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Denali National Park & Preserve is one of the most popular destinations in Alaska. Each summer, visitors come from around the world to experience the pristine wilderness and beautiful open spaces of the third-largest national park in America and to have once-in-a-lifetime fun with all the activities the Denali area has to offer.
There are many ways to arrive at the park entrance, and the best way to get there depends on your budget and travel plans. Visitors can travel to the Denali area by any combination of plane, train, shuttle bus, car, van, camper, and/or RV.
In this article we’ll discuss the different ways that you can arrive in Denali to visit Denali National Park and the surrounding area. We’ll also offer helpful tips to help you decide how to travel to Denali.
Feel free to use the links below to jump down directly to a specific section or start at the top to learn about all your transportation options. Let’s get started!
Where is Denali National Park?
Denali National Park and Preserve, formerly known as Mount McKinley National Park, is large enough that the northern third of the park, including the Great One, Denali, are considered part of the Alaskan interior, along with the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole. The interior region is known for great views of the Northern Lights and for the gold rush lore.
The area south of the Alaska range in Denali National Park is considered part of the Southcentral region of Alaska, along with the cities of Anchorage, Wasilla, and Talkeetna. The Southcentral region is a mostly wild place known for fishing, icy-white glaciers, and having six mountain ranges.
If Denali National Park were a state, it would be the 46th largest state and would be larger than New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
Unlike these states, and most other national parks, there is only one park road entrance for all visitors to go through. So, when we ask where Denali National Park is, we are really asking where is the one and only road entrance into the park.
Denali National Park has over 6 million acres, and there is only one main road entrance into the park.
This entrance to Denali National Park is located just south of the town of Healy, Alaska. Both the town of Healy and the park entrance are located about 120 miles south of Fairbanks, AK and 240 miles north of Anchorage, AK.
What is the address for Denali National Park?
If you are visiting Denali National Park, you’ll want to navigate to the address for the one and only road entrance located at Mile 237 of the George Parks Highway (also known as Alaska Highway 3).
When traveling to rural destinations in Alaska, it’s more important to know mile markers than mailing addresses. Often people receive mail at their local post office so mailing addresses won’t work in your favorite maps app.
If you are using GPS to navigate around Alaska, the Denali National Park service recommends inputting the latitude and longitude of the park entrance: 63.728443, -148.886572. This is also the best way to locate the entrance in your favorite map app.
Travel to Denali National Park as part of an Alaskan Cruise
Visiting Denali National Park is a popular excursion for travelers taking an Alaskan cruise. In fact, most tourists in the summer come to Alaska via a cruise. Your vacation can start with a cruise from Vancouver or Seattle through the Inside Passage to a seaport city, such as Anchorage, Whittier or Seward. From there, you are a relatively short drive from Anchorage, a great starting point for your journey to Denali National Park via train, shuttle bus, or personal vehicle.
One popular option is to cruise into Anchorage and take the train up to Fairbanks. The train stops in Talkeetna and Denali, so you can plan to stay a couple days in Denali and book lodging just outside the park. You’ll have easy access to the park for a narrated bus tour to Wonder Lake and to adventure tours outside the park. Most adventure companies will pick you up at your hotel, bring you to their tour site, and then drop you back off when you are done. After Denali, you can continue your train journey up to Fairbanks and fly home.
Another option is to reverse this itinerary to start with a flight into Fairbanks and a “land cruise” via the train to Anchorage. You can plan to stay in Denali for a few days and then make your way south to Anchorage on the train. From there, the last part of your vacation is a cruise from Whittier to Vancouver/Seattle through the Inside Passage
Alaska’s Inside Passage is a popular summertime destination for many cruise companies, so you can find an itinerary that fits your budget and schedule.
In some instances, the cruise line will provide a package that combines the ship trip with a land excursion to Denali and lodging along the way. In other cases, the land excursion to Denali would be a separate trip that you could add before or after the cruise. We can help you find lodging and book reservations for an adventure tour, whether you want to go flightseeing for an up-close look at Denali, ziplining over the boreal forest, or white-water rafting.
