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Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

London
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Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

Last year we did a 6 days trip in Alaska before taking a cruise, you can find my posts from back then. I came back here for the single purpose of making this warning - if you are short on time then don't waste your time on Denali park!!!

We had only 6 days but listened to everybody and did the 12 hours Denali bus ride, taking up a whole day. During our 6 days trip in Alaska we have seen all possible wildlife that one would expect to see in Alaska - BUT NONE IN DENALI !! It was the biggest waste of time EVER.

Yes, we have seen SOME animals (mountain goats, one bear) but from SUCH A DISTANCE, that it was absolutely RIDICULOUS . The only way you could recognize the animal is if you took a photo of it with your digital camera, with a x20 zoom lens, and then zoomed MORE digitally on your LCD screen! I am NOT kidding!

On the other 5 days of our trip, driving first to Valdez and then to Whittier we have seen FAR MORE WILDLIFE - ON THE HIGHWAY! Without paying an entrance fee, without sitting in a bus for 12 hours, etc!

On the way to Valdez we have seen a number of bear families crossing the road, mother and two cubs. We drove slowly next to them and then stopped the car for about 10 minutes while they were having their lunch.

In Alaska if you want to see wildlife - all you need is to drive on the highway !

It seems that Denali park enjoys good marketing and hype from the cruise industry and/or state officials, but if you have only a few days in Alaska and you are thinking about doing the bus ride, without actual hiking or camping, then there is absolutely no reason for you to waste a whole day there.

You cannot imagine the frustration of sitting on a bus for 12 hours and not seeing any wildlife. because the animals know to get away from the roads and hide up on the mountains.

The situation was so bad that some kids yelled "stop" to the bus driver (which is what you should do if you spot wildlife) for spotting squirrels !! (the same kind of squirrels you can spot in Central Park or anywhere else in America)

fti
MN
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for Alaska
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1. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

Thanks for your post and for your opinion.

I wish you would tell us how you REALLY feel :-)

I doubt that when you "listened to everybody" it was not those of us here on TA. We continually tell people that wildlife sightings in Denali are not guaranteed and are often in the distance, to bring binoculars, etc. Do a search for posts by Manitoba Maple. I think almost every one of her proposed itineraries that include Denali NP mentions this.

We also highly recommend getting off the bus, even on day trips, which apparently you didn't do. We also rarely recommend the 12 hour bus trip to Kantishna, which apparently you did since there is not all that much to see there and the Wonder Lake shuttle is 10-11 hours and Eielson is 8 hours.

I know of people who saw little or no wildlife in Denali on their shuttle bus trip and it was still a highlight of their trip. They said the scenery was magnificent (with which I happen to agree).

Most people breeze into Denali for one ride on the shuttle bus and expect to see Mt. McKinley and all kinds of wildlife up close (apparently just like you expected). Unfortunately it is not a zoo. When I go to Denali, I usually spend 3-6 nights in the park. I have seen an incredible amount of wildlife, often up close. But does that mean I don't go to other places as well? No. I have taken tours and cruises as well.

And I must say that wildlife sightings along the highway are just as much "hit or miss" as they are in Denali. In fact, I would venture to say that they are even more hit or miss on the highway. I have taken over a dozen trips to Alaska and rarely have I seen wildlife on or near the highway. Consider yourself fortunate.

So I guess that my plan to spend this coming weekend in Denali (flying to Alaska mainly to drive the first 30 miles into the park several times) will be a total waste of time and money? Well, based on my past experience, I hope not. Fortunately the entire trip will be very inexpensive using miles, going in the off-season (cheaper lodging rates), etc. 72 hours in Alaska, here I come :-)

John

Edited: 07 April 2010, 16:20
Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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2. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

Well, not every body has a good day in the Park . . .sorry it was such a waste of your time and $$. As John pointed out, the regular posters do explain that there isn't a guarantee of wildlife sightings and remind people that DNP isn't a zoo - animals are free to come and go as they please. Some people spend as much money at the Grand Canyon to find it socked in on a foggy day - that is the way of vacations in national parks. You take your chances really anywhere you travel on what the weather/nature will do to enchance or possibly spoil your vacation.

Just wanted to point out that Denali National Park doesn't have any mountian goats - you would have been looking at Dall sheep. As far as squirrels go, they aren't the same kind you see in Central park, as they are arctic ground squirrels. Thought I would clarify that for the other people who will read your post. :)

Edited: 07 April 2010, 18:06
jjo
Chicago
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3. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

So now someone will take Dave's advice, drive the highway to Valdez and see no wildlife (which is quite likely), and post that driving the highway to Valdez is the biggest waste of time.

I do remember years ago reading a guidebook before our first trip to Alaska which said the the Denali bus ride could vary from a miserable rainy day with no moutains to view and no wildlife, to a sunny day where you see Denali and watch wolves attack a moose, and everything in between.

Bridgewater
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4. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

I totally understand your point of view and disappointment. It can be a long day filled with disappointing expectations if the only reason you are going is to see animals close-up. It's the same reason I'm skeptical of going on a cruise. If I don't see a glacier calving will this trip be a ripoff? Is there anything else about a cruise that would still make it worthwhile for me? Am I better off flying into port cities and staying at each for a few days or for staying only a couple of hours via a cruise? This is where doing your homework becomes so important for that sucessful trip.

