Plan your Visit to
Denali National Park and Preserve
New Name, Same Mission
Hunters have long used Alaska as hunting ground for game of every kind and over hunting has led some species of animals to become endangered. Dall sheep were among the most controversial animals being taken from the area during the turn of the 20th century and in 1917 President Wilson signed a bill designating that Mount McKinley and the 2 million acres surrounding it as Mount McKinley National Park and Wildlife Preserve. President Jimmy Carter was the one that expanded the park to the 6 million acres that we know today and changed the name to Denali National Park and Preserve. The park is a favourite spot to over 400,000 visitors each year and the attractions within Denali National Park and Preserve keep them coming back for more.
When to go
June – July – August – September
Stunning Vistas – Hiking – Wildlife – Scenic Drives – Wild flowers – Climbing – Family – Rafting – Biking – Winter Sports – Bird-Watching – History
When you think of visiting a national park you may not be thinking about visiting a bunch of sled dogs, but the sled dog kennels are a wonderful and favored attraction to visitors. The kennels are open for visitors throughout the year and are located approximately 3 miles within the park. The sled dogs are a vital part of Denali National Park and Preserve because they transport the rangers around the park and assist in rescues of both humans who become lost or animals in need of help. Be sure to call the kennels before you visit. They are open every day from 8 to 5, but during the winter time, the sled dogs are earning their keep within the park with the rangers. You do not want to show up expecting to see dogs only to get to visit their empty cages.
A Photographers Dream
The vast wilderness of Alaska is not something that everyone gets to see, so if you are planning a trip to Denali National Park you had better bring plenty of film for your camera to remember and show off all the beautiful sites you saw while on your trip. Mount McKinley is obviously one of the most photographed parts of the park itself, but you cannot always be sure to get a good shot. Most people visit Denali National Park during the summer when the kids are out of school, but the atmosphere is usually too cloudy to get a clear picture of the mountain. Those in the know recommend that you come in the dead of winter if you want a really good photograph of the mountain. During the winter the atmosphere is calm and cold so your shots will be much crisper than during any other time of the year.
If you are more interested in getting shots of wildlife, then you are in luck during the summer months. Grizzly Bears can be seen and if you have a good lens you can get a great shot of a family of bears from a safe distance. The same can be said for the many raptor nests and occupied dens of the fox, wolverine, coyote, and lynx. The wildlife of Denali National Park and Preserve is something truly amazing, but always be respectful that you are in the animal’s home.
Things You Need to Know
The fees at Denali National Park and Preserve are taken in to help with staffing needs and special projects to enhance the preserve and keep the health of the wildlife and the integrity of the park intact. The fees have changed recently from being based on the type of vehicle you bring into the park, to a flat $10 per person 16 years or older. An annual pass can be purchased for $40 and is valid for one year after the purchase of the pass.
Camping is something that you may want to do on your trip the Denali National Park and Preserve. As long as you can take the sometimes harsh conditions of the area there are 6 different campgrounds visitors can choose from. Fortunately for visitors, the campgrounds are only open during the summer months so you will not have to worry about freezing to death in your tiny tent. All campgrounds throughout the park fill up fast, so reservations are a good idea. Reservations are available to be made a full year before you plan on visiting, so the earlier you can make your reservation the better.
It is important to remember that Denali National Park and Preserve is intended to maintain the park as a wilderness environment. Bringing in outside camping gear to make your stay more comfortable is perfectly fine, but no matter where you visit within the park make certain that you carry out all that you brought in so that the natural balance is not effected. Enjoy your stay in Denali National Park and Preserve and make some good old fashioned memories while you are there.
[rating itemreviewed=”Denali National Park and Preserve” rating=”8″ reviewer=”Adventure Review – National Parks” dtreviewed=”20 December 2016″ best=”10″ worst=”0″]Denali National Park and Preserve is a favorite spot to over 400,000 visitors each year and the attractions within Denali National Park keep them coming back for more.[/rating]
Download a Denali National Park and Preserve Map
Planning a trip to Denali National Park and Preserve? Be sure to download the official Denali National Park and Preserve map, below, or use our interactive maps to find restaurants, hotels, or activities along the route of your choosing in and around the park. Either way, don’t leave home without a map. This free Denali National Park and Preserve map shows park roads, attractions, and more.
Average High/Low Temperatures
- Denali Visitor Center: Open May 15 through mid-September, 8 am to 6 pm
- Eielson Visitor Center: Open June 1 through mid-September, 9 am to 7 pm
- Murie Science and Learning Center: Open daily from 9 am to 4 pm
- Wilderness Access Center: Open May 15 through mid-September, 7 am to 7 pm
- Talkeetna Ranger Station: Open year round – hours vary by season
Denali National Park is open year round, and most summer visitor services and activities are available between late May and early September. Operating hours at Denali are highly dependent on seasons and weather. To check current operating hours and for more information about seasonal activities and closures, visit the park’s website.
