Alaska is the big and beautiful 49th state that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to lists of top vacation destinations—perhaps it’s because of its location, somehow seeming so far away from the rest of the lower 48; or maybe its because its tourist attractions are less to do with frills and glamour and more to do with its vast natural beauty. Whatever the reason, many have long considered Alaska to be a diverse and exciting way to experience some of the most jaw-dropping scenery; diverse culture; and amazing nature experiences that the U.S. has to offer.
And one of the most epic spots in Alaska to really appreciate its exceptional beauty is most definitely the Denali National Park and Preserve. A vast, rugged landscape that encompasses a sprawling expanse of the Alaska Range, Denali is also home to the majestic mountain and North America’s highest peak, the former Mt. McKinley, rising over 20,000-feet into the glorious park skyline. But Denali isn’t just for sightseeing; it’s for adventure too—packed with experiences that wow any would-be adventurer and explorer of some of Alaska’s most incredible sights and scenery.
About Denali National Park
So much more than just a mountain, Denali is truly an adventure—for over 100 years, it has been a bastion for intrepid outdoor enthusiasts who are drawn to its epic opportunities for both challenging and fun journeys through the wild and wonderful landscape. However, Denali is also a great spot for those looking to experience the tranquility and quiet beauty of Alaska through sightseeing, touring, wildlife viewing—not to mention awe-inspiring photo ops. Below is some basic info about Denali National Park and Preserve.
- There is only one road into Denali (Denali Park Road), so visitors who are not booking a bus trip should be sure to check current local conditions to be sure the road is open. Private vehicles may only drive a small portion of the road into the park. The road is only open during the months of May through September, so planning ahead is definitely important when considering a trip to Denali
- During the summer months, private vehicles may drive the first 15 miles of the Denali Park Road to Savage River—this is a great opportunity to see some of the varied landscapes of the Alaska Range and snap some pics of Denali (and some wildlife!)
- There are various bus and tour options for those wishing to leave their vehicle behind. Tours are not operated by the National Park Service and advanced reservations are recommended, especially for single-day visits. Learn more about the Denali transit options and various tours here
- Denali National Park is not closed during winter, though the Denali Park Road does typically close due to winter weather conditions. Outdoor recreation, sightseeing, the Winter Visitor Center, and the Indoor Picnic Area are just some of the amazing ways to explore Denali for those willing to brave the frigid temps (winter is also a great time to scope the Northern Lights!)
- For those who want to stay at Denali, there are several campgrounds and privately owned lodges within the park’s boundaries—there are also a number of nearby accommodations in the nearby towns along Highway 3
- Denali’s wildlife is as vast and diverse as its scenery—for example, the park is home to almost 40 species of mammals and about 130 bird species!
Things To Do In Denali
Visiting Denali is an unforgettable experience that’s a must-see for any visitor to Alaska. Though a multi-day trip is recommended to experience the best sights and scenery of the six million acre park; it is possible to see some of Denali’s signature sights in a single visit—whether it be through a car ride to Savage River; a bus tour; or a trek along one of the park’s hiking trails.
Spend The Day
The following activities are ideal for those travelers looking to spend anywhere from a few hours to an entire day in Denali.
- Take a Tundra Wilderness Tour, a guided, 5-5.5 hour tour where visitors can experience the spectacular scenery and incredible wildlife the park is known for Tour prices are $128/adults 16 and over and $56.50 for children 15 and under
- Stop in the Denali Visitor Center to learn more about the park, take a hike, or participate in a ranger-led activity
- Go on a hike from Savage River—many of the trails near the Visitor’s Center are less than two miles long
- There are many photo ops along the Denali Park Road that are accessible by private vehicle (up until mile 15)—there are many spots to pull off, but the parking area at Mountain Vista (mile 12), has especially good views of the mountain during clear weather
- Cycle along the Denali Park Road; visitors are welcome to cycle the entirety of the 92-mile road, including the campground loops and the designated Roadside Bike Path (e-bikes are also permitted)
- Visit a Denali sled dog at the kennels—meet the dogs, learn about their important role in the park and their place in the park’s history. 2022 is the centennial celebration of the kennels, so there are many events planned throughout the year Kennels are open Saturdays and Sundays 1-4 PM; 2022 spring and summer hours are yet to be determined
Spend Multiple Days
Staying multiple days is the best way to truly experience the wonder and beauty of Denali; whether it’s via a bus trip or tour, a hiking adventure, or a wilderness adventure, visitors will have an unforgettable experience among the sprawling vistas of this lovely park.
- Take a Transit Bus Trip from the Denali Bus Depot; a great way to explore the park at your own pace and move around the park via various hop on, hop off non-narrated buses—these buses are perfect for those looking for a day hike
- Go on a hike on one of the longer trails such as the Triple Lakes Trail Denali’s longest) which is a 9.5-mile one-way hike with spectacular lake views; or the Savage Alpine Trail, a steep, strenuous trail with incredible mountain scenery
- Have a real adventure in Denali with a Guided Glacier Tour of the Alaska Range and explore firsthand the unique beauty of some of the state’s most incredible glaciers—there are many tours available by land, air, or water
- Take a backpacking trip and explore—Denali only has a handful of trails, so off-trail hiking is a great way to see and experience the park (reservations are required)
- Wintertime is still full of fun activities in Denali, including winter trails where visitors can snowshoe, ski, or hike; scoping the Aurora Borealis; rough it with winter camping at the Riley Creek Campground; or book a tour with a sled dog team
Denali National Park and Preserve is a true wilderness experience that allows visitors to explore the vast, spectacular landscape of the Alaska Range and beyond. With a skyline dominated by the tallest peak in North America and a plethora of ways to explore by bus, on foot, or in the air, Denali offers travelers a chance to see Alaska’s signature beauty and wild wilderness landscapes firsthand with experiences for everyone from casual sightseers to intrepid outdoor adventurers looking for an unforgettable vacation.