Visiting Denali National Park – Trip Report & Tips

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Our visit to Denali National Park stands out as a highlight of our Alaska road trip. As someone who tends to be an anxious traveler, I thoroughly researched Denali before our trip. The result?

A trip measured in the awe of 19 grizzly bear sightings, alongside encounters with a moose, several caribou, and a fox. In this guide, I aim to share the detailed planning and tips that transformed my anxious anticipation into a series of unforgettable moments.

Whether you're meticulously planning your visit or simply dreaming of Alaska's vast landscapes, let my experience navigating Denali National Park inspire and prepare you for your adventure amidst its majestic beauty.

Visiting Denali National Park - 11 Tips for an Awesome Visit

Journey Through Denali: A Personal Account

Our Adventure in Denali National Park

Our expedition to Denali National Park was a significant chapter in our grand Alaska road trip adventure.

Embarking from Los Angeles, our route meandered through Fairbanks, Anchorage, Seward, Valdez, and Haines and eventually circled back to Los Angeles. It was an ambitious journey filled with the anticipation of the wild unknown.

While exploring Denali, we chose the Aurora Denali Lodge in Healy as our two-night home base. This cozy lodge served as the perfect backdrop for our adventures in the park (stay tuned for a detailed review of our stay).

This trip segment showcases the route we took through the heart of Alaska. It highlights the anticipation and excitement of exploring Denali National Park, a truly wild and majestic landscape.

Day 1 in Denali National Park: From Wilderness Access to Sled Dogs

Arrival and Preparations

Our Denali adventure began with our arrival from Fairbanks around midday. Our first stop was the Wilderness Access Center, where we collected our tickets for the next morning's shuttle drive. With tickets in hand, we hopped on the complimentary shuttle to the park's kennels.

Encountering Denali's Sled Dogs

At the kennels, we were introduced to Denali's working sled dogs, which are vital to winter operations in the park. The rangers explained that these dogs are more reliable than any mechanical alternative in the extreme cold.

The dog kennels at Denali National Park

Observing these huskies, their aloofness to human presence was striking—they were utterly unfazed by our interest, embodying a sense of independence and duty.

dogs in Denali

A Display of Canine Enthusiasm

The highlight of our kennel visit was witnessing the dogs' excitement at the prospect of pulling a sled.

Denali NP Kennels

Their energy and eagerness to work were infectious, making it a memorable demonstration of their training and skills. Following the show, we chose to hike back to the Visitors Center, soaking in the natural beauty of Denali.

Hiking trail near Denali National Park visitor center

Wrapping Up the Day

After exploring the Visitors Center and learning more about the park, we journeyed to Healy for the evening.

Denali National Park visitor center

This first day in Denali set the tone for our adventure, blending educational experiences with the raw beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.

Day 2 in Denali National Park: Deep into the Wilderness

The Adventure Begins

The much-anticipated day arrived with an early shuttle ride into Denali National Park. Opting for the first shuttle was a strategic choice, aiming for optimal wildlife viewing opportunities.

Shuttle bus at Denali National Park

Our driver, Chavez, was skilled at navigating the challenging terrain and provided an engaging narrative throughout our journey, enhancing our experience significantly.

Journey on the Denali Park Road

Our expedition started on the paved roads accessible to all visitors, transitioning to a dirt road as we ventured deeper into the park.

The drive to Eielson Visitors Center and back was a testament to the park's wild beauty and the necessity of professional drivers for this rugged terrain.

Chavez shared that drivers undergo extensive training to navigate these roads safely, highlighting the importance of experience and skill.

Wildlife Encounters

The promise of Denali's wildlife began to unfold as we left the paved roads. Our first memorable sighting was a mother grizzly with her cubs, a safe distance from the road yet close enough for an intimate glimpse into their world.

The experience was just the beginning, as we encountered more bears, including a particularly bold sow and her cubs known for their increasing familiarity with humans—a situation park technicians work hard to manage for the safety of both bears and visitors.

