Checking Out Wonder Lake

1 September 2015, Tuesday

Wonder Lake is the crown jewel of Denali National Park. Normally it requires an 85 mile one-way bus ride to get to it. From the North Face, we are just a few miles away, so we will be seeing a lot of Wonder Lake on this trip. We woke up to an absolutely clear day. Not a cloud in the sky, and the mountain was clearly visible. After breakfast, we took a short ride to Wonder Lake.

There are small kettle ponds across the road from the shore of Wonder Lake. These were formed by receding glaciers. They are fun to photograph because of the reflections and the colorful fall flora.

This morning was just about familiarizing ourselves with the area, and enjoying the morning sunshine. We hiked up a small hill where the views were even better. There were 10 of us plus Len in our small group, and we were free to wander the area on our own.

We came on our excursion on one of the North Face busses. A naturalist guide from the lodge accompanied us, and she also brought sack lunches and snacks. Before we ate our picnic, she made hot drinks for everyone.

If we were staying at the North Face Lodge on our own, we would have the option of three different levels of hikes each day. These range from strenuous hikes, to easier forays where the terrain is mostly flat and you can focus on photography, instead of finding the next place to put your foot without killing yourself. The lodge has special permits to take their busses back into the National Park to facilitate these exploration adventures. This system is much like the graduated activity options offered by UnCruise – think Bushwacks to Shorewalks.

It was a fun morning. After lunch, we enjoyed more Wonder Lake and worked on some macro photography before heading back towards the lodge. We toured the sister lodge to North Face – called Camp Denali. It sits above the North Face Lodge, with a small reflective lake in the middle. Camp Denali has shared bathrooms and showers, where North Face has private baths in each room. (2021 Update – North Face Lodge is no longer taking guests, but Camp Denali has re-opened after the pandemic.)

People gathered in the main lounge area by the dining room before dinner. There wasn’t a lot of mingling, since most of us were there with our own travel groups. One thing Lou and I don’t care for is assigned seating at dinner – if you are in the middle of a conversation with someone, it is annoying to have to sit at a different table. Len did get the lodge to agree to keep our group mostly together during dinners, but we still had to hunt for our pins each time!

After dinner, our group set off for an evening shoot at Wonder Lake. This was a better opportunity for photographing the lake and Denali than we had in the mid-day light.

At 8:15pm it is still very light outside. We have had the pleasure of being able to see Denali, the mountain, all day long. Some of you may know the mountain by the name Mt. McKinley. Denali or Mount McKinley? Check out the link to read more from the National Park Service on the Mountain naming controversy.

At 9:15pm, it was still light outside, but we were beginning to capture the Alpenglow on the mountain.

The ideal conditions would include some soft puffy clouds above the mountains, and perfectly flat water in the lake. We had no complaints. We will have another chance to capture the Alpenglow at sunrise tomorrow.

Click HERE to see Wonder Lake at sunrise.

Categories: Alaska, Denali National Park, Travel

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2 replies »

  1. The scenery photos from these last few Denali posts are fantastic. Absolutely stunning scenery and such incredible luck with the weather! I think other non-professional photographs I’ve seen of the area only have partial mountain views. So beautiful in full, clear view, and the alpenglow ones are spectacular.

    • Thank you, Laurie. I had forgotten how lucky we were with the weather. I also recall being stymied by the Alpenglow photos – not wanting to over or under process them. Finally decided just to post what I have, in the spirit of sharing this report – finally !!!

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