Manitoba, Canada
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5. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

Hi Dave. I'm sorry you were so disappointed with your trip. My first time in Denali, I had a 9 hour trip and saw 1 moose, 1 bear, and some sheep, all way off in the distance, so I can relate to how you feel. Nothing worth taking a picture of because I didn't have a telephoto lens.

Luckily for me, Mt. McKinley was out in all its glory, so I felt that plus the other nice scenery made the trip worthwhile. I was of course disappointed about not seeing more wildlife, or at least having one of the animals come close to the bus--but I knew that wildlife viewing was hit or miss. I've related my experience several times on this forum, though I don't know if you ever read it. Unfortunately, when people read only accounts of visitors who saw "tons" of wildlife, they get the impression that everyone can expect that. You and I know that's not always so.

Last year I made 2 more trips into the park (11 hrs each, to Wonder Lake) I saw a lot of wildlife plus some right up on the road beside the bus. Each trip is different, and it's luck of the draw what you get to see. Having had the first experience, I think I was more appreciative than most that I had good viewings this time.

And you might notice we always suggest 2 trips into the park if people have the time. Doesn't guarantee that you won't have two "poor" trips, but most people do see a decent amount of wildlife, so it certainly increases your chances if you're able to do a second trip.

"In Alaska if you want to see wildlife - all you need is to drive on the highway"

Well, no. You may have been unlucky at Denali, but if you saw a lot of wildlife on the highway, you were uncommonly lucky there. Most people don't see much along the highway. Sometimes nothing. Again, luck of the draw. If people reading your post think all they have to do is drive to Valdez to see "a number of bear families" wandering along the highway, they'll have as unrealistic expectations as you did about Denali.

"because the animals know to get away from the roads and hide up on the mountains. "

Since many people (myself included) have seen animals strolling casually across the road next to our bus, that's really not a fair statement. But think of it this way: you're on one teeny-weeny road in a park that is 6 million acres big. IMO it's amazing that people see as many animals as they do.

Anyway, I'm glad you posted. Hopefully people will read your warning and realize that Denali is not a drive-through zoo.

_________

LOL, I just checked the boards and found that most of what I wrote has already been said by other posters since I started typing my reply. Darn having to work for a living and have my TA posting time interrupted! ;-)

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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6. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

"Biggest scam since Madoff"???

Are you kidding me? The others gave you far more of their time than I'm going to in responding.

To each their own. It is unfortunate that the wildlife didn't cooperate for you. Denali NP is a wildlife preserve, not a drive-in zoo.

Michigan
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7. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

With all due respect this is a classic post from someone with totally unrealistic expectations. What's worse is that your opinion and evaluation is based solely on a one day bus trip in and out of the park without even getting off of it. The people who get the very most out of Denali are the adventurous type who set off across the tundra and explore. If once boarding the bus they locked the doors then I wouldn't go back either.

In my experiences there I've seen all kinds of wildlife including bears, bull moose, wolves, caribou, dall sheep, beavers, snowshoe hare, and golden eagles soaring above me while I layed on my back taking a break while hiking near Eilson. Some of the wildlife including the wolves, dall sheep, and snowshoe hares were only yards away. The bears and their cubs were further way which is just fine and dandy with me. Denail is a magical place not a magic act where you can just clap your hands and things will appear.

Edited: 07 April 2010, 20:50
Houston, TX
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8. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

"What's worse is that your opinion and evaluation is based solely on a one day bus trip in and out of the park without even getting off of it"

Our trip to Denali isn't until this summer, but I think this statement is key. Truthfully, I can't imagine an 8-hour bus ride being "worth it" even if the wildlife was parading right by the window the whole time! For us, it's the opportunity to get out an explore the tundra in a semi-controlled environment (in the sense that we control how far we go from the road, that is.)

Don't get me wrong, I hope we wee wildlife -- but we'll have a great time hiking even if we don't. But I wouldn't drive all that way to not get off the bus.

Chugiak, Alaska
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9. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

'"In Alaska if you want to see wildlife - all you need is to drive on the highway"

Well, no. You may have been unlucky at Denali, but if you saw a lot of wildlife on the highway, you were uncommonly lucky there. Most people don't see much along the highway. Sometimes nothing. Again, luck of the draw. If people reading your post think all they have to do is drive to Valdez to see "a number of bear families" wandering along the highway, they'll have as unrealistic expectations as you did about Denali.'

Expectation management is key here. MM, fti, and Tahoe already said everything I was thinking. I just wanted to add that I drive the highways at least once a week and I have never seen a bear on them, maybe see a moose in the distance 10% of the time and that's about it. And I know where to look. I see eagles about 80% of the time, but again, I know what to look for and where. On the other hand, every time I've been to Denali on the bus, I've seen a bunch of animals. But I can guarantee that I'm neither from the cruise industry or a state official. I'm pretty positive that none of the other folks responding are either.

But expectation management is important no matter where you are vacationing or what you are doing. If you do the proper research and see there's something you'd like to do but there's a chance it could go wrong and you'll feel like your time was wasted, consider skipping it. That way you won't be upset about something you attempted to do that didn't work out the way you'd hoped.

Healy, Alaska
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10. Re: Denali Park - the bigggest scam since Madoff!

I am chuckling as I think about a poster a few years ago - wasn't complaining, but didn't any wildlife either in Denali or on the Kenai, but did finally see a moose in the city of Anchorage! :)