We recently came back from a trip to Denali National Park in Alaska. The park is about 220 miles southwest of Fairbanks, the largest city near it. I planned this trip after we moved back to the states due to Covid.
This trip was an amazing experience for me because there are so many things to do there. There are plenty of places where you can camp, fish, canoe, kayak, hike, bike, etc., basically, activities that would make your head spin. We thought we should go back someday and spend more days because there was too much stuff to do in the short four-day pass we bought and now that we have Senior America Beautiful Pass all of those fees are waived.
Want more ideas to round-out your trip to Alaska?
A lot of great ideas are in these posts!
- 50 Great Alaska Boodocking Locations
- 16 Great Boondocking Spots For Your Denali National Park Trip
- 16 Fantastic Kenai Fjords National Park Boondocking Spots
To help you understand more about this park, Let me share a brief history of the Denali National park.
History of the Denali National Park
The Denali National Park is a national park located in Interior Alaska, centered upon Denali (Mount McKinley), the highest mountain in North America.
Woodrow Wilson established it on February 26th, 1917, to protect 6 million acres of pristine wilderness.
The park includes abundant wildlife, including Dall sheep and grizzly bears and plant life such as Alaskan yellow cedars and Sitka spruces.
The vast majority of visitors come between mid-May and late September, which gives them access to Mount McKinley. The weather here can be brutal at times, but you can still visit during other seasons if you’re flexible with your plans.
During winter, it’s impossible to get inside the park without the proper gear and knowledge of how to navigate it, which is why we’ll cover some tips on visiting during the summer.
16 Great Boondocking Spots For Your Denali National Park Trip
check out our video
1. Denali National Park Boondocking Locations – East Fork Chulitna Wayside
GPS: 63.149831, -149.412007
Management: Rest Area
The road in is Paved. East Fork Chulitna wayside is open year round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited.
2. Denali National Park Boondocking Free Campsites – Cantwell Alaska- Open Gravel Area
Around Mile 208, George Park Highway (AK-3)
GPS: 63.383122, -148.915787
Management: State Forest
The road in is Gravel and 0 miles from a paved road. Cantwell Alaska- Open Gravel Area is open. The area is very close to Denali National Park. There is a creek nearby with very clean water.
3. Denali National Park Boondocking Spots – Nenana River Bridge
GPS: 63.457107, -148.808467
The road in is Gravel and 1/2 mile or so miles from a paved road. Nenana River Bridge is open Summer. The maximum RV length at Nenana River Bridge is unlimited. You may stay Unlimited at Nenana River Bridge.
4. Denali National Park Boondocking Locations – Susitna River Bank
Trapper Creek, Alaska
GPS: 62.176102, -150.179321
Management: State Forest
Wide, flat, gravel riverbank about 11 miles south of Trapper Creek. There’s a dirt road on the west side of the Parks Highway at the north end of the bridge where it crosses the Susitna River. The road is fairly wide. Just before it opens out onto the gravel there’s a bit of a hill and dip where it goes over a spring melt stream bed. RVs with a long overhang or low ground clearance should check this spot before going farther.
5. Denali National Park Boondocking Sites – 224 George Parks Hwy Parking
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
GPS: 63.540637, -148.806493
Beautiful view of mountains and lake with greenery. Dream location to wake up to.
6. Denali National Park Boondocking Spots – Gravel Road Off Hwy.
GPS: 63.819117, -148.980447
There’s 2 Gravel roads right next to each other off Parks highway. On the east side of the road. Both trails take you away from the road to some secluded camp sites. Some rock firepits. Made it in with a 23ft trailer, but it was pretty tight. Nice views though and car enough from the road to feel private.
7. Denali National Park Boondocking Locations – North Healy Rest Stop
MM269 Parks Hwy
GPS: 64.129429, -149.250871
The road in is Paved. North Healy Rest Stop is open Summer. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. This is a little rest area just North of Healy, AK at mile marker number 269. It has a pit toilet and a large parking area. There are also some tent camping sites down the gravel road by the bridge to Bear Creek.
8. Denali National Park Boondocking Sites – Nennana Ak
GPS: 64.56467, -149.09665
South East side of the river bridge just east of the old fueling station. Full gravel room for any size RV. Room for 5 or 6 units.
9. Denali National Park Boondocking Spots – Kings River
GPS: 61.732501, -148.75729
The road in is Gravel. Kings River is open weather permitted. The maximum RV length at Kings River is unlimited. This is a boondocking place that is focused towards ATV riders. There are spots for camping on both sides of the Kings River Bridge. Large enough most RV’s pulling ATV trailers.
10. Denali National Park Boondocking Locations – Near Palmer
GPS: 61.608021, -149.064606
Management: National Forest Service
Near Palmer is open Year-round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is any. You may stay 7 nights at Near Palmer.
