Our plane from Talkeetna to walk the glaciers of Mt. Denali

Small Planes and Big Mountains

After spending a day at Denali National Park, and another day driving through Denali State Park, we still had not filled up on this beautiful mountain and the Alaska Range. So the third day, we moved the rig over to Talkeetna, just 50 miles away from Denali State Park. We made last minute reservations with Talkeetna Air Taxi, which was only one of several air flightseeing services in Talkeetna, but highly recommended. The next day we were quite up in the air!

The Challenge of Denali National Park

Our first day in the area, we called Denali National Park for reservations on one of the bus trips into the park. Although you can take a private vehicle in a limited way, most of the route is restricted to the tour buses. This, of course, is done to limit the impact of vehicles and travelers on the park. So the night before, we called for reservations. The clerk on the phone said, “its easy to get tickets when you get here in the morning”.  I should have listened to my inner worrier. When we got there, bus tickets were completely sold out for the day. Arg!

The Views from Denali National Park are spectacular.
The Views from Denali National Park are spectacular.

So we took the driving route in as far as we could. It was beautiful. We saw bears and moose and loved every minute.

So Do Not Drive By Denali State Park

The second day, the weather was astounding. They say that 80% of the people that try to see the peak of Mt. Denali actually see clouds instead. But we hit perfect weather and from the pull-outs in the Denali State Park, we had amazing views. What a day!

Views from pullout in Denali State Park
Views from pullout in Denali State Park
The closest view of Mount Denali from the Highway.
The closest view of Mount Denali from the Highway.

Talkeetna Made the Week Perfect

Only an hour away, we pulled into the town of Talkeetna.  I have to say, the $25 fee to dry camp in a parking lot seemed a little excessive. But hey, what can you do?

Our tickets for the Talkeetna Air Taxi ran over $350 per person. It was the only time in four months we spent that kind of money on an excursion. Money so well spent. 

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Getting on a small plane is a little scary for me. But the people at TAT we friendly and clearly competent. We received overboots for our shoes and earphones for our time on the plane. 

Getting on the flight for Talkeetna Air Taxi. Overshoes and headset provided.
Getting on the flight for Talkeetna Air Taxi. Overboots and headset provided.

So in the two-hour flight, this excellent pilot rattled into our earphones the names of every peak, the stories of climbers who succeeded and those that failed, and tales from the residents of the mountain, prehistoric and modern. He was a veritable encyclopedia, and we loved every minute of it.

Lifting above the clouds for our first glimpse of the Alaskan Range
Lifting above the clouds for our first glimpse of the Alaskan Range

Mt. Denali is the highest mountain on the continent at 20,310 feet. It rises above the Alaskan Range. If Denali were not there, each of the mountains in the range would be a reason to take a flight to see them.

Several glaciers flow out of the Alaska Range. When they come together, they are much like two streams joining. But because this is ice, each of the flows maintain their own paths, side by side.

Two rivers of ice flowing in slow motion off of the Alaska Range.
Two rivers of ice flowing in slow motion off of the Alaska Range.

The Alaska Range was formed by the uplift of two tectonic plates colliding, the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. Much of what looks like volcanic calderas is actually the action of the glacial ice cutting the rock over millennia. As far as geologists can determine, there has been no actual volcanic activity in this range. This is surprising because the ring of volcanic activity that is present in Southwest Alaska actually stops here.

An excellent article on the formation of this range written by NPS

Flying over the calderas in the Alaskan Range
Flying over the calderas in the Alaskan Range

After traveling in and out of the range, naming off peak after peak, the pilot dropped down to land on the glacier. We walked around in the snow in the middle of July. The overboots were highly appreciated.

Walking on the Glacier in the Alaska Range
Walking on the Glacier in the Alaska Range

Dropping out of the heights of the mountains, we flew over the braided meanderings of the Susitna River. The land is suddenly flat here and farmers love the glacial soil. We have returned to the Alaskan summer, and our journey continues.

Leaving the snow country and flying over the braided rivers back to Talkeetna
Leaving the snow country and flying over the braided rivers back to Talkeetna

Read More About our Alaska Road Trip

The McCarthy Highway to Kennecott Mines is worth the work.

Dawson City Keeps the Klondike Gold Rush alive

Denali Flightseeing from Talkeetna is the only way to go! Denali Flightseeing from Talkeetna is the only way to go! Denali Flightseeing from Talkeetna is the only way to go!

 

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