Denali State Park | Outdoorsy

Denali State Park
Guide

Introduction

Surrounded by untouched beauty and featuring over 320,000 acres waiting for you to explore, Denali State Park is an Alaskan paradise that is perfect for RV travelers. Sharing a boundary with Denali National Park, Denali State Park is ideal for outdoor lovers that want to experience a little bit of everything that Alaska has to offer. From the park, you can see the peak of Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley), which towers above at over 20,000 feet. You can see the open tundra, dense forests, and even glaciers, all while various wildlife such as moose, caribou, and the occasional bear wander around this gorgeous area.

On the activity front, there's plenty to do for the outdoorsy person. From hiking and biking to bird watching, Denali State Park is perfect for your next adventurous getaway. You will have plenty of options to explore on self-guided tours, or on a guided bus tour along the Denali Park Road. Have a young adventurer with you? The park also has a Junior Ranger Program where they can learn about the flora and fauna of the area. If you wish to check out the mountains in the area, you will have to bring another vehicle as they are not suitable for RVs.

There are two campgrounds suitable for RVs, including one with electrical hookups that can accommodate RVs up to 100 feet in length. There are also three cabins, walk-in only sites, and tent sites available for those seeking alternative accommodation. The park is open year-round, but peak season is from May to September due to the winter weather that hits the park earlier than what mainland state parks are used to.

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Camping Accommodations

100'
Max RV length
100'
Max trailer Length
Electrical hookup
Water hookup
Generator use
Food storage
Sewer hookup
Dogs & cats

RV Rentals in Denali State Park

Transportation

Driving

Driving to and from Denali State Park can be fairly straightforward, depending on what time of the year you plan to visit. The park is located directly off the Parks Highway and can be accessed from the north and the south. RVs will only be able to drive on the highway as the other roads in the area are very mountainous, but you will still be able to access both campgrounds in rigs up to 100 feet in length.

One thing to keep in mind before departing on your journey to Denali State Park is that you will be in rural Alaska, far from any major amenities and services. You will have to drive around 50 minutes to get to the nearest town, so it is vital to make sure you get all of your supplies before you arrive at the park. There are no water collection points once you arrive, so make sure to stock up on water. If you need to get any supplies you can head to Talkeetna (around 47 miles away), Wasilla (around 89 miles away), and Anchorage (around 132 miles away). Since Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, it will be the best place to visit any major amenities and pick up supplies.

During the wintertime, it will be very difficult to reach the park due to the large snowfall that occurs in the area. Both of the campgrounds are also closed during this time, so if you are planning on visiting the park in the winter, you should consult park staff before departing. Sometimes the Parks Highway will also be closed, so even with prior planning, you may have no way to get to the park.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Denali State Park

Campsites in Denali State Park

Reservations camping

K’esugi Ken Campground

The K’esugi Ken Campground is the newest of the two campgrounds within Denali State Park and is an ideal choice for RV lovers looking for a little more luxury. The campground was opened in 2017 and contains 32 large gravel sites that are suitable for RVs, 10 sites for walk-in camping, and a group campground.

The highlight of the K’esugi Ken Campground is the ability for RVs to use electrical hookups that were installed via a 34-mile power extension. Large RVs are also welcome here with most sites suitable for RVs up to 75 feet in length and some can hold 100-foot RVs. Most of the RV sites at K’esugi Ken are ADA-accessible and they are all within a short walking distance to one of three restroom facilities. If all of the campsites are full, there is the added bonus of an RV overflow camping area to the north of the campground. Please note that there are no water collection points at K’esugi Ken Campground.

Some reservations are available at the K’esugi Ken Campground during the peak season when the campground is open, and they can only be made when the season is occurring.

Byers Lake Campground

Byers Lake Campground is one of the two RV-friendly campgrounds within Denali State Park that you are able to call home during your visit. Located at milepost 147 on Route Three, Byers Lake Campground is a great choice for travelers that are looking for a quiet campground.

Byers Lake Campground is the older of the two campgrounds within the park and perfect for those looking for a primitive camping experience. There are no electrical, water, or sewer hookups to be found, but you can purchase firewood from the campground host. A total of 73 RVs can use the campground at any given time, and the sites are suitable for rigs up to 35 feet in length. There are 15 picnic sites in the campground, along with toilets for your convenience.

Due to the weather in Alaska, Byers Lake Campground is only open during the peak season, which runs from May until September. During this period, reservations can be made so that you can guarantee a site.

Alternate camping

Group Camping

Denali State Park features one group camping area that is located at the K’esugi Ken Campground. This area is suitable for one group at a time and can accommodate up to 50 people at once. There are some great amenities at the group camping area, including three picnic tables, room for RVs, a fireplace, and restrooms.

