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The incredible Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, encompasses six million acres filled with mountains, rivers, valleys, forests, and tundras!
There are tons of things to do in Denali National Park for adventure and experiences to remember for a lifetime. Denali National Park is a crown jewel of Alaska and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (rightfully so). One of its central claims to fame is that the park is home to Denali Mountain (formerly Mt. McKinley), North America’s tallest mountain at 20,310 feet above sea level.
The park offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to experience wild nature in its purest form. Revel at the chance to see moose, caribou, grizzly bears, and other animals in their natural habitat without annoying obstructions from human development.
There are many ways for visitors to enjoy the park. Take scenic flights for the most amazing bird’s eye views, or take on one of the many top-tier hiking trails to get into the thick of it. For an adrenaline boost, opt for some whitewater rafting, or try out dog sledding over frozen rivers in the wintertime!
After spending five days in Denali, we’ve jotted down some of the best experiences to be had at the park to maximize your visit.
- Things to Do in Denali National Park and Preserve
- 1. Ride the Alaska Railroad
- 2. Take a Helicopter Ride to a Glacier
- 3. Hike the Horseshoe Lake Trail
- 4. Try Whitewater Rafting on the Nenana River
- 5. Head Out On A Midnight Sun Photoshoot
- 6. Stop by The Eielson Visitor Center
- 7. Tour Denali National Park in a Day
- 8. Hike the Savage River Loop Trail
- 9. Visit the Denali Sled Dogs
- 10. Experience a Backcountry Jeep Tour
- 11. Wonder at Wonder Lake
- 12. Take on the Marmot Basin Trail
- 13. Do a Flightseeing Tour Out of Talkeetna
- 14. See If You Can Spot the Big 5 Wildlife
- 15. Visit Husky Homestead
- 16. Hear The Sound of Sleigh Bells at Denali National Park Village
- 17. Grab Some Craft Beer and Pizza at Prospector’s
- 18. Chase the Northern Lights
- 19. Hike the Triple Lakes Trailhead
- 20. Cycle Denali Park Road
- 21. Head Out on a Ranger Guided Hike
- How to Get to Denali National Park
- When is the Best Time to Visit Denali National Park?
- Where to Stay in Denali National Park and Preserve
- Tips for Visiting Denali National Park and Preserve
- Is Denali National Park Worth Visiting?
- How long do you need in Denali National Park?
- Can I drive my own car in Denali National Park?
- Other Alaska Guides
Things to Do in Denali National Park and Preserve
1. Ride the Alaska Railroad
To start our list of the top things to do in Denali National Park, we’ll start with the unforgettable experience of the Alsakan Railroad! You can get to Denali via bus, plane, car, or helicopter. But the best way (and cheapest apart from hiking) to get to Denali National Park is via the Alaska Railroad.
When you ride the Alaska Railroad, you get a first-hand viewing experience of the mountains, Alaska Range, rivers, and lakes. You’ll likely see some wildlife along the way as well. We saw a giant moose!
You can take the Alaska Railroad to Denali from the south in either Seward or Anchorage or from the north from Fairbanks. The Denali Star Train takes passengers from Fairbanks to the Denali National Park in four hours.
We rode the Alaska Railroad by purchasing the GoldStar Service tickets. GoldStar Service includes a sit-down dinner in the dining car and two complimentary drink tickets per adult.
If you drive and travel by road, enjoying the gorgeous landscape views is difficult because you must keep your eyes on the tricky roads. But with Alaska being so undeniably beautiful, it will take a lot not to be distracted by endless stunning views while driving.
And with Alaska’s beauty, it is easy to get distracted while driving! Taking the train will help you relax and better view the flowing rivers, lakes, and wildlife that will leave you spellbound.
See Related: Best Hotels in Denali National Park
2. Take a Helicopter Ride to a Glacier
Glaciers cover about one million acres (one-sixth) of Denali National Park and Preserve. So, take advantage of the opportunity to have a sweeping view of these seemingly never-ending glaciers.
Flightseeing in a helicopter offers about five times an airplane’s window space, allowing you to absorb the snow-blanketed mountains. Besides that, it is also a bump-free ride, and you get a smooth aerial view of the dense snow-capped mountains.
