When going to Denali National Park, many people dream of seeing every wildlife species that the park has to offer. However, the reality is that the animals know where the roads are. They know where the traffic is. They know where the noise and the people are. You can drive back and forth for hours and just hope to be lucky, or you can follow these tips on how to find moose in Denali National Park.
1. Don’t take a bus on the first 16 miles
Even though Denali National Park road is 92 miles, you can only drive the first 16 on your own! Most of the park is closed off to the public by car except for official bus tours that are run by the National Park Service. What this means is that all of the tourists that are driving themselves through Denali will all be crammed into the first 16 miles.
Luckily, driving yourself isn’t all bad. Most people in Denali are doing cruise excursions, which means that they don’t have access to their own cars. This means that all of the tourists tend to take the buses. That is why you REALLY shouldn’t take the bus if you can avoid it for the first 16 miles when you have other options.
The buses are loud and old which means that they cause a lot of smoke and exhaust. Animals are not a fan of either of those things, and while the animals are pretty used to seeing buses and tourists with their cameras, they still try their best to stay away. If you are hoping to spot moose in Denali, then you don’t want to do anything that could possibly scare them away.
2. Finding Moose in Denali Requires Hiking
Hiking, or at least walking, is your best chance at seeing animals in Denali. The farther away that you are from the road, the closer you are to their natural habitat. In fact, the farther away that you are from people as well, the better.
Eric and I were able to spot five moose traveling together at once when we decided to take a random hike. In fact, our hike was completely off trail. We just saw open space and went for it. Denali is cool because you can hike anywhere in the park you want, trail or no trail.
While this might sound scary, it can actually be an amazingly peaceful experience. Eric and I had mostly driven the first 16 miles back and forth with a few of the short hikes mixed in, yet we still hadn’t seen any moose. One evening we just decided to get out of our car to look at rocks, and somehow we just kept walking. That’s when we found the herd. No trail, no people. Just us, sunset, plains, mountains, and moose.
It was truly magical.
Like adventure? Check out this glacier heli-hiking tour you can do in Alaska as well!
3. Be quiet, but remain attentive
When you travel, follow the mantra “Leave nothing but footprints.” That generally means, clean up after yourself and leave the forest as beautiful as you found it. In this case however, it means be quiet and don’t make a sound or leave a trace. Moose don’t want to be around people, making yourself invisible will be to your benefit.
Be sure to always remain attentive though. There are wolves, bears, and many other animals in the park, and you ALWAYS want to be aware of your surroundings.
4. Go at dusk or dawn
The summers in Alaska have 20 hours of sunlight a day which means that it can be difficult to figure out when dusk and dawn are. This guide can help with that. Many of the animals come out to eat during these low-sunlight hours of the day when there are less people around and less heat. Actually, Eric and I spent two full days in Denali National Park hunting specifically for moose, and we only found moose during dusk and dawn. If you are trying to maximize your time in Alaska, definitely go to Denali during these times.
Side note: the busses in Denali stop running around 6pm which means if you don’t have a car, you will need to walk during the dusk/dawn time as there will be no bus to take you.
5. Follow ALL OF THE RULES about safety for moose in Denali
Moose are no joke. They can be incredibly mean and dangerous. Besides, moose cause hundreds of car accidents a year in Alaska because they aren’t afraid of cars! What kind of animal isn’t afraid of cars??? The kind that are dangerous, that’s who. There are so many car accidents caused by moose in Alaska that there are “Be careful of Moose on the Highway” signs everywhere.
6. Bring a zoom lens
According to the rules about moose in Denali, you should NEVER get within 150 feet of a moose. Moose will charge you if you get into their territory. However, if that does happen run away as fast as you can. Moose will generally stop if they see you fleeing and not being a threat. Because of the safety and distancing requirements of moose, you will need a zoom lens in order to get a good shot. I used a 200mm zoom to get the shot of the herd above, and it still wasn’t as close as I wanted the shot to be. Make sure that you pack a zoom lens if you want to catch these sneaky big guys on camera.
The plus side is that moose range from 7 to 10 feet tall and can weigh up to 1500 pounds! At least the focus of your picture is a big target.
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