Tracks & Trails: Discovering Denali With Your Grandchild

Set out on an adventure as big as Alaska itself as you hike in Denali's wilderness, learn about life in Alaska, visit a sled dog kennel and the challenges of life in the subarctic!
Rating (5)
Program No. 2515RJ
7 days
Starts at
2,599 / ADULT
1,699 / CHILD
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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
Check-in & Program Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Fairbanks, AK
River's Edge Resort

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 12:00 Noon (AKDT).

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the main lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: At the River's Edge Resort, we’ll have a buffet dinner with coffee, tea, and water included.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Grandparent Program. Grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren throughout the duration the the program. If or when separate age group activities are conducted concurrently, program staff will supervise grandchildren. Children are never to be left unsupervised. We will be joined throughout the program by local experts who will provide commentary and help us understand what’s involved in topics such as botany, natural history, and subarctic ecology. The Group Leader will also be happy to answer questions as the arise. The schedule of evening presentations by local experts at the Denali Education Center will be announced after arrival at their campus. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions if you would like direction on available options. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances or weather conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. The rest of the evening you will continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Train to Denali, Denali Education Center, Hike
Denali National Park
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; on/off a railcar; on/off a bus. The train ride is about 120 miles, approximately 4 hours. The drive from Denali Depot to Denali Education Center is 10 miles. Walking 2 miles; wide, well-maintained gravel path, minimal elevation change.

Breakfast: Resort buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the resort, we will transfer to the train station via motorcoach and board the train. Enjoy sweeping views as we ride the 120 miles south to Denali National Park and Preserve. Along the way, we will hear from one of the railroad’s on-board interpreters about the history of the railroad and the area. From the depot, we will travel 10 miles by bus to the Denali Education Center (DEC), our home for the next five nights. The Denali Education Center is situated on a 10-acre campus that abuts the Nenana River which forms Denali National Park's eastern boundary

Lunch: In DEC’s Riverside Hall, we’ll have a buffet lunch with lemonade, coffee, cold tea, water.

Afternoon: After lunch we'll have a brief orientation to the Denali Education Center campus and the area before getting your first opportunity to go on a guided hike in Denali National Park. We’ll board a bus and ride 10 miles by bus to the Visitor Center Campus and the McKinley Station Trail for our first hike. This 2-mile wide gravel trail traverses the area that was at one time the Park’s original township. We’ll get oriented to Denali National Park and start learning about its rich natural history. Returning to DEC late afternoon, grandparents and grandkids can settle into their rooms to freshen up and relax, explore our 10-acre campus, or find board games and additional resources in Riverside Hall until dinner.

Dinner: In Riverside Hall, we’ll have a buffet dinner featuring healthy and balanced home-cooked foods; lemonade, coffee, cold tea, water included. Snacks such as toast, fruit, and granola bars are available at all times.

Evening: We’ll gather to hear the schedule of evening activities while in Denali. You'll also learn about what free time activities are available during the scheduled "free time". This evening we'll offer games for grand kids, grandparents are welcome to join!

Hike Savage River Loop, Tracks and Tales Activity
Denali National Park
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus. Hiking up to 2 miles; maintained gravel trails.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet. After breakfast, we will pack our own lunches to take with us in reusable lunch sacks. Choose from favorite sandwich fixings, snack bars, fruit, plus coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: We’ll hop aboard the bus and travel 15 miles to start the Savage River Trail. One of DEC’s field educators will lead grandparents while a Youth Field Instructor takes the grand kids. Educators will explain the terrain as we travel through it, and while grandparents and grand kids will hike separately, you'll be in view of each other throughout the hike. This hike will highlight the ecosystems found in the subarctic with a focus on alpine specific plants, wildlife, and geology.

Lunch: At a scenic spot, we’ll have the lunches we prepared this morning.

Afternoon: After lunch we'll head to Denali's eastern visitor center to explore their exhibits. This is also an opportunity to visit Denali's sled dog kennel, hear how the park uses dog in the Park, and meet some of Denali's four-pawed rangers! Returning to the Denali Education Center, grandparents and grand kids will work together to cast animal tracks with the help and assistance of an educator. The tracks we leave behind help to tell our story. Through this fun, hands-on activity, we will look at what a track can tell us and what ways Denali has impacted our view of wild places. Everyone is invited to tell their story as we l focus on the tracks and tales from our own Alaskan journey!