The helicopter makes its way over various snowy mountains and frozen lakes. The glacially carved environment consists of Brooks Glacier, Buckskin Glacier, Caldwell Glacier, Cantwell Glacier, and much more.
Get a first-hand perspective of this experience by watching our video of a glacier landing via helicopter.
If you come from a crowded city like Chicago or New York, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to enjoy the complete opposite of life in a bustling metropolis.
During your helicopter ride, you can catch glimpses of bears, Dall sheep, moose, and caribou. This ride offers about twenty minutes of an aerial view of the glaciers and frozen lakes, allowing visitors to capture perfect pictures.
With more window space than you’d get in any other sightseeing tour, you get to enjoy the cloudy sky sweeping over the Alaskan range. As you go on flightseeing during the day, the sun casts beautiful shadows on the peaks of the mountains. Sometimes, snow falls off the cliffs, forming low-lying, spiky glaciers.
The helicopter also offers close ground views when it flies at a low altitude. You’ll find yourself mesmerized by the springs and water bodies in these glaciers as they are an unforgettable view.
Once you land on the glacier, you will also get to experience walking on its icy surface! You can drink fresh, naturally filtered glacier water and hear and feel the ice crunch beneath your feet.
The opportunity to walk on a glacier is extremely rare. We guarantee that your friends will be jealous of your photos and experience.
See Related: Best Flightseeing & Helicopter Tours in Denali
3. Hike the Horseshoe Lake Trail
Address: Horseshoe Lake Trail, Denali Park, AK, USA
There are many great established trails in Denali National Park, and the Horseshoe Lake Trail, sitting at Mile 1 on Denali Park Road, is one of them! The Alaska Railroad crosses the park road where the course starts.
The trail offers a clear view of the crystal-clear Horseshoe Lake and the surrounding mountains. There is a bridge that allows visitors to cross the lake.
The Horseshoe Lake Trail has to be one of the best trails in Denali, as the serene water body mirrors the sky and presents an incredible glassy view. The mountains around the trail are covered with spruce trees, home to the red squirrel, Clark’s nutcracker, three-toed woodpecker, and other species.
One steep decline as the trail drops 250′ down to the lake level. The path divides into two and forms a loop around the lake. This trail attracts many tourists because of how accessible it is and because it offers a panoramic view of the river and the mountains.
The lake edges are smooth, with a few rock deposits, and these edges form the body of the trek. You can watch the still water closely and capture this lake’s mesmerizing tranquillity.
You can see beavers working on their dams if you’re lucky. It is remarkable to watch beavers in action, felling lumber and slapping dams together!
Besides that, the weather in Denali is mostly pleasant despite the sky being primarily covered with clouds. It offers a soothing view when the water reflects the sky on hot summer days.
See Related: Best Hiking Apps for Your Next Adventure
4. Try Whitewater Rafting on the Nenana River
Address: Nenana River, Alaska 99760, USA
Whitewater rafting on the Nenana River is easily the most exhilarating way to enjoy the incredible wilderness of Denali National Park. Test your nerve as you navigate the river, dodging numerous rocks and other obstacles!
Ideally, your best option will be to book a trip through the Denali Outdoor Center. You get guides and quick access to the best whitewater rafting spots on the Nenana River.
You can also choose from several different types of packages that will best suit your needs and experience level. And best of all? Denali Outdoor Center is very eco-friendly-focused, so you can feel good about doing your part to help save the planet. Choose from several different types of trips:
- Day Rafting Trips – You’ll spend 3-4 hours rafting down class II rapids on the river. These are best for beginners and intermediate boaters.
- Overnight Rafting Trips – You’ll spend 2-3 days rafting down class II/III rapids on the river. These are for experienced boaters who want to experience various water conditions.
See Related: Best Whitewater Rafting in the World
5. Head Out On A Midnight Sun Photoshoot
The Midnight Sun is hauntingly beautiful and is an excellent opportunity for photographers passionate about getting a perfect shot of this natural spectacle covered by snow-capped mountains. It’s a scene that can easily capture the imagination and allow amateur and professional photographers to explore different styles that best preserve such an inspirational image.