11. Denali National Park Boondocking Sites – Long Lake
GPS: 61.803646, -148.237518
Management: Fish and Wildlife Service
There are 1-5 campsites at this location. Nice little fishing spot with some user made campsites.
12. Denali National Park Boondocking Spots – Lake Lorraine Campground
GPS: 61.2889, -149.94513
The road in is Gravel and at eight miles from a paved road. Lake Lorraine Campground is open summer. There are 6-15 campsites at this location. You may stay 14 days at Lake Lorraine Campground.
13. Denali National Park Boondocking Locations – Mt. Baldy Trailhead
GPS: 61.338, -149.512
The road in is Paved. Small parking before the trail. Or la unit flat and You Will probably not be able for an RV but it was ok for a camper van. Let’s be honest there is not much choice near Anchorage.
14. Denali National Park Boondocking Sites – South Fork Eagle River
GPS: 61.222001, -149.439708
At the trail head for several awesome hikes in the Chugach Stat. Parking is near homes, no fires allowed and multiple nights be frowned upon. Room for a truck camper or car camping. Not really room for an RV.
15. Denali National Park Boondocking Spots – Mile Post 13 Hope Rd
GPS: 60.92955, -149.54168
The road in is Gravel and .1 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. Small roadside pullout with about 6 campsites. It’s free and has a porta pottie. Amazing views.
16. Denali National Park Boondocking Locations – Crow Creek Road
GPS: 60.995914, -149.091706
Management: State Park
Several pullouts along a gravel road. I think it is in Chugach State Park land. Here Are My 10 Favorite Trails At the Denali National Park.
Top 10 Denali Park Hiking Trails
Denali is known for being one of the largest national parks in the country. It’s also known for its vast wilderness. Because of its wild nature, there are only 35 miles of hiking trails in Denali National Park. Theoretically, you could do them all in one visit!
I’ve had the pleasure of hiking each trail multiple times. Here’s a complete list of Denali National Park hikes, ranked from best to… still really great. There’s no such thing as a bad trail in Denali! Keep reading for the best hikes in Denali National Park.
Be prepared for wildlife encounters. Moose and bears frequent the trails in Denali National Park. Always carry bear spray and be sure to read about bear safety before you go. Remember to never run away from bears or any other predators. If you see a moose, especially one with calves, you should run to safety. The same goes for other non-predatory species.
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #1. Savage Alpine Trail
This trail starts near “Glitter Gulch” on the road leading towards McKinley. It’s about 9 miles long and climbs 1400 feet. The trail offers incredible views of Mt. McKinley (the highest mountain in North America., tundra-covered slopes, alpine ponds, meadows carpeted with wildflowers, and taiga forest areas with red spruce and paper birch.
Length: 4.1 mi
Elevation gain: 1,414 ft
Route type: Point to point
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #2. Talkeetna Lake Trail
The best hike to do in summer, this trail starts at around 500 ft above the valley floor and climbs up to 1000 ft over a 3.7 miles trail. It passes through dense taiga forest and offers wildlife sightings of caribou, moose, Dall sheep, grizzly bears, and, if you’re lucky, a wolf or two.
Length: 3.7 mi
Elevation gain: 410 ft
Route type: Loop
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #3. Curry Ridge Trail
This one is another easy hike that is about 6.5 miles long. If you visit during wintertime, there might be a chance that you can see some wolf tracks here. During summertime, it’s great for birdwatching as many sandpipers come here to feed on insects. The view here is also very nice, overlooking the Igloo Mountains.
Length: 6.5 mi
Elevation gain: 1,023 ft
Route type: Out & back
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #4. Mount Healy Overlook Trail
This trail starts near “Glitter Gulch” on the road leading towards McKinley. It climbs up to 2100 m over 6.9 miles. There are chances of spotting some grizzly bears along this route, and it offers spectacular views of Mt. Foraker (a dormant volcano.
Length: 6.9 mi
Elevation gain: 2,483 ft
Route type: Out & back
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #5. Horseshoe Lake Trail
It’s a 4.2 mile round trip hike; however, if you want to go further up and see gorgeous McKinley from close, add on another two miles for that one. This location provides some wonderful photo opportunities as there’s a wide-angle view of the mountains and great scenery in the background.
Length: 2.1 mi
Elevation gain: 393 ft
Route type: Loop
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #6. Triple Lakes Trail
This is a great hike if you like wildlife encounters and landscapes. It’s about 18.5 miles round-trip, so it might take four or five hours to finish. You’ll have the chance of seeing caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, black bears, moose, foxes, marmots, pikas, ptarmigan, golden eagles, swans, terns, and gulls along this trail.
Length: 18.5 mi
Elevation gain: 3,690 ft
Route type: Out & back
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #7. Rock Creek Trail
This is another easy-to-moderate hike that has less traffic than most trails in Denali Park. There are views of Mt. Foraker here and some wildlife such as the grizzly bear, moose, and birds. Also, there are different kinds of wildflowers found along this trail. Trail is 5.1 miles long.
