Denali National Park

Denali, the “High One”, is the name the Koyukon Athabaskan people gave the massive peak that crowns the 600-mile-long Alaska Range in Denali National Park. At 20,310 feet, Denali is the highest peak in North America and the number one visitor attraction in the State of Alaska.

Visitors can only drive their car into Denali National Park a short distance. Private vehicles are not allowed past Mile 15 of the Denali Park Road. To see more of the Park, most visitors will need to take a shuttle bus or attend the daily ranger-naturalist programs. There is a lottery that allows winners to drive their own vehicles into the park with a permit, but the lottery is suspended in 2022 and likely 2023.

While in Denali, you can choose to go raftingzipliningATVinghiking, or camping (backcountry permit required). There is also mushing with sled dogs in the winter, Jeep tours and plenty more activities to keep visitors busy.

Due to a landslide in August 2021, the Denali Park Road is now closed at mile 43. This means the Eielson Visitor Center at mile 66 and the Wonder Lake Campground at mile 85 are closed in 2022. The road past mile 43 appears to be closed until a bridge can be built over the unstable portion of the road. The road in Polychrome Pass has always had some small amounts of shifting, but maintenance was always sufficient to keep it safe for passage. Now, the road bed is too unstable and needs a long term solution. This repair will most likely require the road be closed at mile 43 for the 2022 and 2023 summer seasons.

Keep in mind that although visitors can only go to Mile 43 of the Park Road, they will still get spectacular views of Mount Denali and are very likely to see wildlife while in the park.

Denali exemplifies interior Alaska’s character as one of the world’s last great frontiers for wilderness adventure and remains largely wild, unspoiled and beautiful. Denali is readily accessible by car or RV on the George Parks Highway or on the Alaska Railroad from either Anchorage or Fairbanks. In summer a number of private bus and van services operate daily from Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Current Conditions for planning your visit to Denali

Denali National Park Visitor Centers

There are four Visitor Centers in Denali National Park.

Denali National Park & Preserve Information Center

Located at mile 1.5 of the Denali Park Road and provides natural and cultural history exhibits, Ranger programs, and screenings of the award-winning park film “Heartbeats of Denali.”

The Wilderness Access Center & Backcountry Information Center

Located at mile one of the Denali Park Road. It provides information, reservations and permits for park campgrounds, tour and shuttle bus tickets and overnight backcountry trip-planning resources.

The Murie Science and Learning Center

The Murie Science and Learning Center is run by the National Park Service in partnership with Alaska Geographic and other organizations. Its goal is to increase scientific literacy by showcasing research from living laboratories like Denali National Park.

Eielson Visitor Center

Eielson is at mile 66 on the Park Road and will be closed in 2022 and will reopen when the Denali Park Road repairs are complete. The center has incredible views of Denali on a clear day.

Find more information on these four Denali Visitors Centers at  www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm

Denali Park Headquarters Historic District

The Park Headquarters Historic District is a Mile 3.4 of the Denali Park Road. It is made up of historic buildings, roads, parking areas and pathways and occupies 12 acres of land in Denali National Park. It has an interesting collection of Rustic structures built by the National Park Service in the 1920s and 1930s.

How to Get to Denali National Park?

From Anchorage, Denali National Park is 238 miles on the Parks Highway. This will take approximately 5 hours, but you should plan for longer so you can enjoy the drive and stop at the interesting pioneer town of Talkeetna on the way. It’s also possible to take the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage. The Alaska Railroad to Denali is known as the ‘Denali Star Train Route’. It will take 8 hours to reach Denali  from Anchorage.

From Fairbanks, Denali National Park is 120 miles on the Parks Highway, which will take around 2 hours. The Alaska Railroad will take 4 hours to travel from Denali to Fairbanks.

Denali National Park is 152 miles from Talkeetna (138 miles from the Talkeetna Road Junction with the Parks Highway). Talkeetna is a small pioneer town that is the base camp for many Denali climbing expeditions. Talkeetna is also home to the majority of the flightseeing tours of Denali.

