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Things To Do In Denali National Park Alaska

Take A Shuttle Bus In Denali And Sightsee

Alaska Road Trip – Anchorage to Fairbanks Drive | Denali National Park – Things to Do

Taking a shuttle bus might not seem like a cool activity in Denali National Park, but it is a must-do.The park road is 92 miles long and runs from east to west. It is a scenic road made mostly of gravel. You can go to this Denali park road in your car only to Mile 15, to Savage River. If you want to go further, you must take a bus located 1 mile within the park.The Wilderness Access Center is the primary location to arrange a bus trip into the park or reserve/check-in for a campground site. All shuttle buses depart from here, as do some tours. The bus trip is excellent there is a lot of stops to take pictures. Bus trips are available only in summer . There are two main types of buses in Denali narrated trips and non-narrated trips .

Transit Buses

Non-narrated transit buses are cheaper than tour buses, and more flexible in that you may disembark and re-board anywhere along the road, these are called transit buses. These buses stop for wildlife viewing, restroom stops, and beautiful scenery, just like tour buses. There are four choices of non-narrated trips, of varying lengths. You can check the schedule and ticket prices on NPS website.

Narrated Tour Buses

Explore The Visitor Centers

Denali has three main Visitor Centers where you can gather information about the park.

  • Start your adventure in the park with a stop at Denali Visitor Center, where youll get a good overview of all that is offered here. With an informational video, ranger station, gift shop, and several exhibits, you will be well-prepared for your outdoor experience.
  • Murie Science and Learning Center caters to research and discovery sciences concerning the Arctic. Additionally, it acts as the parks main visitor center during Fall, Winter, and Spring.
  • Eielson Visitor Center is located at mile 66 of the Park Road and is open only in Summer. It has ranger-led programs and hosts a gallery of art inspired by The Mountain.
  • More Amazing Alaska Attractions

    Some of the most iconic attractions in Alaska are Stunning glaciers and mountains. Almost everywhere you visit in Alaska you will encounter these. If glaciers and mountains are what youre looking for, Alaska is definitely the right place for you to visit.

    Did you know Alaska is one of the few places in the world you can drive to a glacier? Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau is one of the most famous and most visited glaciers in Alaska. It is only 13 miles outside Downtown Juneau. There are hiking trails and a fantastic Visitor Center to explore.

    Worthington Glacier, near Valdez, Alaska, is another easily accessible glacier. It is located 33 miles from Valdez, on the Richardson Highway. There is lots of parking for large RVs and hiking trails around the glacier.

    Exit Glacier, near Seward Alaska, is part of the Kenai Fjords National Park. It is the only part of the park that can be reached by road. The rest of the park is reached via the boat tours that depart from Seward. The boat tours share the incredible scenery of the national park and are sure to come across plenty of marine wildlife.

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    Driving In Alaska: What To Pack

    Packing for a vacation is the worst as if you havent been there before its hard to determine what to bring. Enjoy our checklist of what to pack for your driving in Alaska trip to help planning for your trip be easy peasy.

    Bring a warm winter jacket for obvious reasons, Alaska can be chilly and in the fall, winter, and spring, you will undoubtedly need a very warm winter jacket. We love the famous that will keep you warm and stylish as well as this great down winter jacket for men thats long to keep that cool air off your body.

    Another essential you need for your trip and driving in Alaska are thermal layers. Layering is essential as depending on the weather or activity you are enjoying in Alaska you can stay warm. What we love about having layers is if we get too warm we can always take one layer off, its easier to take layers off than it is to warm up if youre underdressed. We love this thermal set for ladies and this thermal set for men.

    Youll want to make sure you pack warm socks. Theres nothing worse than having cold feet when youre trying to enjoy the great outdoors. Layer your feet up properly with these merino wool socks for men and merino wool socks for women.

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    Youll also want to pack a warm winter hat or beanie to keep your head warm. We love these Carhart winter hats as they come in a variety of colors and are unisex.

    What To See And Do In Denali National Park

    Top 10 Things to Do in Denali National Park

    Popular Activities and Attractions

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    For most people, a visit to Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve is a unique and long-anticipated adventure. It’s an opportunity to spend time among spectacular scenery and varied wildlife, to gaze upon Mount McKinley and the jagged peaks of the Alaska Range. The taiga and tundra landscape of Alaska’s interior is unlike anything most have experienced before, providing a rich experience filled with new sights, sounds, and ideas. Because Denali National Park is a vast wilderness, largely inaccessible to vehicle traffic, most visitor activities within the park take place in the northeast section of the park.