Length: 5.1 mi
Elevation gain: 1,000 ft
Route type: Out & back
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #8. Moose Flats Loop Trail
This is a short trail with some beautiful views of Mt. McKinley and Cathedral Mountain. During summertime, it’s great for birdwatching as many sandpipers come here to feed on insects. The moose often come near this pond so that you might see one here.
Length: 0.6 mi
Elevation gain: 39 ft
Route type: Loop
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #9. Bison Gulch
This trail offers spectacular views and passes through an open valley and dense taiga forest to the Eielson Visitor Center. There’s also a chance that you can spot wolves or wolverines along this trail if you visit during wintertime. The trail is 7 miles long with a 3800 feet gain in elevation.
Length: 7.0 mi
Elevation gain: 3,868 ft
Route type: Out & back
Denali National Park Hiking Trail #10. Taiga Loop and Horseshoe Lake Trail
Length: 3.0 mi
Elevation gain: 521 ft
Route type: Loop
Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Forest, Lake, Views, Fee, No dogs
This 3 mile round trip hike is perfect for backpackers who want to spend more days in the park. It’s steep with some long uphill climbs, but it passes through alpine areas, tundra meadows, and taiga forest on the way up. Mt. Foraker is visible from here as well as moose, caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, black bears, pika s, ptarmigan, golden eagles, swans, terns and gulls along the route.
Suppose you are interested in something more challenging then Denali National Park is not only a fascinating and beautiful place to visit, but it also provides an important function in preserving the environment for future generations.
Places and Things to Do and See in Denali National Park
My visit to Denali National Park was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The breathtaking views, fascinating animals, and beautiful scenery made it a vacation I will never forget.
The park is massive, and there is a lot to see everywhere you look, so if visiting, allow yourself at least a week for this place to go on a hike or have a picnic or just enjoy being outside instead of going into any buildings. I tell you there many things you can enjoy in this park which include:
1. Visit Wonder Lake
As you drive towards Denali National Park on your way to visit this majestic site, you will be surrounded by beautiful panoramas of mountains and forests before entering a spectacular alpine valley (known as “Wonder Lake”). This lake has some wonderful hiking trails coming off its shores, allowing visitors to take their time exploring the area both on foot and in kayaks.
2. See the Denali Mountain
The high point in North America is Mount McKinley, which stands tall at 20,310ft. Visitors to the park will see the pure white glacier that covers about ten percent of its mountainside.
3. Check out the Animal Wildlife in the park
Many types of wildlife live within Denali National Park, including brown bears, moose, wolves, and caribou. It is estimated there are about 150 different species of birds in this same area, with many migrating from as far as South America during wintertime. Two rare types of owl called the Spruce Grouse and Saw-Whet Owl also resides here. If you are lucky, you might spot one of Denali park’s famous bushtits or be able to catch a glimpse of caribou traveling in herds.
4. Stop at the Park Entrance Gates
The entrance gates within this national park are known as Eielson Visitors Center, and it is here that visitors can stop by and get information about the area they plan on exploring once inside. This place will also give tourists some helpful hints for staying safe while enjoying everything Denali offers, such as what to wear during different seasons and how to travel safely around the area.
5. Go River Rafting by Excursion
Denali National Park offers many exciting expeditions along its rivers of varying difficulties which will suit any budget. For visitors looking to get more active on their trip, this will be an experience that no one should miss out on.
6. Go for a Hike along the Park Trails
There are many different trails in Denali National Park that hikers can choose from to safely explore the mountains and forests while being supervised by local rangers. These ranger-led activities include walks up onto the alpine tundra. You will have great views of Mount McKinley or bear patrols that allow people easy access to bear watching opportunities without traveling far from the main road.
7. Visit the Eielson Visitor Center
After driving through some magnificent alpine scenery, visitors will arrive at the Eielson Visitor Center, as this is the main hub for information about Denali National Park. Visitors can pick up a park map and other essential tips here while watching a movie about how Denali first became a national park.
8. Travel into the wilderness
Suppose you are looking for a more wild experience while visiting Denali. In that case, it is possible to go on an overnight camping trip with trained rangers who will be there to make sure your stay is safe and enjoyable by showing you all of the best places along the way to pitch your tent or set up camp.
9. Go Wildlife Watching
The spectacular wildlife in this area includes brown bears, moose, caribou, and wolves, which roam free in this beautiful national park. It is possible to catch sight of grizzly bears fishing for gold salmon during the spring season, which can be seen spawning around this time.
10. Explore the Park on Foot
Many hiking trails leading from lakes and rivers will take you into Denali National Park’s pristine wilderness, allowing you to explore different terrain while supervised by local rangers who know the area well.
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