Denali State Park

The smaller State Park cousin to the larger Denali National Park. Denali State Park borders the south east border of the national park. There is great hiking, camping, fishing and boating in Denali State Park. There are also incredible views of Mt. Denali, the tallest peak in the united states.

The Parks Highway passes directly through the park and gives access to a number of amazing campgrounds. These include: K’esugi Ken, Denali View South, Byers Lake, and Denali View North campgrounds.

The Parks Highway crosses the boundary of the south boundary of Denali State Park at Mile 132 and at 168 on the north side.

Best Places to Stay in Denali National Park

Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge

Luxurious and modern accommodations on the banks of the Nenana River. Just one mile from the Denali National Park entrance. This beautiful lodge boasts spacious outdoor decks, a fine dining restaurant, bistro and lounge, pizza parlor and pub, espresso bar, and a tour desk.

McKinley Chalet Resort

The McKinley Chalet Resort is located roughly two miles from the entrance to Denali National Park, on the banks of the Nenana River. Comfortable accommodations, inviting dining options and a selection of amazing tours! Rooms at the Resort offer a unique Alaska wilderness experience while still offering modern amenities like a telephone, coffee maker, and hairdryer.

Totem Inn

12 miles North of the Denali National Park entrance, in Healy, Alaska. Rooms include free Wi-fi, microwaves, TV’s and memory foam mattress. Hot breakfast included.  Restaurant & Sports Bar with big screen TV. 

Denali Rainbow Village Motel

Denali Rainbow Village Motel Suites and motel rooms have Wi-fi & cable TV. Some rooms have  kitchens. Adjacent to Rainbow Village Boardwalk Mall. One mile north of Denali National Park entrance.

Denali Riverside Cabins

The closest lodging to Denali National Park entrance and located on the banks of the Nenana River. Only 3 cabins & 3 mini-condos accommodating 4-8 guests, with kitchenettes. Turn right at the north end of the Nenana River bridge 1/2 mile north of the entrance to Denali National Park

Denali Grizzly Bear Resort

Denali Grizzly Bear Resort and Campground on the south boundary of Denali National Park. This resort is owned and operated by a pioneer family. Manyrooms of the hotel have decks overlooking the river. Amenities include cable TV, coffee maker, and Wi-fi (available for a fee). Charming, affordable cabins with spectacular views. 

Denali RV Park & Motel

Motel Rooms with a double and single bed or a 4 bed family unit with kitchen. Rustic and quaint  rooms with private bathrooms. They offer the modern amenities guests expect while maintaining their historic appeal. Free satellite TV and Wi-fi, gift shop with Alaska souvenirs. Hiking trails nearby and panoramic views in all directions. Eight miles north of The Denali National Park entrance. 

 

Camping in Denali National Park

Denali Rainbow Village RV Park 

Denali Rainbow Village RV Park has full and partial hookups, pull-throughs, cable TV, Wi-fi, clean showers, laundry and dump station. It is a Good Sam RV Park. Mile 238.6, one mile north of Denali National Park entrance..

Denali Grizzly Bear Resort

Denali Grizzly Bear has wooded RV sites with water & electric (20/30 amp) hooku-ups and secluded riverside tenting. 

The National Park Service Campgrounds 

The National Park Service maintains public campgrounds within the park. One can drive a car or RV to Riley Creek, Savage River and Teklanika Campgrounds.  Access to Sanctuary River Campground and Wonder Lake Campground is by shuttle bus only. Wonder Lake Campground in closed while the Denali Park Road is closed at mile 43. 

Morino Campground

Morino Campground is near the National Park entrance. It is a walk-in camping area for bikers and backpackers arriving without vehicles.

 

Things to do in Denali National Park, AK

Denali Park Zipline Tours

Denali Park Zipline Tours is the Denali area’s only Zipline tour. No need to hand brake or worry about getting stuck, just relax and enjoy the views during your thrill ride. Certified guides lead you along six suspension bridges and seven ziplines.

