This part of the park is technically open 24 hours a day. Camping in the area is only permitted at Savage River Campground or in the backcountry with a backpacking permit; and access by bus is only possible when the bus is operating, of course. But if you have a car and want to drive here late at night (e.g., in the fall to look for aurora), you're welcome to do so.
By foot: Year-round
Depending on conditions, you're welcome to ski, bike or hike out to this part of the park year-round. In winter, this typically means a journey of 12 miles one-way (assuming you start from Park Headquarters), so
By car: Spring, summer, fall
We begin plowing the park road in March. Access to Savage River simply depends on how fast we can plow the road; ideally, by late March or early April, it is open for visitors to drive to. In the fall, the road closes whenever wintry weather sets in. Sometimes this is late September, while in other years it's not til late October.
By courtesy bus: Summer
As mentioned below, the Savage River Shuttle is a free bus ride out to this area. Bus service is roughly May 15 - mid-September
The Savage River area is located near the end of the paved and publicly-accessible portion of the Denali Park Road. You are welcome to drive to the two day-use areas, or you can use a free bus, called the Savage River Shuttle.
Know Before You Go
You can park at, or ride the free bus to, either the Mountain Vista Rest Stop (Mile 13) or to the Savage Rest Area (Mile 15). Savage River Campground is situated between the two day-use areas. Trails connect the two areas, or you can walk the road.
The courtesy bus can accommodate up to two bikes.
The parking area can get full on lovely days. We recommend using the bus when possible, which you can catch at the Denali Visitor Center (or several other buildings near the park entrance).
Savage River can be very windy, so bring layers. It is also several hundred feet higher in elevation than the park entrance, so it can be a bit chillier than conditions at the visitor center.
By bus: The answer depends on the time of summer.
The bus makes several stops near the park entrance to pick up passengers, so it takes about an hour for the bus to travel from the entrance of the park to Savage River. It then takes a similar amount of time to return, so that means a minimum of 2 hours, but ideally you'll disembark from the bus to explore Savage River and catch the bus later in the day to travel to the park entrance.
In early and late summer, bus service is less frequent. This might add more time to your journey; review the bus schedule for details.
By car: The speed limit is 35 mph, so it'll take you around half an hour to drive to Savage, assuming you make no stops (you're welcome to pause at pullouts to enjoy the scenery, or pull fully and safely to the shoulder of the road if you spot wildlife). Thus the true minimum amount of time needed is an hour, but hopefully you'll choose to park at Mountain Vista or Savage River and enjoy the area.