When is the best time to visit Denali National Park?

Check out this seasonal guide to help you plan your Denali trip.

Denali National Park is spectacular all year round. That said, the weather and landscape change drastically from season to season, and the best time to visit depends on what you want to see and do. Do you want to go hiking or backpacking? Or perhaps you're itching to see the northern lights?

Denali National Park is huge and has two distinct climates. The southern regions have a transitional maritime climate influenced by the Gulf of Alaska, with less extreme weather variation and milder temperatures. The north side of the Alaska Range has an interior climate with warm summers and freezing winters.

The daylight hours also vary a lot throughout the year due to the park's northerly location, with around 5.5 hours in December and over 20 hours in June.

Seasons in Denali National Park

Spring (March-May)

Best for: small crowds, thawing landscapes and wildlife

Park activities and public transport usually open up in mid-May, but much of the park and roads are covered in snow and ice until then. Nature begins to wake up when warmer temperatures arrive in May including black and grizzly bears who wake up from their winter 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 wolf pups.

Summer (June-August)

Best for: wildlife, hiking, cycling and whitewater rafting

Summer days are long with up to 22 hours of sunlight around the solstice in June. 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 fresh vegetation.

Lodgings and accommodation get booked up quickly in summer, so be sure to plan ahead. Remember to bring plenty of insect repellent and long-sleeved layers as mosquitoes are rife in June and July.

Autumn (September-November)

Best for: hiking, autumn colours wildlife and the northern lights

Hiking in autumn 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 in September, but the upside is that it's easier to see the northern lights. However, you're best-off visiting in winter if they're on your bucket list.

Winter (December-February)

Best for: skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and the northern lights

With snow-topped mountains and frozen lakes, Denali turns into a winter wonderland. 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 elusive northern lights.

Although most establishments in the Denali area close in winter, a winter trip offers a unique experience with opportunities to go snowshoeing, dog sledding and skiing.

Want to learn more about Denali National Park? Return to Denali National Park FAQs

Our Denali National Park trips

Get inspired on The Good Times