Denali National Park is spectacular all year round. That being said, the weather and landscape change dramatically from season to season, and the best time to visit depends on what you want to see and do.
Do you want to go backpacking or snowshoeing? Or have you been waiting your whole life to see the northern lights? (Let’s be honest, who hasn’t?) Check out this seasonal guide to help you plan your trip.
Best for: small crowds, wildlife
Park activities and public transport usually begin in mid-May, as much of the road is covered in snow and ice until then. Warmer temperatures arrive in May and nature begins to wake up — including bears and other wildlife who rouse from hibernation. May is also the start of the birthing season, so if you're lucky, you might spot moose and caribou calves, Dall lambs or a wolf pup.
Best for: wildlife, hiking, cycling, white water rafting
Summer days in Denali are long with up to 22 hours of sunlight around the June solstice. The hillsides and meadows are lush green and wildflowers bloom into July, so it's the prettiest time of year for hiking and backpacking. Wildlife activity also peaks as animals make the most of abundant food.
Lodgings and accommodation get booked up quickly in summer, so be sure to plan ahead. Oh, and remember to bring plenty of insect repellent and long-sleeved layers as mosquitoes are rife in June and July.
Best for: hiking, autumn colors, wildlife, northern lights
Autumn hiking is a feast for the eyes as the tundra turns brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow. With the hibernation period just around the corner, you may see bears out hunting to fatten themselves up. It’s also mating season for moose, so there are plenty of opportunities to see them roaming the hillsides.
Days start getting chilly and shorter from September, but the upside is that it's easier to see the northern lights. However, you're best off visiting in winter if you want to see them.
Best for: skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, northern lights
Denali turns into a winter wonderland with snow-topped mountains and frozen lakes. The days are super short and the night skies are pitch black on a clear night, so you're in with a good chance of seeing the northern lights.
Although most of the businesses in the Denali area close in winter, a winter trip in Denali offers a unique experience, including winter sports like snowshoeing, dog sledding and skiing.
Our Denali National Park tours