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Into the wild – Magic Bus 142

Have you ever dreamed about seeing Alaska Magic Bus 142 from the movie and book “Into the wild”? Now you have a chance to make it. Here you will find all the details and directions to the Magic Bus 142. Good luck!

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(Attention! The post contains a spoiler! It should not be read by people who have not watched the movie “Into the wild” yet!!! Watch the film and come back to us, please!)

magic bus 142 healy

Into the Wild – The Movie and the Magic Bus 142

“Happiness is real when shared” – these are the last written words of dying in loneliness in the Alaskan wilderness, the hero of the movie “Into the wild” – Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch).
What a paradox! The young man chose ideals and decided on loneliness. Left family, friends, society, and norms. He abandoned all civilization goods, wanted freedom in its purest form, and wanted to live in harmony with nature. He’s holed up in the wilderness to discover that man’s real life and the recipe for happiness is when you share it with other people! He lost the fight with the power of nature he loved so much. He dies alone in his Magic Bus 142 in remote Alaska, missing another human being.

magic bus 142 healy
magic bus 142 healy
magic bus 142 healy into the wild

A film story by Seana Penn makes you cry happened. It’s real. In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. Young Chris was an intelligent boy. He graduated from school with excellent results and had a chance for a professional career. He had a future, and his parents were proud of him and wanted to support him financially in college.

But Chris had other life plans. Different than expected by parents and society. He starts a lonely journey to Alaska, breaking off contact with loved ones. He runs away, looking for himself. But does he find it? He abandons materialism, in search of freedom. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. On a lonely journey, he reaches Alaska. Cut off from the world, lives in harmony with nature in Magic Bus 142. All this loneliness to understand in the last moments of life that life is the most beautiful when you can share it with someone. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter…   

Almost everyone who watched the movie raised the dream of seeing Alaska, and we too. The story of Christopher led us to our journey and The Van Escape project. During our Alaska road trip, the Magic Bus 142 was one of the essential stops on our Alaska itinerary. I don’t even know how many times we watched the movie and listened to the soundtrack composed by Eddie Vedder.

The lyrics of the “Society” song have accompanied us for a long time on every journey:
” It’s a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all, you won’t be free
Society, you’re a crazy breed
I hope you’re not lonely without me
When you want more than you have, you think you need
And when you think more than you want, your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
Cause when you have more than you think, you need more space.”

 magic bus 142 healy
into the wild
magic bus 142 healy

Into the Wild Book by Jon Krakauer

As it happens with movies, it gained great fame all over the world. But many people do not know that it is an adaptation of a book. Sean Penn directed the story described by Jon Krakauer in 2007. In this post, we focus on the movie, but a book by Jon Krakauer is beautiful! We read it and highly recommend it! It also moves you deeply. So before you go to Alaska, read the book too. Reading the book will help you better understand the film and the decisions that guided the main character.

Magic Bus 142 – Replica from the movie

After watching a movie or reading a book, many people dreamed of seeing the famous Magic Bus 142, where Chris lived in the Alaskan wilderness. But, the film director said that he abandoned the idea of filming scenes on a real bus out of respect for Chris and his family. Instead, a replica of the Magic Bus 142 was built and set in the wilderness. In the hard-to-reach Alaskan wilderness, in the Denali National Park, beyond the Teklanika River, stayed for many years the Magic Bus 142 wreck to which Christopher lived and died. Scenes to the movie were shot in Alaska at different times of the year to show the true beauty but also the hostility of the Alaskan wilderness and the real power of nature that defeated Chris.

A replica of the bus from the movie is currently in the small town of Healy, by the brewery. You can’t miss it when you are driving to Denali National Park. It was a must-see point for us in Alaska. So, all the pictures you see here were taken in a bus replica from the movie, not in the original Magic Bus 142. Pictures were taken in Healy, in the replica.

Tears ran down my cheeks when I got on the rusty Magic Bus 142 (replica from the movie). I saw a crumbling bed and furs which covered freezing Chris.
The mirror in which he looked and talked to himself because he had no one to talk to. The stove he warmed up at. Notes in which he shared his thoughts. He abandoned society, and yet he wrote. He could not completely cut himself off from contact with the world. His notes suggest that he needed this contact badly. History Into the wild is a story about dreams, about a steep path to their realization. It is a story about giving your life to realize dreams. But also it is about that we often idealize our goals and when we start to know them we collide with complicated reality. What we dream about is not always what we need in life.

It is a story about a confrontation with oneself, about the search for one’s self — a story that never lets you forget about itself.
Many who watched or read the story dreamed of moving into the wilderness, following Chris in Alaska. Many want not only to see Alaska but also the see the wreck of the original Magic Bus 142.

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magic bus 142 healy
chris sitting in magic bus 142 healy
magic bus 142 healy

Who dare risk life – the original Magic Bus 142

UPDATE. 18 June 2020 – the original bus was taken from the Alaskan wilderness.
Too many daredevils tried to get there and lost their lives. So, for the safety of tourists, the bus was removed by Alaska Army National Guard. You can read more about this here.
Now you can visit the Magic Bus 142 – replica from the movie in Healy, near Denali National Park. You can’t hike to wilderness to see the original Magic Bus 142. But you can read our article, written while the original Magic Bus 142 was still in the Alaskan wilderness.
Where is the original Magic Bus 142 now? Where can you see it? In2021 it was moved to the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks.
Below you will find details and hints from visiting a movie replica of Magic Bus 142 in Healy. All pictures in this article were taken in Healy. To see the original Magic Bus 142 – visit UAF.

It is hard to imagine the rush of young people who necessarily want to see the original wreck, the casket in which the hero died. And yet, every year, young people from around the world decide to face the power of nature. It is not enough for them to see a perfect replica of the Magic Bus 142 from the movie. They necessarily want to reach the original one …into the wild… Many lose to nature. We do not judge them and their needs, everyone pursues their dreams. Everyone pays the price for their implementation.

Our dream was to see a replica of Magic Bus 142 from the movie. It provides sufficient emotions without a fight with nature. We know we have no chance with the Alaskan wilderness. During our stay in Denali Park, the water level in the Teklanika River was the lowest for many years. The dry summer and the tragic fires that affected Alaska caused the river possible to cross with high probability. We had enough time to try, but it was not our goal. Let Christopher’s place of death remain a place of memory for his loved ones. We were touched enough when we entered the movie replica Magic Bus 142.

As a warning, for those who necessarily want to see the original in the wilderness, we will say that three months before our stay in Denali, a newlywed couple from Belarus flew to Alaska on their honeymoon. They wanted to get to the original Magic Bus 142 in the wilderness and decided to force the Teklanika River. A 24-year-old girl drowned a month after her wedding…
Is it worth giving your life for dreams? … Each of us has its answer.


Before you go to a replica of Magic Bus 142 – Practical Information

How to get to Magic Bus 142?

Magic Bus 142 (a replica from the movie, not an original one, which is in the museum in Fairbanks) is located in 49th State Brewing Company in Healy, 10-miles north of the entrance to Denali National Park. It’s located at Mile 248.4 Parks Hwy., next to McKinley RV & Campground.

Admission is free. The place is open from 11 a.m. till late hours (depending on the events in the brewery). You can get there by car; parking is free. It is easy to get there from Denali by shuttle.

Where to stay – lodging?

It’s on the way to/from Denali National Park. If you like to spend more than a few hours, you can visit McKinley RV & Campground. But most people (we too) go there for an hour or two to take pictures and drink a local beer.

Accommodation options in Denali are very limited and rather expensive. We strongly suggest booking them as soon as possible and far in advance. And we share our opinion in our 10 Days Alaska Itinerary for 2023. Check Denali’s lodging section.

What to do while visiting a replica of Magic Bus 142?

You can walk inside The Magic Bus 142 and take your self-portrait like the one found inside the camera of Christopher McCandless (Fairbanks City Transit System Bus 142). Or other photos (depends on your imagination). Check our Photography hints. 

Then you can try one of the 49th State Brewing Company’s handcrafted beers or enjoy a burger or steak in their popular bar & grill. The food was excellent, and we highly recommended it. 

You will find a wide selection of organized guided tours in the Denali area on viator.com and GetYourGuide.

Where to eat?

The food was great in the 49th State Brewing Company bar & grill in Healy, and we highly recommended it. 

We found in Healy (249.2 Parks Hwy.) a small, inconspicuous place — a cafe with excellent coffee, snacks, and souvenirs. Alaskan Coffee Bean – it is worth going for coffee in a pleasant atmosphere. 

A replica of Magic Bus 142 – Photography hints

What season is best?

The season in Alaska lasts 3-4 months – from June to September. The brewery is open from 11 a.m.

What time of day is best?

All day is good, but it depends on the weather. They are open from 11 a.m. till late (depending on events in the brewery bar&restaurant). All day is ok. The bus is hidden in trees, in shadows most of the day. 

What photographic opportunities are here?

You can walk inside The Magic Bus 142 and take your self-portrait like the one found inside the camera of Christopher McCandless (Fairbanks City Transit System Bus 142). The bus is very damaged and rusty. Around you can see the fence and brewery. It’s best to photograph the interior and the bus itself.

You will find the best photo locations in Alaska in our Alaska Travel&Photo Guide.

What gear should I take with me?

Any gear will do. Even mobile is enough. But it will be great if you can afford to have a camera with a wide lens (24-70). You can also check our Alaska Photography Gear Packing List to see what we use.

Does it require any hiking or other activities?