This activity is best done in June when the Midnight Sun is at its best because it’s around this time that winter starts to fade quickly. You won’t get any photos with snow. Instead, you’ll be able to capture the best of nature and have an experience that will stick with you for a lifetime.
The light is clear and bright at night, but if that’s not your thing, there are also ways to get around this by bringing light reflectors or flashlights.
The best way to participate in this activity is by contacting a professional local photographer or photography group specializing in Denali National Park and Preserve.
This will easily become one of the best photography experiences of your life, so pack your best camera and take your time to get that dream shot to frame when you get home.
See Related: Best Travel Photography Books
6. Stop by The Eielson Visitor Center
Address: Park Rd, Denali, AK 99755, United States
The Eielson Visitor Center is the best place for newcomers to begin their journey to Denali National Park and Preserve. This historical building has hours of free interpretive programs, public exhibits with information on park animals and the best places to view wildlife, maps of hiking trails, species guides, and more.
The best part is that you can do everything in about an hour. This is a great way to begin your trip into the heart of Denali National Park and Preserve. The best part? Everything inside is free!
There are also free guided walks most days (call ahead for times). The best time to view wildlife is during “mealtime,” so check the visitor center for the best times to spot wildlife.
Worth noting here is that Denali National Park has many other visitor centers worth popping into. The main visitor center is the Denali Visitor Center at mile 1.5. But there are numerous others dotted around the park, providing valuable information on the local area with various exhibits, activities, and other services to elevate your Denali experience.
See Related: Best Winter Travel Clothes
7. Tour Denali National Park in a Day
Address: Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK, United States
For the ultimate road trip, get your best views of Denali by taking the National Parks’ Highway (Rt 7) through the middle of the park from Kantishna to Cantwell.
While self-driven adventures are possible, the best way to see the park is with a tour company. We took the Denali Alaska Adventure Tour, which let us see all of the best attractions in Denali National Park and Preserve in only one day! It cost $165 per person for a full day ($240 during the high season) and was worth every penny.
Wildlife viewing is one of the best things to do in Denali National Park and Preserve. An excellent place to stop for a wildlife viewing tour on your drive is Mile 11 or 14 of the park road between Denali View and Savage River. We spent about an hour at each location watching grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and a (literal) lone wolf.
The best time to stop for wildlife viewing is at “mealtime.” If you’re lucky, the animals will be much closer to you! We had a moose walk to our car while driving through Denali National Park and Preserve!
At Mile 14 on the road between Denali View and Savage River, there is a pull-off on the left to view some moose. We stopped at about 8 a.m., right before “mealtime,” so they were closer than usual (moose can be skittish).
We saw a male moose scratching his back against trees, a sign of aggression. After about five minutes, we noticed him looking at us! He walked right up to our car and crossed the road without incident.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Anchorage
8. Hike the Savage River Loop Trail
Address: Denali National Park and Preserve, Park Rd, Alaska 99755, United States
The Savage River Trail is a popular hike deeper into the Park. Trees line this trail, making it a picture-perfect spot for those Instagram-worthy snaps. The trail ends at mile 12, but there’s ample scenery to enjoy on the hike because you are far from the park entrance.
Before going on the trail and looping around the river, you can climb up to the top of a rock formation to see panoramic views of the river and the surrounding landscape. This mini-hike only takes about 15 minutes, although it is all uphill.
The trail circles for two miles around the scenic Savage River. This trail might be closed in early spring because of bears, but otherwise, it is a great trail to hike.
The Savage River Trail is great for new hikers and people who like hiking without sweat. The trail is generally flat and has no steep inclines, so you can leisurely hike and enjoy the views.
You can hike off the trail, but you must be careful. The footing is rough, and larger wildlife frequents the area. People have fallen and encountered bears when going off-trail, so bring good shoes and bear spray!
You can access the Apex Mountain Trail on foot (12 miles from the visitors center) by bus or shuttle, but you need a permit to get there by car. Consider going on one of these top hiking tours in Denali to make your adventure.
