountain.

I haven't looked up the exact price of the shuttles but it should be around $40 for W/L and just a couple/few bucks less if you book only as far as Eielson.

Hope this helps.

USA
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8. Re: A (very) limited time available

Here's link to the shuttle bus service in DNP.

http://www.reservedenali.com/shuttles.aspx

Most of us recommend reserving a shuttle to Wonder Lake, but getting off at Eielson if the weather is such that the mountain is not out.

At Eielson visitor center you can watch a film of the climbers, look at exhibits, get out the lunch you brought with you, take a hike yourselves or with a ranger, or just stroll around the area. There are nice restrooms with running water & flush toilets! Then talk to the bus dispatcher to get you on another shuttle bus back to the entrance when you are ready to go.

Most of us also recommned lodging in nearby Healy area:

http://www.a1cms.com/_dcc/accommodations/

One must pack lunch, snacks, drinks for the shuttle ride. Bring binoculars for both of you if you can.

Edited: 05 July 2013, 18:46
Lake Tahoe...
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9. Re: A (very) limited time available

von - thanks for the insult. If you read the OP you would see that she was asking about the packages offered through their website: www.princesslodges.com which details rail packages that you can take without taking a cruise with them. Does that make me a shill?

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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10. Re: A (very) limited time available

K2 . . . It seems to me the OP was asking whether or not she "should" take a packaged option through Princess. It appeared to me that in spite of the lousy package(s) they offer, and their very limited time, you were still suggesting that they do the package through Princess, even though they also mentioned they were open to considering a car rental.

If that wasn't your intent, my apologies.

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