11 things to do in Denali National Park

If you thought hiking was the only thing on offer at Denali National Park, think again. It is packed with adventures to delight and excite travelers of all kinds.

From glacier hiking and ice climbing to chasing the northern lights and exploring the polar tundra, here are some of our favorite activities to inspire your next Alaskan fairy tale.

1. Spot wildlife

Denali National Park has its own Big Five: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bears. There are over 350 grizzlies and black bears alone, and the best time to spot one is between May and mid-September when they come out of hibernation. You might also see one hunting for fish or roaming the tundra in search of fresh berries. You’re never guaranteed to see wildlife, but you have one beautiful good luck in Denali.


2. Take a glacier landing flight

helicopter ride over the Denali glaciers

If you thought Denali National Park was jaw-droppingly beautiful from the ground, just wait until you see it from the sky. You can do a scenic flight in a plane or a helicopter, but if you go by helicopter, you can land on a glacier and put on a pair of snow boots to explore on foot. You’ll have an epic bird’s-eye view of seemingly endless peaks, glide over glaciers, and see the clear blues of Denali’s winding rivers and lakes bursting from the tundra.

3. Go river rafting

Relax on a relaxing river raft trip, or get your adrenaline fix as you rush through the White Falls. Whatever rocks your boat, river rafting down the Nenana River is a great way to enjoy views of the surrounding peaks and catch a glimpse of the wildlife that hangs out along the riverbanks. Prepare to get splashed and have a lot of fun.

4. Visit the Eielson Visitor Center

Take a trip to the Eielson Visitor Center for some of the most impressive views of Denali and the Alaska Range. It’s a bit far to get to, but honestly the view will not disappoint. There are also daily ranger-led programs, which are a great chance to talk to the rangers and ask them questions about the park and the wildlife that call it home.

5. Soak in Chena Hot Springs

People bathe in Chena Hot Spring

Chena Hot Springs has to be up there with one of the most serene settings for a hot bath. Embrace the icy Alaskan air for a few moments before slipping into the warm, mineral-rich waters to relax and unwind. Why not take your self-care game up a notch by treating yourself to a post-soak massage. Bliss!

6. Camp in the desert

A tent in Denali National Park

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the Alaskan wilderness than camping under the stars or eating breakfast while looking at the mountains. From breathing in the fresh Alaskan air to listening to the peaceful sounds of nature as you drift off to sleep, camping is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries. There are six campgrounds in Denali, but most of them are only open during the summer months. It is best to book online in advance as places fill up during the high season between June and August.

7. Go on a hike

A hiker at the Mount Healy Overlook

Although Denali National Park is a whopping six million acres in size, there are only 35 miles of hiking trails to preserve the park’s natural beauty. You can always hike off-trail into the wilderness, but you must apply for a permit and complete a backcountry orientation at the information center to help you stay safe. The beauty of hiking Denali is that you will discover what ‘wild’ really means no matter which trail you do.



8. Photography

You won’t be able to put your camera down in Denali. We’re not kidding when we say there’s beauty everywhere you look. You can spend a whole day just sitting in a camp chair and taking pictures of the mountains – there is a whole weather system up there and the view is constantly changing. Not to mention the park’s rich wildlife, mirror-like lakes and colorful wildflowers.

Two bears play in Denali National Park

9. Go on a cycling adventure

There is a 92-mile road in Denali, and you can bike the full length if you want. The road is closed to public vehicles after mile 15, so you must almost have the road all to yourself – apart from the occasional marshalling vehicle or four-legged pedestrians like moose, bears and Dall sheep. When you’re speeding through Denali on a bike, you’re guaranteed to feel free as a bird.


10. Visit Talkeetna

Talkeetna is a picturesque mountain town located in the foothills of Denali and the Alaska Range. This small town has only 1,000 inhabitants, but it oozes charm and character. Get to know the locals in cozy roadhouses, try beer from the Denali Brewing Company around a warm fireplace, or fill your belly with freshly caught Alaskan seafood at a local restaurant.

11. See the magical northern lights

The Northern Lights in Alaska

Who doesn’t dream of seeing the Northern Lights? In the winter (and maybe early spring or late fall if you’re lucky), Denali’s sky is lit up with green, blue, purple, and red lights. Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, as there is almost no light pollution. You can also try your luck at stargazing with a hot flask of mulled wine or hot chocolate.

Related Posts