    Here are some of the most popular attractions and activities you can enjoy in Denali National Park.

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    Where To Eat In And Around Denali National Park

    There is a small grocery store at the park entrance , but other than that there are no food or drinks available in the park. Its important that you bring your own food and drinks for the day or multiple days if youre camping. This is especially important if you are on the all day bus trip, as there is no food available for purchase anywhere during the day.

    All of these local favorites near Denali are near the park entrance. All except 229 Parks are in Healy, located about 10 miles north of the park. These are all seasonal except for Roses, which has limited winter hours.

    • 229 Parks: A favorite locals stop on the drive between Fairbanks and Anchorage, its located just south of the Denali park entrance. Owned by Laura Cole , this is the place for local and seasonal ingredients made into amazing food.
    • 49th State Brewing: Great pub food and beer, located in Healy. There is also a location in downtown Anchorage that is open all year.
    • Black Diamond Golf course and grill: Great food and affordable prices make this a good stop in Healy even if youre not a golfer!
    • Roses cafe: Bakery with good breakfasts and burgers too

    Go Whitewater Rafting In The Upper Nenana Scenic Wilderness

    Enjoy Class II and Class III rapids in the Nenana River, where the water comes directly from glaciers melting at the base of Denali. Several private companies offer rafting during the summer months. Its also not unusual to combine this sport with wildlife viewing, as many animals indigenous to the area can be spotted from the river. Trips can run from 2 hours long to 2 weeks, as desired.

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    Alaska With Kids: Denali Discovery Pack

    Borrow Denali Discovery Pack a backpack full of tools and fun activities kids can complete during the stay at the Denali National Park.

    We found it a little bit heavy to carry all day around the park for a 7 y/o child, but it was worth it anyway and free of charge.

    Alaska With Kids. Little Rangers at Denali Visitor Center

    Denali Wilderness Marmot Basin Trail

    Denali National Park (ALASKA) // Tips for Visiting Things To Do

    One of the best things to do in Denali National Park is hiking specifically, hiking Denalis famous wilderness trails.

    One trail that should be at the top of your best things to do in Denalis list is the 7-mile Marmot Basin trail. Hiking the Marmot Basin Trail is best done in the morning. Be warned you will be hiking through fierce winds and horizontal snow for most of the first three hours of your hike .

    However, once you reach the alpine meadows at around 2 miles 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 4 seasons, although hiking in winter months, when cross-country skiing is available , is best for viewing wildlife like the snowshoe hare and marmots! Just watch the weather!

    Be sure to check with park headquarters about the best conditions for entering the wilderness before hiking any of Denali National Parks best trails!

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    Where To Stay In Denali National Park And Preserve

    There are many types of hotels to choose from in Denali. The best hotel for you will depend on your budget, the number of people with you, and what style of accommodations best suit your needs.

    The best hotels in Denali National Park and Preserve include the Wonder Lake Lodge, Snowshoe Motel Motor Court, and the Denali Pines Lodge.

    These hotels have been given the best ratings by TripAdvisor:

  • Wonder Lake Lodge best for family travel with an overall rating of 4.5/5 stars
  • Snowshoe Motel Motor Court best for solo travelers with a 4.5/5 star rating
  • Denali Pines Lodge best for couples with a 4.5/5 star rating
  • TripAdvisor gives these best hotel ratings to the Wonder Lake Lodge, Snowshoe Motel Motor Court, and Denali Pines Lodge based on traveler feedback of these hotels.

    For example, there have been many positive reviews from travelers who appreciate the spaciousness of their rooms, the different amenities available, and the friendly staff.

    There are also bed-and-breakfast inns to choose from in Denali National Park and Preserve. These inns are best for travelers who want a little more privacy, a homey touch from the B& B staff, or to try something different than what is available in standard hotels.

    The best bed-and-breakfast inns in Denali National Park include:

  • Denali Country Inn best for solo travelers with a 4/5 star rating
  • Denali Sunset Bed and Breakfast best for couples with a 4/5 star rating
  • The best campgrounds in Denali National Park and Preserve include:

    Access To Denali National Park And Preserve Is Limited

    There is 65,708 acres of park per mile of road in the park. That is a lot of land to be accessed by a 92 mile road. If you want to explore a landscape that has hardly been touched by humans, if ever. Denali is one of the places to do it .

    In addition to the single road in the park, access to that road past the 15-mile mark is restricted. Only park service buses, Kantishna lodges, and Professional Photographer with the Special Road Travel Permit can access all 92 miles. If you camp in Teklanika River Campground, you can drive to mile 29.1 but you can drive there and back to the main entrance and that is all.

