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8 Best Helicopter Tours in Denali

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While there are many ways to behold the captivating beauty of Alaska’s tallest peak and the paradise surrounding it, nothing beats getting an airborne perspective.

I had the personal fortune of taking a glacier helicopter tour when I visited Denali National Park. It was an experience of a lifetime, and below, you’ll find a number of my photos and videos from the experience.

Here’s me with our helicopter when we landed on the Yanert Glacier. All the anticipation and excitement was worth it.

Kyle Kroeger with Temsco Helicopter Tours, Alaska
Taking a Tour of a Glacier in Alaska (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

These flightseeing and helicopter tours in Denali will have you soaring above snowy alpine peaks, tundra-covered valleys, dramatic ridgelines, and the wildlife that thrives in between – a spectacle that’s hard to witness when exploring afoot. 

Our Top Picks

The best helicopter tours in Denali

1. Denali Glacier Helicopter Tour by Stampede Excursions

Temsco Helicopter Tour on Yanert Glacier, one of the best helicopter tours in Denali
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Duration: 2 hours

The best helicopter tours in Denali, Alaska, combine stunning views with expert narration. This Denali Glacier Helicopter Tour from Stampede Excursions brings travelers the best of both. With years of experience, Stampede Excursions offers a stress-free and memorable flight tour.

You begin by taking off from a heliport with spectacular views of the Nenana River. Look below for stunning views of the Alaskan wilderness atop your A-Star helicopter while listening to your pilot guide discuss the magic behind the breathtaking vistas and Denali’s mountainous terrain.

Moments later, you’ll land on the massive Yanert Glacier and behold its frozen landscape. Here, guests will be treated to spectacular views of glacial ice pools, huge crevasses, and icefalls. 

Hikers after helicopter landing on Yanert Glacier, Alaska, surrounded by mountains and skies.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

On the way back to the heliport, you’ll soar above Mt. Deborah, one of the major peaks of the Alaska Range, with an elevation of 12,339 feet. Hotel transfers are included in this tour package!

2. Talkeetna: Denali 1-Hour Flight Experience

Denali 1-Hour Flight Experience

Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours

Experience the best of Denali even if you only have an hour to spare with this introductory flight to Denali. The Denali 1-Hour Flight Experience lets you get close to Denali’s summit and sightings of popular locations like Foraker Peak, Hunter Peak, and the Tokositna and Ruth Glaciers. 

The tour begins with your group taking off towards the Alaska Range. On the way, you’ll fly over Susitna Valley, where you’ll catch sightings of the tundra wildlife.

A few moments later, you’ll start seeing the Alaska Range and fly within 6 miles of Mount Denali. A knowledgeable pilot will offer commentaries about the sights you’ll see along the way. 

Afterward, you’ll soar over the Tokositna Valley near famous peaks, including Broken Tooth, Moose’s Tooth, and Barille. You’ll also pass by the Ruth Glacier, where you’ll see the spectacular Don Sheldon Amphitheater. 

3. Talkeetna: Grand Denali Flight with Optional Glacier Landing

Grand Denali Flight with Optional Glacier Landing

Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours

One of the highlights of an Alaska flightseeing tour is flying close to the summit of Mount Denali. Seeing the tallest mountain in North America from way up high is a bucket-list experience you’ll never forget. This guided tour offers a more in-depth exploration of the Alaska Range and North America’s tallest mountain. 

The tour begins with a flight straight to the Alaska Range. The aircraft will fly to either side of Mount Denali, where you’ll arrive on the northern part of the Alaska Range, exploring the tundra landscape below.

On the way back, you’ll see the Wickersham Wall, the greatest continual vertical relief in the world, with a height of 14,000 feet. Guests can add a 30-minute glacier landing to their flightseeing tour, which allows them to explore, play in the snow, and stand among the peaks of the Alaska Range. 

4. Southside Explorer Flightseeing Tour from Talkeetna

Southside Explorer Flightseeing tour from Talkeetna

Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours 

Journey through the Alaska Range aboard a ski-equipped aircraft on this Southside Explorer Flightseeing Tour from Talkeetna. This tour is also one of the most affordable for travelers looking to save. With expert narration from your pilot, you’ll learn about the region’s local wildlife and geological history via an individual headset. 