Flying into Alaska to visit Denali National Park
Flying is a popular way for visitors to arrive in Alaska. There are no direct commercial flights into Denali from outside Alaska, so people choose to land in either Anchorage or Fairbanks. Because air taxi services into the Denali area from Anchorage and Fairbanks are limited, the easiest and most economical option is to rent a car, book a shuttle bus, or ride the train to Denali National Park.
Which airports in Alaska give me access to Denali National Park?
While bush planes land on small airstrips, lakes, and glaciers throughout Alaska, there are no direct commercial flights into the Denali area or Denali National Park.
The nearest airport to Denali is the Fairbanks Airport, which is 125 miles (201 km) northeast of Denali National Park. Alaska’s most important and crowded airport is Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport located 240 miles (386 km) south of Denali. Flying to Anchorage or Fairbanks is a great option for travelers coming from the lower 48 states or other countries.
What is the best Alaskan airport to fly into?
If your plan is to fly to Alaska and rent a car upon your arrival, you might want to choose your arrival airport based on where you want to spend most of your trip. Flying into Anchorage allows for trips north to Denali National Park and south to Seward or Homer. Flying into Fairbanks offers opportunities to explore the interior, drive south to the Denali National Park entrance and drive north of the Arctic Circle.
Is it cheaper to fly into Anchorage or Fairbanks?
Flights to Anchorage are typically cheaper, but Anchorage is still 240 miles (386 km) from the road entrance into Denali National Park. Flights to Fairbanks may cost a little more but will leave you only 125 miles (201 km) to drive to reach the park entrance. Most flights arrive at Fairbanks and Anchorage late in the evening or very early in the morning, so you may need to arrange for a night in a hotel or hostel before you begin your trip to Denali.
When should I book my flight to visit Denali?
We recommend booking your airline tickets at least 6 months prior to your trip. Ticket prices may increase significantly the longer you wait and the closer you get to your travel dates. Depending on when you travel, there may be a lot of competition for the tickets you want in May, when the majority of Alaskan seasonal workforce arrives for the summer season, and in July, when the number of visitors to Alaska peaks.
Driving to Denali National Park & Preserve
If you want maximum flexibility to explore the park at your own pace and make stops along the way, private vehicles, like cars, vans, campers, or RVs, offer the best way to travel.
Below are some tips to keep in mind about driving to Denali National Park, as well as some answers to frequently asked questions.
Driving to Alaska from the Lower 48 states
If your travel plans include driving from the lower 48 states, there is only one road to take to get into Alaska: the famous Alaska Highway.
This highway is sometimes called the Alcan or the Alaska Canadian Highway as you’ll enter the highway in Canada.
The Alaska Highway runs 1,520 miles (2446 km) from Milepost 0 at Dawson Creek in British Columbia to the Delta Junction in Alaska. You can find your way to Dawson Creek from across Canada and the United States, whether you are traveling from California, Texas, Florida, Maine, or even Dawson Creek, NC.
Driving the Alaska Highway requires more preparation than hopping on I-95.
The state of Alaska encourages drivers to plan ahead and drive defensively while traveling on the Alcan. The Alaska Highway is a two-lane, paved road but you may encounter rugged stretches with chuckholes, loose gravel, and frost heaves (unexpected bumps caused by the alternating freeze-thaw cycles of the ground below the asphalt).
On average, gas, food, and lodging can be found 20-50 miles apart with the longest stretch being 100 miles. It’s a good idea to have plenty of food and water with you at all times.
If you travel the Alaska Highway, you’ll see wildlife and beautiful scenery during your drive, so we encourage you to really enjoy this part of your vacation and not just consider it a way to get from point A to point B.
Arriving in Denali by car
If you take the Alaska Highway to the Delta Junction, you’ll take the Richardson Highway for 96 miles (154 km) to Fairbanks. Once you reach Fairbanks, you’ll take the George Parks Highway south for 125 miles (201 km) to the park road entrance at Mile 237. This drive takes approximately two and a half hours.
Visitors driving north from Anchorage will take the George Parks Highway directly to the road entrance for Denali National Park at Mile 237. This route is about 240 miles (386 km) and will take approximately five hours to drive.
Visitors that opt to drive directly to Denali National Park from Anchorage or Fairbanks can plan to arrive in a car, truck, van, or recreational vehicle (RV). Be sure to leave enough time in your itinerary for highway emergencies or animal crossings.
