Have questions? Here are some that we get asked regularly:
- What is the activity level?
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: The activity level is easy. Your guide will do the driving and stop at several locations to get out and shoot pictures. You have the option to walk on the landscape if desired. There are no trails. Comfortable shoes are recommended.
For Backcountry Excursions: Activity level is moderate. You will be flown with your guide and land on the rolling tundra of the Alaska Range where you will photograph with your guide for 2+ hours. There are no trails, and the tundra is uneven terrain which can be challenging. Comfortable and supportive shoes are recommended. Please be prepared, there will not be comfortable places to sit for the duration of the excursion and the helicopter may be challenging to get in and out of.
- How long is the tour?
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: Tours are approximately 3 to 3.5 hours from pick-up to drop-off. Your tour begins as soon as you are picked up at your hotel and your guide will answer questions and start giving you tips and pointers on the way to the first location.
For Backcountry Excursions: Excursions are approximately 3 to 3.5 hours from pick up to drop off. You will be picked up from your hotel and report to the private heliport 45 minutes prior to the start of the tour for a safety briefing for the helicopter. Once you take off, you will be out for 2 hours and 20 minutes in the backcountry including flight time.
- How do I get on the tour?
For All tours: We will pick you up! If you are staying at any of the Denali area hotels, your guide will pick you up outside the main lobby. If you are staying in Healy, we ask that you drive to McKinley Chalet Resort, park, and we’ll pick you up outside the lobby. We will confirm pick-up location and time with you upon booking.
- What should I bring with me?
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: Weather can change quickly in Denali so bring an extra layer and a raincoat. Comfortable shoes are recommended – there may be some walking on variable terrain if desired. Don’t forget your camera, lenses, and extra battery! We provide tripods, polarizing filters, and graduated neutral density filters.
For Backcountry Excursions: This excursion is in more exposed terrain at higher elevation. and weather can change quickly in Denali. Bring an extra layer to insulate and protect from wind, a hat, gloves and a raincoat. Comfortable shoes are recommended – there is walking on variable terrain. Don’t forget your camera, lenses, and extra battery! We provide tripods, polarizing filters, and graduated neutral density filters.
- Is there a bathroom?
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: There are limited opportunities to use a bathroom on the tour, however there are many “facili-trees” that you can use at any time. We do not have scheduled stops for bathroom breaks but we will stop if needed. There is a gas station and a coffee shop that could be used after the first 40 minutes to an hour and again in the last 40 minutes. The bushes are always an option and we carry toilet paper, trash bags, wipes, and hand sanitizer in all of our trucks.
For Backcountry Excursions: Once we are in the backcountry, there will be no facilities for 2 + hrs. Your guide will have toilet paper, trash bags, wipes, and hand sanitizer should you need it. You will have the opportunity to use the restroom before getting on the helicopter.
- When is the best time to take this tour?
At our northern latitude, the light in Denali during Summer is truly a photographer’s dream. Thanks to the lower angle of the sun, summer in Alaska offers good light around the clock, whereas in most places, afternoon light in particular can be harsh and challenging. If the weather offers a clear view of Denali, the morning and early afternoon light on the mountain has more dimension than 5 -7:00 AM, making our 9am tour the best time for morning light. Keep in mind the sun rises between 3:00 am and 5:00 am so our morning tour takes advantage of the better light angles in relation to our prefered locations (ideal for circular polarizers) and participants get a little more time to sleep in. The lower angle of the sun extends the shadows and usually softens the wind. The long sunsets allow us ample time to go to multiple locations to savor the alpenglow during our evening and midnight sun tours.
Mountain weather changes fast – we sometimes have clouds, storms, low visibility, while other days are clear blue skies or offer dramatic sunset colors. The conditions from day to day and even hour to hour are out of our control, however our guides are experts at reading the conditions and will bring you to the best possible locations for the conditions you are experiencing. We rarely cancel trips – there is always something to gain from going out, especially for beginners who are looking to learn how to use their gear and better understand exposure. Shooting in challenging weather helps us grow as photographers – some of the best images are captured in the dramatic light on the edge of a storm, or after a rain-storm has moved through.
The number one thing that our guests say about our tour is that they wish they had taken it at the beginning of their trip – that way they would be prepared to capture their adventures into the park and during the remainder of their travels in Alaska. Our guides make the most out of the conditions and you will learn a lot and have a great time no matter what time of day or season.
- Will I see wildlife?
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: Our guides do their best to find wildlife on every tour, but wildlife sightings are not guaranteed. Most tours see moose, and sometimes they are right next to the road. Caribou sightings occur occasionally and bears are spotted less often. Contrary to what the advertisements portray, animal density is actually quite low in the Denali area. The best way to see wildlife is to cover a lot of ground over a long period of time – which is best accomplished by taking a bus tour into Denali National Park. We recommend taking our tour before you go on the bus tour so that you can acquire the skills you need to photograph the animals and beautiful scenery. If you take a bus tour into the park, we highly recommend the green shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor Center for photographers – on this bus you have the option to get off when and where you want, then just flag down another green bus heading in your direction when you want to continue. The other option is the tan tour bus, which costs much more and you cannot get off except at designated rest stops. Both options travel the same road, but you have the choice to travel farther distances on the green shuttle bus.
