After Seward, we headed into Alaska’s interior, where the landscape changed from coastal marine to lush forests and then eventually tundra. David and I couldn’t stop ooh-ing and aah-ing over the landscape. Every bend in the road, every turn was a postcard perfect landscape.
We did a couple of hikes in and around Denali Park, but to truly explore the interior of the park, you need to take the bus deep into the park. From there you can hop on and off at anytime. We were able to see many grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and ptarmigan on our trip.
View from Mt. Healy Overlook
The park also employs sled dogs, so we visited the kennels. I SO badly wanted to take one of the pups home, they are just so cute and friendly and intelligent!
And what’s a visit to Denali without actually seeing Mt. Denali? She is coy and elusive and teased us multiple times throughout our visit. Short of flying up to the top, most visitors never get to see Denali. She is shrouded in clouds and fog 70% of the time. But we were so lucky and our patience was rewarded, when on our last day, she revealed herself to us. At first she seemed like a mirage in the distance, but it was confirmed when all the other tourists also stopped to gawk and take pictures. Looming at over 20,000 feet, she is the tallest point in North America – and she is majestic and deserving of praise.
Where To Stay
We stayed a night in Talkeetna to make our drive more manageable at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. The grounds here are beautiful, and on a clear day, you can see Mt. Denali from the bar deck. The rooms are large and clean, and the beds and linens are pretty comfortable. It’s definitely one of the better lodging options we had while in Alaska. This lodge is a major stop for a lot of the cruise lines, so don’t be surprised to run into that crowd at the bar. The hotel dining options are also pretty decent, as seen in my half eaten smoked salmon spread (my copycat recipe coming soon!).
We also stayed at the McKinley Chalet, which was about 5 minutes from the Denali park entrance. This spot is actually owned by one of the cruise lines, but you’d be surprised by the quality of the hotel. The lobby looks promising, but the rooms are in need of attention and the hotel restaurants are awful. I had the worst onion soup and David’s reindeer meatloaf was nothing to write home about. It’s a shame, because the property itself is nicely situated, right along the Nenana River and across the street from really great food options (see below).
Where To Eat
In Talkeetna, the Lodge has decent dining options. If you venture into the town center, I highly recommend the Talkeetna Roadhouse. The food is great and the bakery is even better. Definitely get the Frosty cinnamon bun or 2, and pack leftovers as a snack for your hike.
Once in the Denali area, we visited 2 establishments so often, they thought we were locals! For a great bar and a good time, stop by Prospectors Pizzeria and Alehouse. The beer selection is awesome, and despite being the end of the season (and many beers were unavailable), our bartender/waiter walked us through recommendations based on our individual beer preferences. The pizza is also delicious. On one visit, we ordered the Deadliest Catch pizza, which is a 17″ pie topped with 1.5 pounds of Alaskan snow crab. It was stunning. I’ve never liked snow crab until eating it in Alaska – sweet and succulent and so worth the meat to shell ratio.
For breakfast and lunch, we stopped by the Black Bear Coffee House no less than 5 times during our 3 day stay. The coffee is great, the cupcakes are really delicious, and the soup/salad options really hit the spot (a good break from the heavy and fried fish and chips we had been eating). We did have a rather unpleasant apple cake thing, though I will owe the bad taste and texture to the fact that it was vegan/gf<?>.
More photos to come, when we finally catch the Northern Lights! Thanks for reading!