The pilot gestured to the white strip of flat ice in the sea of mountains. We were going to land there, on a glacier. The small ten-passenger Talkeetna flightseeing plane circled one final time above the jagged peaks of the Alaskan Range, found its angle, and began the descent.
Thus far, the Talkeetna flightseeing tour had already been otherworldly. But, as we headed at a 45-degree angle towards the ground, this glacier landing was taking it up a notch.
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Our Talkeetna flightseeing tour around Denali
Grand Denali Flightseeing Tour from Talkeetna
This was the one musts when we traveled to Alaska. Unfortunately, Denali and the Alaskan Range aren’t easily accessible, and we knew we couldn’t get far inside Denali National Park. This led us to do our Talkeetna flightseeing tour, starting in the small town with the closest runway to Denali.
Unfortunately, when visitor’s come to Alaska, laying eyes on Denali, or the Great One, isn’t guaranteed. Only about 30% of people get to see her.
On this day, it was a bluebird day, and Denali was showing off.
The excitement was palpable as we climbed aboard the de Havilland Canada DHC-3. I’d never flown in a plane this size before. I’d also never witnessed a mountain range from the air. With my Canon and 70-200 lens in hand, it was showtime.
Aerial Views on our Talkeetna flightseeing tour
After take-off, I was hooked. I was already in love with seeing the Alaskan landscape from a couple thousand feet up. Then, as we drew closer to the jagged peaks, that love reached a new level. Pure. Freaking. Bliss.
The Talkeetna flightseeing tour was shaping up to be more than I ever expected.
It was impossible not to be enamored with the sights. I mean, we were flying between mountain peaks, inside glacial valleys, above living glaciers. The entire thing was surreal. Then, as we made our way clockwise around Denali, we came upon Denali’s Basecamp.
With our May 30th flight, we were in the middle of summit season for the Great One. Seeing the tiny people below, funneling one after the other into and out of base camp, was mesmerizing. Then, just as quickly as we had approached them, the tiny ant-like figures disappeared behind the snowy ridgeline.
As we swung around the mountain, we entered a new glacial valley. This place, we’d shortly find out from our pilot, was why we were all wearing funny booties. This was our glacier landing spot. However, this isn’t like a glacier you’re envisioning with sharp ice pieces and small pools.
Instead, this is much closer to a snowfield that has a glacier an undetermined amount of feet below.
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Walking on a Glacier during our Talkeetna flightseeing trip
What made this experience so unique wasn’t the fact we were standing on snow/a glacier. It was that we were tucked away with some of the most gorgeous peaks I’ve ever seen. We were quite literally in the middle of the Alaskan Range, witnesses to jaw-dropping views few get to experience.
While the plane was only on the ground for approximately 15 minutes, seeing the other planes take off was the best part. After letting their engines warm up, the bright red planes would begin down the runway, some slightly skidding as they started.
Then, seconds later, they momentarily disappeared down the hill before coming back into view a hundred feet off the snowy field.
Magical Moments on our Talkeetna flightseeing trip
Then it was our turn.
The hum of the engines began – low at first and then louder and louder. Finally, the plane lurched forward, and there we were – speeding along the ice with increasing speed. Then, without even realizing it, we were airborne. As we rose, the mountains began to shrink below us. Our Talkeetna flightseeing tour was alive again.
We did a final pass on the southwestern side of Denali. Before long, we exited the mountains, the ice thinned, glacial silt emerged, and we were above the Alaskan tundra.
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Other Things to Do in Talkeetna
We hiked the Talkeetna River Trail, which was a nice flat walk. Nothing too special, but it allowed us to get out and do something. At the beginning of this trail, Denali can be viewed across the river. We spent a lot of time hanging out there as the glow on Denali was marvelous.
Walking around town
The town is super cute and has lots of places to see. We stopped inside Aurora Dora to see her Northern Lights photography. Quite good! Due to the noon-ish take-off time for the Talkeetna flightseeing trip, we had lots of time before and after to mingle around town.
Where we stayed in Talkeetna
Camping and Lodging
We spent two nights camping at the Talkeetna Boat Launch and Campground. (We initially tried to stay in a hostel in town, but that either was no longer open or something sketchy was happening because we were told to leave when we walked up.)
We ended up making our food while in town, but we t did enjoy ice cream from one of the places on Main St. We had something with Alaska Fireweed in it. It was yummy. We also stopped at the Denali Brewing Company just off Highway 3 as you head toward Talkeetna. This was fantastic.
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Commonly asked questions about a Talkeetna flightseeing trip
Is flightseeing in Alaska worth it?
100% no doubt about it. This was the most magical experience of my life. I still look back fondly on the photos and videos from this trip and have our minds blown. It’s truly a life-changing moment that you’ll remember forever.
Is Talkeetna worth visiting?
If you’re doing a Talkeetna flightseeing trip, definitely stay the night and check out the town. It’s nice, but nothing over the top in terms of ‘wow.’
Is the Talkeetna flightseeing glacier landing worth it?
Hmm, good question. It was amazing to be on the ground and say I walked on a glacier in the Alaskan Range in Denali National Park. But I would have been fine experiencing just the flight portion. But, I will say, make the entire loop around Denali. It’s a bit more expensive, but so worth it!
Was the flight around Denali bumpy?
Yeah, it was a bit bumpy at the start. I think I stopped paying attention as I started photographing, but my partner said it was bad for a bit. I was also in the first row, so maybe it was better up front.
Talkeetna Flightseeing – Wrapping Up
I’m still in awe of the trip. Thanks to our Talkeetna flightseeing tour, we spent nearly two hours above and within the Alaskan Range of Denali National Park. I soaked every minute and more of the journey. It’s still my favorite part of the 22 days we spent in the Last Frontier.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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