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Adventure Awaits at Denali National Park & Preserve

It's worth the trek.

By: Sara Sheehy + Save to a List

Denali National Park & Preserve is one of those destinations that many of us dream of exploring, but not too many of us get to see. And we get it — Alaska feels far away. Really far. But if you can figure out how to make the trek, we are positive you won't regret it.

Here's what you need to know about a trip to that most iconic of northern parks, Denali.

Where to Stay

The most convenient place to stay when visiting Denali is near the national park entrance. Check out Denali Park Village, which has everything you'll need during a stay, from lodging to dining to entertainment.

Situated on the banks of the Nenana River, Denali Park Village has a Lodge with standard and river view rooms, and a large deck that features a fire pit and epic scenery. For a bit more peace and quiet, the Village has rustic cedar cabins along the river, which have full bathrooms and are a quick walk away from the amenities at the Lodge.

Denali Park Village also has a handful of short hikes, for those moments when you just have to get outside and breathe in the grandeur of Alaska.

What to Do in Denali

Denali National Park is a pristine and fragile ecosystem. As such, the National Park Service only allows private cars for the first 15 miles of the road to Savage River.

If Savage River is as far as you want to go, you can park there and stretch your legs on trails that vary from under two miles to eight miles, roundtrip. No matter how far you hike, prepare yourself for a potential encounter with a moose, bear, or wolf. Be sure to carry bear spray, and stay at least 25 yards away from all wildlife (except bears, which you should give at least 300 yards).

To get farther into the park, book a narrated tour. Narrated tours run from May/June to September, and range from a five-hour natural history adventure to a twelve-hour experience that goes all the way to Kantishna, a former gold-mine town that is 92 miles from the park entrance. 

Be sure to make reservations in advance to secure your tour of choice.

Other Excursions

Touring the park isn't the only thing to do in the Denali area. 

Book a guided hike from Denali Park Village and explore the region on foot with the knowledge and expertise of a hiking guide. If exploring by water is more your style, schedule a morning, afternoon, or evening raft of the Nenana River. Float either the Wilderness Run, which covers 13-miles of mild whitewater or the Paddle Run, which navigates class II and IV rapids under the direction of an experienced whitewater guide.

Where to Eat

If you're staying at Denali Park Village, dining is easy.

The Gold Rush Dining Room is the place to be for a hearty breakfast buffet that will keep you fueled for your morning adventures. For lunch or dinner, check out the Lucky Miss Saloon, an Alaskan-style pub that features casual eating in a cozy setting. When the weather is fine, request to eat outside on the Lucky Miss Saloon's covered patio. 

For quick bites throughout the day, Quigley's Coffee Cart in the Lodge lobby is open from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and The Shack serves burgers, beer, donuts, and ice cream from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

There aren't a lot of night clubs in Denali, but you can book a seat at the Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theater in the Village. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat family-style meal and live entertainment in the form of Alaska Gold Rush stories and performances. Reservations required.

Make Denali part of your plans for the coming year, but book soon! You don't want to let another year go by, do you?

Photos courtesy of Denali Park Village

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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