Flight to Denali National Park and Glacier Landing with Talkteena Air Taxi
Denali National Park is often a highlight of people’s itinerary to Alaska and for good reason. The park itself spans over six million ares and Denali peak stands at 20,310 feet making it the tallest mountain in North American and the third tallest in the world.
When I made a rough draft two week adventure to Alaska, I dedicated three days to this area. A few factors eliminated this from our one week itinerary. First, we only had a week so a long drive (8 hours from Anchorage) was not in the cards. Second, the official park bus that takes you into the park was not operating due to COVID which meant if you did not get a lottery pass for your car, you would only drive 15 miles into the park. Those factors did not see worth the effort to get up there with such a short trip. So how did we end up here?
Due to the weather day on Tuesday, the rearrangement of some itinerary items earlier in the trip, and our efficiency throughout the trip, Friday became an open day. I went back to my two week rough draft to see what areas we had missed. The most obvious hole was visiting Denali National Park but this was eight hours away from Anchorage one way and we only have a day. How did we end up fitting Denali into our one week itinerary?
There are several companies that do short excursions via plane to Denali – some showcase the entire area, some fly right up to the peak of Denali, and some even include a glacier landing. Now, these are not cheap at all. We chose the Mountain Voyager with Glacier Landing. It felt silly to spend almost $800 for two of us to fly for an hour and a half, land on a glacier, and go home. But from a budget stance, we canceled one of the boat tours that would have been $500, we got a 10% AAA discount, and the money we normally spend eating out was not a factor since we were cooking all of our food. You do not go on vacation to save money but it made us feel a little more comfortable pulling the trigger. Ways to trim this cost down is to opt out of the glacier landing (cheaper trip and you do not need to pay the National Park entrance fee) but honestly, when you are spending that much money for a once in a lifetime kind of experience, just go for it if you can.
Anyway! We arrived early to check in and our weights confirmed, donned our glacier boots, then waited outside for our tour time. COVID instructions were simple – mask stays on the entire time we are in the plane. Easy peasy – but not for everyone! COVID rant is at the bottom of the post.
Our pilot Paul came out to greet us, debriefed us with the safety measures, and loaded us into the plane. The plane fit twelve and there were nine of us on this flight. Kevin and I sat in the back and it was no long before the incredible mountain range came into view. And I do not think we could have picked a better weather day if we tried – there was not a cloud in the sky, no fog to be seen!
The landscape changed so quickly in our short plane ride. It started grassy green, then faded into that Mordor dirt color, then turned a bright white as we made it closer to the peaks. It was easy to spot the glaciers in between the peaks, continuing to carve out the mountains.
Pilot Paul did such a great job of giving each side of the plane a view of the peaks, especially Denali. It was almost impossible to have a sense of what we were actually doing, it was all happening so fast!
After getting sweeping views of Denali and hundreds of photos, it was time for our glacier landing. We learned there are few spots they typically land the plane. It was funny to see the tire marks from the previous planes of the day in the snow. We got out of the plane and it was blinding! While it started off very cold, we longer we stood in the sun, the hotter we became. Once again, it was really difficult to fathom that we were over 7,000 feet above ground – on a glacier – in Denali National Park – staring at all these peaks. Kevin thinks it is because we didn’t earn it like we did with the hikes and these things just appeared and happened so fast. It was even crazier to think that while we stood at 7,000 feet, Denali was still way higher above 20,000 feet.
We got to stay on the glacier for about twenty minutes before heading back to the airport. Being in the back of the plane had some nice photo advantages and at this point was definitely one of them.
The pictures simply do not do it justice from the scale, the complexity, the amazement, and the vastness of this trip. Even as I write this after the fact, it is hard the believe we did these things – the pictures prove it but jeez how do these things exist in the world??? That is what drives the passion of travel for us. There is so much to discover in the world that are bigger than us that can become a part of us.
Warning – COVID Rant – I put it at the end this time so you did not have to interrupt reading about this amazing trip with this nonsense. Two of the older people in our group refused to comply with the face mask policy. On the way there, they continued to take photos without their masks on. On the way back, they straight up did not even wear it. I immediately reported them to the staff who took the concern seriously and reported them to the state. I was just SO PISSED because their ignorance is something I cannot disassociated with this amazing experience. And it is not the company’s fault – they were crystal clear about the rules and what to do. These two put the mask on when the pilot was looking and then took them off – the pilot is flying the plane he cannot also be the COVID police. But I can. Rant over!