Denali National Park and Preserve
Guide

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Introduction

When you visit Denali National Park and Preserve, you’ll become immersed in a wonderland of six million acres of enchanting wilderness, alpine tundras, and snow-capped mountains. Located in Interior Alaska, this national treasure is home to the highest peak in North America, Denali, which towers over the stunning landscape at just over 20,000 feet. While visiting Denali, you'll have a tranquil experience and feel one with nature. Animals like brown bears, caribou, and beavers roam freely across the landscape where 1,500 species of beautiful native flora dot the terrain.
Denali National Park, decorated by the Alaska Range, glistening glaciers, crystal-clear rivers, and green forests, is unlike any other national park in the United States. Denali National Park and Preserve has long, cold winters, providing a winter wonderland for wildlife as well as guests. While summers are short, they are mild and comfortable, making it a perfect time to visit the park with your RV.
An RV trip to Denali National Park is a perfect way to experience the great outdoors. Brave explorers can conquer the highest mountain in North America, while birding enthusiasts can spot majestic species from the Arctic warbler to the golden eagle. You can hike through lush forests, idyllic valleys, and snowy mountains, or you can go backpacking through the serene Savage River.
Besides the magnificent views of Denali Peak, this national park is home to a diverse landscape filled with wondrous natural attractions. You won’t want to miss a hike on Mt. Healy Overlook Trail offering stunning views of the Nenana Valley. The Horseshoe Lake Trail is a trek of tranquility where you will be in awe of a beautiful lake and beaver dams. Stop by adjacent Denali State Park for more activities.
No matter what brings you to the spectacular scenery of Denali National Park, an RV provides the best way to soak in everything this serene wilderness has to offer.

Park Alerts (1)

[Information] Road Open To: Mile 3 (Park Headquarters)

The Denali Park Road is currently open to Mile 3, Park Headquarters. Wintry conditions beyond that point prevent vehicle travel, though pedestrian travel is permitted. Be prepared for winter driving conditions to reach Mile 3.

RV Rentals in Denali National Park and Preserve

Transportation in Denali National Park and Preserve

Driving

By car or RV, Denali National Park and Preserve is five hours from Anchorage and about three hours from Fairbanks. There is only one highway into the park, Alaska State Route 3. Since there is only one road in the park navigating inside the park is fairly simple. Denali Park Road stretches for 92-miles and serves as the main thoroughfare for visitors. A limited portion of the road is available for driving, while the rest is only accessible by bus. Summer is the best time to travel. You’ll have to be cautious driving in the winter months since the road closes during harsh weather conditions.

Parking

There are ample parking lots that vary in size located along Denali Park Road as well as RV parking at the Visitor Center and the campgrounds. Campground parking is suitable for RVs under 40 feet long, so if you have a larger RV you’ll want to park outside of the national park.

Public Transport

Denali National Park is accessible by bus and train. You can take a bus from Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seward. Train service is available from Anchorage and Fairbanks. If you’re in the park during the summer, the most common way to get around is by bus. There are free buses that will take you on certain parts of Denali Park Road. For a fee, you can get deeper into the park on non-narrated transit buses where you can hop on and off at all the major attractions. You can also pay for narrated bus tours, which are longer guided tours complete with a snack or lunch.

Campgrounds and parking in Denali National Park and Preserve

Campsites in Denali National Park and Preserve

Reservations camping

Riley Creek Campground

With 127 reservable campsites, Riley Creek Campground is conveniently located near the entrance of the park, so you can easily stock up on food and supplies outside of the park's boundaries. This pet-friendly campground is open year-round and features a wide range of amenities including restrooms, food storage lockers, and cell phone reception. You can seasonally enjoy internet access, laundry facilities, a camp store, potable water, and a dump station on-site in this wooded campground. Generators can be operated during limited hours, although there are no electric, water, or sewer hookups available. You can make reservations online as early as December 1, the year before your visit. The Riley Creek Campground permits RVs and trailers up to 40 feet in length.

Savage River Campground

Nestled in a serene spruce forest lies the Savage River Campground, where, on a clear day, you can catch views of Denali just a short walk from your campsite. This pet-friendly campground is open from mid-May to Mid-September. RVs and trailers up to 40 feet in length are permitted. You can enjoy many amenities, including food storage lockers, potable water, and trash collection. There are no hookups available at the campground, but generator use is allowed during certain hours. Reservations are available online starting as early as December 1, the year before your trip.

