One of the highlights of our Alaska vacation, was our Denali ATV Tour. We had an absolute blast riding the Argo 6×6 Frontier 650s. These all terrain vehicles (ATVs) truly live up to the acronym. The crew of Denali Tundra Tours were excellent. They gave you a tutorial and quick lesson on how the controls of the ATV operate. They also narrated stories along the trail through a headset located in each of our helmets. There was a lead rider and a trail vehicle – we never felt unsafe. Riders age 16 and older were allowed to drive these fun machines, which made it even more fun for our crew!
What made the Denali ATV tour unique was the pure adventure. We drove in areas of the Alaska tundra that very few human beings have ever ventured. Our guides made stops to point out vegetation types, wildlife, and stories of prospectors past. When the trail became flooded (which often occurred), the Argo 6x6s turned into a floating boat with the wheels propelling you across the top of the stream – so much fun!
We were worried that we would be a muddy mess at the end, but we did not get dirty at all! The family picture at the bottom of this page was taken after we got out of the ATVs. And believe me, our boys were not timid drivers – they were full throttle and grinning ear-to-ear the whole way!
Map of Denali ATV Tour Location:
The tour was very easy and worry free. Our driver picked us up at the National Park Visitor Center and drove us along the Stampede Trail, past Eight-mile Lake to the tour start. We drove on the ATVs for almost an hour down the very rugged Stampede Trail before we took a break and turned around and came back. We did not go as far as Bus #142 which was probably almost 20 miles further.
The Stampede Trail was started in 1903 by gold prospectors and miners. In 1960, a project was started to develop the trail into a road, but the flooding waters of the tundra’s thawing permafrost and the Teklanika River crossing made the project not feasible. The Yutan Construction Company ended the project abandoning one of their crew’s vehicles with a broken axle, Bus #142. The trail exists now as it was left so many years ago: 10+ miles of paved road off of George Parks Highway and 40+ miles of ‘cleared’ path heading west into the wilderness.
The Stampede Trail was memorialized by the tragic adventure of Chris McCandless who ventured into the Alaska wilderness to live off the land in 1992. He was found dead 4 months later in the abandoned Bus #142 on the Stampede Trail. His story has become renown from the book, “Into the Wild”.
If you decide to take a Denali ATV tour, we’d highly recommend this one. On the way back to the starting point, we got a nice view of Mount McKinley’s peak across the vast tundra. And as the staff drove us back to the visitor center, we saw a pair of moose and a very cool moon-lit sky over the Alaskan mountain range. Denali Tundra Tours did an excellent job, all around, and the experience gave our boys some great stories to tell their buddies back at home!