For Backcountry Excursions: This tour focuses more on the expansive and rugged backcountry landscape of the Alaska Range. Wildlife sightings are more limited on this tour, so the focus is more on landscape photography. Guides will carry first aid kits and bear spray.
- Will I see Mt. McKinley?
“The Mountain,” as it is commonly referred to by locals, is officially known as Denali, and previously known as Mt. McKinley. Standing at 20,310 feet high, it is the tallest mountain in North America. As such, it has a way of creating its own weather and is often shrouded in clouds. The average visitor to Denali only has a 30% chance of seeing any part of the mountain.
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: In addition to the weather, the location of the roads in relation to the mountain also makes it difficult to see. There are 90 miles of other mountains between the highway and Denali, so you can only see it if you drive to particular locations on the highway (or take a flightseeing tour above the range). If the mountain is out, your guide will take you to the best locations to see and photograph it.
For Backcountry Excursions: From where we will be dropped off there are 360 degree views of the Alaska Range and if the weather is clear, this includes Mt. Denali. We cannot guarantee visibility of the mountain.
- We’re going into Denali National Park, right?
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: The park does not allow commercially guided trips so our tour travels on the edge of the park boundaries and into a nearby wilderness area via the Denali Highway, which offers equally stunning vistas as the park road. See the above topic on wildlife for more information about getting into the park.
For Backcountry Excursions: We will be on the eastern boundary of the national park where we have 360 degree views of the Alaska Range, including the park and Mt. Denali if the weather is clear.
- What if the weather is bad?
Actual weather conditions vary greatly from weather forecasts and conditions change rapidly in Denali. Storms move in and out very quickly and the weather is likely to change several times over the duration of your tour. This can be really exciting and can provide some great opportunities for cloudscapes and dynamic lighting on the mountain range.
We rarely need to cancel due to weather, but in the case of a weather cancellation, participants who cannot reschedule will receive a full refund. Weather cancellations are at the discretion of Denali Photo guides. We do not make decisions based on weather prior to the day of the tour, and we usually cannot make the call until right before the tour starts. Typically, your guide will meet you at the start of the tour to discuss the current conditions, your skill level & expectations, and determine the best option for each guest. Safety and quality of experience are our top priorities.
- Can you accommodate special needs?
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: In most cases, we can accommodate limited mobility. Individuals requiring wheelchairs can take this tour if they are able to get in and out of the truck at least once (at pick-up and drop-off) either on their own or with assistance from a companion. Guides may not be able to provide assistance. Please let us know your specific needs before booking so that we can make sure this tour is suitable for you.
For Backcountry Excursions: Please contact us so we can determine if this is an appropriate trip for you.
- Is there a minimum to book?
For Instructional Photography Tours & Midnight Sun tours: There is no minimum to book, but we do have a three-person minimum for a tour to run. If in the rare case the minimum is not met one day prior to the reservation, we will try to reschedule or issue a refund.
For Backcountry Excursions: There is no minimum to book, but we do have a two-person minimum for a tour to run.
- My companion who isn't that into photography wants to tag along. Can they come for free?
Because our maximum capacity is limited to only 4 guests, we cannot offer any seats for free or at a discount.
- I only have a camera on my phone, can I take this tour?
Yes! The best camera is the one you have. No matter what camera you have or your experience level, our guides are here to work with you and your own gear.
- I have a several lenses and I’m wondering which ones will be best for this tour and for Alaska?
The scale of Alaska is massive and due to limited road access, we are still miles from the mountains themselves. Wide angle lenses (12-24 mm) typically used for landscape photography can almost be too wide. A lens in the range of 24-105 mm is ideal for the Alaskan landscape and a telephoto lens (200-500 mm) is ideal for wildlife, as sightings can be close or quite far away. We do have DSLR bodies and 28-405 mm zoom lenses available to rent. See our gear page for more information and recommendations.
- Will I get swarmed by mosquitos?
Temperature, time of day, amount of wind and general weather conditions all factor into how many mosquitos will be out. As guides, we always wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect ourselves from bites. In locations where the bugs find us and become a nuisance, then we will use bug spray sparingly on the outside of our clothing and hats. Guides carry bug spray, but if you are extra sensitive, we recommend bringing your own bug spray or wipes, and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your skin.
- If I book multiple tours, will we go to different places?
Denali is in a remote part of Alaska and there are only a couple of roads available for tours. Most tours travel roughly the same route but each one may make different stops depending on the lighting and weather conditions. If you book multiple tours, we will do our best to take you to different spots, but some stops will be the same. We are also fairly lenient with our reservations policy. We want to you to have a great experience, so if the weather turns bad for your second tour, we will reschedule or offer a refund.
- Is this a hiking tour? I want to walk around.
No, but we offer private and custom tours that can include hiking. Contact us and tell us what your interests are.