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Denali in Sept for Road Lottery weekend -- itinerary help please

Denali in Sept for Road Lottery weekend -- itinerary help please

Old Aug 9, 11, 9:34 pm
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Denali in Sept for Road Lottery weekend -- itinerary help please

We're going to ANC for a pseudo Mileage Run / weekend in Alaska during the middle of September. After booking the tickets and beginning to read about Denali NP, I realized that this was Road Lottery weekend, and we just HAD to secure a permit. Soooo, being enterprising Flyertalkers, we calculated that 7 entries would give us about a 75% chance of winning one permit, which seemed acceptable. So we did it. And we won!

Now we're trying to figure out the logistics. Our permit is for Sat. We'll drive up to Denali on Friday and spend the night somewhere between Cantwell and Healy. Sat we'll do the drive through the park. And probably spend Sat night at the same place as Friday night.

Then what? Our return flight out of ANC leaves around midnight on Monday night (i.e. very early Tuesday AM), thus we have all day Sunday and Monday to explore, before getting back to ANC for our flight.

So, what should we do? I've seen very very little of Alaska -- a few nights in Fairbanks on sort of a business trip and that's it. My wife has seen a bit more. though not a lot. Should we spend our two additional days around Denali? What else is there to do / see at this time of year considering that the shuttles into the park won't be running, and our driving permit is only valid one day? We're generally the high-adventure type (hiking / mountaineering) but we'll have Hobo Jr along (4 months old) so any hiking would be short.

One thought was to drive down to Kenai on Sunday, spend the night there, and see the area on Monday (including possibly a day cruise) before returning to ANC. Sure, it's a lot of driving, but it'll be scenic, and we like to road trip.


A. Stay in Denali for 2 more days
B. Drive down to Kenai for Sunday and Monday
C. Your suggestion

What else do I need to know? (Yes, we live in Colorado -- we'll be prepared for any weather and happy to drive on unpaved roads in our rental car! And I know -- this is not enough time to see Alaska..... this is just an extended Mileage Run!)

Last edited by hobo13; Aug 9, 11 at 10:11 pm
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Old Aug 10, 11, 8:01 pm
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Check out the Earth Song Lodge in Healy. It's on Stampede Road (of Into the Wild fame) at the treeline. Beautiful spot.
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Old Aug 11, 11, 9:17 pm
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Congratulations on winning the permit. With over 11,000 entries for 1,600 permits, it is a prized possession for sure. I am driving into the park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Road Lottery (combination of my permit and riding with others).

When do you arrive into Anchorage? On Friday? I would try to stay as close to the park entrance on Friday night as possible. The reason? The earlier you can get into the park, the less crowded it will be. I have read that it gets really crowded on the road (understandable) the later you start out. Sunrise is before 7.30am so my goal is to be on the road into the park between 7am and 7.30am at the latest.

I would stay between Carlo Creek (north of Cantwell) and Healy. Earthsong Lodge is definitely an option as stated above. I am staying at the hostel in Carlo Creek. McKinley Creekside Cabins is right across the street, where I have stayed before. I heard that Denali Bluffs Hotel has a $79/night special if you use the right code. I stayed there in June for that price but the code has since changed (PM me if you are interested and I can try to find the current code).

My suggestion for Sunday and Monday would be based on your interests. If it were me, I would drive back on Sunday to Anchorage or further to Girdwood. On the way stop in Talkeetna (great lunch stop). Quirky town but worth a visit. Stop at Independence Mine area if of interest (historic interest, some hiking). The drive along Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage is beautiful. You have a chance to see moose and some birds at/near Potter Marsh just south of Anchorage, often can see Dalls Sheep on the hillside on the mountains, if the weather is nice you can do some nice hiking in/near Girdwood. The Winner Creek Trail and the "hand tram" are nice. The hand tram is where you pull yourself across the gorge while standing in the boxcar (or others on either side pull you across). You can access this from a 1/2 mile walk on the Crow Creek Mine side of Girdwood (shorter than the trail from Girdwood itself).

Then on Monday drive to Whittier and take the 26 Glaciers cruise. You need to get the 11.30am tunnel to Whittier (very unique in itself since it is shared by the train and cars and is only one lane, so traffic alternates). You can only drive to Whittier on the 1/2 hour and back only on the hour. The glacier cruise starts at 12.30pm and lasts 5 hours. Well worth it. You will also get to see marine wildlife. More info: http://26glaciers.com/rates.htm

There are some 2-for-1 coupons floating around for these glacier tours, but I am not sure if they are for this company or not.

That gives you time to take the 6pm tunnel back toward Anchorage and you will be back in Anchorage by 7.30pm. Have a nice dinner and a leisurely drive to the airport.

I don't think driving to Kenai (do you mean the city of Kenai?) is wise. Way too much driving. But if you meant the Kenai Peninsula, that is what I suggested above. The Prince William Sound cruise is nice since it is in fairly protected waters so the seas are not usually rough (unlike the day cruises from Seward that go into the Gulf of Alaska, which can often get rough).

A couple of notes:

Try to park your car somewhere in Denali and take a short hike. Doesn't need to be far. Just be sure you are parked in a place completely off the road (either at a rest area or one of the obvious places that are off-road). Walking/hiking on the open tundra is a great experience and gets you away from any crowds really fast.

You might want to consider putting your car through a car wash before you return it. You also might want to consider vacuuming it. The car WILL get filthy from the 70+ miles of gravel road in Denali. Not sure if the car rental company will charge you a cleaning fee otherwise. I know I have driven multiple times on gravel roads but I always clean the car well before returning. Usually takes me 30-60 minutes but I can't imagine returning a car in such a condition - the door jams, dashboard, everything gets dusty and filthy.

Bring good rain gear. Be prepared.

Bring two pair of binoculars - one for each adult. They will be very helpful in Denali and on the Whittier cruise.
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Old Aug 12, 11, 9:08 am
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Thanks FTI for a lot of great info. Will follow up shortly.
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