Denali National Park
Denali National Parkand Preserve is located in Interior Alaska and boasts Denali, the highest mountain in North America. The area encompasses 6 million acres of forest, glaciers, snow, and bare rock, making it larger than the state of New Hampshire. The National Park Service reports that every year, more than 640,000 visitors flock to the national park and preserve to experience its breathtaking scenery, snow-capped mountains, and plentiful wildlife.
Weather in Denali National Park and Preserve involves long winters, followed by short growing seasons. Its average temperature in Winter is just 5.8 F, followed by 28 F in Spring, 53 F in Summer, and 24 F in Fall. Weather is so unpredictable here, however, that there have even been instances of snowfall in August.
There are plenty of towns and villages both near and on the outskirts of the park, including Talkeetna, Anderson, McKinley Park, and the famous North Pole. The nearest cities include Anchorage (Alaska’s largest city) and Fairbanks, both which have plenty of shops, museums, eateries, and sightseeing opportunities.
When it comes to in-park events, you’ll be spoilt for choice at Denali National Park and Preserve. Because the area is open year-round, activities at all levels of difficulty and exertion can be found. These include hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, flightseeing, cycling, dog sledding, mountaineering, and so much more. For a full list of in-park activities and adventure ideas, click here. While Winter can provide solitude and a bounty of fun, snow-filled activities, most people travel to the park in the Summer months when the park is accessible by bus.
Where To Stay
With six campgrounds, Denali is a great place for tent, car, or RV campers. You also have the option to stay at a private or public campground just outside of the park and preserve. Just keep in mind that the in-park campgrounds do fill up quickly, particularly in Summer, so reservations are recommended. Additionally, the majority of these campgrounds are only in operation during peak season, from May through to September. There are also some regulations you should familiarize yourself with first if planning to stay within Denali.
Denali National Park Public Campgrounds
Denali National Park Private Campgrounds
Hit the Trails
There are two ways to hike in Denali, including on one of the very few marked trails, or off-trail in nearly any direction you choose. One of the reasons Denali exists is to provide its visitors with a place to explore a trail-less wilderness. Because of this, there is a very limited network of hiking trails, but we’ve managed to still find some great recommendations below. For a full list of hiking trails, click here. There are also a number of ranger-led hikes for those wishing to learn more about their surroundings.
Denali National Park Trails
Distance: 3.2 miles
Terrain: native soils with roots and rocks, portions compacted gravel with log checks
Distance: 1.6 miles
Terrain: compacted gravel
Mount Healy Overlook
Distance: 2.7 miles
Terrain: native soils with roots and rocks
Distance: 1.8 miles
Terrain: compacted gravel
Distance: 9.5 miles
Terrain: compacted gravel, soils, rocks, roots, wood planks, suspension bridge
What to Do
Once you’ve experienced Denali’s beauty on-foot through the various hikes above, it’s time to indulge in some activities outside of the park, including eating, shopping, exploring, and sightseeing. There are plenty of amazing things to entertain you and your family in Denali’s surrounds, so we’ve listed our recommended restaurants, shops, museums, and landmarks for you to visit during your stay.
Alaska's cold-water seafood is the centerpiece of the region’s cuisine, with salmon and freshly-caught king crab often on most restaurant menus. Whether you’re a lover of seafood yourself or are craving something different altogether, the following suggestions certainly won’t disappoint.
Type: Bar and grill
Type: Fine dining with a view
Type: Pizzeria serving draft beer
Need to pick up some supplies for your trip? Or simply want to hit the shops to see if you can grab a bargain? There are plenty of shopping opportunities in and around the national park to take your fancy, whether you’re just passing through on your way home, or making an afternoon out of it.
Village Arts & Crafts
This quaint and old-fashioned gift shop is just the place to find some unique, handmade gift ideas for you and your loved ones. Plus, you’ll be supporting an independently-run, local business too.
Santa Claus House
If there’s one place where it’s Christmas all-year-round, this is it. No trip to Alaska is complete without stopping by this famous North Pole shop, which has welcomed millions of visitors from all over the world. Here you’ll find Christmas decor and ornaments, exclusive North Pole apparel, collectibles, made in Alaska items, as well as a selection of unique toys.
Location: North Pole
Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall
Treating yourself to a new outfit? This four-story mall contains the only JCPenney and Nordstrom stores in Alaska, so it’s worth a visit if you find yourself passing through the city.
Alaska Wild Berry Products
This gem of Alaska is well-known for its candy, chocolate, gifts, and souvenirs. In fact, visitors claim it sells the best chocolate around! Look out for the giant chocolate fountain while you’re there too.