Teklanika River Campground

Located deep in the park at mile 22 on Denali Park Road, Teklanika River Campground requires a minimum of a three-night stay, and your RV must stay at the campground during that time. Open from mid-May to mid-September; this pet-friendly campground offers 53 reservable sites. Reservations can be made as early as December 1, the year before your visit. This campground provides food storage lockers, potable water, and trash collection. RVs or trailers up to 40 feet in length are permitted. Hookups are not available, but you can use a generator during limited hours.

First-come first-served

Riley Creek Campground

There are no First-Come First-Served campgrounds at Denali National Park and Preserve. However, there are 20 first-come, first-served sites available at Riley Creek Campground. Additionally, during the winter months from mid-September to mid-May reservations are not necessary at Riley Creek Campground.

Alternate camping

Private Campgrounds

There are several private campgrounds located outside of the park from as close as a few miles away to as far as 50 miles away. These private campgrounds may offer more modern amenities, including full hookups, wireless internet, and cable TV. Shopping and dining will also be conveniently located near these campgrounds so that you can stock up on food, supplies, and gas as needed.

Tent Camping

There are three tent-only campgrounds at Denali National Park that are accessible by bus. Sanctuary River Campground, which offers amazing views of Denali, is open from mid-May to mid-September. Igloo Creek Campground is open from mid-May to mid-September and offers seven tent-only sites. Wonder Lake Campground is the closest campground to Denali with magical lakefront views, and it is open from June to mid-September.

Seasonal activities in Denali National Park and Preserve

Spring

Cycling & Mountain Biking

Get out your bike for an incredible adventure exploring the amazing wild lands of Denali National Park. You can bike along all 92 miles of Denali Park Road, seeing all the incredible sites, most of which are only otherwise accessible by bus. If the conditions are right, cyclists can even try their hand at bikejoring, a fun hybrid activity where you can have a sled dog pull your bike!

Mountaineering

Experienced climbers can try their hand climbing the highest peak in North America, Denali. Mountaineering enthusiasts can brave the elements and traverse through the harsh, raw wilderness of Denali National Park. Beyond Denali, there are many opportunities to get in the mountains like climbing the vertical rocks and ice walls that line Ruth Gorge. Registration is required at least 60 days before your planned climb.

Trail Hiking

Denali National Park is an incredible place for hiking for people of all ability levels. On warmer spring days, you can traverse through a plethora of self-guided trails, each offering breathtaking views and unique surroundings. From the hillside trek of Mount Healy Trail to the lush forests route of Roadside Trail, this national park is an amazing oasis for hikers.

Flying Tour

For an unforgettable adventure, you can enjoy life-changing views of Denali that you can’t experience any other way than from the sky. Hire a private company to take you on an airplane tour of Denali National Park. On these chartered tours, pilots will fly you over the country’s largest mountain, as well as pass by gorgeous glaciers and enchanting wilderness.

Birding

The spring is a great time to get out those binoculars and see the myriad of species that fly through Denali National Park and Preserve. There are so many incredible birds to spot, including the raven, black-billed magpie, and the trumpeter swan. You can catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures all around the park, from as close as the Visitor Center to farther reaches of the park like the hiking trails.

Summer

Whitewater Rafting

For an aquatic adventure, unlike any other, hire a private company to go whitewater rafting down Denali National Park’s mighty rivers. You’ll coast down winding rivers and crash on thrilling rapids in the rustic waters of the Nenana River. White water rafting is a great way to get intimate with Denali National Park’s natural serenity and take in majestic views you can’t see in any other way.

Hike at Savage River

The summer is the ideal time of year to visit Savage River, a magical waterway that was carved out by glaciers. The Savage River Loop Trail lets you hike along the river through a canyon with Mount Margaret and Healy Ridge on either side. While you are exploring, keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of wildlife and wildflowers. Seeing the natural side of Denali up close and personal is something that you won’t want to miss.

Wildlife Viewing on a Bus Tour

Since the shuttles run during the summer, this is the best time of year to take a scenic bus tour while you attempt to catch a glimpse of the amazing creatures that call this park home. On an active-wildlife day, you might be able to spot grizzly bears, caribou, wolves, moose, and Dall’s sheep, which are just some of the 39 species of mammals located at the park.

