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PHOTOS: Doing Alaska's Denali National Park in a day

Denali, or Mt McKinley, as seen from the Susitna River.
Scott McMurren photo
Steve Mahay's riverboat service in Talkeetna.
Scott McMurren photo
Steve Mahay's trips include a visit to a re-created Athabascan village.
Scott McMurren photo
Denali, or Mt. Mckinley on a beautiful day for flightseeing.
Scott McMurren photo
The summit of Denali, or Mt. McKinley, as seen from a small airplane.
Scott McMurren photo
Looking north into Denali National Park, Kantishna and Wonder Lake are visible.
Scott McMurren photo
Passengers breathe supplemental oxygen as their small plane climbs above 11,000 feet in Denali National Park.
Scott McMurren photo
Breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse.
Scott McMurren photo
Scott McMurren

Every now and then I get a phone call or email from an optimistic visitor to Alaska that goes something like this: "We'll be in Anchorage for a day and we'd like to drive up and see Denali Park."

I reply quickly, "Do you have a plane?"

That, of course, is the only way to get a good view of the park in one day. And even then, you'll probably get a nice shot of the mountains, but it's tough to see the critters from 10,000 feet! 

But if you want that once-in-a-lifetime view of The Great One, an air tour is the way to go. And Talkeetna is the place to be.

Whether you're entertaining out-of-towners, or you just want a quick getaway, it's easy to plan a one- or two-day adventure to Talkeetna. It's just 113 miles north of Anchorage.

The airport is right next to downtown, and there are several great flightseeing outfits, including K2 Aviation, Talkeetna Air Taxi and Talkeetna Aero Services. Eric and Geri Denkewalter are the owners of Talkeetna Aero Services and they have a twin-engine Piper Navajo that's fitted for oxygen for "Summit Tours" of Mt. McKinley. That's right: you fly up to around 22,000 feet.

Read more: Doing Alaska's Denali National Park in a day