This summer, get ready for the wilds of Alaska as you embark on a visit to Denali National Park and Preserve. Located deep in the heart of the Alaskan interior and over six million acres of wilderness, Denali is your introduction to the forest, glacial lakes, frozen tundra, and towering mountains. In the park, you’ll also find North America’s tallest mountain, Denali. If you’re planning your summer vacation, here’s everything you need to know about having the ultimate summer vacation in Denali National Park and Preserve.
Best Times to Visit Denali National Park and Preserve
The best time to visit Denali is in the summer. But, even within the summer months, you can get a range of seasons in the park. In just four months, the park goes from snow-capped mountains to lush green tundra to leaf-peeping colors.
Mid-May to Early June
In the early part of the summer, the weather tends to be on the cooler side with fewer visitors flocking to the park. This time of year also comes with special deals and rates for lodging and activities.
June and July
Summer truly begins in June, bringing warmer weather, snowmelt, and lush green grasses. Day temperatures average in the mid-60s and the days are long, capping it off with the summer solstice at the end of June, which can see approximately 22 hours of sunlight.
August to Early September
The end of the summer season in Denali comes in early September. You’ll get warm temperatures during the day and chilly temperatures at night. You may also be able to see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, on clear nights.
Getting to Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve is located in the interior of Alaska, and while remote, it’s not difficult to get to. Most visitors fly into either Anchorage or Fairbanks, which are located 250 and 150 miles from the park, respectively.
From there, visitors can drive, book a luxury bus ticket, or take a train to the park. The Alaska Highway is a modern, well-maintained road that passes through gorgeous countryside and is a bucket list goal for many travelers. Busses and trains from Fairbanks and Anchorage run daily during the summer to transport visitors to the park. Many visitors also arrive at Denali via cruise ship. With more coastline than the rest of the United States combined, cruising is a popular way to see Alaska.
What to Do at Denali
No matter your speed or traveling style, there’s plenty to do and see in Denali. One of the most coveted: see the top of Denali. This tall mountain is almost always covered in clouds, so only a lucky few ever see the top.
Even if you don’t get to see the peak of Denali, there’s plenty to do within the park.
River Rafting Trip
Twisting and turning throughout the Alaskan landscape is the glacially-fed Nenana River. You can enjoy river rafting at your speed, choosing between the gentle Wilderness Run or the wild splashes of the Canyon Run. Whichever you choose, you can be sure you’ll enjoy the trip as transportation, all safety equipment and gear, and professional river guides are provided.
- Wilderness Run: This 13-mile excursion is paddle-free. Your guide will steer the raft while you sit back, relax, and take in the beauty of nature. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way.
- Canyon Run: This challenging watercourse descends through 11 miles of spectacular scenery, including 8 named rapids, ranging from Class III to Class IV. For the run, you’ll be provided with a dry suit, so your clothes stay dry, no matter how much you get splashed. On the Canyon Run trip, you can choose to help paddle or let your guide do all the work.
If you’re interested in getting up close and personal with Denali, it’s time to venture out on foot. You can sign up for a guided hike, which will take you into the awe-inspiring wilderness of Alaska. For your hike, be sure to bring sun protection, water, and anything else you might need. Choose from these three guided hikes:
- Triple Lakes Trail: This hike takes you into the boreal forest of interior Alaska. Along the way, you’ll get views of the Nenana River and the Yanert Valley. The trail is considered between easy and moderate, taking 3 to 4 hours, and encompassing 2.4 miles roundtrip.
- Rock Creek Trail: This guided hike takes visitors along a loop trail in the evening with an interpretive guide. The hike is considered moderate to strenuous, taking 3 to 4 hours, and encompassing 4.6 miles.
- Steps Through Time Trail: This guided hike takes you through true wilderness and along the way your guide will share stories about the natural formations and the people who passed through and lived in this area before you. This hike is considered strenuous, taking 3 to 4 hours, and encompassing 5.5 miles.
Take a Guided Tour
To limit the impact on the fragile ecosystem of Denali, private vehicles are not allowed on the park road. To tour Denali, you can book a ticket on one of their awe-inspiring bus tours. Your guide will share stories about the park, point out landmarks, and help you spot wildlife. Explore these two bus tours on your next trip to Denali.
Where to Stay: The Lodge
When you’re planning your trip to Denali National Park and Preserve, you’ll want to find a comfortable and convenient place to stay. The Lodge at Denali Park Village is located just seven miles south of the park entrance. The property is spread over 20 acres, so even while at the hotel, you can get spectacular views of the landscape and go hiking.
This summer, see one of the most remote national parks in the United States: Denali National Park and Preserve. Located in the wilds of Alaska, it’s sure to send you home with stories of spotting wildlife, adventure on the Nenana River, and historical facts about this wild and beloved place.