Fill your lungs with fresh mountain air and lose yourself in the untamed beauty of Denali National Park.
Alaska means "The Great Land" in the indigenous Aleut language, and a Denali National Park tour will show you why. Home to rolling polar tundra, heaps of wildlife and epic walking trails, this national park ticks all the boxes for nature lovers. Not to mention the soul-stirring views of Denali – North America's tallest peak! Whether you want to hike trails that weave through colourful wildflowers, watch the magical northern lights or go on a safari – Alaskan style – to look for grizzlies, moose and wolves, Denali is a place that will wow you over and over again.
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Top things to do in Denali National Park
Take in the stunning views of Denali
Denali (formerly known as Mt McKinley) is an Athabascan word for “the Great One”. At 20,310 feet, it’s North America’s highest mountain and is technically taller than Everest if you measure it from base to summit. Waking up surrounded by these snow-covered peaks is a refreshing tonic for the soul. Whether you’re a keen mountaineer who wants to climb to the summit or you prefer to explore closer to the ground, you’ll never get bored of the views.
Explore Matanuska Glacier on foot
If you thought Denali was all about pretty views, think again. Put on a pair of snow boots and hike across the magnificent Matanuska Glacier. This is Alaska’s largest road-access glacier, but the beauty of exploring it on foot with our glacier expert means you’ll discover all the hidden nooks and crannies. We’re talking blue ice crevasses, spiky ice cliffs, giant ice blocks, natural ice sculptures and ice caves. Why not take your glacier game to the next level by giving ice climbing a go.
Hike the Curry Ridge Trail
This 6.5-mile hiking trail is your golden ticket to explore the rolling Alaskan tundra. The trail gradually takes you above the tree line where you’ll have the best seats in the house. Enjoy panoramic views of Denali and the surrounding wilderness. There’s plenty of wildflowers that line the trail and during summer you can forage for fresh edible berries. You might even spot bears and moose on your way up.
Relax in Chena Hot Springs
Taking time for self-care is important, even on an Alaskan adventure. Embrace the icy air for a few moments before slipping into the hot spring where you can exhale and unwind. A soak in this mineral-rich water will warm your cockles and rejuvenate you for another day of exploring. You could even treat yourself to a post-soak massage.
Kick back with the locals in Anchorage
Nestled at the base of the Chugach Mountains, Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city that feels more like a big and lively country town. Kick back with the locals in log fire pubs, sample your way through the breweries or try some of the best pizza in the USA (yup, it’s here in Alaska!). If you’re hungry for more outdoor adventures, there are plenty of hiking trails, lakes and camping spots in Chugach State Park. Anchorage is also close to some prime whale watching spots.
See the magical northern lights
If you thought Denali was beautiful in the daylight, wait until you see it illuminated by a sky lit up with green, blue, purple and red lights. Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights, and our local guides know when and where you have the best chance of seeing them. If the lights don’t fancy making an appearance, why not try your luck at stargazing with a warm flask of mulled wine or hot chocolate.
Wander around Wonder Lake
Wonder Lake will have you questioning if you’re still in Alaska or if you’ve somehow been transported into a Bob Ross painting. It’s so pristine that you might need to pinch your arm to remind yourself it’s actually real. The lake is covered with ice in winter, but on a clear spring or summer’s day you can see the reflection of Denali on the water. It’s the perfect spot for some deep breaths and pondering, or an epic icy dip for the cold water enthusiasts.
Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Centre
Learning about the diverse traditions, language and culture of Alaska’s Indigenous peoples is an important part of any trip. Listen to stories, watch Native dancing or visit a Native dwelling to experience some of the traditional ways of life for the Athabascan, Inupiaq/St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Yup’ik/Cup’ik, Aleut, Alutiiq, and the Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples.
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Denali National Park FAQs
Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travelers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).
However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travelers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.
Denali National Park and Preserve is in the central area of the Alaska Range in Alaska, USA.
You can get to Denali National Park either by car, bus or train. The closest cities are Fairbanks and Anchorage. It takes about four hours to drive from Fairbanks and five hours from Anchorage. Coaches and trains operate daily from Fairbanks and Anchorage in the summer months. Public transport services are limited during the winter.
There is only one road in Denali National Park and most of it is only open to buses. If you take your car, you can drive the first 15 miles up to Savage River. To see the rest of the park you either have to jump on a transit bus (non-narrated) or a tour bus. There is also a free shuttle bus that travels to different hiking trails, campgrounds and facilities along the part of the road open to the public.
Denali is stunning all year round and the best time to visit depends on the type of adventure you want. Winter is the best time to go if you want to see the mountains and landscapes covered in snow – the whole park turns into a winter wonderland that would give Santa Claus a run for his money. Winter is also the best time to see the northern lights. Spring and summer are equally as beautiful when the land thaws, wildflowers cover the tundra and life blooms all around. Peak season is from June to August but it still feels relatively quiet compared to other US national parks.
Packing essentials for Denali include a good pair of hiking boots, a waterproof jacket and pants, warm hat and gloves, warm layers (e.g. a fleece), t-shirts, lightweight pants, daypack, water bottle, sunglasses, bathing suit, warm socks, basic medications, sunscreen, insect repellent and plenty of snacks to keep you going throughout the day. If you go during winter you’ll need a decent winter jacket. It’s worth bringing a small amount of cash as ATMs are scarce.
Denali is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights as there’s hardly any light pollution. The best time to see the lights is during the fall, winter and spring when there’s enough darkness. The sky is too bright in the summer so if you’re hoping to see the lights you should avoid going any time between the six weeks before and after the summer solstice.
Denali is home to a diverse range of wildlife including black bears, grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves, Dall’s sheep, marmots, foxes, red squirrels, arctic ground squirrels, bald eagles, golden eagles, ravens and gray jays. There are also 160 species of birds and 1,500 plant species.
You can use your cell phone within the first three miles of the park entrance but the signal may be patchy in some areas. It’s important to note that once you go further into the park you will not have cell phone service. There is free public WiFi in the Denali Visitor Centre, the Riley Creek Mercantile and the Denali Bus Depot.
Many trails, campground programs, attractions and tours in Denali are accessible for people with physical/mobility disabilities. Wheelchairs are available to borrow at the Denali Visitor Center free of charge. Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travelers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.
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