Denali National Park is 6million acres of wilderness and wonder. Originally established because of its wildlife (rather than the mountain that gives the park its name), Denali is a great place to take a hike, a bike, or a flight. And – this summer – the public can access the park road via a new National Park Service reservation system! In addition to the annual Denali Park Road Lottery in September, Alaskans will be able to sign up for one of a limited number of daily passes to drive the Denali Park Road. Between June 1 and June 30, private vehicles can go as far as Mile 30 on a Teklanika Road Permit; then, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between July 10 and September 7, private vehicles will be able to go as far as Eielson Visitor Center with a special Eielson Road Permit. Park busses will start running July 1 on a limited schedule (make reservations for Park bus tours or camp sites in advance) and check the Denali National Park website for up-to-date visitor information.
From Anchorage, head north on the Parks Highway approximately 115 miles to the Talkeetna Spur Road and take a side trip to Talkeetna. This is a great place to learn about The Great One at the National Park Service Ranger Station. Here’s where more than 1,000 hopeful mountaineers check in and get the latest information for their climb up. Fortunately, you don’t need crampons for this trip! Take an early morning or evening sight-seeing flight of Denali from Talkeetna and explore the Alaska Range’s peaks and glaciers from the air. Or – take a jet boat ride on the Susitna river through the canyons and gorges of Denali State Park for stunning views of Denali from the water. Overnight in Talkeetna.
Continue north through Cantwell to the entrance of Denali National Park. You’ll want to stop to fill up your gas tank and get extra snacks in Cantwell or the community of Denali Park prior to starting along the Denali Park Road. While the Denali National Park visitors center is closed until July 1, you can drive as far as the Teklanika River at Mile 30. Look for moose, caribou, Dall sheep and other critters along the way, and take the easy loop hike along the Savage River before or after your drive. Or, bring your bike and ride the road instead! There are also plenty of trails near the park entrance, too, near the visitor center, so plan at least one full day and stay overnight near the park entrance or in one of the park campgrounds.
Take the morning to continue exploring all Denali National Park has to offer on a guided Tundra Wilderness Tour or Natural History Tour, or, try an ATV or Jeep tour along the Stampede Trail or a raft trip down the Nenana River. More intrepid? How about ziplining or dogmushing? Many Denali-area businesses are open this summer, waiting to share their tours and activities with Alaskans. Overnight in Denali.
Head back south along the Parks Highway toward Anchorage, approximately 240 miles away. Take photos from Hurricane Gulch Bridge and the Denali South rest stop, pause at Byers Lake to see the Alaska Veterans Memorial, or stretch your legs on a hike along one of Denali State Park’s marked trails before reaching home.
To do this trip from Fairbanks, head south along the Parks Highway approximately 110 miles to Healy on Day 1, stopping to have a picnic lunch and explore the town of Nenana, where the Nenana and Tanana rivers meet. Try to find the spot where President Harding drove the golden spike to complete construction of the Alaska Railroad in 1923. Have dinner and overnight in Healy before going south to Denali Park where you’ll start Day 2 of this itinerary. On Day 4, reverse your trip back to Fairbanks.