Denali Travel Tips
Towering 20,310 feet in Interior Alaska is the mighty Denali, the largest mountain in North America. Denali resides in Denali National Park & Preserve, a stunning landscape of tundra, rivers, and mountains spanning 6.1 million acres. It’s not just Denali’s snow-covered peaks that makes this place so special. The park is home to an amazing array of wildlife including 37 species of mammals including the “big five”: brown bear, moose, wolf, Dall sheep, and caribou; and 130 species of birds. It’s no wonder that Denali National Park is one of the top destinations for visitors to Alaska.
This year, a trip to Denali and other top destinations in Alaska may require a little extra planning as we begin to welcome back visitors. Make the most of your Denali experience by planning ahead and making advance reservations and preparations. Read our insider’s Denali travel tips to learn how to have the best experience at Denali National Park this summer.
GETTING TO DENALI:
Most people get to Denali by train, motorcoach, or their own vehicle. Catch the train from Fairbanks, Talkeetna, or Anchorage for a memorable, scenic ride. Multi-day packages and a-la-carte motorcoach options also depart from Fairbanks, Talkeetna, and Anchorage. Driving personal vehicles is more popular than ever this year which means that some vehicle-accessible areas fill up quickly. Be sure to get to your destination early for the best chances of finding parking.
Book your lodging first when planning your trip to Denali this year. While there are a wide variety of hotel and lodging options in the Denali area, some did not reopen in 2021 or are operating at a reduced capacity. Book early and understand that check-in wait times might be longer than normal. If you can’t find accommodations in the Denali area, try Talkeetna or Fairbanks.
VISITING THE PARK:
All Denali National Park Visitor Centers except the Murie Science & Learning Center are open this summer. The popular bus tours into Denali National Park are running at 100% occupancy and masks are required. While both narrated tours and shuttle buses are available, schedules and routes are reduced. Be sure to book your tour early to ensure your spot. Visit the Denali National Park Current Conditions Page for a full list of operational updates for the 2021 season.
Can’t book a bus tour? There are many other ways to enjoy Denali National Park. While the majority of the 92 mile Denali Park Road is only open to park busses, private vehicles are allowed until mile 15. Take a scenic drive out to Savage River at mile 15 and stretch your legs on the easy Savage River Trail or the more challenging Savage Alpine Trail. Keep an eye out for wildlife, which can be seen throughout the entire park.
The park's free shuttles are up and running, including the Savage River Shuttle (taking you out to trailheads at Mountain Vista and Savage River), Riley Creek Loop Shuttle (linking all major visitor facilities in the park), and Sled Dog Demonstration Shuttle (the only way other than walking to get to the sled dog demonstration). The Savage River Shuttle is a great option if you have limited time and are looking for a scenic 2 hour round-trip ride into the park or want to access popular hiking trails without worrying about parking. Visit the park's shuttle page for a full schedule.
Near the park entrance, you can meet the Denali Sled Dogs and enjoy the majority of the park's designated hiking trails. Or, take a flightseeing trip departing from Denali or Talkeetna to experience the vast landscape from above. Add a glacier landing for up-close views of the mountain.
There’s no shortage of adventures to be had in the Denali area, from ATVs to ziplines. You’ll also find rafting, fishing, hiking, photography tours, and so much more. Again, book early to ensure your spot. Be flexible and have a couple of days/time slots in mind in case your first choice is booked.
All of that activity is bound to make you hungry. Most restaurants in the Denali area are open this year, but be prepared for longer than average wait times. If you can, stock up on snacks before your Denali trip so you have plenty of fuel for your adventures.
If you’re planning on visiting Denali or any other top destination in Alaska this summer, be sure to book early, plan ahead, and be flexible! These small steps will help you have the ultimate Alaska adventure this summer.
Editor’s note: The health and safety of Alaska’s visitors and residents, along with its member businesses, remains a top priority to the Alaska Travel Industry Association throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Alaska tourism businesses are open under the Reopen Alaska Responsibly plan and can help you decide if it’s right for you to travel now or in the future. We encourage you to stay in touch with your travel providers for the latest updates and guidelines.