Day 4: Dog Sleds & National Parks
After eating way too much breakfast at Maclaren River Lodge we packed up our tents and hit the road, headed towards Denali National Park. Alaska is home to some of the best national parks in the world, and Denali National Park is no exception. It is made up of 6 million acres of untamed landscapes and wildlife – the perfect place to spend the next 3 days exploring.
During the drive we stopped to admire the highest mountain peak in North America, Mount Denali (known as Mount McKinley during the time we visited). With a summit elevation of 20, 310 feet (6,190.5m) above sea level, Denali is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve. Stopping to take in the enormity of Denali was the perfect introduction to this incredible national park.
Just over 2 hours later we arrived at Carlos Creek Lodge, the nicest camp grounds we have stayed at to date. With wooden lodges, beautiful hot showers and shelter over our camp grounds – we were all very excited to be spending the next 3 nights here. We quickly pitched our tents and jumped back in the van ready to experience a dog sledding demonstration we had organised for the afternoon.
This was our first dog sled experience and we did not know what to expect. As we got closer to the kennels the barking got louder and louder until we turned the corner and were greeted with almost 50 beautiful, overly excited dogs. All were begging for attention and a cuddle and that is exactly what we gave them.
After thirty minutes of meeting these incredible sled dogs it was time for the demonstration. Watching the rangers zip through corners as dogs led the way have made us add dog sledding to our bucket list – we need to experience this for ourselves! After a group discussion on the way back to camp about the best places in the world to experience dog sledding, we ended the night around the camp fire.
Day 5: Best Views in Alaska
After an early wake up and a quick breakfast, we grabbed some lunch and jumped into the van for a day of hiking. Once we arrived back in Denali National Park we grabbed a cheeky Starbucks before meeting back up with our group. After a quick team meeting we hit the trail.
Our mission for the day was to complete the Mount Healy Overlook Trail, one of the more strenuous hikes in the park. We would be following a 4.5 mile (7.3km) round trip trail, with 1,700 feet of elevation – we were in for a tough day of hiking.
As we hiked higher the views became more and more dramatic. By the time we reached the top a few hours later we were greeted with the most incredible views of Alaska we had ever seen! Of course, way too many photos were taken…
After a long day of hiking we decided it was time to treat ourselves with a night away from the camp food and hit up a nice restaurant. We headed to the 49th State Brewery, which was also home to the van used in the movie Into The Wild. If you are a fan of the movie we highly suggest you check out this pub.
After a delicious dinner and a few beers we headed back to camp for a much needed nights rest.
Day 6: Grizzlies, Moose & Caribou – Oh My!
Day 6 was our last day to explore Denali National Park and what a better way to spend it then to search for some Alaskan animals we have yet to see in the wild. As the national park is so big the perfect way to explore the area is by bus. The park have organised shuttle buses that run throughout the park and these buses are your only way to explore the park – no outside vehicles are allowed.
At 8am we jumped on our bus leaving from the Denali Visitors Center heading towards Eielson Visitor Center, which is an 8 hour round trip. We knew today was going to be a long one, but also a memorable one. As we drove through the park we were met with so many wild animals we had never seen before. Herds of Caribou running through open plains, grizzle bears munching away on red berries, moose walking right along side the road and dole sheep grazing in the mountains ahead.
Once we arrived at Eielson we needed to stretch our legs and decided to go on a 1km hike along the Eielson Alpine Trail. Even though it was a short hike it did take some time as it has a steep elevation of 1,000 feet, with a 25% incline. Once we made it to the top we were all quite out of breath, but were met with very impressive views – we highly recommend you do this hike if you ever get the chance.
Once we made it back down the mountain we jumped back on the bus, all very tired and ready for a good nights sleep before tomorrows trip to Seward.
Book the Alaskan Wonder with Trek America from $2550US.
Thanks to Trek America for inviting Flying The Nest to experience the Alaskan Wonder tour.