The park’s one road, Denali Park Road, is 92 miles long, and only the first 15 miles are paved. The paved portion, leading from the Denali National Park and Preserve entrance to Savage River, is open during the summer for public (non-commercial) vehicles to drive. Summer travel beyond mile 15 is restricted to shuttle or tour bus or under human power.
The summer season in Denali runs from late May through early September. Visitors hoping to catch the wildflowers at their peak will want to visit the park from mid-June to mid-July. The wildflowers tend to peak around July 1 along and near the road and continue later into July at higher elevations and on north-facing slopes. Fall colors in the park are best observed from the last week of August through the first week of September depending on the weather as early snow or hard rain and wind can rapidly spoil the fall colors.
Fees & Passes:
- Individual Pass: $10 for 7 days (children 15 years and younger are free)
- Denali Annual Pass: $40 per year
- Purchase an annual pass for all national parks sites, $80
Camping and Lodging
There are six established campgrounds in Denali. Reservations for each summer season can be made as early as December 1 of the preceding year. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1 (800) 622-7275.
- Riley Creek: Open year round, fees charged May 15 – mid-September each year, free in winter
- Savage River: Open May 19 – mid-September
- Sanctuary River: Open May 20 – mid-September
- Teklanika River: Open May 20 – mid-September
- Igloo Creek: Open May 20 – mid-September
- Wonder Lake: Open June 8 – mid-September
In addition to the established campgrounds at Denali, visitors can camp in the backcountry while on a backpacking trip. For more details about camping within the park, click here.
There are no NPS-operated accommodations in Denali. There are a few privately run lodges within the park in addition to a broad variety of lodging facilities outside of the park. To learn more about lodging in and around Denali, visit the park’s website.
Shops, Shuttles and Tours
Denali National Park offers a variety of ranger-led programs. Programs are typically offered from late May or early June until mid-September and with the exception of Discovery Hikes and the Kantishna Experience Tour, all ranger hikes, sled dog demonstrations, campground programs and other talks in Denali are free and do not require advanced sign up. To learn more about these ranger-led programs and to see the current calendar of events, visit the park’s website.
Summer travel beyond mile 15, which is highly recommended, is negotiable by shuttle, bus, or on foot. Keep in mind that bus schedules are subject to small adjustments throughout the season. Visitors can acquire the most recent schedule at the Wilderness Access Center or Denali Visitor Center. To learn more about current operating hours, fees, and destinations, click here.
- Toklat River: May 20 – September 15, roundtrip fare: $26.50
- Eielson Visitor Center: June 1 – September 15, roundtrip fare: $34.00
- Wonder Lake: June 8 – September 15, roundtrip fare: $46.75
- Kantishna: June 8 – September 15, roundtrip fare: $51.00
- Camper Bus: June 1 – September 14, roundtrip fare: $34.00
Tour buses feature a trained naturalist who drives the bus and narrates during the tour. To learn more about tour bus options, click here.
- Denali Natural History Tour: mid-May – mid-September, roundtrip fare including park entrance fee: $77.25
- Tundra Wilderness Tour: May 20 – mid-September, roundtrip fare including park entrance fee: $130.25
- Kantishna Experience: June 8 – mid-September, roundtrip fare including park entrance fee: $194.00
There are three free bus services available in the park’s entrance area that travel between the various visitor service buildings. For more information and to see current operating schedules, click here.
- Savage River Shuttle
- Riley Loop Shuttle
- Sled Demonstration Shuttle
National Parks Maps and Guidebooks
To download a variety of free brochures to help plan your visit, click here.
Food and Drink
The Morino Grill, located next to the Denali National Park and Preserve Visitor Center, is the only restaurant in the park. Snacks can be purchased at the Wilderness Access Center and snacks, sandwiches, and camping food can be purchased at the Mercantile located in the Riley Creek Campground.
In summer, there are numerous restaurants that operate outside of the park, along Highway 3. The summer season runs from June through August. Businesses open at different times each year, so prepare for limited services if you visit in May or September. In fall, winter, and spring, the nearest restaurants and convenience stores are located in Healy, 11 miles to the north.
Denali National Park offers a multitude of ways to explore the park’s vast and awe-inspiring landscape. If you are visiting the park in the summer, you can choose from a variety of activities including hiking, sightseeing by bus, visiting the sled dog kennels, cycling the Denali Park Road, or “flight”-seeing by plane. Those hardy enough to explore the park in the winter can expect a similarly stunning landscape, but should come prepared to face extreme weather and solitude. Additionally, Denali offers several specialized activities for those planning a longer stay in the park. Backpacking, hunting, and climbing Mount Denali or Mount Foraker are all options for the more adventurous visitor. Visit Denali’s website for more information on the park’s other activities.
Official Denali National Park and Preserve Map – Click on the Map to download