Five hours. That’s the shortest bus tour available in Denali National Park. But there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and wonder of this great landscape.
There’s only one road that runs through Denali, winding its way along hillsides and across valleys, the majority of which is closed to public vehicles. The rest can only be seen via these bus tours, making them one of the most popular attractions for visitors.
The longest tour lasts up to 14 hours and takes visitors to the farthest reaches of the park.
“We want to make sure that we preserve this place for generations to come. ”
- Daniel Keller, Operations Manager
Every season, we share in the excitement of eager sightseers who board our buses with the hopes of spotting a grizzly bear, or catching a glimpse of Denali’s peak through the clouds. And to ensure that visitors continue to enjoy the wonders of this place, it’s of the utmost importance that we limit our greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, we saw an opportunity that would both improve the visitor experience, while also lessening our environmental impact - powering our buses with propane.
In a place where the air is cleaner and distant glaciers create streams that trickle through the valley, propane has potentially game-changing implications. It’s an alternative fuel that’s seldom talked about, with benefits for both our partners at the park and the half a million people who visit each year.
Propane is cleaner than traditional diesel fuel, producing fewer carbon dioxide emissions. And in an age where greenhouse gases are higher than ever, it helps preserve the integrity of this 6 million-acre natural treasure.
Transitioning our buses at Denali National Park to propane is just one example of how we work to find responsible solutions to reduce our environmental impact.
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But what’s truly unexpected is the difference it makes for our visitors.
The liquid propane injection system is much quieter, ensuring the wildlife isn’t as disrupted by the buses themselves, so visitors might be more likely to cross paths with one of the many graceful creatures that call this place home.
“Picture these buses driving down the road, it’s 92 miles long, and they come upon wildlife. A louder diesel bus makes a lot of noise and the wildlife gets scared and runs away. So then you’ve created a potentially negative interaction between the wildlife and the guest. By having the propane buses, which are much quieter, it’s able to just scoot along the road and not disrupt the wildlife as much, so it’s been a really great thing,” says Daniel Keller, who oversees Aramark’s joint venture with Doyon that operates and owns the buses venturing into the park each day.
And while environmental efforts typically may come with a higher price tag, propane is actually the more cost-effective choice for our partners. It’s cooled and stored at a lower pressure, making it more efficient to transport and store.
“Over the next 10 years, our intent is to continue to update our fleet, and modernize it with technologies, such as propane and more efficient diesel engine buses,” says Daniel.
Whether it’s propane buses, recycling programs, or even food sourcing, it’s through programs like these that we’re able to help build excitement for our guests, while simultaneously fulfilling the responsibility we have to preserve our parks. Because spectacles like Denali are too extraordinary not to be shared.
“We want to make sure that we preserve this place for generations to come. And the way we can do that is through sustainability.”
It’s a dynamic combination. Innovation and conservation. And it’s that kind of thinking that will help protect the National Parks for the next 100 years and beyond.