When it comes to Alaska “must do” adventures, Denali National Park stands tall above the rest. Located 238 miles north of Anchorage and 120 miles south of Fairbanks, Denali Park is literally larger than the state of Massachusetts and lies beneath the towering summit of Mount Denali, North America’s highest peak at 20,320 feet. This iconic American National Park regularly exceeds most visitor expectations with its sub-Arctic ecosystems, abundant wildlife including Grizzly bears, Dall sheep, caribou, moose and wolves, and its tundra landscapes filled with wildflowers and migrating birds.
Traveling the Denali Park Road: 2021 Landslide
With 6 million acres of wildlands, Denali National Park is the perfect microcosm of Alaska’s Interior settings. It’s incredibly peaceful and extremely wild. There is only one park road within this vast and unspoiled wilderness area and it travels 92 miles into the park and is only accessible via bus tours. Self-drive vehicles are only allowed until Savage River Bridge at Mile 14; with very rare exceptions, you can’t drive you own vehicle beyond this point.
Unfortunately, sometimes nature intervenes in even the most idyllic of settings. In Fall 2021, a landslide wiped out a portion of Denali Park Road, effectively stopping all but the most essential traffic at Mile 43. The Denali Park Road landslide also closed down standard bus access, as well as access to Wonder Lake Campground (Mile 89), Eielson Visitor Center (Mile 66), and the dreamy end-of-the-road views at Kantishna Roadhouse.
Summer 2022 park operations will be impacted as crews continue to clean-up and repair the slide area with no transit or tour buses beyond Mile 43, and with the 2022 summer season closure of Igloo Creek and Wonder Lake campgrounds, both located beyond the site of the slide.
Majestic Mount Denali
Luckily, you don’t even have to travel inside the National Park to see Denali’s breathtaking namesake: the magnificent and legendary mountain of Denali (formerly Mt McKinley). It’s snowy peaks loom over Alaska and are visible from Anchorage to Fairbanks. While Alaskan clouds can often obscure its summit, if you catch a glimpse of the full expanse of this mountain, you will never forget this view.
The Best Denali Park Tours for Visitors: 2022 Updates
In normal seasons (without road access limitations), there are many different bus tours available to Alaska travelers who want to explore Denali National Park. These tours offer window-seat views of diverse wildlife including moose, caribou, grizzly bear, Dall sheep and wolves. Special trips include the Tundra Wilderness Tour which takes visitors approximately 53 miles along the park road. Another option is the Full Day Denali Road Tour which brings you all the way to the end of the 92-mile road. And to get the full Denali experience, you will want to stay overnight inside the park at one of the four Denali National Park lodges, Denali Backcountry Lodge, Kantishna Roadhouse, Camp Denali and Skyline Lodge. The lodges inside Denali offer numerous of summer activities, however, such as guided hikes, mountain biking, canoeing and fishing (activities differ depending upon the lodge you stay at). [Do note for 2022 however, because of the locations of these wilderness lodges deep within the park (and beyond the landslide), as of December 2021, it is not clear if these popular backcountry lodges will open during the 2022 season and only for fly-in visitors, and at what capacity. Check back with our travel planners for more updates as they become available.]
If you are visiting Denali in 2022, no biggie! Most Denali National Park hotels are located at the park’s entrance anyway. These Denali Park Entrance lodges offer vibrant local bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink and a delicious Alaska-inspired meal while you feast on views of Denali’s snowy landscapes. This is also the departure point for exciting park activities, still easily accessible despite the road closed at Mile 43. Jump on one of several Denali Flightseeing Tours and you will fly around the peak and other nearby majestic mountains, and even land on a glacier field along Denali. Float trips on the Nenana River are, of course, a splash! And visits to the home of park resident and Iditarod dogsledding champion Jeff King is packed with trail tales and puppies. Maybe you would enjoy an ATV ride across Denali’s low lying hills or go heli-hiking in Denali? The sky is the limit (literally) when adventuring in this iconic Alaskan National Park!
And finally, if you have seen the movie “Into the Wild” and are fascinated by the ‘Magic Bus’, you can take a short drive north to Healy and visit the 49th State Brewery. Next to the brewery you’ll find the bus used in the movie. Snap a photo while enjoying an Alaska-made beer and meal at the brewery.
If you would like to experience authentic Alaska at its finest, Denali National Park is the place for you. We’ll be happy to add Denali to any other itinerary based on your travel dates and budget. Just get in touch and don’t forget to bring your camera!