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Day trip from Anchorage

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Day trip from Anchorage

Hi folks,

In the summer, is it viable to do a driving day trip from Anchorage to Denali National Park? I realise it's up to 5 hours each way, but considering the spectacular scenery and the opportunities to stop etc can it be done without too much driving fatigue (FYI I do day trips to Sydney just to go shopping from my home town which is 4 hours each way and is quite possibly the most boring drive in the world)? And in late June there should be plenty of daylight...

The reason I ask such an absurd question is that it's difficult to find accommodation in Denali and even if you were able to lock something in, if the weather is bad that day then you miss the opportunity to see Mt McKinley. It would be better to hang around Anchorage doing other things for a few days and then with a clear forecast head to Denali.

Also I'm not really interested in seeing wildlife... to me it's all about the scenery and hiking opportunities on preferably well marked trails. So I was just going to head to the Savage River area and do some of the trails around there for a few hours. Perhaps have dinner and then slowly make my way back.

Can it be done?

Thanks!

Edited: 11 October 2013, 01:55
Healy, Alaska
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1. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

How can it be difficult to find accommodations? There is a bunch here . . . perhaps you just need help with that. www.denalichamber.com is a good place to start and I am always happy to make recommendations.

No - I would never recommend a day trip to Denali - and in order to really enjoy the scenery, you need to get on a shuttle bus into the park and go at least to Eielson Visitor center or possibly Wonder Lake if it is a good day - I would do it at least for one day, if not two. Further into the park is where the scenery gets really dramatic! Really - don't miss it! :)

Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

Consider a flightseeing trip from Anchorage - if the mountain's not out, don't fly.

http://www.flyrusts.com/

fti
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3. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

Welcome to the forum.

>>I realise it's up to 5 hours each way

No, it is a minimum of 5 hours each way. Last time I drove it was close to 6 hours with basically no stops except for construction and a short stop for gas.

>>but considering the spectacular scenery and the opportunities to stop etc can it be done without too much driving fatigue

Well, you are contradicting yourself. First of all, the scenery between Anchorage and Denali is not really "spectacular." And if you are going to stop the 5-6 hours each way will turn into 6-8 hours each way.

>>(FYI I do day trips to Sydney just to go shopping from my home town which is 4 hours each way and is quite possibly the most boring drive in the world)? And in late June there should be plenty of daylight...

Do you do that drive on two-lane roads with the objective of seeing spectacular scenery?

>>The reason I ask such an absurd question is that it's difficult to find accommodation in Denali and even if you were able to lock something in, if the weather is bad that day then you miss the opportunity to see Mt McKinley. It would be better to hang around Anchorage doing other things for a few days and then with a clear forecast head to Denali.

>>Also I'm not really interested in seeing wildlife... to me it's all about the scenery and hiking opportunities on preferably well marked trails.

So you want to see spectacular scenery - which in Denali would be well past Savage River. Also, I have no idea where you get the idea that it is difficult to find lodging near Denali. That is absolutely false, especially thinking this far ahead.

But mainly I can't imagine such a crazy idea with your objectives. 10-14 hours round trip in a car when your objective is hiking on marked trails and spectacular scenery. Why don't you hang around Anchorage, Turnagain Arm, Hope, etc? You will get a LOT more hiking in, great scenery, save on gas and get way more than Denali for a day trip will EVER offer you.

>>So I was just going to head to the Savage River area and do some of the trails around there for a few hours. Perhaps have dinner and then slowly make my way back.

I did the Savage River hike last month. Nice 2-mile hike that takes about an hour. There is another fairly new trail in the area, but still nothing really 'spectacular.'

Yes, you were accurate in saying "slowly" making your way back. If you have dinner near Denali you won't start your drive back until say 7pm. You will be lucky to get back by midnight - more like 1am.

Seriously, save yourself all the grief and stay much closer to Anchorage. You won't regret it.

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4. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

Thanks folks, I really appreciate the candid replies. In that case, I think you're very correct - I would be much better off doing some great day hikes around Anchorage which are much shorter in distance.

One thing though is if I'm doing the much short scenic drive north as recommended here: alaska.org/guide/hatcher-pass-scenic-drive is there a viewing spot along that route north I could get to for a good view of Mt McKinley?

fti
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5. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

You could go to Willow, about Mile 70, for a good view of Mt. McKinley. Willow is the town where the official "restart" of the Iditarod takes place in March.

You could also go to Talkeetna (mile 99 + another 14 miles into town on the spur road), or to Trapper Creek (mile +-110) or to the Denali South Viewpoint (I think about mile 123), all of which will have nice views of Mt. McKinley.

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6. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

The trail at The South Fork of Eagle River and to Symphony and Eagle Lakes is very scenic and gives you views of Denali and Cook Inlet. Also in Eagle River is a hike up Mt Baldy where you will also have a view of The Alaska range. If the mountain is "out" you can see it from many places in Anchorage, Arctic Valley and the hike up Mt Gordon Lion will also get you some great views.

No views on the paved side of Hatcher Pass Recreation Area but plenty of scenery. The area is one of my favorite for hiking. Check out Archangel Rd.

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7. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

Heck, if the mountain is out, one can see it next to the AT&T building or even the Penneys parking garage in downtown Anchorage. We see it lots of spots. Some of the vantages points around Anchorage to see the mountain if out:

www.alaska.org/guide/mt-mckinley-viewpoints

denali101.com/denalinationalpark/see_mt_Mcki…

For scenery, In my humble opinion, nothing beats the variation of scenery as on a shuttle bus into Denali.

However, there are dozens of hikes & climbs around Anchorage that afford some of the most magnificent scenery in the world! Along with several hiking guide books, this website is one we used for hiking the trails:

http://alaskahikesearch.com

There is also a Top Question on the Anchorage forum regarding day hikes.

Holler if you have any hiking questions!

Wasilla, Alaska
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8. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

If the mountain is out, this is my favorite spot to see it from in Anchorage: http://goo.gl/maps/rbQoo

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9. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

Glen Alps overlook is one of mine, although I saw it all the time on the way to work on Gov. Hill.

I'll have to learn how to insert an arrow on google maps, AKSt. Cool.

Healy, Alaska
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10. Re: Day trip from Anchorage

I think one of the biggest errors in thinking about Denali National Park is that it is all about the mountain. As mentioned, you can see the mountain from Anchorage. It is stunning - but some people base their whole trip there on whether the mountain was out or not, etc. But the real jewel to me is the stunning scenery within the park as well as the wildlife opportunities it provides. I truly can't imagine coming all the way to Alaska and missing a chance to explore this park. I am biased I will admit but it would be like visiting northern Arizona and by passing the Grand Canyon. Sure, I could fly over the Grand Canyon, but it just isn't the same as seeing it on your own two feet. Very sad to me . . .