The Desi Nomads

Alaska: Day 4: Denali National Park and the Shuttle to Toklat River

We had one full day in Denali National Park, and wanted to make the most of it.  We could not take our car into the park beyond a certain point.  To explore the majority of the park, we had to take one of many shuttle buses that drive you to various points in the park.  Since the park is huge, the stops are far apart, and the buses have to be booked in advance (and cost $50-100 each). The shortest round trip bus was to Toklat river, and was a 6 hour round trip.  

I was a bit nervous to take such a long ride with a 1 year old, but I wasn’t going to give up the option of exploring Denali.  So, we took the chance, and reserved the 9:30AM shuttle, leaving the WAC (Wilderness Access Center).  If you were taking a baby in the bus, you had to have them in a car seat.  So, while you could technically hop off anywhere along the main road, I wasn’t really sure what I would do with the car seat.  Here’s how it went…

Baby V in car seat, we boarded the shuttle, which was more like a school bus…

We decided that we would stay on the bus until the mid-way point of Toklat river, and would then have stops on the way back, to make the ride seem shorter.  The scenery on the way kept getting better and better, though, it was still a very cloudy and rainy day.

The bus made one stop 1.5 hours in at Polychrome overlook, which allowed us to stretch our legs.  Baby V was holding on fine…

The rain had stopped by then, and the clouds were clearing up, so we were able to appreciate the scenery.

Boarding the bus again, 1.5 hours later, the bus stopped at Toklat River.  This stop had restrooms and a gift shop.  There is no food or restaurants within the park, so you have to carry any food and water you need.  We had bought sandwiches from Subway in the morning, and were carrying food pouches for Baby V.  Since it was 1pm at this time, we decided to take a long halt at this stop, have lunch, do some hiking, and catch a later shuttle back.  This was the shortest shuttle into the park, and the the longest one was a 12 hour round trip!

The scenery around Toklat river was outstanding!  We quickly ate our sandwiches, fed Baby V, put her into her baby carrier (our trusty Beco Gemini), and went out exploring!  There are no marked trails in most of the park, and you’re free to walk and hike anywhere.  We saw a small waterfall and decided to walk next to it.

Looking back at the Toklat river and bus stop from up the falls…

It was nap time for Baby V, so she was sound asleep in her carrier.

We watched our shuttle leave without us…

After spending 1 hour hiking around, it was starting to rain again, so we hiked back down and waited for the next shuttle to take us back.  The shuttles were running around 30 minutes apart, so it wasn’t a long wait.  Shuttle timings were posted at the stop, so we could plan our hikes accordingly.  Soon enough, we were on a shuttle back.

One of the reasons to come to Denali is to see interesting wildlife.  Since most of the park is wilderness, you can see animals roaming freely.  We first spotted a Caribou.

And then a Grizzly Bear!  I was glad we were inside a bus.

After around 1.5 in the bus, Baby V started getting cranky.  She started wailing, and would not let up, so we hopped off the bus at a rest stop, and waited until she calmed down (she did not want to be in her car seat for that long, I suppose).  Even though she was still upset, we hopped back onto the next shuttle, and made it back to the Visitor Center.  I felt back for our fellow travelers, but this was the return trip so the scenery was the same.

After the long and tiring day, we got take out from the same Thai place again, and settled into our hotel.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: