If one park is symbolic of Alaska, that’s Denali, thank to Mount Denali, the highest mountain in Alaska. But the park is more than its famous peak, so check our Top Things To Do in Denali National Park for a full experience of that iconic area.
Denali National Park
Visiting Denali should be on anyone’s travel list when in Alaska. The Denali National Park and Preserve is indeed a must-see and deserves the time it takes to reach it.
Before exploring the park, make sure to stop at the Denali Visitor Center for information ranging from bear safety, bus schedule, trail ideas, and weather forecasts. The Denali National Park shuttle is one of the options available for traveling in the park.
Take a copy of the Denali National Park map to identify the several bus stops ahead of your trip.
Mt Denali is the tallest mountain in Alaska and even the highest peak in North America. Indeed, Denali elevation sits at 20,310 feet (6,190 m).
Given the challenges associated with climbing any mountain, make sure to prepare your expedition with experienced guides and outfitters.
If you wonder how long does it take to climb Denali, the average climber will allocate two weeks on the mountain for reaching the famous Denali summit. However, adding a few days to get to and from the mountain, you might want to plan for three weeks, or even four weeks, due to the notoriously bad Denali National Park weather.
If climbing is not your thing, you might want to check one of the different flightseeing tours that companies outside the park offer. A few of these trips will take you so close to the glaciers that you will actually land on them!
- Denali National Park Flightseeing Tour from Talkeetna
- Price: $237.60
- Denali Heli-Hiking Tour
- Price: $570.00
- Denali Experience Flightseeing Tour
- Price: $238.70
- Denali Peak Flight
- Price: $399.00
Things to Do in Denali National Park
You have the options to join one of the several Denali National Park bus tours, which range from a simple shuttle to full guided Denali excursions. In high season, buses and tours might fill quickly so if you are short on time, we recommend you plan your trip in details so you can reserve ahead of time the type of activities in which you are interested.
- Visit the sled dog kennels located about 3 miles (4.5 km) inside the park (summer: 9 am—4:30 pm), where you can see the working sled dogs Denali uses.
- Want to chill in the wilderness? Click here to check this horse-drawn carriage ride with backcountry dining
- Need to get your adrenaline level up? Click here to reserve a Ziplining adventure or go whitewater rafting, two Denali National Park tours that are sure to get your adventurous spirit excited.
- Join one of the Denali national park tours or ranger-guided activities that will take you to explore the backcountry safely.
- Widlife watching - be bear ready!
- And of course, endless trails through the backcountry, either as day hikes or multi-day backpacking and trekking adventures.
Denali National Park Hiking
The choice of Denali trails is almost infinite but time and physical preparation will help you define your top trails. From easy hikes around the Savage River to challenging Denali National Park backpacking in the more remote areas of the park, Denali has it all.
Denali Day Hikes
Savage River: drive at either of these two different locations: the Mountain Vista Rest Stop (Mile 13) or the Savage Rest Area (Mile 15) and start hiking around the area. Click here for other short hikes.
You can go on some of these hikes by yourself, or join one of the ranger-led hikes that have specific focuses depending on the park location and season.
Denali National Park Backpacking
For ideas on multiday trekking opportunities with the famous Alaskan national park, check one of the longer Denali trails. Getting into the wilderness should be best reserved for experienced trekkers who know how to be self-sufficient and have the proper gear for the challenging conditions.
Regardless of the hikes, book your Denali National Park shuttle to ensure availability in the high season.
Denali National Park Animals
Regardless of where you are in the park, you will get a chance to see one of its numerous fantastic wildlife. So be prepared to observe caribou, moose, and Dall sheep along the road. Bears are also spotted regularly from the safety of the buses, both grizzly and black bears. You might see wolves, but they are less frequent to find.
Wild animals are, well, wild. Check the Denali wildlife safety guidelines before heading into the park. Keep your distance, do not feed the animals.
Denali National Park Shuttle
Choose between several types of buses, depending on your interests: guided bus tours or regular shuttle that drop you off at campgrounds and trailheads.
The Denali National Park buses are available from mid-May to mid-September. You don't need to book ahead, but we suggest you do so in the high season, and if you have a limited time to visit the park. Since no cars are allowed in the park, these buses are the only way to visit.
One option to visit Denali is to take the bus up to Wonder Lake Campground or Kantishna, where the park road ends. These bus rides take the whole day, with 13-hour round trip to and from Kantishna, and 11-hour to and from Wonder Lake). While they don't allow for much hiking time, they will enable you to travel deep into the park.
Try to stop at the Eielson Visitor Center for a chance to see Mt. Denali if the weather provides for clear visibility. If not, check when driving on the road to Savage River.
- Within the park:
- Campgrounds: Book your campsite in one of the six Denali National Park campgrounds. Even if you are planning on exploring Denali wilderness, consider staying at the Savage River campground for your first night. Most of the campsites are further into the park, and you will need to work around the bus schedule to reach them.
- Lodges: Treat yourself at one of the Denali lodged, all privately-owned and located on private lands within the park.
- Outside the park
Most people stay in hotels near Denali National Park, either around Healy, 11 miles north of the park entrance, or Cantwell, 30 miles south of the park entrance. There you can find motels, B&Bs, and other lodgings for all budgets.
In the peak summer months, the accommodation tends to fill quickly. Make sure to book your Denali accommodation early.
Denali National Park Weather
The high season to visit Denali National Park runs from mid-May to mid-September, when temperatures vary from 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 25°C). However, Alaska weather is notorious for changing rapidly, sometimes experiencing the four seasons in one day.
Anchorage to Denali National Park
The 250-mile (400-km) drive from Anchorage to Denali takes about 4 hours, but plan on adding a few more hours for breaks and visits.
If you wonder what to see along the scenic road, check these different points of interests:
- The 200-foot (60 m) Thunderbird Falls near Old Glenn Highway north of Anchorage
- One of the oldest Athabaskan Indian settlement in Eklutna Village
- Talkeetna and Susitna River Bridge
- Denali Viewpoints
- Chulitna River
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