Location: Milepost 229 George Parks Highway, Denali National Park
After our day in Seward we boarded the Costal Classic Alaska Train for our trip back to Anchorage. We’d be spending the night at the Clarion Suites just at the edge of the downtown area. The train left Seward at 6:00pm and didn’t get into Anchorage until 10:00. So, we decided to eat dinner in the trains’ dinning room which was on the bottom level of our train car. They didn’t have a large selection, but the food that we had was very good. Plus it was fun sitting there, eating our dinner and watching the scenery pass by. We got into Anchorage late in the evening and called the hotel shuttle to come and pick us up.
Our train the next day (Wednesday) was an early 8:00am departure. Today’s trip would take about seven and a half hours and take us to the main entrance to Denali National Park. The scenery from Anchorage to Denali was not as dramatic as the mountains and glaciers on the trip down to Seward, but it was still an interesting trip. There’s a few towns along the way and you realize how far removed some of these small towns are from any large populated areas. You really have to be self-sufficient to live and survive in some of these remote areas.
After arriving on the train at the Denali train station, we located our shuttle that would take us to the cabins we were going to stay for the evening. The Denali Cabins is owned by the same company that arranged our tour. These cabins were about 5 miles south of the entrance, but with a shuttle running every 30 minutes there was no problem getting around. The Denali Cabins were nothing special, but a comfortable place to spend the night. Plus they did have an onsite restaurant & bar, so a good place to eat dinner if you didn’t want to travel anywhere.
We asked our shuttle driver Mark for dinner recommendations and he gave us the name of two places, one being a pizza place and the other being a fish bake. Pizza sounded good to us, so we jumped on the shuttle and headed off. There’s a small commercial district right outside the main gate of Denali. I guess you could call it a tacky, tourist magnet with a collection of gift and souvenir shops. And right across the street was the “grand” Princess Lodge where many of the cruise ship passengers spend some of the land part of their land/sea vacations. We walked over there to check it out, but it had a very Disney feel to it. And watching some of the Princess patrons strutting around in their high heels and tight dresses didn’t fit the National Park vibe. Somehow I didn’t get the feeling we would be seeing too many of them on the hiking trails of Denali!!
Anyways, the Pizza place were we decided to have dinner was called Prospectors and it was packed. After a short wait we were able to grab a seat and place our order. I guess the good pizza and a selection of 49 beers on tap is a popular draw for people visiting this area. This was an interesting restaurant with the collection of animals and pelts covering the walls, plus a good selection of Denali climbing paraphernalia . We enjoyed our dinner here.
One of the only pics I took of Prospectors is below. Not a great picture, but gives you a feel of this place.
The next day we had the morning to explore the Denali visitor center since our bus ride into the park didn’t leave until after lunch. Again our luggage was handled for us by the lodge and delivered to the park bus depot. So, we didn’t have to worry about it as we explored and did some easy hikes.
Our shuttle driver, Mark, made a stop by the park sign so everyone could get their picture taken. Mark was a very personable guy who was quite the character. He had his his selection of 70’s music on his Ipod and would pick a different artist for each trip we took with him. He says if there’s a lot of foreign tourists on the shuttle, sometimes he will put on a little AC/DC and crank it up. Then he enjoys watching their reaction!! Mark was an interesting and very funny guy.
Our obligatory picture by the park entrance sign.
And of course I think Julie had a little “thing” for Mark, so we had to also get his picture. Maybe I should have put his picture up above mine!
We entered the park and walked around the visitor center. They have a 15 – 20 minute movie that introduces you to the park and it was very good. Definitely view the movie if you are visiting Denali.
There is a good selection of hiking trails that begin at the visitors center and since we still had some time to kill, we did a few of the easier ones. Below is our GPS track of where we hiked and a few picture from these trails.
A large beaver pond. We spent a little time here trying to locate the beaver who made this pond but he/she was nowhere to be found.
Since fall was arriving, we got to see some of the colors changing. In Denali they get as much color out of the ground cover and plants as they do in the trees. Here’s a picture showing some of the leaves ad berries with some fall color.
At around 1:00pm we made our way to the Denali bus station where we would be boarding our bus for the 92 mile ride into the park. We had reservations deep in the park at the Denali Backcountry Lodge for two nights. Julie and I were looking forward to getting into the park and seeing what Denali had to offer. I’ll save the details of our bus trip for another post as this one is plenty long!