If Denali isn’t on your ‘must-visit national parks’ list, it really should be…
With rolling tundra, stunning snow-topped peaks and brilliant wildlife spotting opportunities, Denali National Park is a dream for nature lovers and adventure seekers. From glacier trekking to chasing the northern lights, here are some of our favourite activities to inspire your next Alaskan adventure to Denali National Park.
1. Spot wildlife
Denali National Park has its own big five: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bears. Wolves can be elusive, but you’re likely to cross paths with moose and Dall sheep on the trails. The best time to spot a grizzly or black bear is between May and mid-September when they come out of hibernation. You might also see them 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.
2. Take a scenic flight
If you thought Denali was beautiful from the ground, just wait until you see it from the sky. Rugged snow-topped peaks and eye-popping glaciers stretch as far as the eye can see. 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 (weather permitting) and pop on a pair of snow boots to explore on foot.
3. Go river rafting
Chill out on a relaxing river journey or get your adrenaline fix as you rush through the white water rapids of the Nenana River through the heart of the Alaska Range. Whatever rocks your boat, river rafting is a great way to soak up the beauty of the surrounding peaks and catch a glimpse of wildlife hanging out by 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 park’s most impressive views of Denali. There are also daily ranger-led programs, which are a great chance to speak to the rangers and pick their brains about the park, its history and the wildlife that call it home.
5. Camp in the wilderness
From breathing in the fresh mountain air to listening to the peaceful sounds of nature as you go to sleep, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the Alaskan wilderness than camping under the stars. There are six campgrounds in Denali, and most of them are only open in the summer months. It’s best to book a site online in advance as spaces fill up in the peak season (June to August).
6. Hit the trails
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, but you’ll need to apply for a permit and complete a backcountry orientation at the Information Center to help you stay safe. From slow strolls along the Savage River to strenuous hikes that’ll get your blood pumping, the beauty of hiking in Denali is that you’ll discover what ‘wild’ truly means no matter what trail you do.
7. Get snap happy
Make sure you bring a spare battery because you won’t be able to put your camera down. With beauty everywhere you look, Denali is a photographer’s dream. You could spend a whole day 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 abundant wildlife, mirror-like lakes and colourful wildflowers.
8. Go cycling
There’s one 92-mile road in Denali, and you can cycle the entire length of it if you want. The road is closed to public vehicles after mile 15 and you’ll almost have the road all to yourself – apart from the occasional ranger vehicle, moose or bear. Whooshing through the park on a bicycle and feeling the cool, fresh air on your skin is guaranteed to have you feeling as free as a bird.
9. Visit Talkeetna
Talkeetna is a quaint mountain town at the foothills of Denali and the Alaska Range, and while it only has 1,000 residents, it oozes charm and character. Get to know the locals in cosy roadhouses, sample craft beers around a warm log fire or fill your belly with freshly caught Alaskan seafood at a local restaurant.
10. Watch the magical northern lights
Who doesn’t dream of seeing the northern lights? In winter – and maybe early spring or late fall if you’re lucky – the skies above Denali 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.
11. Soak in Chena Hot Springs
Chena Hot Springs has to be up there with one of the most serene settings for a hot bath. Though not located in Denali National Park, it’s well worth the visit if you’re travelling to the park via Fairbanks. Embrace the icy Alaskan air for a few moments before slipping into the warm, mineral-rich water to relax and unwind. You could take your self-care game up an extra notch by treating yourself to a post-soak massage. Bliss!
|Keen on an Alaskan adventure? Check out our Denali National Park tours.|