Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali's Tundra Wilderness Tour
Most of the snow had melted, and the wildlife in Denali had survived another harsh Alaskan winter. My father and I embarked on a day journey into Denali National Park, with the Tundra Wilderness Tour, departing from Denali Park Village. It was the first week in May that the road through the Park was fully open; we boarded our bus and drove 53 miles each way into the Park, happening on more wildlife than we anticipated: female grizzlies teaching their cubs how to harvest roots from the moist ground, grazing caribou with their antlers in velvet, moose nursing their calves, and Dall sheep perched up on mountain ledges. Although according to our guide, just a few weeks later the mountain fields would be covered in green and popping with wildflowers, the benefits of going early in the season are two-fold: the Park is much less crowded, with far fewer people and buses on the road; and, the animals are out from the winter months and hungry, foraging for food and making them easy to spot, so wildlife viewing is plentiful. Earlier in the season is also more affordable than the summer months, offering better rates in the month of May. The Tundra Wilderness Tour makes for about a 10 hour day, and totally worth it for the unique interactions with wildlife. Private cars can only go 5 miles in to the Denali National Park, in order to keep the number of vehicles down on the roads for wildlife conservation, so the tour is the only way to get the authentic experience of Denali National Park you're seeking.
By Ashley Castle Pittman, AFAR Contributor
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