Alaska RVing: Seward to Talkeetna and Denali National Park

After some intensive days, things slowed down enough that I can put 3 days in one blog post, with “only” 22 photos 🙂

On Saturday (August 8th), we drove the 383 km (238 mi) from Seward to Talkeetna, then on Sunday, continued on another 245 km (152 mi) to Denali National Park for a 3-night stay.

As I mentioned in my last post, our move to Bear Creek RV Park worked well for us.

Bear Creek RV Park, Seward, Alaska
Old and basic but nicer sites that we we got at the “luxury” park down the highway a couple of miles.

Bear Creek RV Park, Seward, Alaska
Monty was feeling particularly good, and the little park a few minutes’ walk up Bear Creek was a wonderful place to him and Bella to play a bit and do some exploring before a long day of travel.

Bear Creek, Seward, Alaska

Bear Creek, Seward, Alaska
We had reservations at Talkeetna Camper Park, and got back-to-back water-and-power sites #31 and 32 for $35 each ($46.17 Canadian).

Talkeetna Camper Park, Alaska
This was the best commercial campground we had during the entire trip. It’s beautiful, the sites are spacious, downtown Talkeetna is walking distance, the manager is friendly and professional, and the wifi even works!

Talkeetna Camper Park, Alaska
For Jim and I, being a hundred yards or so from the Alaska Railroad station was a bonus 🙂

Alaska Railroad station at Talkeetna, Alaska
The weather had gotten increasingly worse as the day went on, but Cathy and I took the dogs for a walk into Talkeetna after getting settled after having dinner. We always enjoy this community – well, except when it gets really crowded, which it certainly does! It turned out to be a late night for us – we weren’t in bed until almost 11 🙂

Nagley's Store, Talkeetna, Alaska

On Sunday morning, we moved the motorhomes to the parking lot in front of the campground and took the Tracker into town so all 4 of us could do a bit of exploring. The weather, however, was awful. The heavy rain sure kept the crowds down, and there’s very little parking in downtown Talkeetna, so that part of the visit was easier as well.

This is the downtown airstrip for bush planes – there’s also a real airport near our campground.

Airstrip in downtown Talkeetna, Alaska
The shops were all very quiet, and it looked like many of the people in them were just getting out of the rain for a few minutes.

Heavy rain in downtown Talkeetna, Alaska
We went to the West Rib Pub & Grill for lunch. The food and service were both excellent as always, and prices are still reasonable. It seemed to me that the place had been stripped of artifacts, though – I was sure that the interior used to be much more interesting, and when I looked at the photos on TripAdvisor, that’s true. Maybe they’re getting ready to paint.

West Rib Pub & Grill, Talkeetna, Alaska
Once we got on the road, the only stop we made on the way to Denali was at the Alaska Veterans Memorial at Mile 147.2 of the George Parks Highway (it’s very poorly signed, and easy to miss). I still consider this to be one of the finest such memorials I’ve ever seen.

Alaska Veterans Memorial
Even I was excited to get back to Denali. After 25 years of coming to the park countless times with tour groups, this would be my first 3 night stay and the first visit where I could do whatever I wanted to. We had reservations for Riley Creek Campground, where there are 2 types of sites based on size. Our unserviced “A” site cost $28 per night, MJ and Jim’s unserviced “B” site was $22. You just drive around until you find a site, and we found an “A” and a “B” across the road from each other at the upper end of the Wolf Loop, the middle of 3 campsite groups (there are a total of 123 sites).

Riley Creek Campground, Denali National Park
Our campsite (A65) from the back side – large, beautiful, and nicely equipped. Absolutely perfect for our stay!

Campsite in Riley Creek Campground, Denali National Park
Monty very quickly dug himself a nest and settled down for a proper nap after the long day. Bella sometimes doesn’t seem to know what to make of his new habit.

