Guide to Denali National Park Alaska

Shuttle bus tour in Denali National Park Alaska by Travel Anubhav.

Covering all 59 National Parks of USA is our dream travel goal for the North America continent and we have just started, so there is a long way to go.  Denali is the third largest National Park in the USA, this journey took us to some varied landscapes which were just perfect for my landscape photography and we also got to see the Alaskan wildlife roaming the park from Girzly bear to famous Moose.

How to reach here

The best way to reach Denali National Park is car rental as roads are amazing to drive and it gives you much more flexibility. The duration of the road trip depends on your starting point as it is closer to Fairbanks (~2 hr driving time) than Anchorage (~4.5 hr driving time).

Anchorage to Denali

We took a flight from Seattle to Anchorage and then started our road trip from Anchorage to Denali National Park. It took us approximately 8 hrs to reach Denali including our photo breaks, small stop at Iditarod Dog Sledge Museum and lunch break at Talkeetna.

There are multiple possibilities of stopovers on the way to Denali, I actually made a long list but later realized that we didn’t have time for all of those. But Talkeetna is a must place to visit, it is a nice small town with several good food options and also offers amazing views of Denali ranges.

Denali ranges from Talkeetna by Travel Anubhav

Couple photography in Alaska at Talkeetna by TravelAnubhav

Random viewpoints

It is one hell of a ride from Talkeetna to Denali and you will encounter some designated viewpoints (Tip: Keep an eye for the viewpoint signboards). Along with designated viewpoints, we also stopped the car at roadside whenever I couldn’t resist the temptation to capture the amazing view.

Viewpoint on the way to Denali National PArk by Travel Anubhav.

Viewpoint on the way of roadtrip to Denali Natiaonal Park by Travel Anubhav

How to Explore the park

There is only one road which takes you into the National Park and it goes all the way up to 100 miles till Kantishna. While only one road to follow and just one entrance gate in the park make things much simpler but it also adds few restrictions. You can only drive up to 15 miles on your own vehicle and must take a tour or shuttle bus (paid) for rest of the exploration of the park.

Shuttle bus tour in Denali National Park Alaska by Travel Anubhav

Shuttle bus vs Tour bus

Shuttle bus gives you a facility of hop on/hop off and there are different shuttle buses on the basis of your last stop. Here are the details :

Toklat River (53 miles one way – 6.5 hrs roundtrip – $31 per person)

Eilson Visitor Centre (66 miles one way – 8 hrs roundtrip – $40 per person)

Wonder Lake (85 miles one way – 11 hrs roundtrip – $55 per person)

Kantishna (92 miles one way – 13 hrs roundtrip – $60 per person)

There are a limited number of tickets for shuttle buses which easily get sold out on a long weekend and long duration buses start early in the morning. I wish we knew all this and pre-booked our tickets online.

If you will miss the shuttle bus tickets, there is another more comfortable but more expensive version, Tour buses. You can book a 9 hr long guided bus tour for $140 which is a slightly better version of shuttle bus also provides complimentary snacks.

Shuttle Bus service inside Denali National Park by Travel Anubhav

Where to stay

There are very limited lodging options available inside the National Park at Kantishna and you also need to book shuttle bus ticket as well to reach Kantishna. We booked a cabin outside the National park at Denali Outdoor Centre, Healy in front of the lake Otto with amazing view.

Otto Lake just outside Denali National park by Travel Anubhav.

Start the Journey on Park Road

There are extra pickup points for Tour buses which you can select while booking the ticket(Tip: Try to board the bus at the main starting point to secure the desired seat as it is first come first basis) where shuttle bus starts at the ticket booking office. The driver will stop the bus whenever a wildlife is encountered and also at some fixed great viewpoints for pictures and toilet breaks. Let’s start our bus journey to one of the amazing National parks of the USA.

100 mile long road goes inside Denali National park with varying landscapes by Travel Anubhav.

|| Stop1: 15 mile stop ||

The bus doesn’t stop here for long as private vehicles are allowed up to this point but unfortunately, they don’t pick up people from this point. So, you have to come with your own vehicle to explore this place at your own pace then go back to pick up point of the bus for complete tour but it is worth the efforts.

Couple photography at 15 mile stop in Denali National Park

Car parking at 15 mile stop in Denali Natioanl Park by Travel Anubhav

|| Stop 2: Savage River ||

Shuttle bus tour to explore Denali National Park by Travel Anubhav

|| Stop 3: Polychrome Pass ||

Couple photoshoot at Polychrome pass in Denali National Park at Alaska by TravelAnubhav

Random shots from the Bus

The best part is that you can lower the upper half of bus window and can frame your shot, you may have to do this more often as bus glass windows are not always clean.

Clean your shuttle bus glass window in Denali National Park by Travel Anubhav

Photography inside Denali National Park by TravelAnubhav.

Landscape Photography at Denali NAtional Park Alaska by Travel Anubhav.

Wildlife at Denali

There is no guarantee about viewing the wildlife but usually no one is that unlucky to not encounter any wildlife during the entire stretch of 6-8 hrs of tour. We were really lucky to see all possible wildlife during our tour.

Grizzly Bear wildlife view from shuttle at Denali National PArk by Travel Anubhav.
Grizzly Bear
Wildlife view at Denali National Park, Alaska by Travel Anubhav
Mamma bear with her two cubs.
Moose famous wildlife in Denali National Park at Alaska by Travel Anubhav.
The famous Moose
Caribou view inside Denali National Park
Caribou with Denali Landscape

Caribou view inside Denali National Park

Pack of Wolves inside Denali National Park by Travel Anubhav.
Finally skulk of foxes as well

A lot more to cover

Our tour bus was up to Eilson visitor center but the road was going even further to Kantishna where there is lodging available if you want to stay inside the national park with prior bookings. We didn’t do much planning for this trip in spite being a long weekend (4th July) which we don’t want you to repeat, as we couldn’t go till Kantishna and Wonder Lake due to unavailability of shuttle bus tickets.

So, plan in advance and let us know in the comments below if this guide was helpful in your planning.

Road going to Kantishna by TravelAnubhav.

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2 Replies to “Guide to Denali National Park Alaska”

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