The best way to explore further into the Denali National Park to me was to get on the shuttle bus. Private vehicle may only drive through the first 15 miles to Savage River during summer (late May - early Sep), only shuttle buses are allowed to continue the route all the way to Kantisha.
There were many options for the bus trips: Non-narrated Buses, Narrated buses or courtesy buses. We chose Transit Bus (to Toklat) - Non-narrated buses which was cheaper than tour buses with the flexibility to disembark and re-board (pretty much like a hop-on & hop-off bus) anywhere along the road.
If you are going to make a reservation for the same route/ shuttle bus trip, I would suggest to arrive at least 30mins in advance to ensure you are on the queue to board the shuttle bus. Sometime the crews may not let you get on the bus if they bus is "full". They allowed approximately 4 seats unoccupied to ensure the people along the road could hop on the shuttle, so don't be surprised if you saw the empty seats but were not allowed to board.
I would strongly advise to book the tickets in advance instead of buying it on the spot. Remember to arrive at least 30mins prior to your departure time. Many travelers chose to buy ticket on the spot and hence many of them were on "standby" to have the seats occupied.
We were really lucky to have a chatty bubbly experienced driver who did all the talking throughout the journey and cracked some jokes along the way. In addition to this, most of the tourists in the bus were nice, friendly and easy going. Although the shuttle bus was crowded, we always made rooms for each other to share the window view, take photograph/ watch wildlife with binoculars instead of being selfish to block each other. It was a relaxing tour and we managed to spot wildlife such as lone wolf, grizzly bears, caribou, moose, mountain goats and Dall sheep.
Tips: Binocular and good camera lens are very important if you would like to maximize your opportunity to watch the wildlife.
In every stops, you may find transit shuttle schedule for your reference to decide if you would like to hop on the next or the shuttle after. Many tourists really walked to the mountain with their backpacks or hiking sticks to check out the wildlife or simply just to experience the nature.
If you are taking your bicycle along, remember to make a reservation for your bike on westbound buses.
During the shuttle bus journey, it was really awesome to enjoy the breathtaking view of Alaska which was all over the place like a beautiful backdrop that never ends.
Tips: if you would like to enjoy the spacious shuttle bus seats with less passengers, you can take a later bus maybe after 3pm for your return trip. The driver said there were generally less travelers after that. We went back after 3pm and it was just less than 6 people in the shuttle, how cool was that to enjoy the beautiful view without anyone blocking it.
Visiting Denali National Park was indeed an incredible trip with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to immerse into the magnificent view and to get a closer look at these Alaska wildlife roaming free in their natural habitat. If you have the opportunity to visit Alaska and if you enjoy the nature and the wildlife, Denali National Park will be a great destination for you.
Went to Alaska in 2017 Jun, absolutely enjoyed the whole journey with the opportunity to immerse into the nature scenery along with the wildlife encounter.