Dogs at Riley Creek Campground, Denali National Park

Barbecued dinners for the group had become pretty much the norm now (I’m the barbecue chef 🙂 ), and our canopy provided the shelter we needed to stay outside when it started raining again. We were in bed early, as Cathy, MJ and Jim had reservations for the 08:30 shuttle bus to the Eielson Visitor Center and back, an 8-hour trip, on Monday. I’d stay back to take care of the kids, then go by myself on Tuesday (or with anyone who wanted another look).

I drove the others over to the Wilderness Access Center (WAC) Monday morning, in plenty of time to get in line early to get a good seat. The WAC is always a busy place.

Denali's Wilderness Access Center
There they go, with high hopes for an awesome day of wildlife, especially grizzlies, and maybe ever a look at The Mountain!

Shuttle bus boarding at Denali's Wilderness Access Center
I had planned to hike up Mount Healy (about 3 hours round trip, with a 1,700-foot elevation gain), but the weather wasn’t conducive to high-country hiking, so I went over to the railroad station to start. Trains and airplanes are always good photo subjects.

Alaska Railroad depot at Denali Park
The Denali Park Road is only open to private vehicles for 14.8 miles to the Savage River Bridge, and I’d never done that, so that was a good next step.

The road into Denali National Park, Alaska
A shuttle bus stops at the Savage River checkpoint, where a park ranger boards to give an intro to Denali. This is the view from the public parking lot at the Savage River. There are a couple of trails there, but for some reason I just wasn’t there anymore.

Savage River checkpoint, Denali National Park
When nature calls in Denali, it might be comforting to know that you’re behind a door that’s both grizzly and porcupine proof! 🙂

Denali National Park, Alaska
A bus nears the Savage River crossing.

Denali National Park, Alaska
This is the first good photo I’v ever gotten of the impressive 900-foot-long Alaska Railroad trestle across Riley Creek.

Alaska Railroad trestle across Riley Creek - Denali National Park, Alaska

I then went back to the RV, and spent the rest of the day walking the dogs around the campground and just relaxing.

When I went back to the WAC to pick the others up, they were quite pleased with the way the day had gone. They saw 10 grizzlies, but bad weather that included fairly heavy snow limited a lot of viewing so it wasn’t as good as they’d hoped. This photo of a grizzly during the snow is the one that I liked best of the ones Cathy shot. Nobody was interested in repeating the trip with me the next day.

Grizzly in August snow at Denali National Park, Alaska


Comments

Alaska RVing: Seward to Talkeetna and Denali National Park — 3 Comments

  1. We had great luck in recent (2 & 5 years ago) trips to Denali just after Labor Day in September…though next time we agreed to travel w the canvas wall tent and wood burning stove…everyone; other tourists, employees, shops near the entrance and in Healey was more pleasant and relaxed as the season wound down…which it does RAPIDLY after September 1 or so…businesses close, weather changes quickly and dramatically (as you found out) buses stop running, etc. By mid-September things are closing up for the season…and snow starts to fall in earnest.

  2. We had great weather while in Talkeetna. I LOVED Talkeetna and even got to pet the “mayor”. While we were in Denali, we saw many animals and although we have been there several times before, it is always exciting and interesting. Can’t wait to go back. Hope you got to see lots of animals when you went.

  3. Mr Lunberg, your trip (which I hope all are enjoying), brought back many memories of my visit to AK, as you have gone to so many of the places I went on the ARR tour. Of all the places in AK I visited, I spent an afternoon in Talkeetna, and left loving that beautiful town. I had read about Nagleys store before going, and stopped in. I hope The mayor of Talkeetna was at Nagleys (Mr. Stubbs).

    Seward is as beautiful as Talkeetna, looking back, I am just surprised ARR doesn’t include the Sea Life Center, at least it didn’t back then when I was there. The ARR tour guide took us by it, but we didnt go in.

    Your dogs look very happy and so does Molly ( as if some one can tell if a cat is happy?).
    As always, enjoy your blog so much, I doubt I will ever return to AK, and your trips there and postings refresh my memories of that happy time. The best to you and family.