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  • Writer's pictureTracey Smith

The Perfect Day in Denali National Park; An Itinerary

Updated: Jan 27

Perfect Day in Denali National Park and Preserve during the Peak Season (6/1-9/1)

Enjoy all the free activities the park has to offer.

Below are some tips and a suggested itinerary.




TIPS: Perfect Day in Denali National Park and Preserve during the Peak Season  

1.     Bring a pack, layers, a raincoat, bug spray, binoculars, a camera, and water.

2.     Bring a small day pack, rain gear, layers, binoculars, and a camera.

3.     Make sure to wear good quality footwear as trails can be muddy.

4.     If you don’t have a pair of binoculars see the front desk at McKinley Creekside Cabins as we have some to loan out.

5.     Bring a lunch or order one here https://mckinleycabins.rezgo.com/details/227646/park-lunch-to-go


8:00 am-10:00 am -Arrive at Visitor Center -Sign up for Ranger Led Nature Walk.

·       Departs daily at 10 am and 2pm.  Hikes are about 2 hours and cover up to 3 miles.

·       All hikes first come first served, there is ample parking and a place to check your bags while you explore. 

·       Chat with the rangers and check out exhibits in the Visitor Center

·       Watch the park film-Heartbeats of Denali, 20 minutes long – shown every hour and half hour.


10:00 am– 12:00 pm Ranger led Nature Walk.

·       Rangers’ choice, but it will be one of the trails that originates from the Visitor Center. 

·       The walk is at an easy pace, but trails range from easy to moderate. Trail routes vary depending on season and conditions. Hikes are about 2 hours and cover up to 3 miles.

·       Enjoy this opportunity to get out on the trails with the guidance of a ranger. They are happy to answer questions and will discuss local flora and fauna as you hike.


12:00 pm to 1:30 pm - Have a picnic lunch and continue to explore the Visitors Center.

·       There are incredible interpretive displays and Park Rangers to learn from.

·       Travelling with children? Become a Junior Ranger! Talk to a Park Ranger for information. (no age limit-grown-up kids welcome too!)

·       Bring a lunch or order one here https://mckinleycabins.rezgo.com/details/227646/park-lunch-to-go


1:30 pm -2:00 pm -Head to Murie Science Center for Family Science Program.

·       Families are invited to join a science educator for an exploration of park science topics. Talk to a Park Ranger for specifics.

·       Activities are designed for ages 5-15. However, ALL park visitors wanted to learn are welcome.

OR

1:20 pm – 3 pm -Pick up courtesy shuttle at Visitor Center to Sled Dog Demonstration which starts at 2pm.

·       Demonstration is 30 minutes long, focused on what it is like to raise dogs in Denali National Park and ends with a demonstration of the dogs pulling a sled.

·       Confirm with the Park Ranger what time you will need to pick up the shuttle.

·       NOTE: There is NO parking at the Sled Dog Demonstration, if you choose not to take the shuttle the walk is 1.5 miles each way.


3:15 pm – 4:15 pm -Head to McKinley Chalet to catch a Ranger Talk at 3:30 pm in the lobby, confirm this with a park ranger.

·       Talks are offered at 3:30 pm Tuesday-Saturday (Mondays at 10am)

·       Topics vary from the very specific (e.g., bears or other wildlife) to the general (e.g.,sustainable living), but all connect to the greater themes found in the story of Denali National Park and Preserve.

OR

3:20 pm – 5 pm-Pick up courtesy shuttle at Visitor Center to Sled Dog Demonstration. which starts at 4pm.

·       Demonstration is 30 minutes long, focused on what it is like to raise dogs in Denali National Park and ends with a demonstration of the dogs pulling a sled.

·       Confirm with the Park Ranger what time you will need to pick up the shuttle at.

·       NOTE: There is NO parking at the Sled Dog Demonstration, if you choose not to take the shuttle the walk is 1.5 miles each way.


5:00 pm– 7:15 pm –Return to Creekside Café for Dinner. 

·       Reservations recommended but not required at 907-683-277.


7:30 pm—8:30 pm Enjoy a beverage around the campfire discussing the days adventures or take an evening hike on one of our trails.


OR

Enjoy Dinner in the Canyon:

·       Moose-Aka’s is one of our favorite restaurants – delicious and authentic Eastern European food! Check with the front desk for other recommendations. Mile 238.9 Parks Hwy, on the east side of the hwy.

·       The Denali Doghouse-Another favorite locally owned fast-casual hotdog and hamburger shop. Mile 238 Parks Hwy, on the east side of the hwy.


OR

7:30 pm -8:30 pm -Head to Riley Creek (.02 miles on the park road) or Savage River (15 miles) Campgrounds to enjoy a ranger led evening program.

·       Come to learn about anything from glaciers to grizzlies.

·       Ranger led evening programs are open to anyone at either the Riley Creek or Savage River campgrounds. Weekly topics are listed on campground bulletin boards.

·       There is plenty of parking available at either campground or you can take the courtesy shuttles that depart from the Visitor Center.

Two other excellent guided hikes are available during peak season in the backcountry of Denali. *These will be available once the Denali National Park Road is fully operational to mile 95, currently you have access to mile 42.

·       These ranger-led hikes travel everywhere- so expect uneven terrain, small stream crossings, close encounters with dense vegetation and unpredictable weather.

·       This is an incredible opportunity to experience the wide expanse of the Denali Backcountry. Both these activities are free but require purchase of shuttle ticket to get to th starting point of the hike.

1.     Eielson Nature Walks (June 1st-September 1st) -12 pm Daily

·       Must arrive at Eielson (Mile 66) by 11:30 am to sign up. |

·       Ranger Led Guided Hike departing from the Eielson Visitor Center

·       Hikes are at an easy pace – trails are easy to moderate. As the ranger for details about the days hike.

·       Bring a small day pack with rain gear, layers and a camera. Make sure to wear good quality shoes- trails can be muddy.

 

2.     Discovery Hike (June 1st-September 1st) -Departs daily at 8:00 am

·       All day hike- 12-hour max (finish between 4-6pm but some hikers may not return until as late as 8pm)

·       Space is limited so you MUST sign up the evening before at the Bus Depot – can only register in person and can only be registered 48 hours in advance.

·       Details of the upcoming hike (duration, difficulty, distance, etc.) will be posted at the Denali Visitor Center. A ranger will discuss expectations of the hike so you can be prepared when you sign up.


A ranger is available 9 am to 4 pm daily, except on major holidays. 907 683-9532 if you have additional questions.


To see all the tours and excursions available in the Denali area check out https://www.mckinleycabins.com/park-tours-adventures

Book early as space is limited and fills fast.




 I hope you have enjoyed a Perfect Day in Denali National Park and Preserve during the Peak Season and found it relavent and helpful for planning your trip to Denali National Park, Alaska.



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