Plan a spring visit Plan a fall visit
Summers in Denali are short, though the days are long. Summer (mid-May through mid-September) is also when most visitors come to the park.
However, a visit in spring or fall can be rewarding, though services and activities are limited. Mountains are often snow-capped and dramatic, accentuating Denali's beautiful and stark wilderness. Wildlife is either shaking off the deep-freeze of winter or cramming in the last bit of living before winter's return in October.
The Denali Chamber of Commerce provides information about year-round accommodations, which are available in nearby communities. There is no public transportation in the Denali area outside the summer season, so most visitors in the spring & fall rent a vehicle before traveling to the park. Within the park, there are no bus services and no ranger-conducted activities during the "shoulder season."
Every year, road crews begin plowing the park road in March. Depending largely on the weather, the road can open to Savage River (mile 15) for public traffic as early as the first weekend in April. The road crews try to open the road to Teklanika River (mile 30) as quickly thereafter as possible.
However, snow is possible throughout April and even early May. The road can close temporarily at Park Headquarters (mile 3) during the spring if conditions deteriorate. Please inquire with the park before planning a scenic drive along part of the park road in spring.
The road remains open to Teklanika River, weather permitting, until May 19. On May 20, shuttle buses begin operating on the road, and private vehicles are restricted beyond Savage River.
Riley Creek Campground, at the park entrance, remains open during spring and it is free to camp through the night of May 14. It is the only campground open in spring. Starting May 15, nightly fees are charged and you can book a spot via our concessioner.
Backcountry camping in spring is possible with a permit - please contact the park for more information on logistics.
The road does not open farther than Mile 30 for vehicles - too many vehicles on it before it dries down through the subsurface can result in serious damage. However, biking the park road in spring is also very popular - by early May, much of the road is snow and ice free beyond Mile 30, allowing cyclists to bike with minimal vehicle traffic.
The Winter Visitor Center (mile 1.3) is open 9 am - 4 pm daily and is officially called the Murie Science and Learning Center. It is the hub of visitor services until May 14 each year, and is where you can pay your entrance fee. Please note, though, that spring visitors may travel on the park road outside of those hours.
On May 15, the much larger Denali Visitor Center opens just across the park road from the Murie center.
Shuttle bus service in Denali ends the second Thursday after Labor Day each year. After shuttle service ends, the park hosts a four-day event called Road Lottery.
Travel into the Park
After Road Lottery, the park road remains open to Teklanika River (Mile 30) for private vehicle traffic as long as conditions allow. Snow and ice are possible throughout September, however, so please contact us for weather and road information before journeying to the park.
Winter Visitor Center
The winter visitor center - called the Murie Science and Learning Center - is located at mile 1.5 on the park road, open daily from 9 am - 4 pm daily. The center is closed on major holidays.
What to Do
In fall, there are no guided or structured activities within the park. However, trails are accessible from the Murie Center for day-hiking, and backcountry permits can be acquired there for overnight trips. Read more about winter activities here
Where to Stay
Riley Creek Campground is open year-round, and nightly fees are not charged from mid-September - May 14, each year. Lodging is available in Healy and Cantwell, two communities to the north and south, respectively.
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Did You Know?
Did you know that Mount McKinley National Park was originally created to protect mammals, not because of the majestic mountain?