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: We’ll gather with a member of the DEC year-round staff to learn about the seasonal trials and joys of life in Denali.

Subarctic Ecosystem, Grand kids Oxbow Hike, Free Time!
Denali National Park
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Grand kids hiking 2 miles; trail with roots, rocks, wet sections, compact soil; average grade 5% or less.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet.

Morning: With a DEC field educator, we will learn about the sometimes surprising, always extreme, conditions that shape life in Denali and define a subarctic ecosystem in an interactive class. The whole group will attend the first hour of class. Grandkids will then depart for a 2-mile expert-led hike on the Oxbow Trail while grandparents continue with class and delve deeper into the subarctic. Everyone will re-group for lunch.

Lunch: Riverside Hall buffet.

Afternoon: Grandparents and grand kids can tailor this time together to fit their tastes. There are a number of options available in the area depending on your interests. Spend the afternoon on a flight-seeing trip around Denali, visiting the kennel of a local Iditarod musher, or on a white water rafting trip on the Nenana River. Group Leaders will be available to answer any additional questions as they arise.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: After dinner we'll gather to decorate our tracks and start writing our own tales of what our time in Denali has meant to us!

Journey to the Heart of Denali, Eielson Visitor Center
Denali National Park
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a shuttle bus. Hiking 1/2 mile to 2 miles.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet. After breakfast, we will pack our own lunches to take with us in reusable lunch sacks.

Morning: We’ll set out by shuttle bus for a full-day field trip into Denali National Park. We’ll enjoy stunning scenery and wildlife watching opportunities on our way to the Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66 on the Denali road. The shuttle driver and a Denali Education Center educator will be along for the ride as well to point out interesting features of the landscape and answer questions as they arise. Throughout the day, be on the lookout for grizzly bear, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, and other animals in the diverse array of wildlife that can be found in Denali.

Lunch: At a scenic spot, we’ll have the lunches we prepared for ourselves this morning.

Afternoon: At the Eielson Visitor Center, we’ll have some time to check out the exhibits including a 3-dimensional map of Denali and its surrounding peaks. For those who wish to hike independently, the area surrounding the Visitor Center has several well-maintained gravel trails that range in difficulty from 1/2 mile with little elevation change to 2 miles round trip with 800 feet of elevation change. We’ll then re-board the bus and travel out of the Park.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: At leisure. Rest, relax, and unwind after an exciting day in the Park.

Wildlife Class, Interpretive Hikes, Decorating Tracks
Denali National Park
Denali Education Center

Activity note: Grandkids hiking 4.5 miles; maintained, packed gravel trail; sections of packed soil, roots, rocks; elevation change 800 feet. Grandparents hiking 2 miles; trail with sections of packed gravel, roots, rocks, possible wet sections; elevation change 200 feet.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet. After breakfast, grand kids will pack lunches to have in the field.

Morning: Together grandparents and grand kids will learn more about the extraordinary animals that call Denali home and the marvelous adaptations that make life at high latitudes possible. After the first hour, grand kids will set out on a 2.5 mile hike with a youth field instructor while grandparents continue learning how Denali's creatures survive in the subarctic.

Lunch: Riverside Hall buffet for grandparents; packed lunches in the field for kids.

Afternoon: Grandparents will head out with a field educator after lunch to join the grand kids for a hike on the Horseshoe Lake trail. This beautiful 2-mile trail winds down towards the Nenana River and through a variety of wildlife habitat. Together grandparents and grand kids will put their new wildlife knowledge to the test- working to discover the signs and signals of wildlife on the landscape.

Dinner: Riverside Hall buffet.

Evening: We'll gather as a group to share our tracks and tales of what our time in Denali has meant to us.

Transfer to Fairbanks, Program Concludes
Denali National Park

Activity note: 9:00 a.m. motorcoach transfer to Fairbanks Airport. 10:00 a.m. check-out.

Breakfast: Riverside Hall buffet.

Morning: As our time in Denali ends we'll board a motorcoach and travel directly to the Fairbanks airport. This concludes our program. For those participants that have a later flight this evening please look in your preparatory materials for the attached page of suggested activities and things to do in the Fairbanks area. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently in Alaska we hope you have a wonderful time exploring the state. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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