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Anchorage or Denali

Sydney, Australia
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Anchorage or Denali

Hi, We arrive in Anchorage from a cruise on May 22, then fly out at midnight on 24th. My original plan was just to stay in Anchorage and take in the sights there until we fly out. However, I'm getting the feeling after reading and speaking to people, that we perhaps should do the trip to Denali. I've read from other posts that it is doable, but is it REALLY worth the drive, over the sights around Anchorage? Keep in mind we don't mind driving the long distance, as long as the destination is as good as people say. Any opinions?

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Manitoba, Canada
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1. Re: Anchorage or Denali

Hi, welcome to the forum.

First, you don't arrive in Anchorage. The port is either Seward or Whittier. A quick look at the cruiseship calendar, and it appear you'd be on Coral Princess, which means Whittier. Are you taking the cruise bus/train to Anchorage?

In early May, the Denali shuttle goes only as far as Toklat (6 hr roundtrip). Personally, I wouldn't do that drive at that time, but entirely up to you. It still is your best chance to see a variety of wildlife, though no guarantees.

How many in your party, and any kids? And what are your interests?

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Seward
Seward
Alaska
fti
MN
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2. Re: Anchorage or Denali

Under normal circumstances I would say you might give it a whirl since your flight doesn't depart until so late on May 24th. But as MM said, the road is only open to Toklat, mile 53. Certainly it would be a great trip even that far, but perhaps you could spend your time better in other ways. If it were me, I would consider a Prince William Sound glacier cruise on May 22, then get to Anchorage (evening train?). Then in Anchorage, rent a car. Drive on May 23 to Talkeetna (maybe flightsee?), stopping in Wasilla (Iditarod HQ) on the way. The ranger station in Talkeetna will be booming with mountain climbers. See if you could sit in on one of the ranger orientations with the climbers. Either spend the night in Talkeetna or drive to the Matsu Valley. Muskox Farm, Independence Mine area (will be snowed in but will be fun to see anyway), Palmer, maybe Matanuska Glacier. Or make Talkeetna a day trip, overnight in Anchorage on May 23 as well. Drive on May 24 to Turnagain Arm, Girdwood, the Portage Glacier visitor center, Potter Marsh, etc.

John

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Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound
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Girdwood
Girdwood
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Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Anchorage or Denali

Thank you so much for your replies. I will do some research on the places you mention fti. Do you think a cruise of PWS would be as good, following our cruise of the inside passage?

MM - we do arrive in Whittier and I have booked a bus transfer to Anchorage - just my husband and I travelling. Our interests are varied - and while not wildlife gurus, my husband would love to say he saw a "bear".

In Feb. we had a ski trip to central ski fields of Canada, driving from Kelowna to Cagary - so we saw some wonderful scenery at this time. We have also done that area in the summer (some 10 years ago). So I guess I'm wondering if the scenery and sights on a trip to Denali or Talkeetna will be a totally different experience versus staying in Anchorage area instead,

Thanks for any further opinions. GBLyn

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Kelowna
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Okanagan Valley, Canada
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4. Re: Anchorage or Denali

"my husband would love to say he saw a "bear""

You're too early. You *might* see a bear in Denali.

Will this be your only trip to Alaska?

If so...hard to call this one. Do you like a busy or relaxed time? IMO the drive to Seward (2.5 hrs. south of Anchorage) has nicer scenery, except of course you don't get to see McKinley (although sometimes it can be seen right from Anchorage...like right now: http://www.acsyellowpages.com/webcam.htm . You'll see part of that drive on your bus trip to Anchorage though.

I don't know if you're like me: hate to miss anything, so find a way to do it all...well...

May 22 – arrive Whittier, bus transfer to Anchorage. Pick up rental vehicle (make sure it’s large enough to hold your luggage, right now an intermediate car is about $33 per day incl. taxes, so book ASAP—prices can change at the drop of a hat). Visit Native Heritage Center (allow a couple of hours), light sightseeing of city, then drive south to Seward (2.5 hrs), stopping at Potter Marsh, Beluga Pt., Wildlife Conservation Center, etc: http://alaska.org/driving/seward-drive.htm . Outside of Seward, stop at Exit Glacier (or as close as you can get, might still have snow). Overnight Seward.