See Related: Best Hiking Shorts for Men and Women
9. Visit the Denali Sled Dogs
The Denali Kennels are about three miles inside Denali Park along the roadside trail. You can walk the roadside trail to access the kennels, which takes about an hour.
The sled dog kennels are open all year round, and there is no additional fee to visit them. Alaskan dogs are usually calm as you see them near their kennels, wagging their tails happily. Denali National Park lets you pet and take pictures with these friendly dogs.
Denali National Park is the only national park where visitors can meet working sled dogs.
The company offers booths where people can sign up for tours. These tours include a Q&A session, “meet-and-greets” with the animals, and educational presentations on why DNP has its pack of sled puppies.
The dog keepers accompany them at all times. The kennels are comfortable and excite the dogs as they jump around with furry glee when visitors see them.
Unlike most sled dogs, which adhere to a fierce pack mentality, these sled dogs are full of character, love the attention, and can be real showoffs! They also like to sit on their wooden kennels and enjoy the evening after a long day of sledding and protecting the Park’s wildlife.
10. Experience a Backcountry Jeep Tour
Six million acres is an extensive area, and the park has numerous fascinating geological features. A vast region of arid land and roads offers an excellent opportunity to experience various parts of the Denali National Park on a self-guided tour.
The best place in Alaska to experience beautiful Denali National Park is the Denali Highway. Many activities, such as Jeep tours, allow tourists to explore all the park offers and give them a unique tour catering to their desires.
The best Denali National Park Jeep tours go to the backcountry and offer tourists a chance to experience Denali on a more personal level.
Outfitters offer these guided Denali Highway Jeep tours. These tours charge tour participants for transportation, meals, and guide service.
In addition, many of these outfits allow customers to do self-guided tours of the Denali National Park or book a bus tour. These companies are best contacted through their official websites for information. Going straight to the source will give you the most useful information on what best suits your experience and budget.
Denali National Park’s highway tours are best enjoyed during April. During this time the park blossoms with wildflowers in colors ranging from white to deep red, orange, pink, and yellow.
11. Wonder at Wonder Lake
Address: Wonder Lake, Alaska 99743, USA
Denali National Park is known for its beautiful wildlife and wildflowers. It’s also well known for its amazing lakes. One of the most popular lakes in Denali is Wonder Lake, the largest body of water in Denali National Park.
The lake spans 7 miles long and 1 mile wide, with a maximum depth of just over 400 feet, making it one of the deepest high-altitude lakes in North America.
Wonder Lake has an average surface temperature year-round from 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a perfect place to fish or boat during all seasons!
During winter, when ice covers much of the shores and shoreline activity ceases (except on rare occasions), you can still enjoy viewing Wonder Lakes’ beauty from the nearby sled dog kennels or a boat on the lake itself.
Wonder Lake is hard to access due to its long distance from park headquarters and backcountry roads being closed during winter.
The best way to reach Wonder Lake is by flying in by light aircraft to the nearby landing strip at Mule Creek or hiking the 17-mile trail around the lake from Savage River Road near Cantwell.
See Related: Best Out-of-State Rental Cars
12. Take on the Marmot Basin Trail
One of the best things to do in Denali National Park is hiking, specifically Denali’s famous Alaskan wilderness trails. One trail that deserves to be at the top of your list of best things to do in Denali is the 7-mile Marmot Basin trail.
Hiking the Marmot Basin Trail is best done in the morning. Be warned, though, as you will be hiking through fierce winds and horizontal snow for most of the first three hours of your hike (bring a few extra layers!). However, once you reach the alpine meadows around the 2-mile mark, you are treated to amazing views of Denali and the surrounding mountain ranges!
The best part about this hike is that it can be done during all four seasons. However, hiking in winter when cross-country skiing is available (check with park headquarters or backcountry rangers beforehand to determine the best conditions) is best for viewing wildlife like the snowshoe hare and marmots!
Just watch the weather! Check with National Park Service headquarters about the best conditions for entering the wilderness before hiking any of Denali National Park’s best trails!
