Alaska Interior, USA – Anchorage, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaskan Railroad, & Talkeetna

Moose Seen Along Road Alaska Interior
Moose Seen Along Road 
in Alaska's Interior
Alaska Interior, USA – Anchorage, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaskan Railroad, & Talkeetna (July 11-15, 2012) – Taking a week to discover some rather easily accessible main attractions in Alaska’s interior was a great experience!
Summer Flowers Downtown Anchorage Alaska
Pretty Summer Flowers 
- Downtown Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, USA

Wayne Riding Trolley Shuttle Anchorage Alaska
Wayne Riding Trolley Shuttle 
- Anchorage, Alaska
Reindeer Sausage Hotdog Stand Anchorage Alaska
Reindeer Sausage Hotdog Stand 
- Anchorage, Alaska
Reindeer Sausage Hotdog Anchorage Alaska
Reindeer Sausage Hotdog 
- Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage is Alaska's largest city and cosmopolitan port city with a population of over 300,000, about 40% of Alaska’s total population. During the summer months, Anchorage’s streets are lined with colorful flowers making it a pretty city to wander (see photo). We wandered down to Ship Creek Bridge to watch the salmon but the salmon run was late this year. Wandering Anchorage’s downtown centered around 4th and 5th Avenue was fun with its unique shops and restaurants. You can take in some history about the devastating 1964 9.2 earthquake that destroyed Anchorage rocking the town for over 5 minutes.

When hunger struck, we choose to share a reindeer sausage hotdog from a street vendor in front of Anchorage’s City Hall (see photo). It was delicious. We had a couple of restaurants recommended to us and had a hard time deciding so we went to both. Humpy’s is a local hangout with pretty good food and 50 good beers on tap – Alaskans like good beer. We ended up at the Snow Goose Restaurant and Sleepy Lady Brewing Company. A highlight of our day in Anchorage was our visit to the Anchorage Museum that beautifully showcases Alaska’s native people as well as contemporary regional art. We particularly liked the visual exhibition on Alaskan’s history including the building of the engineering marvel Alaskan pipeline.
Grizzly Bear Road Denali National Park Alaska
Grizzly Bear On Road 
- Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park and Preserve
Wayne dunlap Caribou Antlers Denali National Park Alaska
Wayne with Caribou Antlers
- Denali National Park, Alaska
Caribou Denali National Park Alaska
Caribou - Denali National Park, Alaska
For a long time I wanted to see a grizzly bear in the wild and our visit to Denali National Park delivered. We saw a record breaking (for our guide) 7 grizzly bears including a mother and her 2 cubs. As typical for Denali, we visited on a cloudy day. Although we could not see the main attraction (Mount McKinley), a cloudy day is better to see many sub-artic animals that prefer the cold weather. We saw all four of Denali’s “big four” (see photos) – 7 grizzly bears, 6 caribou, 2 moose, and a dozen or more Dall sheep – apparently a decent day for Denali’s sparsely populated sub-artic area. You can also see brown bears, wolves, foxes, lynx, voles, pika, squirrels, snowshoe hares, eagles, and other animals and birds.
Wayne dunlap Alaskan Sled Dog Denali Visitors Center Alaska
Wayne with Alaskan Sled Dog
- Denali Visitors Center, Alaska
Alaskan Sled Dog Puppies Denali Visitors Center Alaska
Alaskan Sled Dog Puppies
- Denali Visitors Center, Alaska
The awe inspiring 20,320-foot-tall Mount McKinley is North America’s highest mountain known to the native Athabascan Indians as Denali meaning “the high one.” Alaskan’s still call the mountain Denali so Denali and Mount McKinley is the same mountain. Every year hundreds of climbers take the challenge to ascend Denali / Mount McKinley. There are over a hundred mountains in the world taller but because Denali / Mount McKinley is located so far north in the sub-artic region, it is a challenging mountain.

Denali National Park and Preserve was established in 1917 as a wildlife refuge and was expanded to now encompass 6.3 million acres (about the size of the state of Massachusetts). There are restrictions on driving inside the park. From late May to early September shuttle and tour buses take you into the heart of Denali along a gravel road. We took the Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour and were glad we did. Our very knowledgeable driver, Jeff, gave us a very interesting tour of Denali allowing us to appreciate the preservation of wilderness. Of course, seeing wild grizzly bears and moose walk across the road right in front of our bus was awesome.

Salmon Bake Restaurant Denali Village Alaska
Salmon Bake Restaurant 
- Mckinley Village, Alaska
We stayed in the small McKinley Village just outside the entrance of Denali National Park (see photo). There a wide range of hotel options from upscale full-service lodges to rustic cabins. You can hook up with tour operators offering plane rides, river rafting, ATV tours, and other exciting things to do. We enjoyed the Salmon Bake restaurant for delicious salmon and other dishes and Prospectors Pizza for some good pizza and their 49 micro-brewed beers on tap. We also enjoyed visiting the interesting Denali Visitor Center where we watched the beautiful Heartbeats of Denali film about Denali and attended the free Alaska sled dog demonstration where we played with the friendly dogs and puppies (see photos above).

