What To Do When Visiting Denali National Park

Lucky is the Alaska traveler who gets to spend a few days visiting Denali National Park and Preserve.

Denali is North America’s tallest peak.

Photo: iStock

Boasting many superlatives—it’s the biggest park in the nation and houses the tallest mountain in North America, to name a couple—Denali National Park and Preserve provides ample opportunity to spot incredible wildlife and sweeping mountain panoramas across its 6 million acres.

A popular choice for visiting Denali National Park is on a cruisetour—a combined land and sea journey offered by many cruise lines. A trip to Denali National Park is your chance to see grizzly bears, caribou and moose; to photograph the reflection of glacier-covered mountains in placid lakes; or to witness wild rivers flowing through the tundra.

Here are some tips to make the most out of visiting Denali National Park.

Take the Bus

A single road pierces the heart of the park, meandering 92 mostly unpaved miles along the Alaska Range and to the old Gold Rush town of Kantishna.

The National Park Service runs several bus tours of Denali per day, or you can take shuttle buses out to one of four fixed locations and back. The dedicated bus tours are narrated, and they come with a snack or lunch—or, on the longest bus tours, both. But for those on a budget when visiting Denali National Park, a little-known secret is that shuttle drivers always stop for wildlife and will occasionally offer light narration.

There are five narrated bus tours and five shuttle buses to choose from, with varying degrees of length and time.

Your chances to see a moose in Denali double later in the season.

Photo: iStock

Take a (Short) Hike

Denali is massive and mostly devoid of man-made trails, and only experienced backpackers should attempt to explore the wilderness on foot. That said, there are a few maintained and easily accessible trails for folks who want to move their legs and get an up-close feel for the park without the danger of getting lost or crossing a river.

Free courtesy shuttles run from central park sites such as the Denali Visitor’s Center and the Wilderness Access Center, but you can also ride it to maintained hiking trails such as the Savage River Trail, 15 miles down the park road.

Other Options

There are many other one-day activities to do while visiting Denali National Park that offer adventure and unique experiences. You can take a flightseeing tour and land on a glacier, raft the Nenana River, or visit a sled dog kennel to watch a demonstration of this mode of transport.

AAA Travel offers a variety of trips to Alaska’s national parks. Call 877-396-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor.

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Heidi Kazemi, AAA Travel Counselor, Roseville, Calif.

Customization is always my top priority when planning a client's vacation. I ask about their family and where they've been before. Their preferences guide our planning so the vacation is perfectly tailored for them.

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