13. Do a Flightseeing Tour Out of Talkeetna
Address: Talkeetna, Alaska 99676, USA
Flightseeing tours in Talkeetna, Alaska, provide visitors with the best Denali National Park and Preserve views. The best time to go on a flightseeing tour is early morning when the air is crisp and the views dreamy. You can also take similar flightseeing tours from Anchorage or Fairbanks.
The best flights will have you flying over Denali, which, at 20,320 feet tall, is North America’s highest peak. Plan to visit Denali National Park in late May through early July and September for best results. The weather is best during these times of the year.
October can be a good time for viewing if it does not rain. While the hiking trails are closed because of potential dangers from avalanches and rivers that may be swollen and unfordable you can still soar high in the sky for the ultimate bird’s eye view.
While the best way to explore the wilderness of Denali National Park is indeed by air, don’t worry if you’re not a comfortable flyer! As you’ve seen from the rest of our list of the best things to do in Denali National Park, there are plenty of things to do on the ground!
See Related: Outdoorsy Review
14. See If You Can Spot the Big 5 Wildlife
So Africa has its ‘Big 5’ (African elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros) that you want to keep an eye out for on safari, but Denali National Park has its own collection of ‘must-see- animals to keep an eye out for during your visit! The Big 5 in Alaska consists of Dall sheep, caribou, grizzly bear, wolf, and moose.
Caribou are best seen from the air, while Dall sheep are best viewed by hiking around on foot. Denali’s wildlife can be best enjoyed by seeing close-up glacier views via a helicopter tour.
You will have the best chance to see grizzly bears if you do a Denali National Park tour in the fall. Moose can be best viewed during August and September.
Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour is a three-hour tour that allows you to observe animals, such as grizzly bears and moose, from the best seats in the house. The Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour takes place on a specialized Toyota Land Cruiser 4WD truck with large open windows.
The best time to view wildlife is when animal populations are high in the fall. Denali National Park Tours allow sightseers to enjoy nature’s best by viewing glaciers and wildlife in their natural habitat from the best seats in the house.
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA
15. Visit Husky Homestead
Address: Milepost 229 Parks Hwy, Hickory, Denali Park, AK 99755, United States
Husky Homestead is a paid alternative to the Denali Sled Dog Kennels and is one of the most well-known things to do in Denali National Park.
The best part about the dog sledding experience at Husky Homestead is that you feed and interact with the Huskies. It’s also different from the Denali Sled Dog Kennels because it has no drive-through experience.
Husky Homestead is a tour founded by Jeff King, known as the “World’s Winningest Musher.” You’ll get an up-close and personal experience with an Iditarod legend. Depending on your time in Denali National Park and Preserve, you can also choose how long your tour will last.
If you want a longer visit, you can go during the summer when more hours are available for tours. The best time to visit Husky Homestead at Denali National Park and Preserve is during the spring season, though, because you’ll get a lot of snow over the winter months, which makes dog sledding easier.
16. Hear The Sound of Sleigh Bells at Denali National Park Village
Denali National Park is best known for its spectacular mountain views and wildlife. But Denali Park Village, Alaska, also has some great attractions to see.
This museum and gift shop is located in the heart of Denali Park Village. Here, you will find everything from authentic Native Alaskan art to supplies for your sled dog team.
A highlight of this attraction is the “Sleigh Bell,” donated by Walt Disney himself. The best things to do in Denali National Park include a stop at this historic building and its many available activities.
See Related: Alaska Railroad Review
17. Grab Some Craft Beer and Pizza at Prospector’s
Address: 238.9 George Parks Highway Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755, United States
Prospectors Pizza is hands down the best pizza in Denali, Alaska. They make a wide variety of pizzas, including white pizzas, and have tons of different toppings.
They also have delicious craft beer on tap served at just the right temperature. The prime feature is they are dog-friendly and will serve your pet a slice of the best pizza it’ll ever try!
18. Chase the Northern Lights
Make your way to Denali National Park between mid-August and mid-April for a chance to see the amazing northern lights (aurora borealis).
Don’t get your hopes up too much, though, as a sighting is never 100% guaranteed! Check the aurora forecast closer to your Alaska trip to make sure they’re actually happening in the first place. Then, you’ll need a dark enough sky that’s nice and clear for the perfect conditions.
