Home to North America’s tallest peak, Denali has been a mecca for mountaineering and adventuring for more than a century. Today, the park continues to enchant climbers, pack-rafters, skiers, dog mushers and athletes seeking to test themselves against the raw, unchecked power of a truly wild landscape.
Denali has only one road, and only one road entrance.
Called the Denali Park Road (or simply “the park road”), it is 92 miles long and runs from east to west. It is a scenic road made mostly of dirt and gravel. It starts in a low, forested area, but rises and falls through mountain passes (and along some precipitous mountain sides!) on its journey west.
The park entrance, where the Denali Park Road meets Alaska Highway 3, is at the eastern end of the park. Like many rural roads and landmarks in Alaska, the Denali entrance is referred to by its mile along the highway. In this case, the park entrance is at Mile 237 on Highway 3 (Mile 0 is in Anchorage, where Highway 3 originates).
Summer travel in Denali
In the summer (May 20—the middle of September), privately-owned vehicles may drive the first 15 miles of the park road, to a place called Savage River. Travel beyond Savage River is mainly limited to a variety of narrated and non-narrated buses, and passengers must board their bus near the park entrance (or in some cases, at their hotel outside of the park). Bus trips are a great way to see the landscape and wildlife of the park.
Summer is the main visiting season. Summer bus service begins May 20 each year, although the entire road is not open to buses until June 8. Shuttle buses operate through the second week after Labor Day each year. The exact day bus service ends will vary year to year. Sightseeing by bus on Denali’s sole road is a major activity in summer.
Most visitor services and activities are available between late May and early September. During this time, the park’s main visitor center is open daily, 8 am – 6 pm. By June 8, all park campgrounds are open. There are no NPS-run hotels in Denali, so we suggest you use the local Chamber of Commerce for help in researching lodging options.
|Bike Path||Travels right along the Denali Park Road, between the entrance and the visitor center. Little elevation change. The surface is well-compacted gravel. 5% maximum grade, 10' width.||45 minutes one-way from the Denali Visitor Center||1.7 miles|
|Horseshoe Lake Trail||A popular trail that descends to, and travels entirely around, a lake. The surface is five feet wide, with uneven soil with rocks and roots. It begins with a short, steep uphill to a bench overlooking the lake. The trail then descends 250' steeply to the shore of the lake. The trail grade averages 5% with sections up to 20%.||1 hour one-way from its trailhead.||3.2 miles|
|Jonesville Trail||A steep shortcut from Riley Creek Campground to the Canyon, the business district outside the park. It has a surface of compacted gravel. From west to east, it drops about 150 feet.||10 minutes one-way from either trailhead||0.3 mile|
|McKinley Station Trail||Descend from the visitor center to Hines and Riley Creeks, and pass under the Alaska Railroad trestle. The trail is compacted gravel. It has an 8.5% grade maximum, dropping ~100 feet in the process via one long, gently sloping hill. The trail is 5' wide.||1 hour one-way from the Denali Visitor Center||1.6 miles|
|Meadow View Trail||A very narrow trail (about 30" wide) overlooking a meadow, forming a short connection between Rock Creek and Roadside Trails. The trail is relatively level, but has a steep drop to one side.||15 minutes from either trailhead||0.3 mile|
|Morino Trail||A short trail through spruce forest. Good for a quick walk while waiting on a bus or train.||15 minutes one-way from its trailhead||0.2 mile|
|Mount Healy Overlook Trail||An increasingly steep hike out of the forest and into the alpine country, with potential views of Denali, if skies are clear. The trail surface is rough soil with rocks and roots. Eventually becomes very steep, maxing at a 25% grade. Generally 24" wide.||2 hours one-way from the Denali Visitor Center||2.7 miles|
|Parks Hwy Bike Trail||Paved path alongside Highway 3.||30 minutes one-way||1.0 mile|
|Roadside Trail||Travels uphill from the visitor center to the sled dog kennels and park headquarters. Runs generally uphill from east to west, up to a 15% grade; generally 36" wide.||1 hour one-way from the Denali Visitor Center||1.8 miles|
|Rock Creek Trail||Occasionally steep trail through forest. Similar route to Roadside, but a bit longer and much quieter, as it's farther from the road. Runs generally uphill from east to west, up to 15% grade; generally 30" wide.||1.5 hours one-way from the Denali Visitor Center||2.4 miles|
|Spruce Forest Trail||A short trail through spruce forest. Good for a quick walk while waiting on a bus or train. 0% grade change, with a width of about 5 feet.||20-minute loop||0.2 mile|
|Taiga Trail||A short, forested trail mainly used to access Horseshoe Lake from the visitor center. The surface is gravel, with open steps across ditches. Grade is about 5% with sections up to 15%, 24" wide.||45 minutes one-way from the Denali Visitor Center||0.9 mile|
|Triple Lakes Trail||Denali's longest trail, with bridges over two creeks and great views of three lakes. The surface is a mix of compacted gravel, soils, rocks, roots, and sections of planks over marshy ground. The trail is up to 20% grade at times, generally 24" wide.||5 hours one-way from the Denali Visitor Center||9.5 miles|
|Mountain Vista Trail||Located at Mountain Vista Rest Area, at Mile 13 of the Denali Park Road. Can be accessed by the free Savage River Shuttle and private vehicle, with ample parking available. The trail has a 5% maximum grade and is 6 feet wide.||30-minutes, loop||0.6 mile total|
|Savage Alpine||Connects Savage River and the Mountain Vista day use areas. Parking available at either end. Use free Savage River Shuttle to return to your vehicle. Considered strenuous, the trail has steep sections up to 25% grade and is generally 24" wide.||Three hours, one way from Mountain Vista Trailhead||4 miles, one way|
|Savage River Loop||Located at the Savage River at Mile 15. Very limited parking available. Can be accessed by free Savage River Shuttle. On the western half of this loop, the first quarter-mile of the trail is around 2 feet wide and very flat; gradually the trail narrows and has more impediments like rocks and uneven surfaces.||90 minute loop||2 miles, total|
|Tundra Loop||From the Eielson Visitor Center, at Mile 66 of the Denali Park Road, this short loop explores alpine tundra. Negligible grade change and generally two feet or wider at all times.||15 minute loop||0.3 mile, total|
|Thorofare Ridge Trail||From the Eielson Visitor Center, this switchback trail climbs to a ridge for high, scenic views of Denali and a vast expanse of tundra beyond.||One hour, one way from Eielson Visitor Center||0.8 mile, one way|
|McKinley River Bar Trail||From a road junction approaching Wonder Lake Campground, this trail passes through wet meadows and enters spruce forest, and ends at the McKinley River||90 minutes, one way from its trailhead||2.4 miles, one way|