May 23 – either Ididaride sled dog tour or SeaLife Center, or Exit Glacier if you didn't have time yesterday. Or just wander around the tiny town, stroll along the shore looking for sea otters and eagle, etc. Then 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm: Kenai Fjords wildlife cruise (spends a bit of time near a calving glacier too, closer than your cruiseship would have gotten). Drive back to Anchorage area (2.5 hrs) to overnight, maybe stopping at Girdwood to go up the tram for a great view if the weather is clear.

May 24 – either drive to Talkeetna (3 hrs) to hopefully go flightseeing, and spend the rest of the day exploring the areas John mentioned…OR… consider doing this instead: talkeetnaaero.com/denali-day-trips-anchorage… , which includes flightseeing of Denali plus the 6 hour shuttle trip into the park to hopefully see wildlife. I don’t know if they do that trip so early in the season; if interested, e-mail to find out. It would be a long day, but you can rest up on the flight home, and this would give hubby his best chance of seeing a wild bear from either the air or the ground. Be aware that small planes sometimes delay or cancel due to bad weather, so have back-up plans.

Anyway, just some ideas to kick around.

It's a hard call, but what I would do is:

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5. Re: Anchorage or Denali

Just to add another element of flexibility - or confusion - with a tight schedule you might consider flying from Anchorage to the Denali park entrance to get in a flight seeing tour at the same time you

If the two flights to and from Denali are too expensive with the hotel and all, then there are day flightseeing trips out of Anchorage that are worth while

www.alaskatours.com/anchorage-alaska.htm

or

http://alaska.org/flightseeing/

or

http://tinyurl.com/384xjvv for a variety of choices

Now I am betting that these tid bits are too tempting for MM to ignore and she will have to work up a schedule for them!

71

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Manitoba, Canada
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6. Re: Anchorage or Denali

"Now I am betting that these tid bits are too tempting for MM to ignore and she will have to work up a schedule for them!"

Nope. Lost your bet, hee hee hee. The first one I already did (that's the same as the day tour I mentioned (though I see from your link that it requires a minimum of 4, but it does go at that time of year if another couple wants to go.)

As for the rest...OP has some decisions to make, and only the OP can make them! ;-)

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Anchorage or Denali

Wow, wow wow - thank you heaps for all this advice and suggestions. TA people are the best. I don't think we will get back to Alaska, but you never know. Yes we are people who like to be busy and no, don't want to miss anything - it's always a shame to be so close and not get to see certain things.

Anyway I will study up on all your suggestions - and will report back to let you know my decisions and how they go.

Cheers GBLyn

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Alaska
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Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: Anchorage or Denali

oh.... and MM I am waiting on you to finish that sentence.......!!

Manitoba, Canada
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9. Re: Anchorage or Denali

"and MM I am waiting on you to finish that sentence..."

LOL. Sorry, I typed it in Word and I guess I didn't quite copy everything before I pasted it. Should read:

"It's a hard call, but what I would do is: if this is your only trip to Alaska, do the Talkeetna Aero day trip. If you expect to return to Alaska within the next few years, then just flightsee Denali from Anchorage, and spend more time in Anchorage/Seward area for a more relaxing trip."

BTW, even if you do that day trip, no guarantees on seeing bears. And no one can guarantee that you'll get a good view of Mt. McKinley, even during flightseeing, since it's often heavily shrouded with clouds. Like so much else in Alaska, you cross your fingers and take your chances... but if you don't do the tour, your chance of seeing a wild brown bear in May anywhere else is rather small.

That said, if you don't make it to Denali, you might want to spend some time in Kincaid Park right in Anchorage (9401 West Raspberry Road). You'd have a decent chance of seeing a moose, maybe even a black bear. Worth a try, anyway, and if nothing else, gives you nice views of Cook Inlet.

If Denalicat sees this, maybe she can suggest an easy hike that might help you see bears that early in the season.

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10. Re: Anchorage or Denali

We do run into black & brown bears hiking around in the Chugach, but that is the rare exception, not the rule to be counted on.

The best chance to see a brown bear is to high-tail it up to Denali . You have better odds in the dice-roll of seeing a bear that time of year between the entrance & Tolklat than anywhere down in the Chugach. I took my nephew up to Denali that time of year & we were lucky to see quite a few bears. But there are no guarantees. On our early trip into the park we saw more wildlife near the road than I usually see after all the traffic scares them back.

It's probably right in front of my face, but what time do you arrive in Anchorage May 22?

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