It’s a good idea to opt to stay in the campgrounds at Denali or a nearby lodge for the best chance of catching the lights. In fact, sometimes, if you’re booked into a lodge, you can arrange a wake-up call to alert you to northern lights sightings during the night.
Dress warm, get some hot chocolate on the go, and prepare for a potentially late night while you wait for your opportunity to catch one of the world’s most impressive natural phenomena.
19. Hike the Triple Lakes Trailhead
Address: Parks Hwy, Healy, AK 99743, United States
The Triple Lakes Trailhead is a hike alongside the Denali Parks Highway north of Denali Park proper. Triple Lakes trail is the longest trail in Denali National Park at 9.5 miles one way, and it takes an average of four to five hours to walk one way.
This trailhead offers hard-core hikers an opportunity to get a unique close-up view of the park’s best features and truly submerge themselves into the beauty of the park’s boreal forest. Mill Creek is also on this trail and can be crossed without getting your feet wet. The best time to see wildlife is early morning as most animals are more active then.
The path may be slippery in some sections due to rocks and mud, and there is an elevation change of 1,000 feet. The best months for hiking are from April through October, when temperatures are milder, with July being the best of all.
See Related: McKinley Chalet Resort, Denali National Park
20. Cycle Denali Park Road
OK, so you’ve got tour buses, guided hikes, and flightseeing tours, but another memorable way to explore Denali National Park is via bicycle. Going slower than the bus tours but quicker than by foot, you can stop whenever you like to admire the scenery and still cover a fair bit of ground.
There are a few different options that can cater to different experiences and fitness levels. Denali Park Road is probably the most challenging, with it being a dusty road and also being the busiest for bus tours and private cars with no cycle lane. For an easier route, opt for the Roadside Bike Path, the easiest option of 1.7 miles one-way.
You must be aware of safety precautions, such as looking out for inquisitive grizzlies! But taking precautions like carrying bear spray, keeping your distance from wildlife, and being consistently aware of your surroundings can help make cycling the park a fun way to explore the park safely.
Don’t worry about having to bring your own bike. Rental bikes are provided just past the park entrance, offering afternoon, full-day, and multi-day rentals for mountain and e-bikes.
What you should prepare in advance is getting yourself covered with adequate health insurance for taking on such activities. Having a snoop around sites like travelinsurance.com can help you find comprehensive cover should your plans not go completely, well, to plan!
21. Head Out on a Ranger Guided Hike
So we’ve mentioned some great hiking spots to explore in Denali National Park, but what if you don’t want to go solo? Heading out on an organized hike with the local park rangers can be a great way to enjoy the park!
Visitors to Denali can enjoy ranger-led hikes during the summer season from May to mid-September. Walks start from the Denali visitor center and are set at a nice, comfortable pace and run for around two hours so all can enjoy! Don’t worry about signing up either; for spontaneous activity, you can just show up and tag along.
Ranger-guided hikes are perfect for solo travelers wanting the safety of hiking with a bit of company. But these hikes are also brilliant for anyone wanting to walk with a knowledgeable guide. Park rangers know the area well and can answer any questions on Denali-related topics for a much more enriching experience.
How to Get to Denali National Park
So, what good is knowing about all the amazing things to do in Denali National Park without knowing how to get there?
The closest airports to Denali National Park are Fairbanks and Anchorage. While flying to Anchorage will generally cost you less money, Fairbanks is the closest option. Anchorage sits 240 miles from Denali, and Fairbanks is a shorter 125 miles away. So, whichever you choose to fly to depends on your budget and travel preferences.
Taxis to the park from Fairbanks or Anchorage can be pricey, so you’re better off renting a car, popping onto a transit bus, or taking the train.
- The Denali Star Train runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks with a couple more additional stops. The journey takes about eight hours from Anchorage and four hours from Fairbanks. However, the scenic routes you take definitely make the journey just as much an experience as the destination.
- Daily shuttle services are available for a quick and convenient way to get to the park. This option is well-suited for families and small groups for a hassle-free transfer.
- For greater flexibility, take the scenic train into the park and then rent a car to drive around at your own pace and return to either Anchorage or Fairbanks in your own time.