Denali Jeep Excursions

Denali Jeep Excursions gives you the opportunity to drive a 4×4 Jeep Wrangler on the scenic Denali Highway, experiencing breathtaking views of Denali, the Alaska Range, glaciers & wildlife! This guided & narrated tour takes guests away from the crowds.

Denali ATV Adventures

Denali ATV Adventures have four unique tours traveling deep into the Alaskan bush. 2½ – 3½ hours and even a midnight sun trip! One or two person ATVs as well as side-by-side ATVs. Professional guides provide a history of the area, show you the beautiful scenery and point out any wildlife you encounter. 

Denali Raft Adventures

Experience an exhilarating whitewater or a mild water rafting trip with stunning scenery. You can also enjoy both options with a four hour combined trip. You can choose to be guided or to paddle with an expert paddle guide. Ride in comfort, Gortex drysuits are provided. 10% Discount when you mention Bell’s Travel Guides or check our website for specials.

Denali Air

Experience the thrill of a lifetime with Denali’s original premier air tour! Grab a window seat on our fixed wing airplane for your best odds of seeing the highest mountain in North America. Fly from our exclusive private airstrip for stunning aerial views of Denali National Park. See the spine of the Alaska Range, spectacular glaciers and Denali’s elusive north and south peaks. Don’t miss your chance to see it all. Book today: 907-683-2261.

 

Hiking in Denali National Park

Overnight Hiking in Denali will require a backcountry permit. This permit is free and can be obtained at the Backcountry Information Center.

You will require the backcountry permit before getting Camper Bus tickets at the Denali Bus Depot. Anyone who is planning to backpack into Denali wilderness areas must attend a backcountry orientation presentation.

McKinley Station Walk

The McKinley Station Walk is an easy two hour walk that covers 2.6 miles. It traverses an area used by early pioneers in Denali Park. The hike follows Riley Creek and ends at the campground where shuttle buses can return you to the visitor center. 

Mount Healy Trail

Mount Healy Trail. You can join a Ranger at 10 am for the first two hours of this trail. At the end of the Ranger led portion you can keep going on your own or return with the guide. This is a challenging trail due to a 1000 ft elevation gain. The guided portion runs Daily, except Sunday in the summer. 

Horseshoe Lake Trail

Horseshoe Lake Trail. This easy to moderate trail climbs about 250 ft and takes two hours. Start the trail from the Denali Visitor Center or at Mile 1 of the Denali Park Road. The trail branches in two directions, making a loop around Horsehoe Lake. There are viewing platforms that overlook the lake. 

Wildlife Viewing in Denali National Park

There is a very good chance of spotting large mammals in Denali National Park such as Grizzly and Black Bears, Moose, Dall Sheep, Caribou and Wolves.

Both Grizzly Bears and Black Bears are abundant in the Park. However, it’s not guaranteed bear viewing like some other places in Alaska where bears are attracted in high numbers to a river or stream. Katmai National Park and Lake Clark National Park are two such places.

When traveling on the Denali Park Road, most visitors will either be on a shuttle bus or private bus tours into the park. These narrated bus tours will take you deep in the Denali wilderness where you are sure to spot some of the abundant wildlife that make Denali National Park their home.

Keep your eyes peeled for bears on or near the park road. The tour buses are sure to stop and give you plenty of time for taking photos of any wild animals you encounter.

Mile 39 of the park road, at Sable Pass, is one of the best places along the road to encounter wildlife. It is a high alpine wilderness area with views across the tundra. Keep and eye out for Grizzly’s, Caribou and Dall Sheep.

Grizzly Bears in Denali National Park are more abundant than Black Bears. Both can be spotted in the park, but seeing a Grizzly Bear is more common.

Moose sightings in the park are very common. This includes the area between the park entrance and Savage River (mile 15).

Dall Sheep are also abundant in Denali National Park. They are more often seen in the high alpine. Some common areas to spot Dall Sheep are Igloo Canyon (Mile 34-38), Polychrome (mile 45) and Eielson Visitor Center (mile 66).