Alaskan Railroad Alaska Interior
Alaskan Railroad to Alaska's Interior
Alaskan Railroad

Beautiful Scenery Alaskan Railroad Alaska Interior
Beautiful Scenery
- Alaskan Railroad, Alaska's Interior
Riding the distinctive blue and gold Alaska Railroad is an absolute must. It is a bit pricey but considering the trip by rail provides access to some of Alaska’s special remote places and awesome scenery (see photos), it is more like an excursion than just transportation. 

From very comfortable rail cars, including double-deck with glass roofs, you travel smoothly through some of the most wonderfully scenic country in the world - snow-capped mountains, green flower-based forests, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, lakes, and streams with beaver dams (see photos). During the summer, you are treated to occasional narration from tour guides on board who point out sites not to be missed and tell about some of the history of the area.
Dall Sheep Alaska Railroad Alaska Interior
Dall Sheep from Alaska Railroad
- Alaska's Interior
The comfortable ride includes friendly accessible staff, domed car viewing, and a café and dining car available to even the budget class (Adventure) of seating. Travel tip... A good suggestion to save money and have a more varied experience is to take the Park Connection bus one way and the Alaskan Railroad the other.

Talkeetna Alaska
Talkeetna, Alaska
Talkeetna, USA

We wanted to see some small-town Alaska so we stayed a day in the quaint little town of Talkeetna (see photos). Talkeetna is the town in Alaska that the popular TV series Northern Exposure was modeled on. We found it to be more like a fun small down-to-earth ‘hippy’ town. Many of the guys in Talkeetna have ‘Santa Claus’ beards. Wandering down Main Street was like going back in time. We like this little town very much. You should treat yourself to a visit to Talkeetna when traveling through. We stayed at the beautiful Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge outside of town.

Beer Philosophy Alaskan Denail Brewing Company Alaska
Beer Philosophy of Alaskans
- Denail Brewing Company, Alaska

Talkeetna was originally established as a late 1890’s mining settlement and steamboat station for miners and trappers. Alaska’s gold rush past still resides in Talkeetna’s buildings and culture. Talkeena is located at the base of Denali / Mount McKinley where over 90% of climbers start their trek to the top.

See our other 2 blog posts on Alaska to read about our complete trip:

Scenic Route Alaska Interior Park Connection Bus
Scenic Route to Alaska's Interior
from Park Connection Bus
General Alaska Comments

We very much enjoyed our 2-week visit to Alaska. Everywhere you visit in Alaska the landscape scenery is a wow! after wow! The people of Alaska that we met along the way were genuine and friendly and have a sense of self-reliance and cooperation that is refreshing coming from a society that is becoming increasingly filled with entitlement and self-centeredness. Once we got back home to San Diego, we better understood why living in Alaska is preferred by almost a million people. With scenic nature everywhere and no traffic jams, the open space makes people less stressed. Even the teenagers in Alaska smile and are happy – what’s with that?

Map of Alaska
Map of Alaska
If you have two weeks to explore Alaska, we believe that this trip that we researched and took is one of the better trips you can take. It includes a number of Alaska’s rather easily accessible main attractions and gets you off the beaten path to see some ‘real’ Alaska. We started with a classic 7-day Alaskan Inside Passage Cruise leaving from Vancouver, Canada, visiting Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and cruising Glacier Bay. Our second week was a land tour of Alaska’s interior visiting Anchorage, Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Seward (see more on Alaska's interior in this blog post), and the Kenai Peninsula & Fjords National Park with beautiful scenic Park Connection bus and Alaskan Railroad trips.

Alaskan Wilderness
Alaskan Wilderness
The main reason you should consider visiting Alaska is best described as Wilderness with a capital W - land as far as the eye can see left undeveloped for generations to come. Everything in Alaska is big! North America’s tallest mountain is here. The 3 largest U.S. Federal wildlife preserves are in Alaska. The smallest of the 3 having 6.3 million acres. Plant-eating animals (moose) grow to 1,500 pounds and plankton-eating whales become the largest animals on earth.

The tourism infrastructure in Alaska is extremely good offering budget and upscale accommodations, wonderfully scenic public transportation between major sites and towns including free or inexpensive shuttles in towns, and well-organized tours to visit the nature wonders of Alaska. Alaska is proud of its unique history and culture. History displays can be found everywhere.
Wayne dunlap Meets His Grizzy Bear Denali Visitors Center Alaska
Wayne Meets His Grizzy Bear
- Denali Visitors Center, Alaska

Trip planning to Alaska

Even during the summer, chilly weather and rain is common. Fashion is not important in Alaska so pack casual comfortable clothing - lightweight shirts layered under sweaters and jackets (fleece is good). Take with you pants and shorts, a water-resistant coat with a hood, sturdy waterproof shoes, lightweight gloves, rain gear, and sunglasses.

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