No, it’s an accessible destination. 

What kind of clothes do you need?

Any. But if you are looking for some recommendations: How to prepare for a trip to Alaska? What to take for a trip to Alaska? And what to wear in Alaska? Check our Alaska Packing List.

How long do I need to get great pictures of the replica Magic Bus 142 in Healy?

1 – 2 hours would be optimum.

magic bus 142 healy

Original Magic Bus 142 in Fairbanks

As mentioned above, you can now see the original Magic Bus 142 at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks. Thanks to the fact that it was brought from the wilderness, you can see it without risk. So if you are planning to visit northern Alaska, visit this place. Details check on the official website.

16 Comments

  1. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages, but was also scared that I’d find it too distressing! His life sounds so sad, and was he living in a bus the whole time? How did he manage in Winter? I guess I should just read the book LOL!

  2. I actually read the news yesterday that they are moving the bus somewhere! Ive never seen the movie but it seems like a wonderful story. After seeing this pots i am tempted to watch it now 🙂 I love that you had the whole place for yourself , without any other tourist at that point! 

  3. I never heard of the story of the Magic Bus 142 before.  I can understand the lure of heading to the wilderness of Alaska.  But sad to die in search of yourself.  I am sure a visit to the replica bus was touching.  But it would not be worth the risk to visit the original version.  Thanks for sharing this tale.  

  4. This is such an interesting and tragic story! I haven’t seen the movie, but will be checking it out for sure now! I can see where he thought going into the wilderness like this would give him a sense of purpose, but as he found out I think that things like this need to be in combination with the company of other people. Short solo trips are great, or even longer ones where you still interact with others on occasion, but completely cutting everyone off doesn’t have good results. I think exploring the bus would be very interesting, I always enjoy stuff like this. But I would be hesitant to place mine or the lives of those traveling with me at risk. The story about the 24 year old is so tragic. I think the replica would do just fine! 

  5. What a great post. I remember watching the movie long back and now your post has forced me to watch it again. Passion is respected but people forget that they can’t challenge the nature. you have to bow down in front of the most powerful force, that is Nature. So tragic to know about newly wedded couple and their fate. I completely agree with you. One should follow the passion, but only to do so, don;t endorse stupidity. Great Post.

  6. What an interesting experience for you. The story is very intriguing and I can see why many young people who are seeking answers to the many mysteries of life would want to learn more about Christopher McCandless. I am glad that the original magic bus has been removed. It is not worth the risk.

  7. I cried so much when I first watched the movie, what a story! Visiting the magic bus has always been a travel dream of mine, but it never happened. However, I’m glad it’s been removed now, as too many travelers risked their lives to get there. Thanks for the great tips to visit the replica, really useful.

  8. Wow this is such a great story but tragic. Honestly speaking I had never heard of Magic Bus 142 before. This is the first time I have heard and it looks like a great story. I was seeing a similar story the other day where a guy goes in search of himself and loses his life. I am not sure if one would take that kind of risk. I wonder what goes on in their minds.

  9. Really interesting story with obviously a very interesting person. I think we ALL have a bit of Chris in us. Never been to exact site (nor do I have the desire), but have been in the area several times. It gets so cold you would certainly have little chance without very experienced cold weather hunting/survival skills. Damn kid… he would’ve been welcomed in OUR HOME here in Alaska.

  10. Sad that they had to remove the bus. I stayed in it in 2010 with my brother and a friend, such a memorable trip but we are outdoor enthusiasts and avid backpackers. It should have remained in the spot it was but maybe have to obtain a permit prior to the trek. Just like climbing Denali, a ranger has to approve your permit based on your experience, same should have applied to this hike.

  11. I haven’t hear of this Magic Bus before. I am going to have to add the book to my reading list. I plan on visiting Alaska soon so this will be something to add to my itinerary.

  12. Wow, what a tragic and yet inspiring story. I am thankful that they have removed the original. Not only is it tragic that so many people have hurt and killed themselves trying to get to it, but out of respect for the family as well. I think being able to visit the replica is an amazing way to connect to the power in the story without making a tourist site out of the actual spot a young man died. This is a really great, in-depth guide to visiting Magic Bus and the emotions that come with it!

  13. I have never seen the movie or read the book but ill be doing both now. I give him credit for chasing his dreams, but sometimes along the way we realize that what we really wanted was right in front of us the entire time. This was a very enjoyable read. Thank you.

  14. Oof. Loved the book, the movie, then I dug in further. He stole from people to “live off the land,” panhandled, and poached animals illegally. That adventurous spirit came at the cost of others. It seemed to be not a lack of preparedness, but an assumption that he was invincible based on his experiences in the months prior…a victim of his own hubris. I’m so glad they removed the real bus off of that trail. Too many who romanticized his life were putting themselves at risk.

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