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Denali National Park and Preserve Travel Guide

  • Photo: NancyS / Shutterstock
  • Photo: Gail Johnson / Shutterstock
  • Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com

Plan Your Denali National Park and Preserve Vacation

Denali National Park and Preserve is Alaska's most visited attraction for many reasons: the most accessible of Alaska's national parks and one of only three connected to the state's highway system, the 6-million-acre wilderness offers views of mountains so big they seem like a wall on the horizon; endless wildlife, from cinnamon-color Toklat grizzlies to herds of caribou,

to moose with antlers the size of coffee tables; glaciers with forests growing on them; autumn tundra the color of a kid's breakfast cereal.

The keystone of the park is Mt. McKinley. More commonly called by its Athabascan name, Denali, meaning "the High One," or often referred to by Alaskans simply as "the Mountain," the peak measures in at 20,320 feet, the highest point on the continent. Denali is also the tallest mountain in the world—yes, Mt. Everest is higher, but it sits on the Tibetan plateau, like it was standing on a chair to rise above Denali, which starts barely above sea level.

It's important to reserve tickets for buses ahead of time; call the numbers provided here or log on to www.reservedenali.com.

With a landmass larger than Massachusetts, Denali National Park and Preserve has too much area for even the most dedicated vacationer to explore in one go. When planning your trip, consider whether you want to strike out on your own as a backcountry traveler or to stay at a lodge nearby and enjoy Denali as a day hiker with the help of a tour or shuttle bus. Both options require some advance planning, for bus tickets or backcountry permits. But both options also offer a magnificent experience.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Backcountry hiking Getting off the road system and into the park's managed units allows for a true wilderness experience, limited only by time and the strength of your legs. For on-trail hiking try Savage River or Mt. Healy Overlook Trail.
  2. Denali flightseeing Soar over river valleys and up glaciers to the slopes of Denali to see the continent's wildest scenery. Some tours also offer landings on Ruth Glacier.
  3. Sled-dog demonstrations Watch half-hour demonstrations at the nation's oldest working dogsled kennel. Since the 1920s, sled dogs have been hauling rangers and workers to Denali's interior.
  4. Rafting trip Experience Denali in its wild rapids or serene flat water.
  5. Bus to Wonder Lake It takes all day, but your chances of spotting wildlife are excellent. And from Wonder Lake the view of the massive slopes of Mt. McKinley—Denali—is something you'll never forget.

When To Go

When to Go

Denali's main season is mid-May into early September. About 90% of travelers come in these months, and with good reason: warmish weather, long da...

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