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11 amazing things to do in Denali National Park

written by Intrepid Travel August 20, 2021

If you thought hiking was the only thing on offer in Denali National Park, think again. It’s packed with adventures to delight and excite travellers of all kinds. 

From glacier trekking and ice climbing to chasing the northern lights and exploring the polar tundra, here are some of our favourite activities to inspire your next Alaskan adventure.

1. Spot wildlife

Denali National Park has its own big five: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bears. There are over 350 grizzlies and black bears alone, and the best time to spot one is between May and mid-September when they come out of hibernation. You might also see one hunting for fish or roaming the tundra in search of fresh berries. You’re never guaranteed to see wildlife, but you have a pretty good chance in Denali. 

SEARCH FOR WILDLIFE ON A HIKING IN DENALI TOUR

2. Take a glacier landing flight

helicopter ride over the Denali glaciers

If you thought Denali National Park was jaw-droppingly beautiful from the ground, just wait until you see it from the sky. You can do a scenic flight in a plane or helicopter, but if you go by helicopter you may get to land on a glacier and pop on a pair of snow boots to explore on foot. You’ll have an epic bird’s eye view of seemingly endless peaks, glide over glaciers and see the bright blue colours of Denali’s winding rivers and lakes popping out amongst the tundra.

3. Go river rafting 

Chill out on a relaxing river raft journey or get your adrenaline fix as you rush through white water rapids. Whatever rocks your boat, river rafting down the Nenana River is a great way to soak up the views of the surrounding peaks and catch a glimpse of wildlife hanging out along the riverbanks. Prepare to get splashed and have a lot of fun. 

4. Visit Eielson Visitor Center 

Take a trip to the Eielson Visitor Center for some of the most impressive views of Denali and the Alaska Range. It’s a little far to get to, but honestly, the views will not disappoint. There are also daily ranger-led programs which are a great chance to speak to the rangers and ask them questions about the park and the wildlife that call it home.

5. Soak in Chena Hot Springs 

People bathing in Chena Hot Spring

Chena Hot Springs has to be up there with one of the most serene settings for a hot bath. Embrace the icy Alaskan air for a few moments before slipping into the warm, mineral-rich water to relax and unwind. Why not take your self-care game up a notch by treating yourself to a post-soak massage. Bliss!

6. Camp in the wilderness 

A tent in Denali National Park

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the Alaskan wilderness than camping under the stars or eating breakfast while looking at the mountains. From breathing in the fresh Alaskan air to listening to the peaceful sounds of nature as you go to sleep, camping is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries. There are six campgrounds in Denali, but most of them are only open in the summer months. It’s best to book online in advance as spaces fill up in the peak season between June and August.

7. Go hiking 

A hiker on the Mount Healy Overlook

Although Denali National Park is a whopping six million acres in size, there are only 35 miles of hiking trails to preserve the park’s natural beauty. You can always hike off-track into the wilderness, but you’ll need to apply for a permit and complete a backcountry orientation at the Information Center to help you stay safe. The beauty of hiking in Denali is that you’ll discover what ‘wild’ truly means no matter what trail you do.

READ MORE: THE BEST HIKING TRAILS IN DENALI NATIONAL PARK

DISCOVER DENALI & BEYOND ON OUR HIKING IN THE GREAT LAND OF ALASKA TOUR

8. Photography

You won’t be able to put your camera down in Denali. We’re not joking when we say there’s beauty everywhere you look. You could spend a whole day just sitting in a camp chair taking photos of the mountains – there’s a whole weather system up there and the views are constantly changing. Not to mention the park’s abundant wildlife, mirror-like lakes and colourful wildflowers.

Two bears playing in Denali National Park

9. Go on a cycling adventure

There’s one 92-mile road in Denali, and you can cycle the full length of it if you want. The road is closed to public vehicles after mile 15, so you’ll almost have the road all to yourself – apart from the occasional ranger vehicle or four-legged pedestrians like moose, bears and Dall sheep. Whooshing through Denali on a bicycle is guaranteed to have you feeling as free as a bird. 

HIKE, BIKE & KAYAK IN ALASKA’S BEST NATIONAL PARKS

10. Visit Talkeetna 

Talkeetna is a quaint mountain town that sits at the foothills of Denali and the Alaska Range. This tiny town has only 1,000 residents but it oozes charm and character. Get to know the locals in cosy roadhouses, sample beers from the Denali Brewing Company around a warm log fire, or fill your belly with freshly caught Alaskan seafood at a local restaurant.

11. Watch the magical northern lights

The northern lights in Alaska

Who doesn’t dream of seeing the northern lights? In winter (and maybe early spring or late fall if you’re lucky), Denali’s skies are illuminated with green, blue, purple and red lights. Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights as there’s hardly any light pollution. You can also try your luck at stargazing with a warm flask of mulled wine or hot chocolate.

Keen for an Alaskan adventure? Check out our Denali National Park tours

Feeling inspired?

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3 comments

Kim Nelson December 30, 2021 - 8:35 am

For my 2022 Alaska vacation I would liketo see the big 5 , northern lights and dog sled. Any recommendations would be great

Reply
Andrea Blake September 2, 2021 - 12:23 pm

I am interested in the Denali walking tour. Please email me when 2022 dates are available! Thank you!

Reply
Intrepid Travel September 3, 2021 - 4:28 am

That’s great, Andrea! Dates for 2022 should be available after September 15, so definitely check back later this month!

Reply

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