Your tour begins with a flight from Talkeetna, where you’ll explore Susitna Valley’s river systems and landscapes of snow peaks, icefalls, and glaciers. Get spectacular views of the Great Gorge, the world’s deepest gorge with ice that’s 3,700 feet deep. Add an optional 30-minute Denali glacier landing by helicopter for a chance to get up close and personal with the icy environment. 

This tour includes pick-up and drop-off from your Talkeetna hotel. If you plan on including a glacier landing, you’ll have to cover the entrance fees to Denali National Park

See Related: Top-Rated Hotels in Fairbanks

5. Denali Glacier Landing by Temsco Helicopters Inc. 

Red helicopter from Temsco with tail number N608T against snow-capped mountains and glacial landscapes in Denali National Park.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Duration: 70 minutes

Previously Era Flightseeing Denali Helicopter Tours, Temsco Helicopters Inc. is one of Denali’s most popular helicopter tour operators.

Glacier landings are a staple of Denali helicopter tours, and this tour of Denali National Park deserves a top spot on our list. This breathtaking adventure begins in a private heliport where you’ll take off to see spectacular views of Denali National Park. 

As you go to the massive Yanert Glacier, keep your eye peeled and your camera ready for sightings of the rolling tundra’s fantastic fauna, including moose, bears, Dall sheep, and caribou.

Denali National Park’s mountainous terrain and breathtaking vistas will make you feel tiny when viewed from above. Along the way, your pilot offers exciting narration about the Alaskan environment’s history and geography.

After 50 minutes of flight time, you’ll land on the Yanert Glacier just outside Denali National Park’s boundaries. This is a great chance to take photos and explore its otherworldly surroundings! 

See Related: Things to Do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska

6. The Denali Grand Tour by K2 Aviation

The Denali Grand Tour by K2 Aviation

Duration: 1.5 hours 

Looking for the ultimate Denali helicopter flightseeing experience? K2 Aviation will not disappoint. The Denali Grand Tour combines two of the operator’s famous tours: the Denali Experience and the Denali Flyer. 

The Denali Experience involves flying 6 miles from Mount Denali’s summit and descending into the magnificent Great Gorge and Ruth Amphitheater. You’ll also get spectacular Ruth and Tokotsitna Glaciers, Mount Hunter, Mount Huntington, and Moose’s Tooth sights. 

The Denali Flyer is K2 Aviation’s most popular tour, which offers views of the winding Kahiltna Glacier, the peaks of Little Switzerland, Kahiltna Base Camp, and Mount Foraker’s east face.

The Grand Tour puts these all together in an exhilarating experience you’ll never forget. Travelers can also add a glacier landing to their packages, adding 30 minutes to their tour. 

See Related: Best Portable Drones for Travel

7. Winter Explorer by Talkeetna Air Taxi

Winter Explorer by Talkeetna Air Taxi

Duration: 1 hour

If you’re visiting during winter and looking for helicopter tours in Denali, Alaska, the Winter Explorer Tour offers a great introduction to the southern side of the Alaska Range. Available only from October 1st to April 30th, the Winter Explorer Tour customizes your tour based on weather conditions, but regardless, expect a memorable time. 

Fly over the Ruth Glacier’s Great Gorge, marvel at the towering walls, and gawk over the Don Sheldon Amphitheater, an icy paradise at the head of the 35-mile-long Ruth Glacier.

The tour also includes sights of Alaska Range’s major glaciers, including the Kahiltna, Kanikula, Ruth, and Tokostina. In the middle of it are cascading icefalls and snow-capped peaks. 

See Related: The Ultimate Denali Packing Checklist

8. Denali Tundra Express by Temsco Helicopters Inc. 

Denali Tundra Express by Temsco Helicopters Inc

Duration: 30 – 40 minutes

If you’re short on time but want to experience helicopter rides in Denali, Alaska, the Denali Tundra Express from Temsco Helicopters is your best bet. This short helicopter ride offers views of the essentials of the Alaska Range.

Upon takeoff, you’ll get incredible views of the hills right outside Denali National Park, local wildlife, and, if you keep your eyes peeled on the horizon, Denali and Mt. Deborah.  

The tour will land on the alpine tundra, where you can explore the scenic landscape. An expert guide will be with you the whole time to offer insights into the environment.

See Related: Family Vacation Ideas in Alaska

What are flightseeing tours?

Interior of a Helicopter in Denali National Park
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Flightseeing tours are a way to explore the Alaska region while aboard an aircraft, usually with a guide to offer insightful narration about the views below.  It’s one of the most popular ways of exploring Alaska, especially for tourists with limited time and with good reason.

