Denali Road Lottery (private vehicles on main park road)
Alaska has great scenery but to see the most alpine animals, you might be better off with a combo trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Still, just as information, here’s a brief Alaska update.
Denali National Park usually requires visitors to traverse the one park road by school bus, with limited views and small windows. An exception is the end of the visitor season, when in mid-Sept for four days private vehicles can enter the park all the way to end of the road at mile 91. You have to win the so-called “Denali Road Lottery.” (A fifth day is set aside for U.S. military.) Details on the website. To win, find friends or create aliases, since the odds are such that if you have five to ten entries (at $25 each), one of those is likely to win. A winning lottery number IS transferable, so your mom can apply but let you be the one to go. Because this coincides with the end of the season, be aware that restaurants and shops close down (ditto hotels) and for example, the grocery stores had empty shelves. Stock up ahead of time; there are no services inside the park.
I was in Alaska briefly to ride shotgun with a cousin who won, and our list is below. I should add that I was traveling with photographers who had more interest in seeing a bull moose than in finding tundra voles. Even so, here is a mammal list for Alaska Sept 2016, just to help others plan.
More species than this of course are possible, but what can I say? Vladimir was not with us.
(( American Black Bear ))—I did not see it but saw a photograph of one on beach taken from Kenai Fjords boat; the fool who spotted it took a picture but never told anybody else until we got back to dock.
Arctic Ground Squirrel—Denali Park and Denali Highway.
Beluga—best chance near Anchorage is to watch from Beluga Point on the Seward Highway during an in-coming large bore tide. I was always there at the wrong time but finally saw some at flood tide deep in the inlet, just before the road leaves the Seward Highway for Girdwood and the ski resorts. A small pod was feeding almost directly adjacent to the highway. I have missed this species often before.
Caribou—a low year? I saw as many dead, strapped to hunters’ jeeps, as I did in Denali National Park.
Dall’s Sheep—places to try include the cliffs above the Seward Highway (such as above Beluga Point or the Turnagain Arm trailhead at Windy Corner), near Sheep Mountain Lodge on the road to Glennallen, and in Denali National Park.
Grizzly Bear—we have three or possibly four different bears on our one day of the Denali Road Lottery; of those, one came close enough for frame-filling pictures, but that’s not a usual thing. When one is seen, there will be a guaranteed traffic jam.
Harbor Seal—marina in Seward and around glaciers on the Kenai Fjords boat trip.
Humpback Whale—most have left by Sept; one only, an immature it seems, on Kenai Fjords boat trip.
Mountain Goat—seen from Seward on the high slopes of Mt. Marathon, visible from downtown with good binoculars. Usually it’s too cloudy to see them?
Moose—Anchorage and Denali, a few other places eg Glennallen Highway. It was moose hunting season so they were skittish outside parks.
Red Squirrel—Glennallen Highway, Denali National Park.
(( River Otter ))—a family group perhaps in Seward? A report from my brother.
Sea Otter—marina in Seward
(( Snowshoe Hare ))—Park Service says they’re still being seen in Denali but I didn’t see them.
Steller’s Sea Lion—Kenai Fjords boat trip.
(( Wolf ))—seen in Denali NP the day before our lottery day.
(( Wolverine ))—seen in Denali NP the day before our lottery day. Perhaps seen once a month now inside the park?
Gas was cheaper than California, hotels about the same, food much pricier. Weather was mixed, including 60+ mph winds at one point in Denali, heavy rain at times, and a snowfall that had come down to road level in Denali. Lots of yellow aspens. Sometimes it was calm, even sunny, and 60 degrees F. Few mosquitoes.
If you need information, contact me directly at Charles Hood, firstname.lastname@example.org
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It looks like wolverine sightings are increasing in Denali. My friends saw one five years ago and were told by park people that it was the first sighting inside the park in four years. Now they are seen regularly. I wonder if this is a cycle thing or a delayed rebound from pre-park trapping.