Denali National Park Guide [Updated 2023]

The pristine wilderness surrounding the colossal mountains, meandering rivers, and phenomenal wildlife, Denali National Park is a dream destination for adventure lovers!

In this article we’ll share the top five must-do things on the park including the best time to visit, weather, places to stay, and much more to help you plan your vacation down to details. Let’s begin!


ParkDenali National Park
Things To DoPicnic, Drive, Discover
Hotels Near Banff National ParkDenali Hostel and Cabins, Denali Bluffs Hotel, Many More
Validity7 Days
Camping LocationMultiple Locations
Where Is Denali National Park

Where Is Denali National Park?

Denali National Park is situated in interior Alaska, centered on Denali. You can reach the park by bus, train or car.

Some of the closest cities to the park include Fairbanks, which is 120 miles to the north of the park, and Anchorage, which is 240 miles to the south of the park.

If you want to take a flight, then you can book a ticket to Fairbanks International Airport (FAI), which is in the closest proximity to Denali National Park. 


Home to the tallest peak in North America, Denali National Park is Alaska’s most popular national park and preserve.

The park encompasses over 6 million acres of pristine wilderness.  

Denali National Park’s landscape is a mix of forests, glaciers, and endless scenic landscapes just waiting to be explored.

In the center of the park lies the Alaskan range and Denali Mountain known as the crown jewels of the United States. 

More than 600,000 visitors come to the Denali National Park each year to explore extraordinary scenery, native culture, and diverse wildlife including 38 species of mammals, 160 bird species, and over 700 species of plants. 1

Tips For Your Trip to DENALI NATIONAL PARK || Before you go to DENALI

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The human connection to the Denali Region spans more than 10,000 years back. Athabaskan people inhabited the area and used the sites as hunting camps rather than settlements. 

In 1906, conservationist Charles Alexander Sheldon came up with the brilliant idea of preserving the Denali region as a national park.

He presented the idea but due to the unstable political climate, he didn’t get much success. 

His plans kept on rolling through several Alaskan delegates and committees and eventually got accepted in 1915.

The bill was introduced in April 1916, in the Senate and got approved 11 years later on February 26, 1917, by President of United States, Woodrow Wilson thereby creating McKinley National Park. 

However, the name of the park was subjected to criticism from locals which led to the renaming of the park in 1897.

The name “Denali National Park” was formally adopted by the government in 1917. 

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Best Things to Do in the Park

From scenic hikes and adventurous boat tours, Denali National Park offers so many things to do that it can be hard to choose.

Here are some best things to do in the park:

Take a Denali Bus Tour  

Denali Bus Tour is the best way to explore everything the park has to offer. Tours are conducted by certified driver-naturalists who drive the bus and narrate during the trip.

Bus tours were started to limit the access of private vehicles on Park Road in an effort to preserve the fragile ecosystem.

Bus tour gives visitors an excellent opportunity to sit back and enjoy the fascinating views, wildlife, history, and geography of the park. 

Look out for Denali’s Big Five 

Another must-have experience in the Denali is to keep your eyes peeled for Denali’s “Big Five”.

Denali national park is home to 39 species of mammals but there are five animals particularly popular among tourists including moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bear.

These animals are really uncommon to see in a single visit but if you’re lucky enough you may spot one or two.

Other animals you can look out for include coyotes, red fox, golden eagles, snowshoe hare, and more.

Raft in the Nenana River

For those who want to experience the tranquility of the Alaskan wilderness and get away from noisy roads, rafting in the Nenana River is one of the most fun and easiest activities to try out.

You can choose to paddle yourself to get your adrenaline pumping or take the fully-guided trip with a guide navigating the boat.

It is a perfect way to enjoy some incredible views and explore your adventurous side. 

Take a Hiking trip

Denali National Park has 35 miles of hiking trails for adventure seekers and nature lovers to experience the true spirit and beauty of the land.

The trails are scattered throughout the park and range in distance and difficulty.

Some of the must-do hiking trails include Triple Lakes Trail, Savage River Loop Trail, Curry Ridge Trail, Tundra Loop Trail, and Horseshoe Lake Trail that allows you to explore the best bits of the park and surrounding wilderness. 2

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Denali National Park?
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Best Time to Visit 

The best time to visit the Denali National Park is from mid-May through mid-September when the park is completely open and most of the fun activities are available for visitors.

The Park is closed during winters while summer brings the most crowds. 


Download the official map of Denali National Park with clear instructions regarding roads, trails, campgrounds, and main points of interest to plan your trip in advance.

Click here to download the PDF map here to get the most of your holiday. 

Hotels Near Denali National Park

There are several hotels, cabins, and lodges around the Denali entrance area.

Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly lodging option or want a great 5-star hotel, here are our top five picks: 

  • Denali Hostel and Cabins
  • Denali Bluffs Hotel
  • McKinley Chalet Resort
  • Denali Backcountry Lodge
  • Kantishna Roadhouse

Camping Locations

Denali National Park has six campgrounds located around the Denali Park roads and accessible from different areas of the park.

All campgrounds except Savage River and Riley Creek can be accessed by a camper. None of the campgrounds offers electric or water hookups.

Visitors are required to check-in at the Riley creek mercantile and get their camping permit before entering the campground.

For more information and to make reservations, visit the NPS website


The weather in the Denali National Park can change at any moment. Winters (October to early November) are extremely cold with temperatures ranging from -40 °F and up to high 20s n warm days.

Summers are cool and humid with unpredictable weather and you can expect snow even in any summer month. The average day temperature ranges from 33 to 75°F.

The Northside has a completely different climate with drier weather and massive temperature variations. Check out the current weather of the park before visiting. 

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Entry Fee & Passes

The entry fee for Denali National Park is $15 per individual, valid for 7-days from the day of purchase. Denali doesn’t charge a fee for car entry.

You can also purchase the Denali national Park Annual pass costing $45 and cover up to 4 adults.

The individual entry pass can be purchased online as there is no entrance station at the park. 


Checklist of Things to Pack

If you’re wondering what to pack for your first trip to this Park, here are 12 must-have items you need to bring with you:

  1. Backpack
  2. Extra clothing layers
  3. Rain gear
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Plenty of food
  6. Hiking Boots or trainers 
  7. Binoculars
  8. Water bottles & Healthy snacks
  9. Trekking poles
  10. Headlamp
  11. Knife 
  12. Bug protection
  13. Bear Spray
  14.  First-aid kit 
  15.  Map & Compass

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Is it possible to explore the Denali National Park in one day?

Denali National Park is huge and just reaching the park can take several hours, so one day is simply not enough to explore the park. 

Is Denali National Park crowded?

Denali National Park is never too crowded. The only crowd you can expect for the shuttle and bus tours. 

Do In Need a Car in Denali National Park?

No, a car is not necessary once you arrive at the park. You can take a train to the park and then hop on a bus tour or shuttle service offered by the park. 

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