Discovery Hikes

During the summer you can take an engaging hike guided by park rangers to experience the majestic wilderness of Denali National Park. You’ll learn about all the native species and plants from the experts while traversing through Alaska's tranquil scenery. Two hikes are offered each day, and they both begin at the Wilderness Access Center. You’ll want to stock up on your outdoor gear and bring plenty of water with you so you will feel comfortable and ready to explore on your guided expedition.

Horseback Riding Tours

If you want to discover the enchanting wilderness of Denali National Park on horseback, hire a private company for a riding tour. You’ll ride through open meadows and lush forests while taking in all the scenery that surrounds you. You’ll be able to soak in views of native wildlife and flora while learning about the area from an expert guide.

Fall

Sled Dog Demonstration

You can get up close and personal with Alaska’s famous sled dogs at a free dog sled demonstration at Denali National Park. You’ll learn about the history and exciting adventure of dog sledding from the experts. Get your camera ready for some adorable dog pictures or a pose by the dog sled to save those unforgettable memories. Now, mush!

ATV Adventure Tour

If you want to explore Denali National Park and Preserve in a truly unique way, you’ll love an ATV adventure tour. You can hire a private company to take you on a guided off-roading tour that gets you up close and personal with some of the most scenic wilderness in North America. Get a thrill splashing through water, catching a glimpse of wild moose, and getting incredible views of Denali. There is no better way to get more excitement on an Alaskan RV trip in autumn.

Ranger Talks

If you’re in the park in early fall, learn all about Denali's unique features and the natural history of the park — from bears to glaciers — right from the experts, the Denali Park Rangers. Gather around the campground or hang out in the amphitheater to join one of these regularly-scheduled, ranger-led programs. If you have questions about the park, bring them with you. It's always fun to hear how the rangers explain the varying aspects of the park.

Denali Photography

Whether you’re an amateur camera enthusiast or world-class photographer, Denali National Park is a haven for photography. On a clear day, you can capture gorgeous views of the largest mountain in North America, Denali. There are several viewpoints along Denali Park Road where you can catch the awe-inspiring view of this mammoth peak. Not only that, but this national park is a great place for wildlife and landscape photography of all kinds since raw wilderness surrounds you at every turn.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour

If you’re looking for an extraordinary way to explore Denali National Park, hire a private company to give you a guided horse-drawn carriage ride tour. You’ll learn all about the unique cultural and natural history of the area from the experts as you ride along through rustic scenery. Some companies offer family-style meals during your tour so you can enjoy some delicious bites while taking in jaw-dropping views of Alaska’s backcountry.

Winter

Visit the Murie Science and Learning Center

Open during the winter, the Murie Science and Learning Center is a great place for the whole family to learn about the incredible natural history of Denali National Park. You can check out interesting wildlife exhibits and see a film about the park’s dog sledding activities. Plus, you can grab a bite to eat before you head out for some winter exploring.

Cross-Country Skiing

It's hard to trek through the deep snow that blankets Denali National Park in the winter. However, don't let the snow stop you from visiting. You can traverse through this winter wonderland by cross-country skiing. Coast through incredible views of Denali and soak in a fantastic experience when surrounded by unsurpassed beauty during the winter. If you don't have cross country skis, there are many opportunities to rent nordic equipment from local outdoor outfitters.

Dog Sled Expeditions

In case you left your sled dogs at home, you’re in luck. Hire a private company to take you on a one-of-a-kind dog sled expedition. Also known as dog mushing, this is a popular sport in Alaska, so you can hit the trail like a local and let the incredible sled dogs take you through the windy trails and snow-capped mountain views of Denali National Park. There is no better or more authentic way to experience Alaska than with a dog sled tour.

Visit the Sled Dog Kennels

Located just three miles from the park entrance, you will be in for a treat with a visit to the Sled Dog Kennels. You can meet and greet the incredible sled dogs that live and work at the park. Rangers are on hand to provide in-depth information about the history and exciting details of Alaskan dog sledding.

See the Northern Lights

If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one of the most magical sights in the world if you visit Denali National Park in the colder months of the year. The Northern Lights, otherwise known as Aurora Borealis, are a phenomenon that is uncommon in the Lower 48, making Denali National Park and Preserve one of the few places in the United States where you might be able to spot the colorful celestial performance. The Northern Lights decorate some of the darkest skies in the country with colorful rays ranging from red, green, and white to bright blue and purple.

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