I share a list of things to do in Denali National Park Alaska. Here are a few places to visit with original photography.
Denali Mountain (Mount McKinley)
Denali Mountain is the highest peak in North America. If you wish to reach the summit, you must arrange mountaineering to the top of Denali. At 6,190 meters high Denali is the highest mountain in North America and the centerpiece of the park.
Denali Mountain (Mount McKinley) at Sunset
The original inhabitants of Alaska, the Koyukon people named the mountain Denali centuries ago. In 1896 however, a gold prospector gave the mountain the name Mount McKinley after a presidential candidate, William McKinley. William McKinley did go on to become the 25th president of the US before being assassinated in 1901. In 2015 the peak was rightly renamed Denali Mountain.
Denali Mountain (Mount McKinley) in Reflection Lake
When you visit Denali National Park you must be lucky to have weather on your side. I was blessed with perfect views of the 6,190 meter high peak. Good luck with the climate when you visit! As you’ll soon see, on my second day the weather changed and I could no longer see such majestic views.
Explore Denali National Park
There are 6 million acres of national park therefore consider spending a few days here. Additionally, the longer you stay, the more chance you have of clear weather.
Wildlife Viewing Tours
A highlight of any visit to Denali National Park is a wildlife viewing tour. A wildlife viewing tour is included as part of the Princess land cruise itinerary. The advantage of being on a bus is that the bus driver is a trained naturalist who has a lot of experience looking for wildlife and ensuring the safety of the passengers. There is also a bus full of people looking for wildlife so it’s more likely you’ll have wildlife sightings. No doubt there will be a few false alarms too. Wildlife to look out for include;
- Grizzly and Black Bears
- Reindeer / Caribou
- Dall Sheep
- Red Fox
If you are not here as part of an organized tour it’s still possible to reserve your place on a wildlife viewing tour.
A grizzly bear was spotted during my wildlife tour of Denali National Park. However, it was on a hill over a kilometer away therefore difficult to see. The best place to see bears is at Ketchikan Alaska when they are lured in by the salmon run.
I was lucky enough to see a black bear and cub walking alongside the river in Denali National Park.
Golden Eagles are huge birds of prey which call Denali home. Read about my Bald Eagle sighting on an iceberg in Juneau Alaska.
Hiking in Denali National Park
Due to the amount of danger in Denali National Park, hiking is only possible with a park ranger.
Denali National Park Glaciers
A massive 16% of the park is made up of glaciers. As a matter of fact Denali National Park is home to the 71 km Kahiltna Glacier which is the longest in Alaska.
Where to Stay in Denali National Park
As part of the Princess Alaska inland cruise I stayed at the Mount McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. This offered great views of Denali Mountain, especially at sunset. The big question however is, will they change the name of the lodge after the official name change of the mountain? As I write, it’s still known as the Mount McKinley Lodge. Being from England I was happy to find that the restaurant here served delicious fish and chips. Is there a better way to view Denali than from a warm restaurant enjoying fresh Alaskan fish and chips?
How to Travel from Denali National Park to Fairbanks
Unique to the Princess overland cruise is a ride on the Princess Rail network. This is glass-domed train which gives great views of Denali National Park. The bear photo I posted above was not actually taken on the wildlife tour but from the train. Essentially, a ride on the train is also a wildlife tour. In fact, the friendly stewards on the train will inform all passengers of any wildlife sightings. Not only do you see wildlife but the scenery is very colorful too, I was there as fall was starting so the leaves on the trees were changing colors.
Every journey must come to an end, my final destination on my Antarctica to Alaska by land trip is Fairbanks.
Alaska is high on my list of places to visit. And I definitely want to get to Denali. Looks like a great tour, even if it was cold– I guess that is what Alaska is supposed to be like. Did you end up seeing bears and wolves? I think I would be most excited about caribou since they don’t live in Montana (where I am from).
A glass domed train sounds so epic! What a beautiful place.
I love your photos James and your trips are something very special and unique, not to forget adventurous.
This Denali National Park looks so amazing, makes me immediately want to visit. I am not so sure about the Grizzlys there 😉
Do you have an idea if bears & wolves ca be an issue there for too careless tourists?
Oh, that wildlife viewing tour sounds aces, I’d love to see the bears! I’m super keen to get to Alaska the next time I visit the States. And my fella is similar to you (and English) – if there’s fish and chips at a place, he’s happy. Although he points out that no one knows how to cook a chip and batter a fish like the mother country!
A land cruise sounds wonderful and it’s nice that the driver was also a naturalist which i’m sure meant a lot of information during the trip. I love how they add the train ride to the bus tour as well and like you said the region looks splendid with the scenery and of course the flora and fauna that once encounters.
That’s been an epic trip, James – Antarctica to Alaska. I was actually discussing going to Alaska this year with my cousin but in the end we chose to go back to Nepal for financial reasons (cheap-cheap in Nepal, and funds are a bit low). I like America though and have always fancied Alaska. Maybe one day I will go. I didn’t know about the official name change of Mount McKinleyto Denali. Good post as usual with nice pics. Safe travels!
This sounds amazing. I’m crazy about wildlife and to see bears, moose, wolves and foxes in the wild would be a dream come true. I love the glass-domed train too.
I have always wanted to go to Alaska. It looks incredible. The only thing that puts me off is the cold! The wildlife tours sounds like a must do. You can’t go wrong with fish and chips ????
Alaska. Now this is somewhere I have wanted to go for a while but have always ended up else where in the world. I would love to see the wildlife, the scenic mountains and the lakes. It was first put on my radar as a place to hike due to into the wild. A book is a good enough reason than any to visit a place right? Prior to reading it I just though of Alaska as ice and snow.
You post shows the beautiful scenic country that it is.
I love your post James and your trips are something very special and unique, not to forget adventurous.
What a beautiful Blog! Thank you for your sharing!
Every time I come back to read another of your posts I am shocked at the number of places you have been! Truly amazing. This trip looks just as awesome as the others
Next time, try to get off the tour bus track and do some independent hiking! Denali is one of the best national parks for some long distance trekking or backpacking. I think you’ll feel a much deeper connection with the park that way.
wow Alaska is so beautiful. I’ve been trying to look into taking a cruise there that also does 4 days on land in the national parks.
Beautiful national park. I would really like to take a ride on Princess Rail from Denali to Fairbanks. Alaska is always on my bucket list. As a avid nature lover I would really taking a cruise and trekking in the park.
I have dreamt of roaming in Alaska ever since I have watched the movie Into the wild. While I was anticipating Alaska to be a tough terrain, I m pretty impressed that they have glass dome trains. How wonderful would it be to sit on the train and watch nature paint its wonders with the colorful foliage! This train journey is definitely going on my to-do list.
Alaska has always been on my list to visit and Alaska is always at heart when I hear about environmental threats upon it! I love everything about it. What a great place to find yourself in-tune with the nature! Beautiful photos.
I love Alaska! I have been to Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan but not yet Denali. I am interested to see the wildlife and more amazing landscapes. The Alaskan fish and chips sound delicious.
WOW, Antarctica to Alaska? Sounds like the trip of a lifetime. Denali National Park looks stunning, the picture of the momma bear and her cub is precious and beautifully captured. Can’t believe you managed to capture it on the train! Would love to see pictures of the glass-domes themselves.
Wow! The pictures are absolutely stunning! A wildlife tour seems to be the best way to make the most of Alaska and Denali. Hope you were able to spot some wildlife!