A nice benefit to the group campsite is that there is a mixture of gravel and grassy areas, so you have the option for car, RV, or tent camping. You must reserve the group camping area in advance if you wish to use it since there is only one available.

Public-Use Cabins

Within the K’esugi Ken Campground, there are three public-use cabins that feature wood stoves for heating and wooden sleeping platforms. All three are ADA-accessible. Two of the cabins are 20 feet by 30 feet, while one is 24 by 35 feet, and they are all accessible during the summer and winter months.

If you are planning on using the cabins, make sure that you reserve them in advance and bring your own sleeping supplies since there are only wooden sleeping platforms.

First Come, First Served Camping

Although reservations are offered during the peak season, there are also plenty of sites available in both campgrounds that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Not all of the sites are offered online for reservation, so if you are planning a spur of the moment visit you will have the chance to camp here.

Byers Lake Campground is the most likely to have sites available, but if there are no RV sites at the K’esugi Ken Campground, there will be overflow parking available at a cheaper rate. You won't be able to camp on a first-come, first-served basis during the winter months since both campgrounds will be closed.

Tent-Only Camping

Both campgrounds at Denali State Park offer camping for tents at all of the sites, but there are also some sites that are only available for tents. These are found at the K’esugi Ken Campground and are equipped with a grassy pad for your tent instead of gravel, a picnic table, a fire ring, and a food storage locker.

If you plan on using one of the tent-only sites, please note that this area of the campground is a little harder to access and only vehicles 25 feet or under will be able to make it there.

Seasonal activities in Denali State Park

Off-Season

Visiting the Dog Sled Kennels

Looking for a uniquely Alaskan experience? You can visit the dog sled kennels located in Denali National Park. There are over two million acres of preserved land that the dog teams can explore, and there are approximately 35 working dogs in the preserve.

The dog sled teams allow for the land to be maintained at minimal to no damage to the natural terrain. Denali National Park is the only system with a working dog sled team. No outside pets are allowed when visiting to ensure that the working dogs do not get alarmed. Be sure to call ahead to make sure that the kennels are open before visiting.

Wildlife Viewing

Are you ready to see some wildlife? Thanks to Denali State Park being over 300,000 acres, there are plenty of animals to see during your time in the area. The landscape is varied, so you may be able to see animals such as deer, moose, black and grizzly bears. Wolves are also seen on occasion, along with lynx, coyote, and foxes.

For bird lovers, be sure to bring your binoculars in your motorhome, as there are more than 130 species that visit the park throughout the year. These include some birds that permanently live in the area, such as the gray jay and the common raven.

Winter Recreation

Although the campground will be closed during the winter months, there are still plenty of great activities for those visiting when the snow is falling. The trails are great for winter biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, and, if you have dogs, you can also make use of the dog-sledding trails. Free snowshoe rentals are available at the Visitor Center too, so everyone can have some fun in the snow.

Snowboarding and skiing are also available in some areas, but if you plan to do these in avalanche-prone areas, it is recommended to have the proper equipment and element training before planning your trip. Snow can range from a little to a lot, and you can get condition updates at the Visitor Center before heading out for the day.

In-Season

Denali National Park

Along the western boundary of Denali State Park lies Denali National Park. The combined acreage of the state and national parks is over six million acres, so there is plenty to explore and fun activities to enjoy. Some of the most popular family-friendly things to do include checking out the Visitor Center, hiking, or taking a bus tour.

Denali National Park is open year-round, but if you are planning to visit in the spring, fall or winter, plan for the potential for unexpected snow. It is also good to know that the road is 92 miles long, but only 15 of those miles are paved, so your trip to the park will be a little bumpy.

Viewing the Northern Lights

Have you ever wanted to view the Northern Lights? Also known as Aurora Borealis, Denali State Parks can a great place to view them, if the conditions are perfect. This natural phenomenon is weather dependent and can be tracked through the weather forecast or through an aurora forecast. The sky cannot be too light, so when the sky is dark and clear, your chances increase. In Denali State Park, no matter where you are lodging, you have a good chance to see this amazing natural phenomenon. If you are planning your trip six weeks before or after mid-June (around the summer solstice), your chances become slimmer to see them, so keep that in mind.

Hiking

Denali State Park has many great hiking opportunities to choose from, so remember to pack your hiking boots! You can choose from trail hiking to off-trail hiking based on the kind of experience you are looking for. If you are not an experienced off-trail hiker, you will be able to speak with a park ranger to answer any questions you might have. At the end of your off-trail experience, you can find a shuttle to take you back to your original start.

The trails range from a half-mile to upwards of four miles one-way. There are trail guides with descriptions available to make sure that you get the experience of a lifetime. Not every trailhead is located at a parking area, so there are many that stem off of one another to create a more customized retreat.