Denali National Park: 11 amazing things to do

Denali National Park
Denali National Park

From glacier trekking and ice climbing to chasing the northern lights and exploring the wild tundra, there is certainly no shortage of things to do in Denali National Park. We’ve put together some of our favorite activities to inspire your next Alaskan adventure.

  1. Spot Denali’s big five
  2. Take a glacier landing flight
  3. Go river rafting
  4. Visit Eielson Visitor Center
  5. Soak in Chena Hot Springs
  6. Camp in the wilderness
  7. Go hiking
  8. Take incredible photographs
  9. Go on a cycling adventure
  10. Visit the charming town of Talkeetna
  11. See the northern lights
  1. Spot Denali’s big five

We’ll forgive you for thinking that the ‘Big Five’ was only for animals found in Africa (we didn’t know until we moved to Alaska). That’s right, Denali National Park has its own big five: moose, caribou, doll sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears. There are over 350 black bears and alligators and the best time to see them is between May and mid-September when they come out of their winter hibernation in search of food. You can see them fishing for a delicious salmon lunch or roaming the tundra in search of fresh berries. You’re never guaranteed to see wildlife, but you have a pretty good chance.

  1. Take a glacier landing flight for an epic bird’s eye view

If you thought Denali National Park is jaw-droppingly beautiful off the ground, wait until you experience it from above. This is something else. You can either go by plane or helicopter. You’ll cover a bit more ground (or should we say air) in a plane, but a helicopter gives you the chance to land on a glacier where you can put on a pair of snow boots, And walking can… definitely not the worst decision you’ve ever had to make! Either way, you’ll get up close and personal with snow-capped peaks, glide over glaciers and watch the bright blue hues of Denali’s winding rivers and lakes rise out among the tundra. A flight over Denali is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing that will stay with you long after you land.

  1. Go river rafting

Cool off on a relaxing glacial river trip or crank up the adrenaline as you race through the white water rapids. Whatever rocks your boat, a trip down the Nena River is a great way to soak up the views of the surrounding peaks and catch a glimpse of the wildlife cooling off along the river. If you go for the latter option, please be prepared to splurge and have a lot of fun.

  1. Visit Eielson Visitor Center

Visit the Elson Visitor Center for some of the most impressive views of Denali and the Alaska Range, daily ranger-led shows, and Denali-inspired artwork. It’s a little off, but honestly, the views won’t disappoint. This is a great opportunity to talk to the rangers and ask them questions as they know so much and everything about the park.

  1. Soak in Chena Hot Springs

In Chena Hot Springs isn’t one of the quietest settings (like…always) for a hot shower we don’t know what is. Embrace the icy Alaskan air for a few moments before slipping into the water where you can exhale and relax. A dip in this mineral-rich spring will warm your cockles and rejuvenate your energy for another day of exploration. Oh, and if you’re looking for a hint to up your self-care game even more by treating yourself to a post-soak massage, this is it.

  1. Camp in the wilderness

Is there any better way to immerse yourself in the wilderness of Alaska than by camping in the great outdoors? Camping and spending the nights watching the stars will help you connect at a deeper level to the ground and recharge your batteries. What you lose in modern luxury, you will gain tenfold by living in the jungle. Denali has six campgrounds with facilities (note: most are only open in the summer months):

  • Riley Creek Campground
  • Savage River Campground
  • Sanctuary Campground
  • Teklanika Campground
  • Igloo Campground
  • Wonder Lake Campground
  1. Go hiking

Because Denali remains practically untouched (and also because it is six million acres in size), there are only 35 miles of hiking trails. You can always hike off-trail into the woods, but you’ll need to apply for a permit and complete backcountry orientation at the information center to help you stay safe. The beauty of hiking in Denali is that you’ll know exactly what ‘wild’ means and you’re free to have your own way.

  1. Take incredible photographs

Outdoor adventure and photography go hand in hand, don’t they? 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 all day sitting in a camp chair taking pictures of Denali – there’s a whole weather system and the views are constantly changing. You’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting for the clouds to move to catch a glimpse. This doesn’t include Denali’s abundant wildlife, mirror-like lakes, and wildflowers… Better free up space on that memory card.

  1. Go on a cycling adventure

Denali has one road, and you can cycle its entire 92 miles. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not load up your bicycle and pair it with a camping trip. You will have almost all of the road (except for the occasional bus tour and ranger vehicles) due to the road being closed to the public after about 15 miles. , Dal sheep and goats. You are guaranteed to feel free as a bird as you hit these roads.

  1. Visit the charming town of Talkeetna

Talkeetna is the ever so quaint little mountain town located at the foothills of the Denali and Alaska Ranges. This small town has only 1,000 residents, but it has charm and character. Meet the locals at the cozy roadhouse, sample local beers from Denali Brewing Company around a hot log fire, fill your belly with freshly caught Alaskan seafood or meander around the Mountain Traders Market for local produce and housewares.

  1. Watch the magical northern lights

If you’re like us, chances are that seeing the northern lights is one of your dreams. And if you thought Denali was beautiful in broad daylight, wait until you see it illuminated with a sky brimming with green, blue, purple, and red lights. Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights because there is hardly any light pollution. If lights aren’t fancy enough to make an appearance, you can try your luck with a hot flask of mulled wine or hot chocolate.

Whether you are looking for a nature retreat to get away from it all or you are hungry for a little more excitement and adventure, Denali National Park has you covered. We have only scratched the surface.

Important Links

Denali national park weather (Link)
Hotels near Denali national park (Link)
Denali national park map (Link)
Denali national park visitor center (Link)
Denali national park (Link)

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