With over 6 million acres to explore Denali National Park and Preserve is a beast of a place. Visiting the park will afford many kinds of adventures great for couples, families, or solo travelers by land, air, and ice. Here are just a few things you can see and do while exploring the beautiful chill of the Alaskan wilderness. Most of our recommendations are focused on day trips accessible to a wide audience, but for more intrepid adventurers interested in backcountry climbing and mountaineering, there's plenty for you to explore, too.
Summit Denali (Mt. McKinley)
First and foremost is the namesake of the park, and the star of the show: Denali. Standing with a summit 20,310 feet above sea level, Denali is the highest mountain in North America. Many of the adventures in Denali National Park are focused around Denali, and with good reason – it's the third most isolated peak in the world, which makes it all the more powerful and stunning to behold (and photograph).
Denali Park Road
Don't let the name fool you, this is no scenic road trip -- at least not one you can drive yourself. One of the most popular ways to see the park, you’re only allowed to take your personal vehicle 15-miles down the road. At that point, you’ll need to either hop on a shuttle bus or book a tour, offered as a half-day route (7 hours, 53 miles) or a full-day route (13 hours, 92 miles). We recommend the full trip and taking an airtaxi back from Kantishna. Along the way, you'll stop for iconic views of Denali. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may even see some caribou, grey wolves, and grizzly bears that call the area home. Please: keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times!
Wonder Lake Campground
If Wonder Lake look familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen it before. This lake, with its scintillating view of Denali in the distance, was made iconic by the photography of Ansel Adams. The best photos are taken from the north side, though you can hike or bus around for a different perspective. It’s an excellent place to camp, so give yourself a couple of days to allow for good weather so that you can actually see the mountain! menities include toilets, hiking, and fishing.
One of the more exciting ways to enter the park is via airplane in order to get a bird's eye view of the sheer size and expanse of the mountain and the park. See the world from above, and, if you want, take time to land on a glacier to make a July snow angel. While many companies are allowed to actually land in Denali, some aren't so make sure you do your homework when choosing a tour.
Off-Road ATV Excursions
If the thought of flying through craggy mountain peaks makes you a little uneasy, maybe keeping your feet on land is more your speed. ATV adventures are family-friendly and offer a perspective you wouldn’t get anywhere else. Guided tours can take you down backwoods trails, old mining roads, and over creeks and streams. Don’t be nervous about the weather – the snow just makes it more fun!
Hikes for Days
Birdseye views are great, and ATVs are exciting, but sometimes you just need to slow down and take a good look around. Hiking Denali is an excellent way to take in the wilderness, and there are trails for any level of outdoor enthusiast. Horseshow Lake Trail is great for the family — lots of forests, views of the Nenana River, the possibility of wildlife sightings, and it only takes about 90 minutes to complete.
For those looking for more of a challenge, Mount Healy Overlook Trail climbs 1,700 feet at grades that sometimes reach up to 25 percent. The trek takes about 3-4 hours (2.2 miles one-way), so you’ll want to stock up on trail mix and water before head out. At the end, hikers are rewarded with views of the entire Nenana River Valley and maybe, if there’s good visibility, a glimpse of Denali standing tall 80 miles away.