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8 Best Denali Helicopter Tours: Top Flightseeing Options

8 Best Denali Helicopter Tours: Top Flightseeing Options

While there are many ways to behold the captivating beauty of Alaska’s tallest peak and the paradise that surrounds it, nothing beats getting an airborne perspective. Denali helicopter tours will have you soaring above snowy alpine peaks, tundra-covered valleys, dramatic ridgelines, and the wildlife that thrive in between – a spectacle that’s hard to witness when exploring afoot. 

What are flightseeing tours?

Flightseeing tours are a way to explore the Alaska region while aboard an aircraft, usually with a guide in tow 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 2016. 

The demand for flightseeing has spurred many helicopter tour operators to innovate and expand their offerings. If you’re planning to go on Denali helicopter tours, now is a fantastic time.

But why choose helicopters over airplanes?

Helicopters have several advantages over their rotor-less cousins. For starters, they can fly much lower and slower compared to planes, which allows you to get better views of the sights below.

Denali Glacier Landing
Image from Alaska.org

Helicopters also have bigger windows than airplanes, so if you’re planning to take spectacular photos of sceneries, Denali helicopter rides are your best bet. 

Because of their size and form, helicopters are also more maneuverable and agile, which offers a more thrilling experience than fixed-wing aircraft. 

How much do Denali helicopter tours cost? 

When booking online, Denali helicopter tours usually cost $230 to $450 per person.

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 require you to cover the entrance fee to Denali National Park as well. 

What sites are included in Denali helicopter tours?

Denali National Park Mountains

While there are various helicopter tours in Denali, the sights they explore are more or less the same.

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 Ampitheater,
  • Tokotsina Mountains and Glacier,
  • Moose’s Tooth,
  • the towering Wickersham Wall,
  • and the Muldrow Glacier. 

Tips before going on Denali helicopter tours

Temsco Helicopters Denali Tour
Image from TemscoAir.com

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 follow 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 that are 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 while aboard the aircraft.

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

Remember your seating arrangement

Your helicopter tour instructor will give you precise instructions about your seating, so pay attention. Some travelers tend to get a bit rowdy when it comes to 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 located in a heavily-populated tourist destination

However, if you do have the privilege of choosing 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 what you choose, 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 to, you may want to opt for front-facing seats as well. 

Know the participant limit

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.

See Related: Best Travel Water Purifiers for Hiking

Book as early as you can

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 in guaranteeing a safe experience, it’s best to consider getting travel insurance for your visit to Denali.

Opt for those with extensive coverage, like World Nomads, Travelex, Aardy, and Travel Insurance.

The best Denali helicopter tours

1. 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 allows you to get close to Denali’s summit, along with sightings of other popular locations like the 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 and you’ll start to see 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 and near famous peaks, including Broken Tooth, Moose’s Tooth, and Barille. You’ll also be passing by the Ruth Glacier, where you’ll see the spectacular Don Sheldon Amphitheater. 

2. 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. 

3. 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 on this list 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: Best Hotels in Fairbanks, Alaska

4. Denali Glacier Landing by Temsco Helicopters Inc. 

Denali Glacier Landing by Temsco Helicopters Inc

Duration: 70 minutes

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

Glacier landings are a staple of Denali helicopter tours, and this helicopter 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 make your way to the massive Yanert Icefield, keep your eye peeled and your camera ready for sightings of the rolling tundra’s fantastic fauna, including moose, bear, Dall sheep, and caribou.

Denali National Park’s mountainous terrain and breathtaking vistas will make you feel utterly 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 Icefield just outside of Denali National Park’s boundaries.

This is a great chance to take photos and explore its otherworldly surroundings! 

See Related: Best Things to do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska

5. Denali Glacier Helicopter Tour by Stampede Excursions

Denali Glacier Helicopter Tour by Stampede Excursions

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 down 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 Icefield and behold its frozen landscape. Here, guests will be treated to spectacular views of glacial ice pools, huge crevasses, and icefalls. 

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!

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 sights of the Ruth and Tokotsitna Glaciers, Mount Hunter, Mount Huntington, and Moose’s Tooth. 

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 also have the option of adding a glacier landing to their packages which will add 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 and marvel at the towering walls and gawk over the Don Sheldon Amphitheater, an icy paradise that sits 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, all 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 the 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 so you can explore the scenic landscape. An expert guide will be with you the whole time to offer insights into the environment.

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