After our stay at Riley Creek Campground near the entrance of the park, we ventured further in the park road to Teklanika Campground. The only way anyone is allowed to drive their personal vehicles past mile 15 at Savage River is by staying in this campground, and there are very strict stipulations for doing so. First, in order to drive here to camp, you must make a reservation to stay at least three nights. Second, you must agree to parking your vehicle once you arrive and not driving it again until you are ready to leave. Should you drive during your stay and get caught, there is a good chance you will be asked to leave. Finally, you cannot bring any vehicle that is not necessary to your camping experience. For example, motorhomes that tow a car behind cannot do so when camping here. We knew all this going in and were looking forward to a more wilderness experience without so much traffic. We expected the campground to be completely full of others also looking for a more laid-back experience, but there were open spots every night of our stay. So surprising!
Since you cannot drive your own vehicle from the campground, there is a special bus ticket called a Tek Pass that is offered. For the price of a regular ticket you can buy this pass and get on and off the buses as often as you like during your stay, on a space available basis. There are times you might be greeted by several full buses before you get on, but it is still nice to be able to easily get to other areas of the park while here. We enjoyed a couple of these bus rides while staying, and like our ride from the front area of the park while staying in Riley Creek, we enjoyed the narration from the drivers as well as wildlife spotting. One day, we even saw enough of Denali that we are satisfied to say we are part of the 30% of visitors who see the mountain during their visit. (See the photo at the top of this post!) In eight days in the park, we saw it when that photo was taken and the other time we saw a sliver as described and shown in our last post. We also saw another sliver on our way out of Teklanika, but again, it was not enough to count as a real viewing! They are not kidding when they say the mountain is very elusive, but if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse you will be amazed! The way it absolutely towers over all the other mountains around is astounding!
On one of the bus rides we took, we got off at East Fork, which is currently as far as the buses go on the park road. This is at the bridge over the East Fork of the Toklat River. It is a braided river with large gravel bars to walk on and explore. We spent several hours hiking along the river, enjoying the views, and even saw a caribou at a relatively close range.
We also took two bike rides while staying at “Tek”. Since there is pretty much only bus and construction crew traffic along the park road, you can ride without being too worried about traffic and really enjoy the scenery. We stopped several times to take in the beautiful mountain views and to search the hillsides for wildlife. We saw six Dall sheep up on a mountain, a caribou on a snow bank, and startled one poor moose who was right by the road in a heavily wooded area. We didn’t see it until we were right up on it, and thankfully he or she chose flight over fight because that encounter was way too close for comfort!
Denali National Park has been a great stop along our journey and we are so glad we took a good bit of time to explore it. We enjoyed the more developed area around Riley Creek as well as having a more relaxed and laid back visit in Teklanika. We hope to someday return when the park road is fully open and we can explore even further. Now, it is time to move on. We aren’t exactly sure what the next couple of weeks will bring, but we know it will be full of beauty and adventure!
Until next time!