Denali, the mountain that never showed it's top. After Fairbanks we popped into Denali for a few nights. We stayed at the Denali Hostel, in our own room. The accommodations were nice and we would definitely recommend staying there. Denali was our last hope of seeing some bears. Up to this point we had struck out, in fact we hardly saw any evidence of them. Lucky for us we got our wish granted.
We left Fairbanks in the morning and drove to Denali to have lunch and get in a hike before heading off to the hostile. Due to our time being limited we picked the Savage Alpine Trail. The hike is only four miles but it requires a car drop or in our case a shuttle ride. The trail climbs steeply up to provide great views, as well as some encounters with wildlife. We saw multiple Arctic Ground Squirrels, which are a close second in cuteness to the Pikas. The trail was busy, but everyone was spread out by the varying athletic abilities. Unfortunately we saw no bears, which didn't really shock us.
Our first full day in Denali we picked the longest trail in the park. The Triple Lakes Trail rolls through the hills along a picturesque river. The trail itself is a whopping 9.5 miles one way, so we opted to do an out and back. The trail was in great shape and there were no people on it till we reached the lakes. there we ran into a NPS trail crew. After a quick lunch at the lake we headed back where we encountered a few more trail users, but it was still a nice quiet trail. The highlights were definitely the fall colors and the spectacular bridges.
We had one full day left in Denali and we debated on some off trail hiking or a dreaded bus tour. We weighted the odds of seeing a bear, and broke down and bought bus tickets. The non-narrated shuttle was six hours long driving through the park's restricted road. There were no promises of wildlife, but only guarantees of landscape. Luck was finally on our side, as a few hours into the ride we found our bears. Two brown bears were on the roadside snacking. The bus was able to slowly drive by the bears within 12 feet. A view like this would not have been possible on a hike. Although the bus ride was full of mouth breathers, it ended up being worth it. I wasn't able to get any pictures, but we did spot some other wildlife along the ride, including a moose calf.