Driving the Denali Park Road
Once you arrive at the park entrance area, turn onto the Denali Park Road, and follow the signs to the Denali Visitor Center. This visitor center is only open in the summer. You’ll be able to pay the park entrance fee, talk with a ranger, and explore park exhibits.
The Denali Park Road parallels the Alaska Range as you drive into the national park. Please note that private vehicles are not able to drive the full length of the Denali Park Road and are only able to drive up to the Savage River Trailhead at Mile 15.
If you visit during the fall, winter, and spring, you’ll want to visit the Murie Science and Learning Center (MSLC) at Mile 1.3 on the Denali Park Road. During the summer, there are also educational science activities for visitors. This facility also acts as the park’s winter visitor center.
The Eielson Visitor Center is located at Mile 66 on the Denali Park Road. This location can only be accessed by certain park buses, by bike and by hiking trail. If you want to reach this location via private vehicle, you’ll need to enter and win the Denali Road lottery. If you make it out to the Eielson Visitor Center, you are rewarded with the chance for clear skies and a great view of North America’s tallest mountain, Denali.
Opportunities to Park your vehicle and hike
There are many opportunities to park in the first 15 miles of the park road and access hiking trails. Some of the trails take you into secluded areas of nature; other trails help get you from one park building to another.
From the Denali Visitor Center you can follow a trail to the Murie Science and Learning Center or walk two miles (3.2 km) to the sled dog kennels for a demonstration. The Triple Lakes trail is also accessible from the Denali Visitor Center and offers a peaceful hike and great views of three lakes.
Parking is available at the Savage River Trailhead at Mile 15. You’ll have easy access to both the Savage River Loop Trail and the Savage Alpine Trail.
Some trails are only available via park bus or bike. You’ll need to book a bus tour or ride your bike if you want to hike on the trails near the Eielson Visitor Center or Wonder Lake.
Visiting Denali National Park in an RV
Traveling to Denali National Park via RV or camper bus follows the same route as traveling by car. From the US, you’ll drive through Canada to the start of the Alaska Highway in British Columbia. From there, the most direct route is through Fairbanks. However, you could choose to see more of Alaska via an indirect route.
There are many places to camp or park your RV along the route. Consider planning a route in advance and making reservations to guarantee your spot at the campgrounds. There are many campgrounds in Denali that are outside the park and offer close proximity to dining, shopping, and adventure tour activities.
If you want to camp inside the park, there are three campgrounds in the park that allow RVs: the Riley Creek Campground, Savage River Campground, and Teklanika River Campground. RVs are not allowed at Igloo Creek campground.
Traveling to Denali National Park by Train
Traveling by train is a great option if you are thinking about visiting Denali National Park. The Denali Star Train by Alaska Railroad runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks with stops in Wasilla, Talkeetna, and in Denali National Park at Mile 1.5. Each day in the summer, there is one northbound departure from Anchorage and one southbound departure from Fairbanks at 8:20 am.
This scenic trip takes about 8 hours from Anchorage and 4 hours from Fairbanks. Once you arrive, the train depot is a five-minute walk to the Denali Visitor Center. If you are staying outside the park in the Denali area, many hotels offer shuttles to pick you up in the park and take you to your hotel.
The train generally runs from early may through mid-September. Be sure to check their website for exact schedules and fares.
Traveling to Denali National Park by Shuttle
Alaska Shuttle buses operate daily with routes to Denali from Anchorage and Fairbanks. Travel via shuttle bus is great for individual travelers, families, and small groups.
The Northbound Parks Highway Shuttle buses start once daily in Anchorage and travels past the Denali National Park entrance on its way to Fairbanks. The Southbound Parks Highway Shuttle buses start once daily in Fairbanks and travels past the Denali National Park entrance on its way to Anchorage. There are limited options to purchase food along the way when the bus stops so you may want to pack snacks.
Experiencing Denali National Park
Visiting Denali National Park is one of the most popular travel destinations in Alaska. Visitors can access the park regardless of whether they arrive in Alaska via cruise ship, plane, or personal vehicle. The best way to travel to Denali depends on your budget and travel plans. However, no matter how you travel to Denali, you are sure to have an amazing and memorable experience. Choose things to do in Denali that are new and exciting and enjoy your trip of a lifetime.
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