When is the Best Time to Visit Denali National Park?
The most popular time to visit Denali is during summer, from early June to mid-September. While certain services are limited at certain points of the year, there are still many different things to do in Denali National Park throughout the year.
- Visiting in spring or autumn can potentially bring lower accommodation costs and fewer fellow guests! An added bonus during autumn is that the local tundra very briefly turns to stunning golden autumnal colors.
- Summer is the only season in which busses operate within the park, so it’s a much more convenient time to visit. You’ll also find all services operating normally and enjoy generally more agreeable weather.
- Winter is a beautiful time at Denali National Park, but services are severely limited, with almost all local businesses closed. Wintertime is not a time for spontaneous trips to Denali, and in-depth pre-planning is needed if you want to visit at this time.
Where to Stay in Denali National Park and Preserve
There are many types of great accommodations to choose from for your stay in Denali. The best option for you will depend on your budget, the number of people with you, and what style of accommodations best suits your needs.
Get back to nature while visiting Denali National Park by staying at one of its many highly-rated campgrounds! Your options include Wonder Lake Campground, Teklanika River Campground, Sanctuary River Campground, or Riley Creek Campground, to name but a few.
However, if you prefer a few more home comforts for your trip, there are numerous other places to stay in Denali National Park during your visit. These include holiday home rentals, lodges, and hotels close enough to the park for an equally memorable experience!
See Related: Best Denali Cabin Rentals: Where to Stay in Denali
Tips for Visiting Denali National Park and Preserve
Before arriving at Denali National Park, you must note that it’s large! Make sure you have up-to-date and detailed maps of the area handy to ensure you know where you’re going and as aids for while you’re out exploring so you don’t get lost.
As with any other national park, Denali National Park has rules and regulations to protect the local habitat and wildlife. This way, guests can enjoy a safe visit with minimal impact on the local environment and wildlife. Familiarize yourself with these either online or at the Denali Visitor Center to ensure your trip is memorable in all the best ways!
If you’re keen on spotting local brown and black bears at the park, time your trip between late summer and fall while they’re fattening up for hibernation. For safety reasons, ensure you have air horns and bear spray to deter the more inquisitive bears (and resident wolves) from getting too close.
With regard to packing advice for visiting Denali National Park, it’s worth remembering that due to Denali’s elevation and latitude, it’s one of the world’s most extreme climates. Because of this, it’s wise to pack a hat and sunscreen to protect from the sun because even if it feels cold, the sun is still aggressive!
Also, for optimal comfort, bring layers such as a windbreaker, rain jacket, and warm fleece layer to adapt easily as you explore the park. Of course, a comfortable pair of walking/hiking shoes, preferably with good ankle support, is a good shout!
Is Denali National Park Worth Visiting?
If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Denali National Park is most definitely worth the standard park entrance fee of $15 (free for those 15 years or younger). Its breathtaking views and wildlife will leave an unforgettable impression on you.
You might just be tempted to go for the $45 annual pass to visit over and over again! From hiking through the wilderness of Alaska or learning about how Native peoples lived here over 12,000 years ago to seeing bears fishing in streams and eagles soaring overhead, the location offers options for all interests at this incredible national park.
How long do you need in Denali National Park?
While Denali Park is a great day trip from Fairbanks, spending a minimum of two nights is recommended to make the most of your visit! At just over a two-hour drive away, a day trip from Fairbanks will feel rushed. Visiting for at least two nights will ensure you don’t miss out on truly experiencing the park’s beauty!
Of course, if you have the time for it, we recommend spending a total of five days at the park. This way, you can enjoy all the hiking trails, scenic tours, and other amazing things to do in Denali National Park.
Can I drive my own car in Denali National Park?
You can most certainly drive your own car (or rental) in Denali National Park. However, note that you can only drive as far as mile 15 on Denali Park Road. Only the local tour buses and buses run by the National Park Service can go beyond mile 15.
If you want to go further than mile 15, though, you don’t have to join a bus tour if you don’t want to, and instead, you can always pop on one of the free transit buses. These will take you to various spots in the park, such as campgrounds and other facilities.
Other Alaska Guides
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.