How to Explore Denali National Park and Preserve
Explore Denali By Bus
92 miles long, the Denali Park Road parallels the Alaska Range and travels through low valleys and high mountain passes. It is the only road in the park. Along its route, beautiful landscapes can be seen at every turn, and there are many opportunities to view Mount McKinley - if the normally cloudy skies permit. Wildlife can often be seen, too, though sightings are not guaranteed - they are, after all, wild animals roaming an unfenced land.
During summer, roughly late May through early September, private vehicles may drive the first fifteen miles of this road, to a place called Savage River. The road to Savage River is paved, and features numerous pull-outs for folks to stop and snap some scenic photos. Mount McKinley can be seen as early as Mile 9, if the day isn't too overcast, and animals of all sorts can sometimes be seen on this stretch of road - although chances to see wildlife increase greatly with a bus trip farther down the Park Road.
Beyond Mile 15, the road turns to gravel and traffic is primarily restricted to buses. We encourage all visitors to take some kind of bus trip while in Denali, as it is a great way to experience the park and build lasting memories.
Types of Bus Trips
There are two main types of buses in Denali - shuttle buses and tour buses. In addition, courtesy buses operate near the park entrance, connecting visitor centers and points of interest in the same area where visitors may drive their own vehicles.
Cheaper than tour buses, and more flexible in that you may disembark / re-board anywhere along the road, shuttle bus drivers aim to help you experience the park on your own terms. Shuttle buses stop for wildlife viewing, restroom stops and beautiful scenery, just like tour buses. They are not narrated, however. There are four shuttle bus options, of varying length.
Read more about shuttle buses
Your driver is your narrator on the tour buses, and he or she will provide a detailed and captivating program to accompany your journey along the Park Road. Tour buses make the same restroom stops as shuttles, and of course will pause for views of wildlife and scenery. All tours offer either a snack or full lunch. There are three tour bus options, of varying length.
Read more about tour buses
Three types of courtesy buses operate on the publicly-accessible portion of the Park Road. These enable folks without vehicles, or those who wish to leave their vehicle behind, to travel between various facilities, campgrounds and day-use areas. All three types of courtesy bus are free, and none require reservations.
Learn more about courtesy buses
Partner association buses
Our non-profit partner, Alaska Geographic, operates an engaging, science-based tour called Experience Denali. The tour includes a bus trip to Savage River.
Learn more about this and other educational tours from Alaska Geographic.
Which Bus Do I Choose?
Child Restraint Information
Alaska State Law requires children to be in a car or booster seat as follows:
Read more about this Alaska law on the Alaska state government website
Did You Know?
Warmer average temperatures over several decades have resulted in expansion of woody vegetation. If this warming trend continues, it will change Alaska's ecosystems and drastically alter the physical appearance of Denali's landscape, as treeline marches higher up the mountains.