As the Final Frontier, there are less than 10,000 miles of road in this wilderness-loving state – a scarcity that has prompted flying to be a way of life.

According to the Alaska Visitors Statistics Program, flightseeing was in the top 10 statewide activities done by travelers in 2020. The demand for flightseeing has spurred many helicopter tour operators to innovate and expand their offerings.

But why choose helicopters over airplanes? Helicopters have several advantages over their rotor-less cousins. For starters, they can fly much lower and slower than planes, allowing you to get better views of the sights below.

Check out our full experience riding a helicopter in Denali National Park from our YouTube Channel below.

Helicopters also have bigger windows than airplanes, so if you plan to take spectacular scenery photos, Denali helicopter rides are your best bet. Because of their size and form, helicopters are more maneuverable and agile, offering a more thrilling experience than fixed-wing aircraft. 

How much do Denali helicopter tours cost?

Denali helicopter tours usually cost $230 to $450 per person when booking online. Factors that influence the price include the duration of the tour, amenities, inclusions, and if there are optional perks like the addition of glacier landings.

Some Denali National Park helicopter tours will also require you to cover the entrance fee to Denali National Park. 

What sites are included in Denali helicopter tours?

While there are various helicopter tours in Denali, they explore similar sights. Expect to get sightings of the Alaska Range, its major peaks, and several other iconic spots, including:

  • The Great Gorge’s Ruth Glacier,
  • the Don Shelder Amphitheater,
  • Tokotsina Mountains and Glacier,
  • Moose’s Tooth,
  • Yanert Glacier,
  • the towering Wickersham Wall,
  • and the Muldrow Glacier. 

See Related: Things to Do in Juneau, Alaska

Tips before going on Denali helicopter tours

Scenic red helicopter on wooden helipad in Denali National Park, Alaska.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

There are more stringent rules to follow when riding an aircraft than other touring methods, and travelers should be prepared before booking their first flight. Here are some rules to make your helicopter ride experience safer and more fun. 

Dress appropriately

Loose-fitting articles of clothing are generally not advised in helicopter tours, especially aboard an open-door helicopter. Loose clothes risk being pulled away by the wind generated by the helicopter’s rotors.

Hats, scarves, sandals, or flip-flops (don’t be one of the tourists who’ve lost their footwear mid-air) are also not recommended. 

Tight-fitting clothes are allowed, but you may find it hard to get on and off the helicopter as they tend to restrict your movement. With that said, opt for insulated clothes that are great for cold weather, neither too tight nor too loose. 

Travelers with long hair may find their locks tangled or whipped by the wind, often obscuring their view. Consider pulling it back with a sturdy hair tie. The color of your clothes is another essential factor to consider if you’re taking photos aboard the aircraft.

Bright-colored garments are reflected by the aircraft’s glass windows, obscuring your photos. With that said, consider wearing darker-colored clothing. 

Remember your seating arrangement

Aerial view of snow-capped peaks, Denali National Park, Alaska.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Your helicopter tour instructor will give you precise instructions about your seating, so pay attention. Some travelers tend to get a bit rowdy when securing the best seat

Often, they want to obtain the best viewing spot or be seated next to a friend or family. This might not be possible, especially in helicopter tour services in a heavily populated tourist destination

However, if you can choose seats, there are several things to consider. While some helicopters are only equipped with front-facing seats, others have both front and rear-facing seats.

Regardless of your choice, you’ll still get stunning views of the sights below.  However, front-facing seats are often recommended for travelers with motion sickness. If you want to see the pilot in motion and the direction the aircraft is flying, you may want to opt for front-facing seats as well. 

Know the participant limit

People Seated inside a Helicopter in Alaska
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Most Denali helicopter tours only allow 3 to 6 passengers, including the pilot. If you’re a big group going on a vacation, you may want to consider booking multiple helicopters.

Book as early as you can

TEMSCO helicopter flying over Denali National Park under a clear blue sky

While most operators of Denali helicopter tours allow same-day and walk-in reservations, you’re better off booking in advance, especially during the peak season, to guarantee a spot. 

Get travel insurance

While helicopter tour operators do not take shortcuts to guarantee a safe experience, it’s best to consider getting travel insurance for your visit to Denali. Opt for those with extensive coverage, like SafetyWing, Travelex, VisitorsCoverage, and Travel Insurance.

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