How to Visit Denali in Fall or Spring

 

Dates

  • Fall: From mid-September until snow accumulates (typically between late September and late October).
  • Spring: From early or mid-April until May 19.

Most visitors come to Denali in summer, which runs May 20 until the second weekend after Labor Day (so, mid-September) each year. Summer is the only time of year when buses operate within 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.

We aim to keep the alerts on our website up to date concerning road conditions in the park; but keep in mind that it takes nearly five hours to drive to Denali from Anchorage, during which time the weather can turn icy or snowy. Even if the road is closed when you arrive, there are many opportunities to recreate in the front-country of the park.

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 spring and fall.
 

Status of the Denali Park Road

Discover which parts of the Denali Park road are open, either to private vehicles (green) or to bus traffic (gold). Small gold dots indicate gates on the park road, where closures might occur if snow or ice blocks the road farther west.
 

Visiting in Autumn / Early Winter


A visitor in mid-September through mid-October could find pleasant fall conditions, or fresh snow, freezing temperatures and the return of winter. Use our zip code - 99755 - on your favorite weather website to get an idea of the current forecast. You can also check out our webcams to get a sense of what the weather is doing.

Getting Here, Access Into the Park

Daily train and bus service to the park from Anchorage and Fairbanks typically ends in mid-September. Fall visitors will almost certainly need to rent a car and drive here on their own.

Shuttle bus service traveling along the Denali Park Road ends the second Thursday after the Labor Day holiday each year. After shuttle service ends, the park hosts a four-day event called Road Lottery.

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 feel free to contact us for weather and road information before journeying to the park.


What to Do in the Fall

  • Hiking
    In fall, there are no guided 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
  • Sightsee
    If snow hasn't fallen heavily, you can drive up to 30 miles into the park, to a place called Teklanika River. Once snow starts piling up, we only plow the park's sole road for 3 miles, from the park entrance to Park Headquarters. When the road isn't closed due to snow, you may drive it any time of the day or night. A late trip out can be a great way to look for aurora borealis! The only restriction is on camping (see below for your camping/backpacking options).
  • Learn
    Stop by the winter visitor center (called the Murie Science and Learning Center) at mile 1.5 on the park road, open daily from 9 am—4 pm daily. The center is closed on major holidays.

Where to Stay in the Fall

  • Camping
    Riley Creek Campground is open year-round, and nightly fees are not charged except in summer (so, it is free from mid-September—May 14, each year). This is the only campground open outside of the summer season.
  • Lodging
    Most hotels in the area close in mid-September. Some year-round accommodations remain open in Healy, a small town 11 miles north of the park entrance. Because these businesses are outside of the park, we cannot make recommendations on where you should stay.
  • Backpacking
    Backpacking is possible year-round with a free backpacking permit. You can only acquire your permit once you are in the park.

 
Visiting in Late Winter / Spring
A visitor in April or early May could find spring-like conditions, or the lasting grip of winter.

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.

Getting Here, Access Into the Park

Daily train and bus service to the park from Anchorage and Fairbanks typically begin in mid-May. Spring visitors may need to rent a car and drive here on their own.

Transit bus service traveling along the Denali Park Road does not begin until May 20 each year. Narrated tour bus service begins about a week earlier.

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.

What to Do in Spring

  • Sightsee
    We begin plowing the park road in mid-March most years, working west from Mile 3. You may drive as much of the road as snow conditions allow in the spring, until we reach Teklanika River (Mile 30). The park road remains open to Mile 30, weather permitting, until May 19 each year. On May 20, non-narrated sightseeing buses begin operating on the road, and private vehicles are restricted beyond Savage River.

    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.
  • Cycle
    Biking the park road in spring is very popular. By early May, much of the road is snow and ice free beyond Mile 30, allowing cyclists to bike much of the 92 mile long Denali Park Road with minimal vehicle traffic.
  • Learn
    The winter visitor center is open 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 each year, the much larger Denali Visitor Center opens just across the park road from the Murie center.


Where to Stay in Spring

  • Camping
    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 campsite through our concessioner.
  • Lodging
    Most hotels in the area remain closed until early or mid-May. Some year-round accommodations remain open in Healy, a small town 11 miles north of the park entrance. Because these businesses are outside of the park, we cannot make recommendations on where you should stay.
  • Backpacking
    Backcountry camping in spring is possible with a permit - please contact the park for more information on logistics.



Last updated: July 12, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755

Phone:

(907) 683-9532

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