Cycling is a great way to see Denali National Park and get some exercise at the same time. Visitors are allowed to bike all 92 miles of the Park Road.
The road is paved to mile 15 (Savage River) and is graded gravel beyond. Much of the roadway beyond mile 31 is narrow and there are no shoulders. Travel restrictions for motor vehicles begin at mile 15, so traffic volume will ease up after this point.
First Things First - Get a Bike (and Helmet)
Unless you live in Alaska, odds are good you traveled here without a bike. In summer (mid-May through mid-September), many businesses outside of the park rent bikes. The National Park Service cannot recommend any particular company, however, so we suggest you start looking at your options through the local Chamber of Commerce. Don't forget to bring or rent a helmet, too!
Starting Your Trip
Biking Part of One Day
For a day trip, consider some of these options:
Biking multiple days - Bike Camping!
If you wish to camp overnight in the park during your cycling trip, you need a backcountry permit and will need to follow some slightly different rules - please refer to our backcountry camping and cycling page for more information. You can also consider staying in different park campgrounds, and bike between them. Note, however, that there's a big gap between the two western-most campgrounds, Igloo Creek (Mile 35) and Wonder Lake (Mile 85).
On the unpaved portion of the park road, motorists generally show courtesy to cyclists and do their best to avoid "dusting" them by driving very slowly. You can return the favor by slowing down or stopping when you meet a bus on a narrow section of road. This makes it much easier for buses and other vehicles to pass you on the sometimes quite narrow road.
A great time to bike in Denali is before May 20, when buses start operating in the park.
Road crews begin plowing the road in late March, ultimately opening it to mile 30, Teklanika River. However, spring snow and wintry conditions can hamper their progress, and it is difficult to predict each year just when the road will open. We encourage you to call or email before visiting in the spring, or follow our spring road opening blog.
Once the road has opened, however, the public is welcome to drive into the park (either to Mile 15 or Mile 30, depending on conditions). You can begin a bike trip from wherever you can park your car. Day trips into the park require nothing more than the usual park entrance fee. Overnight cycling trips are possible, too, with a free backcountry permit.
Many Alaskans are familiar with ski-joring, where a cross-country skiier is pulled by one or more dogs. Bike-joring is a similar activity, where a cyclist has one or more dogs attached by leash (and ideally pulling the same direction as the cyclist wants to go!).
Bike-joring on the park road is permitted, so long as your dog is leashed to you at all times. As in ski-joring or walking your dog, the leash may be no longer than six feet. If you have never bike-jored, please do not make Denali your first try at this activity. Wildlife can be found almost anywhere along the road, and a squirrel darting in front of an untrained dog tethered to a bike will probably result in a crash. Bike-joring is probably most comfortable in spring, before most buses begin operating.
Pets are not allowed on park buses; if you intend to bike-jor in the summer, you will not be able to use the shuttle buses to move around the park with your pet. Learn more about visiting Denali with a pet.
Biking in the Kantishna Area
Some former mining routes originate in the Kantishna area, at the western end of the park road. Most routes cross private lands. Because of the need to get permission from the landowner before using these routes, you may be able to use only a portion of them. You are responsible for not trespassing on private property. When in doubt, keep to the park road to make sure you do not trespass.
Cyclists need to keep in mind a few other special considerations.
The Denali Park Road was built in the 1920s and 1930s and is meant to be scenic - so it goes up some pretty improbably slopes. The surface of the gravel portion is well-compacted, but you will sometimes find loose or soft sections, so be careful whenever you're riding downhill.
If you biked the entire road, east to west (i.e., park entrance to Kantishna), you would gain 10,928' and lose 10,907'. The elevation contour below gives you an idea of some of the highest spots on the road.
The elevation profile, above, is meant to help indicate the flow of the park road. Looking east to west (left to right in the profile), certain major climbs exist, particularly:
Rules of the Road: Cycling Edition
Bicycling is a great way to enjoy the Denali Park Road. This road can be a little tricky though, so it's important to know a few key rules of the road: