The denali hotel is not as nice as the McKinley, but if seeing denali and wildlife is a priority, then stay at denali for at least two nights. Otherwise, if staying at McKinley, your touring options are very limited there, usually taking only the natural history tour which does not go far enough into the park for prime wildlife viewing. The tundra tour goes further but timing of your bus or train often prevents taking it. It lasts 7hrs, costs about $85 and goes to mile 53, Toklat river area. A better choice is taking the park run shuttle buses which cost 1/4th as much go further into the park and are on the same type of school buses.
McKinley is at least 100 miles from denali, 60 or so miles from Talkeetna and not a lot to do around there. You could do summit flt from there and it is great tour.
The above information is something I strongly encourage you to consider. Many people purchasing cruisetours, simply do not realize what they are purchasing. Your question indicates this perhaps?
Get an Alaska map. This will focus the areas for you. As already mentioned the Denali Princess is only a so so property, nothing special, the McKinley lodge is nicer. BUT a big priority here should be getting into Denali Park for the wildlife and scenery viewing opportunties. The highlight for many, determine what your priorities are??? The 2 lodges are 100 miles apart with no option for touring the national park from the McKinley lodge. The Park Road into Denali Park is 90 miles. The Natural History tour is a waste of time in my opinion only going 15 miles into the park. Included in most Princess land tours. The Tundra Wilderness tour goes to mile 53, but my min. recommended distance in is Fish Creek via SHUTTLE bus to mile 63.
The McKinley Princess is out in the middle of nowhere. No activities that stand out and McKinley is rarely visable. (had a 6 day no show when I was there in August). It is a 50 mile bus ride to the nearest town, Talkeetna. Myself, I wouldn't be there without a car.
The cruisetours are a costly option, budget 50% more than you would at home for meals. Be aware of all the time in transit, again the map will help you. So a long story short, I would take 2 nights at the Denali Princess EVERY time.
Be aware you can see and do much more going independent, extremely simple to do in Alaska and plenty of help on these boards. Go for as long as you can afford if you stick with a cruisetour, ideally at least 7 added days.
Thanks! This forum IS part of our homework and we do appreciate the info. We will take all of this into account. We seldom take "tours" and most often go off on our own and discover places off the beaten path. Sounds like that's the way we will go while in Denali.
When attempting to determine which Lodge is best, The Denali Princess or the McKinley Princess, so much depends upon how aggressive and energetic one is during a visit to Alaska. The Denali Princess, an excellent facility, is located next to the Parks Highway on the Nenana River in the middle of a maze of resorts, motels, cabins, gift shops, guiding services, outfitters, etc. It is right next to the entrance to the Federal Park and a good place to stay if you are taking in many of the different tour and transportation services. Particularly, if you plan on an all day adventure into the Park. And you must take one of these “safaris” into the park if you are going to see the mountain from the north side, as you cannot see it from anywhere near this “glitter gulch” on the highway near the entrance.
On the other hand, the McKinley Wilderness Princess is relatively remote and located on the south side of the Alaska Range, within the small Denali State Park. It is situated in that location primarily because of the excellent view of Mt. McKinley. It is on the edge of the Tokositna Wilderness and close to the general area where our famous painter, Sydney Laurence, (first half of the 20th century, he died in 1940) preferred to paint the mountain. If you visit the Anchorage Museum of History and Art in downtown Anchorage, don’t miss the huge painting of Laurence’s, which is a central exhibit of the museum. It is of the mountain and takes your breath away.
This lodge is much more laid back than the other locations although there really is a lot to do if one wants to. You can take the shuttle down to Talkeetna as well as take advantage of a number of excursions. If you have your own wheels this would certainly facilitate doing about anything you desire from a transportation standpoint. But sadly, you may not see the mountain due to clouds, however, that is true wherever you are around the Alaska Range. Alaska style: “Caveat Emptor”.
The McKinley Princess was the only Princess lodge up here we hadn’t stayed in until the 7th of September. That was our anniversary, so we went up there for a day and night. Just before dinner the great mountain came out in all its splendor. There were a lot of guests (Must be a lot of others that agree, as the latest expansion will take it up to almost 500 rooms) and I thought the lodge was going to tip over with everyone taking pictures and such, on the north side. If it was up to me, I would book in at the McKinley Princess for a couple of nights, with my own vehicle, then drive up to the Federal Denali Park if we so desired, for tours, river rafting or whatever we determined to do or perhaps down to Talkeena for flight seeing and gift shopping. But not so bad either, just laying about the lodge reading a book and taking in the atmosphere. 65 MPH out on the Parks from there, with the usual little traffic, gets you anywhere in a hurry.
Kennicott- you make some excelllent points as an INDEPENDENT Princesss Lodge visitor, but I doubt this is how the poster is traveling there??? It's one thing to be in your car and staying in these lodges, a whole different story on one of Princess's cruise tours. Especially if it includes only the TOUR bus into Denali Park??? Toursaver is a great option as well.
An immense landslide exploded down a remote peak in the eastern Chugach Mountains last week, ringing the globe with a mysterious seismic pulse and dumping enough debris to bury Midtown Anchorage at least three feet deep.
An estimated 65 million cubic yards of rock and ice avalanched from the south face of 10,500-foot Mount Steller about noon on Sept. 14, according to observations by glacier pilot Paul Claus and estimates by seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach with the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
The run-out descended 8,000 feet down the peak and extended almost six miles before dusting a swath of the Bering Glacier, about 240 miles east of Anchorage in a rarely visited ice-sheathed wilderness south of Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park.
The slide caught the attention of scientists because it produced a slow rolling signal that lasted three minutes. It was clearly not an earthquake but shook the earth with as much vigor as a magnitude-3.8 quake.
"I think it's awesome, and I'm still trying to figure out what I know about it," said Caplan-Auerbach, who studies the seismic signatures of ice avalanches on volcanos. "The rock slide is indeed enormous, but I think the thing that's really unusual is the seismic signal is much larger than what you'd expect. We're still trying to figure out why."
The landslide registered on instruments across the world, said seismologist Natasha Ruppert with the Alaska Earthquake Information Center in Fairbanks. It cooked up infra-sound rumbling too low for human hearing but strong enough to prick sensors 340 miles away in Fairbanks.
"I've never seen anything like this, and what surprised me is how huge it was," Ruppert said. "It's more like an explosion, I would say, than an earthquake. It hit the ground and seismic waves traveled in all directions"
Thanks Karen. Each time I post I make another mistake. I said the slide occurred in the St. Elias Mountains while it occurred in the Chugach. I was close though. The Chugach Mountains apparently terminate on the west side of the Bering Glacier while the St. Elias mountains terminate on the east side. Mt. Steller, then, where the slide originated, is about 25 miles west of the St. Elias Range. Picky picky. But then, to further confuse, the south boundary of Wrangell St.Elias National Park goes across the top of Mt. Steller. But the avalanche went south, so all or most of it occurred outside the park.
Thanks, Shirley. I am curious, which cruise-tour did you take and which ship? We still are not certain we will be able to go next year, so can't make definite plans. Hope it won't get too late to get booked, but if so, we will go the next year. Gives me more time to be excited!
I would pay attention to what Kaern16 advises plus as everyone stated you can do more on your own then a cruisetour and do your homework,,,that said,,my story....
I choose HAL last year to do my cruisetour (afte my homework). It seemed at the time they were the only ones (and I am probably wrong) that included the Yukon and Dawson City which was also a priority, and I wanted a no-brainer as I went 5 months after a major surgery and didn't want to think.
If I could have done one thing different, it would have been to add the extra day in Denali. We did stay at the McKinley Chalets which too was near the entrance,,HAL did put us on the Tundra tour so we left at 5:15 am for our tour and it was great (got to go as far as the tour allowed, took 7 1/2 hours), but I would like to have had the extra day there to strike out and do something on my own,,,river rafting or something else,,,but don't get me wrong, it is gorgeous there. HAL did have that as one of theri choice but evidently I didn't study hard enough!