If you are
serious about photography
Denali, donít do what most visitor do. Most
people book a room at one of the hotels at the entrance of the park, and
then spend a very long day sitting on a bus traveling through
Denali, when the light is bad, and the animals are least active.
There are a
number of better options. If
you are comfortable camping in a tent, considering staying at the Wonder
campground, or backpacking into the backcountry.
Beware, in late June through much of July the mosquitoes can be
pretty bad, especially out West near Wonder
Lake. The biggest drawback to
backpacking; it is much more difficult to carry extra photo gear,
especially the big tripods and telephotos necessary for much of the wildlife.
If you are not
comfortable roughing it, check out some of the Kantishna area lodges.
The Kantishna area consists of private in-holdings located well
into the park; a couple of the lodges there even have Mt McKinley views.
This option allows you to break up the long drive, and puts you
in one of the best parts of the Park.
They all seem to have good reputations, and look beautiful from
the outside, but since I have not stayed at any of them, I really
canít make any recommendations. The
biggest drawback with staying in Kantishna, the lodges tend to be fairly
Entrance and Savage
I think a great
way to photograph in Alaska is with an RV, and it is also a great way for a photographer to
Denali as well. In
Denali, the public is only allowed to drive the first 15 miles of the road.
Now I believe the best parts of
Denali are beyond this stretch of road, but it can still be a productive area.
Over the years I have seen a number of moose and
and ptarmigan in the first 15 miles.
I have also seen grizzly bears, fox and
wolves, but they
are much less likely. The
earlier in the morning, or the later at night you drive this road, the
better the possibilities of seeing wildlife.
For this reason, I like to camp at the Savage Campground my first
night; it is conveniently located about 13 miles into the Park.
In September this area can be very active during the moose rut.
I should add, although this area can be productive, I have also
driven the first 15 miles many times without seeing a thing.
There is a way
to drive an additional 15 miles into the Park, and that is to camp at
Teklanika or ďTekĒ as it is commonly referred.
There are a number of advantages to camping at ďTekĒ.
You can now drive 30 miles into the Park, this still isnít the
most productive area, but if you get up early and drive before the buses, you never know what you might see.
On subsequent days when you do take the bus, you have now knocked
60 miles round trip off what can be a long day of bus
The area around the Tek Campground is one of the more productive
parts of the Park; I have watched many wolves,
caribou and fox
in the Teklanika riverbed adjacent to the campground.
I have even seen wolves
walking right through the campground!
Because of the high wolf activity in the area, the last couple of
years camping has been limited to hard-sided vehicles. You will
want to check with the Park Service, but I have a feeling the days of
tent camping at Tek may be a thing of the past.
Now when you
stay at Tek, you can get a "Tek
The Tek Pass
is a bus pass that will allow
you to ride the bus as often as you want during your entire stay at Tek,
and it costs less then some of the one day round trip passes.
I could write a separate article on riding the bus
Denali, but here are a few pointers. Make
sure you get off the bus and
Even if you arenít comfortable in the backcountry, at the very
least climb a small ridge or walk the road.
If your bus is crowded, watch for an empty one and switch.
At the turn-around point of Eielson or Wonder Lake, keep your eyes open for an empty
bus, the more room you have, the
easier the photography. Generally
speaking, the later in the day the better chances are of finding an
un-crowded bus. It is a
treat when you do find a near empty bus, as you can shoot out the
windows on either side.
way for getting around in
Denali is with a mountain bike. They
have room for bikes on any of the camper buses.
Bikes allow you to cover a fair amount of ground quietly Ė we
have come across wolves
and other animals by traveling this way.
But the best part of using bikes, they enable you to travel the
road when the buses and people arenít out, and the best light and wildlife
The rest of
For more recommendations
about Alaska, take a look at Where to Photograph
For more current updates, check out
Denali National Park portion of our photo blog.