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The Best Tour To Take In Denali National Park

Updated on January 12, 2013

Denali National Park

4 stars for Tundra Wilderness Tour
A photograph from my tour bus on the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park
A photograph from my tour bus on the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park | Source

Touring Denali National Park

Recently, my son and I traveled with a group of friends to Alaska. One of our stops on our guided tour was at Denali National Park. There are different excursions you can book that will take you to areas around Denali National Park, however there are only two that will take you inside the park. The Natural History Tour and the Tundra Wilderness Tour both take visitors inside the park, but there are great differences between these two tours that every visitor should know before booking their tour.

Tour Information

Natural History Tour
Tundra Wilderness Tour
$99 Adult, $44 Child
$161 Adult, $75 Child
4-5 Hours
7-9 Hours
Light Snack Provided
Boxed Lunch Provided
Travels 19 Miles Into Park
Travels 53 Miles Into Park

Items To Bring On Either Tour

  • Bottled Water
  • Snacks
  • Jacket
  • Rain Poncho
  • Binoculars
  • Camera

Natural History or Tundra Wilderness Tour?

The Natural History Tour was included in the price of my guided land tour package. I just happened to be in the lobby of our hotel when I overheard someone talking about the difference between the Natural History and Tundra Wilderness Tours. The Natural History Tour is four to five hours long and will only take visitors 19 miles into the park. On the other hand, the Tundra Wilderness Tour is seven to nine hours long and will take visitors 53 miles into the park.

One of the items on my things-to-see-while-in Alaska list was wildlife. I was told that you have a greater chance of seeing wildlife the further you go into the park. One of my mantras while vacationing in Alaska was, "I may never be able to come back here, I want to see and do all that I can". I talked everyone in my group into paying a little bit more to switch to the Tundra Wilderness Tour. In the end, switching tours was the best decision I could have made.

A view from the road in Denali National Park
A view from the road in Denali National Park | Source

My Review Of The Tundra Wilderness Tour

The tour bus picked us up from our hotel at 6:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. The bus is a standard school bus that has been painted green. There are no restrooms on the bus. The bus driver handed out our boxed lunches and bottled water. Our hotel was not very far from the park entrance, and we were quickly inside Denali National Park.

The bus driver was a very friendly and knowledgeable guide. She answered everyone's questions about every aspect of the park. Our driver told us that if we thought we saw any wildlife, to let her know and she would stop so everyone on the bus could see. It wasn't very long until we saw our first animal. The bus is equipped with a camera and in front of each seat is a drop down tv screen. The driver can zoom in on the animal and show passengers the animal on their personal tv screens. I thought this was a very good feature. Animals are not always going to be on the side of the bus you happen to be sitting on, and this camera feature allows everyone to see the animals in close detail.

At about Mile 19 is Primrose Ridge. This is where the Natural History Tour Ends. When our driver pointed that out to us, I was very glad that I switched to the Tundra Wilderness Tour. 19 miles sounds like a fairly long tour, but in Denali it is not. Denali National Park is immense and there isn't much to be seen 19 miles in.

Once you pass Mile 19, the roadway gets very rugged. You are literally on the side of cliffs at times. Looking down through my window I could not see road, I could only see a thousand feet or more straight down. Our driver was very comfortable driving on this road and even passed a few other buses. There were a few times I just laid my head down with my eyes closed so I could not see. It was very unnerving.

We stopped at predesignated rest stops about every hour and a half or so. It was nice to get out and stretch and take some pictures. A bit of information I would like to share is, the restrooms at the rest stops have no plumbing. They are basically just outhouses. They restrooms are not smelly. However, if I had small children I would be very careful letting them use the restroom unsupervised. The toilet looks like a toilet, but it is a long way down to the bottom and small children could easily fall in.

About halfway through the tour, I got hungry, so I opened up my boxed lunch. The boxed lunch consisted of: bottled water, cheese, reindeer sausage, a roll, and trail mix. The roll was fresh and soft. The reindeer sausage was phenomenal, I would have eaten more if I'd had it. The cheese was in a standard package, as well as the trail mix. I give the boxed lunch a big thumbs up.

The tour ends at a turnaround about 36 miles from Denali (or Mt. McKinley). This is still close enough to take a nice picture of you and your family with the mountain as the backdrop. The driver does stop at the rest centers on the way out of the park, but the emphasis on stopping to see animals is not as strong. Each of us received a complimentary guide book to Denali National Park. We were told that they are not sold in the gift shops, they are only given to visitors who complete the Tundra Wildnerness Tour.

The Best Choice: Tundra Wilderness Tour

My son and I 36 miles from Denali. We were so glad we chose the Tundra Wilderness Tour
My son and I 36 miles from Denali. We were so glad we chose the Tundra Wilderness Tour | Source

In the end, I am glad that I changed from the Natural History Tour to the Tundra Wilderness Tour. I saw about 30 more miles of the park, and many more animals than if I had not switched. If you have time in your vacation, I highly recommend the Tundra Wilderness Tour.


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    • Abbyfitz profile image

      Abbyfitz 5 years ago from Florida

      We saw moose, bear, wolf, fox, dall sheep, birds, lynx I think and a bunch of others that I can't remember :)

    • JeffreyAppleseed profile image

      jeffrey gene 5 years ago from Fl

      yeah umm just courious what kind of animals did you see ?