Image
Bus on Denali National Park Road
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com, ovidiuhrubaru
X

What You Need to Know about Denali Bus Tours

What You Need to Know about Denali Bus Tours

Denali National Park and Preserve: the name conjures up images of vast landscapes, towering and majestic mountain peaks, wildlife, and more – and for good reason! Here, visitors are never short of amazing sights and experiences. One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in all that Denali National Park and Preserve has to offer is by enjoying one of the many Denali National Park bus tours offered within the park. With guided and unguided tours, visitors can traverse the Park Road while taking in all that Denali has to offer. Read on to discover which bus tour is right for you. 

A note for visitors from 2024 - 2026: 
The Denali Park Road will be open until mile 43 through 2026 due to road improvements. Narrated bus tours and transit buses will continue to be available for guests visiting the park and will travel as far as mile 43. The main visitor center will remain open along with four campgrounds and numerous trails accessible via the Park Road. Please check with Kantishna-area businesses about their operational plans for lodging and excursions through 2026. 

Bears in Denali National Park
Brown bears in Denali National Park, seen from a Denali Bus Tour. Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung

Denali Bus Tours

Bus tours through the park offer an incredibly informative and simple way to experience everything that the park has to offer! Private vehicles are only allowed to travel the Park Road to Savage River at mile 15. Beyond Savage River, visitors can travel by bus, foot, or bicycle. Bus tours, however, allow everyone the opportunity to enjoy the 92 miles of roadway on the Park Road with ease; the lack of private vehicles protects wildlife and habitat and results in better sightseeing and wildlife viewing along the road. There are three different types of bus tours for visitors to choose from, each with unique offerings: Narrated Tours, Non-Narrated/Transit Tours, and Shuttle Bus Tours.

Bus tour in Denali National Park
Narrated Bus Tour in Denali National Park. Photo Credit: istockphoto.com, ovidiuhrubaru

Narrated Tours

Traveling along the Park Road, these tan colored buses are the perfect option for those looking to learn more about the park and have more time for sightseeing along the way. On these tours, a trained naturalist accompanies the bus, lending their knowledge and expertise to the sights and history of the area for an inspiring and educational experience. Please note that unlike non-narrated tours (see below), these tours are not designed for passengers to disembark and reboard a different bus. Discount pricing is available for children under 15, military personnel, and senior citizens. If a narrated tour sounds right for you, there are two tours to choose from: Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour and Denali Natural History Tour.

Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour

This five-hour tour offers wildlife viewing, scenic views, and historical sights while traveling to the Murie Cabin at Mile 43. This tour travels the farthest along the Park Road and is the best option for those wanting to maximize wildlife viewing and sightseeing opportunities. The onboard naturalists are expert wildlife spotters and will point out bears, caribou, moose, and other animals along the way. Water and a snack are provided and the bus stops every 60-90 minutes for restroom breaks.

Denali Natural History

Get to know more about the natural history of this great land on the Denali Natural History Tour. This four-hour excursion travels to Primrose Ridge at Mile 17. While wildlife sightings are less likely since it travels less distance, this tour features an hour of off-bus interpretive experiences including an Alaska Native presentation and a stop at a historic cabin. This tour is best for those interested in visiting historical and geological sights to gain a better understanding of the rich Alaska Native heritage and history of these lands.

Narrated bus tour in Denali National Park
Tan Narrated Tour Busses in Denali National Park. 

Non-Narrated Transit Tours and Camper Bus

Looking for transportation to great sights, but want the freedom to get out and explore on your own? These Non-Narrated Transit Bus Tours are suited for those looking to camp, picnic, hike, walk, bike, or have a backcountry experience within the park, rather than having a guided tour. Just like narrated tours, these tours do have restroom stops, wildlife viewings, and scenic views, but visitors are not limited to staying on the bus throughout the tour. 

These non-narrated tours depart from Denali Bus Depot and are “hop-on, hop-off,” meaning visitors can disembark at any time and explore the park’s backcountry on their own. When you’re ready to get back on the bus, simply go back to the Park Road and flag down the next Transit Bus. A separate Camper Bus caters to visitors who are staying at campgrounds or backpacking beyond Savage River, with extra room in the back to transport camping gear. The Transit and Camper busses are green and stop for passengers throughout the day while allowing for additional stops, or a return to the bus depot. While you can “hop-on, hop-off” at any time during the ride, reservations are made for a specific departure time from the Denali Bus Depot.

Transit bus in Denali National Park
Green Non-Narrated Transit Bus in Denali National Park. Photo Credit: istockphoto.com

dENALI Shuttle Bus Tours

These free tours depart from the Denali Visitors Center and the Denali Bus Depot and take you to top sights in the park's frontcountry, such as Savage River and the Sled Dog Demonstrations. This is a fantastic option for visitors who do not want to worry about parking, or who did not come with their own vehicle. The Savage River Shuttle, Sled Dog Demonstration Shuttle, and Riley Creek Loop Shuttle all operate from May-September and are wheelchair accessible.  

Savage River Loop Trail in Denali National Park Alaska
The Savage River Shuttle takes you to hiking trails at Savage River. Photo Credit: istockphoto.com, jstewardphoto

Denali Bus Tour Scheduling & Reservations

All campground reservations, bus tours, and transit bus operations are operated by a park concessionaire. Scheduling your bus tour online or over the phone ahead of time is required, as departure scheduling is based on demand. Book as early as possible to ensure you get your top pick for tour and departure time. Tours run during the summer, in the months of May-September, with varying tour options and hours in early spring and late fall.

Visiting the park in winter will require the use of your own vehicle. Please note that while many sections of the park close and bus tours do not operate during winter, the park is open year-round and delights hardy visitors with aurora viewings, snowshoeing, skiing, and other winter adventures.

Getting to Denali National Park

Traveling to Denali National Park is straightforward, with many options to choose from. Most people depart from Anchorage or Fairbanks via a car rental or by one of the many motorcoach options that connect to Denali along the Parks Highway. This scenic roadway offers breathtaking views and pull-off photography stops along the way.

Train options are also available, as the Alaska Railroad travels from Seward to Anchorage to Fairbanks, stopping at Denali National Park along the way. The Denali Star train runs May-September and is an experience in itself! 

Train to Denali National Park
Taking the train to Denali is an adventure in itself.

 

Additional Tours and Ticketed Experiences

Looking to elevate your visit even more? Bus tours aren’t the only tours available at the park. Denali National Park and Preserve is famous for its incredible vastness and inspiring experiences. In addition to bus tours, visitors can enjoy:

No matter how you choose to explore Denali National Park and Preserve, you’ll be sure to enjoy one of the most majestic and remarkable experiences that Alaska has to offer. 

Learn more about things to do in Denali National Park.
Learn more about Denali Bus tours on the Denali National Park website

Share

Alaska: AKA Your Next Adventure

Where will your Alaska adventure take you? Order our Official State of Alaska Vacation Planner and plot your course.