Denali Park: To the End of the Road and Back

a valley with a river and mountains in the background

When I was planning my August vacation in Alaska, taking the Kantishna Experience bus tour in Denali seemed like a must! I loved the Tundra Wilderness tour I took several years ago but that was only 30 or so miles into the park (some of the road hadn’t thawed yet).

The Kantishna Experience goes to the end of the road, 92 miles from the Park Entrance through true Alaskan wilderness to the old gold mining town of, you’ve probably guessed it, Kantishna. The fact that it’s a 12 hour trip just seemed to make it better. All that time to take in the gorgeous scenery and hopefully spot wild animals.

Fast forward to the morning of the tour, I’d just spent the last three days driving long distances and I was a bit tired of being in a moving vehicle. It was gray and drizzling rain and we seemed to have quite the mix of personalities on the sold out tour.

a landscape with a river and mountains in the background

a river running through a valley

Still, even in the grey bleakness the scenery was amazing. We spotted several active grizzlies visible to the naked eye, caribou on the ridge and lots of smaller creatures.

people sitting in a bus looking out the window

a view of a grassy field from a window

birds on a rocky surface

And it only became more breathtaking as we went.
a landscape of a green field with mountains in the background

a woman standing on a mountain
a valley with a river running through it
Not just because of the scenery, but also the road.

a road going up a hill

There were several stretches where the road carved into the hill was only wide enough for one bus, and of course that’s when we would meet others coming the opposite direction!

a truck driving on a mountain

Still, by the time we reached the Eilson Visitor Center (which boasts the only real toilets & water fountains within the park) at mile marker 66 I was back to being thrilled with the bus tour.

a woman smiling at the camera

Wonder Lake was a wonder (especially when we visited the old homestead of some folks called Anderson) but Kantishna was a bit of let down.

a landscape with a river and trees

Don’t really know what I expected. Kantishna is where some of the original and privately owned roadhouses and hunting lodges still exist, so you go from the wilderness suddenly into a country road with cabins on either side.

a rocky river bed with trees and hills in the background

The end of the road is also a little anti-climactic. There it is!

a woman standing next to a sign

The whole area is in a valley, which makes sense, but other than an old cabin or two has nothing that really feels historic or beautiful.

a small house with a porch

Fortunately I had the 92 miles (4-5 hours) back to the park entrance to make up for it. Two of the highlights were caribou on the road.

a deer on a dirt road

One who nonchalantly passed us, the other who dallied in front for a mile or two, stopping to pose for pictures before finally leaving the road.

a person taking a picture of a deer on a road with mountains in the background

It was definitely a good experience, but not for those who grow stiff from sitting long periods or time or would be affected by 12 hours of bumping along the dirt road. I would do it once, but not again! If you’re a wildlife enthusiast or photographer you can definitely get some great pictures and experiences.

a group of people sitting on a bus

The tour isn’t cheap, $165 in 2015 and you should book far in advance to ensure there is space on your desired dates.

More from this trip:

Suite Life at Sheraton Anchorage
Pancakes at Night & Other Fun at the Holiday Inn Express Fairbanks
I missed the Salmon and the Man in the Bear Suit…
The Place Where You Go to Listen
Great Alaska Outhouse Experience

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