Been there, done that
Teklanika River Campground, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
We don't do Danali well. We make it work, barely, but it's close, really close. Here's a list of what NOT to do if you go to Danali. Then I'll try to sugar-coat our three days there and make you (and me) feel better about the experience.
Do not bring dogs to Danali. Dogs aren't allowed on any real trails or on the buses that are the only way to move through the park. You cannot leave them unattended. You can walk them in a campground, leave them in your car, or sit with them when they are tethered outside.
Don't expect to drive. You can drive in the first 15 miles of the park, and then you must take busses. If you'll notice in all the pictures of wildlife in Danali, there are old green school-buses in the background.
Cash up fifty miles before Danali. Towns on both sides of the park had NO functioning cash machines. We finally had to hit the park with our debit card and less than five bucks in cash.
Avoid going to Danali during the hottest week in the recorded history of Alaska. OK, so 87 degrees doesn't feel very hot to a Floridian, but it does to grizzlies, wolves, Dall's sheep, and even Caribou. They will hide, panting in their dens, while you hike and hike and bike and bike to try and see them.
Avoid Danali when it is full of forest-fire smoke. Not only will most of the animals stay under cover, but you will cough, your eyes will burn, you will find exercising uncomfortable, you will be bitchy and grumpy. You will wrinkle your nose and say ICK a lot.
If you stay in Teknalika Campground (which is a great idea, even though the minimum reservation is three days), make sure you buy the unlimited bus pass, the Teknalika pass. This will allow you to all day and every day hop on any busses headed further into the park. With this pass you will not have to try and ride your bikes miles and miles to see the wildlife who are too hot to come out into the smelly air. You will not have to sit late into the night in your campsite, praying the wolves will come steal your socks. You will not have to bat your collective eyes at bus drivers and beg rides into the park.
OK, bad experiences are shitty to talk about, so I'll stop. The good news is that we LOVED the sled-dog demonstration. We got to talk to , pet, scratch, and watch the Danali sled-dogs (who, in winter, patrol two million acres of the park with their humans). Awesome.
We did get to see several Caribou and several grizzlies. We saw a ton of tracks for other wildlife, lots of moose scat, attended a great talk about moose, and came up with a middle name for Cassidy. We call him moose-legs now.