My husband and I pre-booked our tour a few months in advance of our trip (recommended as the summer dates can book up quickly).
It's a LONG day and a very early start, and despite the overcast and drizzly weather, we felt we got our money's worth on the trip.
Our driver was Kevin Hay. He was fantastic -- a veritable vault of historical, geological, and biological and botanical information about the park and all the areas we were viewing. He was quick to pull over whenever someone spotted wildlife. We saw an abundance of Dall sheep, caribou, a red fox, a few moose, and lots of bears! The highlight was a mother bear and her two cubs walking up along the roadway. Caused a bit of a jam with all the buses. Truly a "postcard photo" opportunity if ever there was one. Had hoped to see golden eagles or perhaps even some wolves but they were no shows. Still, an impressive amount of wildlife for such a dreary day.
There were plenty of stops along the 92 mile road to Kantishna Roadhouse. Be prepared that most restroom stops are bare minimum facilities with no flush toilets or running water though the Eilson Center at mile 66 will have proper facilities as will Kantishna.
Bring water with you on the bus and a snack as it does take some time to get to the roadhouse. Bring plenty of bug spray and spare batteries or memory cards for the camera as there are tons of photo ops. Dress in layers too as the weather is very changeable. (Our day varied from cold and rainy to warm and overcast and back to rain again with about a 10 degree shift in temperatures).
The break at Kantishna was a welcome one. Hot soup, wrap sandwich, and cookies for lunch followed either by a choice of dog sled demonstration (they have an Iditarod winner on staff) or a hands on gold panning lesson.
There are, of course, no guarantees of wildlife or actually seeing Denali. We were lucky on the first account and thwarted by the rain and clouds on the second part. One of the rangers at the Eilson center said it had been two (maybe three?) weeks since there had been a decent day when the mountain was visible. All the same, the park is beautiful. I'm really glad we chose the long tour as I felt we got to see the best the park had to offer.
There are other less expensive bus tour options, including one that will go the full 90 miles to Wonder Lake, but those buses appear to be old school buses and were in no way as comfortable as the Kantishna bus which had cushier seats and large side-to-side sliding windows that could be opened for fresh air or to ensure an unobstructed view for photographing the park and animals.
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