Shopping in Denali National Park, AK

Denali Roadhouse Gifts

Denali Roadhouse Gifts on the Rainbow Village Boardwalk. They carry a large selection of Denali/Alaska Christmas ornaments, crafts including nested dolls, humorous T-shirts, fun stuffed Alaska animals, souvenirs for children and infants and a other Denali Park souvenirs. 

Denali Rainbow Village Boardwalk Mall

The Boardwalk Mall has an array of different businesses. Many of the shops in the Boardwalk Mall sell tours around Denali, including flightseeing, river rafting,  jeep rides and, ATV tours. Other shops include photo services, Alaska souvenirs and gifts, restaurants, coffee shops, park and wildlife information,ice cream and more.

 

Getting to and from Denali National Park 

The Alaska Railroad

Alaska Railroad connects over 500 miles of Southcentral and Interior Alaska, serving Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Spencer Glacier, Seward and more. 

Enjoy excellent service and a relaxing rail journey as you travel between many of Alaska’s most popular destinations. The Alaska Railroad has knowledgeable Alaskan tour guides sharing the stories behind the sights. Travel to Denali National Park from Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna or Fairbanks. 

Airlink’s Alaska/Yukon Trails

Airlink’s Alaska/Yukon Trails makes travel through Alaska & Yukon easy and economical. Vans shuttle guests from Denali National Park to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Talkeetna and Dawson City. 

 

How long should you plan to stay in Denali?

Exploring Denali National Park will take a minimum of 2 days. if you plan to hike or camp while visiting, you may want to stay even longer. There are many fun activities in Denali including Rafting, ATV tours, Ziplining and Jeep tours of the Denali Highway.

Denali: History of the Park and Mountain

The mountain was named Mount McKinley by a prospector in 1897 in honor of soon to be President William McKinley. Congress officially confirmed the name in 1917, however, this peak’s name has remained controversial. In 1975 the Alaska Board of Geographic names officially changed the name of the mountain to “Denali.” Ever since then, it petitioned for the federal government to do the same. Finally, in 2015 the U.S. Department of the interior officially changed the name from Mt. McKinley to Denali.

Mount McKinley National Park became Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980 and was tripled in size to six million acres, which is larger than New Hampshire.

Where in Alaska is Denali National Park?

Denali is located in the Interior Region of Alaska. The mountain is part of the Alaska Range of mountains that stretches 400 miles in an arc across Alaska from the Canadian border to the Alaska Peninsula. Denali National Park is 238 miles from Anchorage and 120 miles from Fairbanks and can easily be reached via the Parks Highway. On a clear day, it is possible to see Mount Denali from Anchorage, and with the right weather you will see spectacular views as you drive the Parks Highway.

Can you see the Northern Lights from Denali?

Yes, Denali is a great place to view the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) because there is very little light pollution. Keep in mind that the best time to view the Northern Lights from Denali will be from December to April. For more, visit our Northern Lights page.

What is the best time to visit Denali National Park?

The summer is the best time to visit Denali National Park. That means anytime between May and September, but for the best weather you may want to wait until June. In May, it won’t be as busy with tourists, which can be appealing to some visitors. The Denali Park Road is not open during the winter, but it is still possible to visit the park during the winter. The Denali Visitor Center stays open year round, although with fewer staff during the off season.

What is the elevation of Denali National Park?

The Denali Visitor Center, near the entrance of the Park is at 1,746 feet above sea level. Eielson Visitor Center is at 3,733 feet elevation and Wonder Lake Campground is at 2,055 feet above sea level. The summit of Denali is 20,310 feet.

Map of Denali National Park

The map of Denali National Park below shows the border of this six million acre national park. The entrance to Denali National Park is at mile 237.3 of the Parks Highway. The first 15 miles of the Park Road is open to the public. After Savage River, you will need to take a shuttle bus or have a permit to drive a private vehicle. The town of Denali is 1 mile past the entrance on the Parks Highway. Here you will find hotels, restaurants, shopping and activities.

Denali National Park Map
Denali National Park Map

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