Spring is definitely in full swing in May and the snow and ice have melted away. As grizzly bears come out of their winter hibernation, the 2008 season has just begun at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, Yosemite National Park in California, and Yellowstone in Wyoming.
Denali spans six million acres, including Mt. McKinley and is a haven for lovers of the outdoors with hiking, river rafting, mountaineering and wildlife viewing. Apart from the grizzly natives, it is also home to moose, caribou, Dall sheep and wolves among others. For early bird travelers that want to visit in May before the summer crowds arrive, Denali Park Resorts (tel.800/276-7234; www.denaliparkresorts.com) is offering significant savings with an Early Bird package. For $189 plus tax per room, per night, guests can stay at any one of the Resort's four properties: McKinley Chalet Resort, McKinley Village Lodge, Grande Denali Lodge or Denali Bluffs Hotel. This offer is available on most nights, depending on vacancy. Ask for the early bird special when making your reservation.
The most popular way to see the sites and the magnificent glacial landscapes of Denali is on one of the Park's four organized tours (www.reservedenali.com/tours/index.cfm). The morning or afternoon Tundra Wilderness Tour runs from May 24 until September 11, 2008. They are priced at $93.50 for adults and $46.75 for children 14 and under and include a light snack and beverages. The tour travels to the Toklat River rest area providing some of the best opportunities to view the park's wildlife inhabitants. On days when Denali (Mt. McKinley) is visible, travel to Stony Hill Overlook to view the entire mountain from base to summit. When the roads to Toklat aren't fully accessible (May 15 to 23 and September 12 to 19, 2008), the shorter (four to five hour) Teklanika Tundra Wilderness Tour priced at $60.50 and $30.25 respectively, runs in place of the Tundra Wilderness Tour. The five-hour Denali Natural History Tour focuses on the rich, cultural history of Denali National Park, portraying the diverse native and early pioneer influences of the area. Visit the Wilderness Access Center to view "Across Time and Tundra" an award-winning short film that depicts early visitor experiences; a ranger cabin at Savage River; and Primrose turnaround point to experience an Alaskan native presentation. The tour, which runs from May 15 to September 20, 2008 is priced at $55.95 for adults and $28 for kids including a light snack. The Kantishna Experience follows the trails of gold rush pioneer Fannie Quigley to the old gold mining town of Kantishna at the end of the Park Road. This trip lasts between 11 and 12 hours accompanied by a National Park Service interpretive ranger. The $139/$69.50 price tag includes lunch, snacks and beverages. Tours run from June 8 to September 11, 2008.
They might not be grizzly, but 400 or so black bears call Yosemite National Park home and spring and summer are the best times to see them. Then of course, there is a lot more to do within the Park itself and in the nearby Sierra National Forest. Tenaya Lodge (tel. 877/382-8617; www.tenayalodge.com) is offering a number of early season discounts and fun summer packages. Stay during the month of May and double rooms start from $159 per night. From $239 per room per night, enjoy the Unlimited Fun Pass, giving guests deluxe accommodations, a guided morning nature hike, a guided evening flashlight nature hike, unlimited access to the climbing wall and one half-day bike rental for two. Their Mountain Bike Adventure is priced from $441 per couple and includes two-night deluxe accommodations, two full-day bike rentals, two Tenaya water bottles, two power bars, two sports drinks, an area trail map for the Sierra national Forest and a tool kit rental.
The He Said/She Said package is priced from $539 per couple. It includes two-night deluxe accommodations, breakfast for two daily, one signature spa treatment and two nine-hole rounds of golf at Yosemite's Wawona Golf Course with cart rental. And for a truly spectacular Yosemite experience, visit the Park August 8 to 9 and witness the Perseid Meteor Shower. The Tenaya Lodge special Perseid Meteor package includes two night's deluxe accommodations, transportation for two to Yosemite's Glacier Point for prime meteor shower viewing, an astronomy guide, warm beverages and snacks, a tote with a glow-in-the-dark star map and glow sticks, as well as a Tenaya blanket. This package is available from $736.50 for two people.
If you are looking for an adventure-packed getaway to Yellowstone National Park, Flying Pig Adventure Company (tel. 866/807-0744; www.flyingpigrafting.com) can hook you up. They offer several vacation packages that include all activities, guide fees, accommodation, gear, and in some cases food and beverage. Experience everything from trekking and whitewater rafting to horseback riding and fly-fishing, accompanied by gourmet meals. Their Overnight Pack Horseback trips run from early May through to mid August and are priced at $275 per person for two people and $50 less for each additional person in your group. Based at their private ranch located at 7,500 feet bordering Yellowstone Park, you'll enjoy six hours of riding over two days with an evening at the ranch -- including a "Cowboy Cookout." All meals and gear included. Their Overnight Raft Trip departs Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 13 to August 17, 2008 and is priced at $200 per adult and $180 for children 12 and under including all equipment and meals. Paddle through the notorious class II and II rapids of the town stretch, and on downstream to camp. Set up camp and then explore the rock bed for geodes and local beaver activity while your guide prepares a Dutch-oven dinner. Enjoy your meal with views of Electric Peak and share stories while gazing at the Montana starry sky. The three-day Yellowstone Adventure departs Mondays and Wednesdays from mid June through mid September. A blend of the Overnight Raft Trip and Overnight Horse Back Ride, it is an action-packed three days with one night in a remote Montana rustic cabin and one night tent camping on the river. All meals and gear are provided for $475 each for first two adults, $425 each per additional person and $20 less for children 12 and under (although kids must be at least seven years old to ride). They also offer longer five and seven-day Yellowstone adventures,
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