Denali National Park and Preserve is located in the central area of the Alaska Range, USA. The closest cities are Fairbanks and Anchorage which have public transport options and direct driving routes to the park. There are several ways to get to and around Denali National Park depending on your itinerary and budget.
Getting to Denali National Park by air
If you’re travelling from other states or from overseas, you can fly to Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC) or Fairbanks International Airport (FIA). From here, you can rent a car or take the train. Commercial airlines operate flights throughout the year. The closest airport outside of the state is Seattle (a 1.5-hour flight away) where you can then transfer to ANC or FIA.
Some charter air taxi services run flights from Anchorage to Kantishna, a remote community in the heart of the park. It’s a more expensive option, but you’ll save heaps of travel time and will get to see an incredible bird’s eye view of Denali (The Great One) and the surrounding mountains.
Getting to Denali National Park by car
Driving to Denali takes about 5 hours from Anchorage and 2.5 hours from Fairbanks. It’s cheaper and faster to rent a car than to take the train. Driving to Denali is an adventure in itself with plenty of amazing places to stop along the way including Mirror Lake, Reflections Lake, Thunderbird Falls, Talkeetna and Chugach State Park. It's a comfortable drive with visitor amenities dotted along the George Parks Highway.
Getting to Denali National Park by train
If you love rail travel or don't fancy driving, you can take the semi-luxury Denali Star Train which is operated by the Alaska Railroad between May and September. The train departs from Anchorage every morning for a 12-hour northbound journey to Fairbanks with stops in Wasilla, Talkeetna, Denali National Park and Fairbanks. It arrives in Denali at 3.55 pm. If you’re coming from Fairbanks, you can take the southbound Denali Star in reverse. It leaves Fairbanks at 8.20 am and arrives in Denali at 12.10 pm. The Denali Train Depot is right next to the Visitor Center which is very convenient. Although the train takes longer than driving, it offers stunning views that aren’t accessible on the highway.
Getting to Denali National Park by bus
Private bus companies operate tours to Denali from Fairbanks and Anchorage. There are various tour options and packages to choose from depending on how long you want to spend in the park, the activities you want to do and your budget.
Getting around Denali National Park
Once you’re in Denali National Park, you can either walk, cycle, drive, go on a tour bus, or jump on the free (seasonal) shuttle bus.
There is one 92-mile long road (with a few side roads near the Denali Visitor Center) and only the first 15 miles up to the Savage River Campground are open to private vehicles. If you want to drive farther into the park you will need to book a tour bus.
Denali has an extensive bus system to travel beyond the first 15 miles of the park. There are a few paid tour bus options available:
Narrated bus tours - a narrated tour bus is ideal for people who don’t want to hike. You will follow an itinerary and share the bus with the same people and driver for the whole trip.
Transit buses - a non-narrated transit bus is ideal if you want to hop on and off and explore the park at your own pace.
Camper buses - a camper bus is like a transit bus, except you can take your camping gear with you.
Free shuttle bus
If you don’t have a car, you can take one of the two free shuttle buses (Riley Creek Loop and Savage River shuttle) to hop on and off the main stops and park facilities between the Denali National Park and Preserve front country area including:
Denali Visitor Center
Denali Bus Depot
Riley Creek Mercantile
Riley Creek Campground
Horseshoe Lake/Mt Healy Trailhead
Mountain Vista trailheads
Hiking and cycling
If you are travelling on a bicycle or on foot, you can access any part of the 92-mile park road. There might be the occasional road closure due to wildlife, but they are usually temporary and reopen quickly.
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