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 rafting, ziplining, ATVing, hiking, or camping (permit required). There is also dog mushing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.