THING TO DO

Explore Denali's Winter Trails

a snowy forest
A typical snowy winter day in Denali

NPS Photo / Tim Rains

See the Real Denali

Most visitors see the park during its short summer window (June-August). A winter visit is a chance to see what the park looks like for the rest of the year!

Whether you are just around for a short walk through the woods, or are coming for a lengthy ski or snowshoe adventure, you'll have a chance to experience the "real" Denali. Along the way, you'll notice some of the things that make this such a beautiful part of the world:

  • Low-angle sunlight
    Photographers talk about the "golden hour," when the sun is low in the sky at dawn or dusk and the landscape gets a gentle golden or reddish hue. This far north, the sun hangs low in the sky most of the time that it is up, meaning the landscape often has a magical, soft light on it.
  • Tranquility
    With just a few visitors coming each day in winter, this is an opportunity to feel like you're in an incredibly remote and peaceful world, just a few minutes away from the winter visitor center.
  • Stars
    With short days and long nights, star-gazing is possible from early evening through late morning. The Big Dipper, Orion and other constellations become vivid thanks to very little light pollution.
Details

Depending on conditions and your interest, you could spend all day exploring Denali under your own power. We suggest preparing for at least a half-hour, so you can really get a sense of the stillness and peacefulness that is Alaska in winter. 

Working animals are allowed anywhere in Denali. This means, for example, that you may ski-jor with your dog (ski-joring is where a dog is in a harness and helps pull you as you cross-country ski). 

Pets may also be walked on the park road and some trails, on a 6' or shorter leash. 

There are no special fees for recreating in the park, although there is an overall park entrance fee ($10/person, valid for seven days).

The Murie Science and Learning Center serves as Denali's winter visitor center, from mid-September through May 14 each year. 

It's a great starting point for you to acquire trail maps and learn about conditions before setting off, or warm up by the fire after some time spent outdoors.

We consider "winter" to start by October, although in some years there isn't very much snow until November or even December. Once snow has arrived, it usually stays until April.

Trails are of course always hike-able, even when there is no snow.

Technically, Denali never closes - so if you wish to ski or hike by moonlight, you are welcome to do so. For safety's sake, however, we suggest you do the majority of your recreation during daylight hours.

In the darkest part of winter (i.e., mid-December), sunrise isn't until around 10:30 am and sunset is around 3 pm. 

Last updated: January 18, 2017