Planning a Trip to Denali National Park 

The name says it all: Denali National Park. This renowned and rugged region of Alaska conjures up images of vast snowy peaks, hardy adventurers and savage landscapes. Thankfully, for those who relish exactly this kind of experience - and the pristine surroundings and peaceful solitude it provides - Denali National Park is open for your exploration. 

You’ll enter via the 92-mile Denali Park Road, which parallels the Alaska Range and is the only way into the park. It’s normally cloudy, but should the heavens part, you’ll capture jaw-dropping views of “The Mountain,” sometimes from as early as Mile 9. Keep an eye out, too, for the rampant wildlife, particularly as you get farther down the road. 

Private vehicles can access a portion of the road, but the majority of it is open only to bus trip traffic, which runs mid-May through mod-September.

What Type of Bus Trip to Denali National Park Should I Take?

You’ll have a choice between a narrated bus tour and a non-narrated transit bus trip. There are a few free bus routes around the park entrance, running between the visitor centers, trails, campgrounds and points of interest. 

A narrated bus tour is led by your expert driver, who will provide detailed, engaging information about the area as you travel down Denali Park Road. Your tour will likely include a snack or full lunch. And, of course, there will be stops for wildlife viewing and particularly scenic overlooks. 

A non-narrated transit bus trip will be less expensive than a narrated option, and you’ll be able to get on and off wherever you choose, experiencing the park in a more independent manner. 

What Should I Do in Denali National Park?

A valid question about such an enormous state park! 

If you have a day or less, focus on the Savage River area, taking one of the short hikes, and stop by the Denali Visitor Center to watch the park film and, if time permits, take another short hike. You might also consider attending a ranger program or visiting a sled dog kennel. 

With a full day or an overnight with a portion of each day in the park, take one of the transit or tour buses, and stop at the Denali Visitor Center. Take a hike on the Triple Lakes Trail or around the Savage River. Or, head out on a ranger-led discovery hike. 

With two full days and three nights (or more), take at least one, if not two (to maximize your chance of seeing wildlife), tour or transit bus trips and visit the Savage River area. Hike the Triple Lakes Trail, the Savage River area trails and those around the Eielson Visitor Center. Consider a backpacking trip. Attend a ranger program or visit a sled dog kennel. 

Why Consider a Ranger-Led Hike or Program?

No matter how much time you have in Denali, the ranger-led hikes and programs are incredibly insightful. Most are free, including ranger hikes, sled dog demonstrations, campground programs and several other talks. Discover Hikes are offered as part of a paid bus tour, and the Kantishna Experience Tour is available for a fee. These latter, narrated bus tours pick up at various locations around the entrance to the park and are conducted by a certified driver-naturalist. 

Intrigued? For more information about the wildlife you’ll see at Alaska’s iconic national park, the various hikes and backpacking options and more, get in touch! Email me: or sign up for my weekly newsletter.