Denali Mountain Works
If you need to stock up on outdoor gear, camping equipment, or supplies whilst visiting the national park and preserve, then this helpful shop is right on your doorstep! It’s a fully stocked outdoor gear shop, covering all your backpacking, day hiking, camping, boating, and outdoor travel needs.
Location: Entrance to Denali National Park
While there’s plenty of educational resources and tours within Denali, there are also some fun and interactive museums to be found outside of the park. These are perfect for entertaining the kids (or adults) during a rainy afternoon, or even for stopping-by when traveling to or from Denali.
Here you’ll find Alaskan artifacts and artworks, plus a kid-friendly, hands-on science center and planetarium. There are regular exhibitions featuring both local and international artists, which you’re sure to love too.
If locally made ice sculptures, slide presentations, and a nightly aurora show set in a vintage theatre sound right up your alley, then this museum is for you. During the summers, accomplished ice sculptor Andy teaches ice sculpting and entertains visitors with daily exhibitions of ice carving.
Young children will adore this museum, as it gives them the chance to explore the world through interactive play. There’s also live performances, classes, and programs for the whole family to enjoy.
For exhibits showcasing Alaska's art, science, and history (all housed within a very contemporary building), the Museum of the North is sure to please. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 9am-5pm.
This resort museum offers guided tours, 70 historic automobiles on-shop, and post-Gold Rush heritage exhibits. Visitors are able to see Alaska's first car and explore the territory's unusual automotive history through exhibits, photographs, and archival videos.
Once you’ve explored all that the Denali National Park and Preserve has to offer, you’ll find that there’s also plenty of sightseeing opportunities located nearby. While traveling in the area, you won’t want to miss the following famous landmarks.
Pioneer Park was built in 1967 as a celebration of the 100th year anniversary of Alaska’s purchase from Russia. It’s a 44-acre city park in Fairbanks commemorating early Alaskan history with multiple historic displays and activities on site
The Magic Bus
This famous historical landmark (known from Into the Wild) is located on the Stampede Trail, a 40-mile round-trip hike. This hike isn’t for the faint of heart (or the ill-prepared), so if this trip is something you’ve been planning to do whilst near Denali, read all about ithere.
Mushers Monument is next to McKinley Village and is located in Denali Borough. This landmark is famous for looking just like a musher, sled, and dogs.
This historic cabin is right near Denali State Park and is an easy 10-minute walk from the main parking lot. It’s hidden in the trees along the lakeshore trail and stands as a reminder of simpler times gone by.
Far North Bicentennial Park
This 4,000-acre park contains over 100 miles of multi-use trails, along with a botanical garden. Visitors will also love the long list of activities they can enjoy here, including skiing, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and more.
How to Get There
You have plenty of options when traveling to Denali National Park and Preserve, including via car, plane, train, or RV. The only entrance into Denali is along Alaska Highway 3 (also called the George Parks Highway) about 240 miles north of Anchorage, 120 miles south of Fairbanks, and 12 miles south of Healy.
For those wishing to fly into Alaska to visit the park, air travel to either Anchorage Airport (ANC) or Fairbanks Airport (FAI) is the easiest entry to Alaska. Then you'll want to hire a car or RV, or travel via bus or train to reach Denali.
If choosing to travel by train, Alaska's state-owned railroad connects Anchorage to Fairbanks, and runs directly through the entrance of Denali. For more information, click here.
If you truly want to make your trip to Denali National Park and Preserve a memorable one, then why not rent an RV to camp in style? RVing doesn’t just grant you access to some breathtaking sights within the park, but it also lets you experience all of the wonderful things about camping in nature, whilst not giving up on the comforts of home. RV rentals are available across the country, so if you want to start at your location and drive the whole way, or fly in and pick up an RV closer to the park, there’s a perfect option available to you.
Entering the Park
Visiting Denali entails one or more fees, including a $10 per person fee to enter the park. This fee provides the visitor with a 7-day entrance permit and persons under 15 years of age can enter for free. There are also a variety of passes (Denali specific or nationwide) that will cover your entrance fee. You can read more about these here. Other fees may also apply, including campground fees, bus fees, or special use fees. You can also learn more about entry fee-free days here, as these occur from time-to-time.
We’re so excited about your trip to Denali National Park and Preserve and would love to hear all about your experience! Whether you rent an RV from us for your holiday or decide to simply drive and camp in a tent, we still want to hear your stories about Denali. Send us photos at [email protected] or tag us on social media. Feel free to share your favorite memories and anything else you want others to know about your experience for a chance to be featured on our blog or social media channels.