    Vehicle traffic is limited in the park due to the road and maintenance costs. Much of the road is built on permafrost and very remote. Permafrost is very difficult to build on and when permafrost starts to melt it becomes slushy and moves. If the road was paved this would mean the road would be under constant repair and every May would basically need to be re-paved. Keeping the road as gravel prevents this issue. Even still the road requires a fair amount of work. If you added visitors personal vehicles, the road would just be unmanageable. Personal vehicles are allowed only during the Denali Road Lottery.

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    Getting To Denali National Park

    We traveled round trip from Anchorage to Denali on the train. In retrospect, I wish we had started in Fairbanks, traveling only one direction from Fairbanks to Denali to Anchorage.

    There are four primary ways of getting to Denali Park, Alaska from either Anchorage or Fairbanks:

    Check pricing and availability for rentals cars in Alaska

    Go On A Midnight Sun Photoshoot

    Things To Do in Denali National Park &  Kantishna, Alaska

    The best of what the Arctic has to offer, world-class wildlife viewing at Denali National Park and Preserve, and lastly to witness the Midnight Sun.

    The best thing about the Midnight Sun is that it offers visitors a chance to see this natural spectacle while surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It is hauntingly beautiful.

    This is an excellent opportunity for photographers who are passionate about photography as an art form and capturing memories not only for themselves but for others with who they want to share them, its also a great opportunity for those photographers who are still looking for their vision and style of photography and searching for images that capture the imagination.

    This activity is best done in June when the Midnight Sun is at its best because its around this time that winter starts to quickly fade. You wont get any photos with snow, but instead youll 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 thats not your thing then there are also ways to get around this by bringing along reflectors or flashlights.

    Take your time with the camera because this will be one of the best photography experiences of your life, and youll want to capture it not only for yourself but really for others who havent had the chance to come out here.

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    Safety In Denali National Park

    In terms of safety, your biggest concerns will be wildlife, and slips and falls associated with hiking/climbing/etc.

    I would recommend purchasing a can of bear spray on arrival in Alaska and educating yourself on how to use it at the very least. If you plan to camp or trek in the backcountry I recommend buying a bear canister to mask food odors from animals, especially bears. Read more on bear awareness and wildlife safety here.

    Take A Helicopter Ride To A Glacier

    Glaciers cover about one million acres of Denali National Park and Preserve. Crazy right?

    So if you get the chance to visit the Park, dont miss out on the opportunity to have a sweeping view of these seemingly never-ending glaciers.

    What are flightseeing tours?

    Flightseeing in a helicopter offers about five times the window space of an airplane, which allows you to absorb the snow-blanketed mountains. Besides that, it is also a bump-free ride, and you get to have 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 on landing on a glacier via helicopter.

    If you come from a crowded city like Chicago or New York, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a complete opposite of life in a bustling metropolis.

    You can catch glimpses of bears, Dall sheep, moose, and caribou through the helicopter ride. 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 youd get in any other sightseeing tour, you get to enjoy the cloudy sky sweeping over the Alaskan range.

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    Special Permits For 2020

    Because the usual traffic in Denali National Park will be greatly reduced in 2020 owing to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, it has been decided that Denali National Park will open its park road on five weekends in the summer of 2020 to private vehicles, allowing visitors to drive the road to Eielson Visitor Center between July and September. It has also been decided that the park road will be open to private vehicles to Teklanika River from June 1-30 daily.

    Permits will be required for private cars to drive to Tekalnika and Eielson. For visitors wanting to drive to Teklanika between June 1 and June 30 and visitors wanting to drive to Eielson on the special weekends July-September , you will need to apply for your permit online at recreation.gov. Permits will go up for sale online 14 days prior to the date you want to enter. Each permit will cost $55 per vehicle, not including the Denali National Park entrance fee. Read more information on the special permits here.

    As always, the Denali Park Road will be open to private vehicles to Savage River .

    Amazing Things To Do In Denali National Park

    Top 10 Things to Know When Visiting Denali National Park

    If you thought Denali National Park was just about amazing views and hiking, think again. Its packed with adventures to delight and excite travelers of all kinds.

    From glacier trekking and ice climbing to chasing the northern lights and exploring the wild tundra, theres certainly no shortage of things to do in Denali National Park. Weve put together some of our favorite activities to inspire your next Alaskan adventure.

  • Spot Denalis big five
  • Take a glacier landing flight
  • Go river rafting
  • Soak in Chena Hot Springs
  • Camp in the wilderness
  • Go on a cycling adventure
  • Visit the charming town of Talkeetna
  • See the northern lights
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