Addressing the Challenge of Problem Bears

The Delicate Balance with Denali's Grizzlies

Amid our wildlife sightings, a critical conservation issue came to light. Denali is home exclusively to grizzly bears, who are more prone to viewing humans as potential prey than their black bear cousins.

This poses a unique challenge in maintaining a safe distance between these wild inhabitants and park visitors.

Encounter with Habituated Bears

Our guide, Chavez, introduced us to the concept of "problem bears" — grizzlies that have lost their natural wariness of humans.

He shared concerning tales of a particular sow and her cubs becoming too comfortable approaching human-populated areas in search of food. Such behavior poses a risk to humans and the bears themselves, as they could be euthanized to prevent potential attacks.

Efforts to Deter Unnatural Bear Behavior

Denali employs wildlife technicians who are tasked with monitoring and managing these problem bears. Their methods include using non-lethal deterrents like rubber bullets to discourage bears from coming too close to human territories.

We witnessed this team in action, observing from a distance as they worked to instill a healthy fear of humans into the bears.

Chavez recounted a recent incident where the same family of bears had exhibited aggressive behavior, including biting parts of a bus and invading a campground.

These actions underscored the ongoing efforts required to protect the park's bears and visitors.

A Successful Deterrence Strategy

Fortunately, during our encounter, the sow and her cubs maintained a safe distance from our bus, indicating that the deterrence strategies might take effect.

Chavez expressed relief and satisfaction at this development, highlighting the complex relationship between wildlife management and conservation in Denali.

This experience highlighted the vital efforts to protect Denali's wildlife and visitors. It gave us a greater understanding of the balance needed.

This balance helps keep the animals' natural behaviors intact. At the same time, it lets people safely observe these majestic creatures.

Unprecedented Bear Sightings

Our journey into Denali's heart brought us face-to-face with the park's majestic grizzlies. Our encounters far surpassed expectations, marking an extraordinary aspect of our adventure.

We marveled at 19 bear sightings, an impressive tally underscoring Denali's rich wildlife habitat.

One encounter, in particular, left an indelible mark on our experience. A formidable male grizzly casually crossed the road before us, walking alongside our bus as if to escort us through his domain.

This encounter was a moment of pure wonder, observed in respectful silence to avoid disturbing the magnificent creature.

As we continued, the grizzly remained undeterred by our presence or that of another approaching bus, showcasing the untamed essence of Denali National Park.

This series of encounters deeply enriched our appreciation for the wild inhabitants of this vast landscape.

Denali National Park Trip Report: Grizzly bear on the road!

Even more bear photos to share with you:

Grizzly bear at Denali National Park

Mama Grizzly and cubs - Denali National Park Trip Report

Grizzly bear on the road - Denali National Park Trip Report

Capturing Denali's Wilderness: Beyond the Bears

A Tapestry of Wildlife

Grizzlies weren't the only wildlife we saw in Denali. The park showed us much more. We saw a moose from afar and a quick fox that crossed our way.

Red fox at Denali National Park

Even though the Dahl sheep were far off, they still caught our eye. The caribou, easily recognized by their antlers, let us get a good look at them.

Caribou at Denali National Park Trip

We didn't manage to see a North American wolf, though. We had hoped to spot one, but it didn't happen this time. That gives us another reason to come back.

The Landscape of Denali

Despite our hopes, Mt. Denali remained hidden from view, enveloped in clouds even as the sun illuminated our surroundings.

Interestingly, this is a common experience, with statistics indicating that only about one-third of visitors get a clear view of the mountain in its full glory.

Denali National Park Trip Report and 11 tips for making your trip to Denali as awesome as ours was!

Nevertheless, the expansive landscapes of Denali National Park captivated us. The shuttle made several stops designed to take in the scenery and capture photographs.

Views from Eielson Visitor Center - Denali National Park Trip Report

Despite seeing Mt. Denali, the vast wilderness and breathtaking landscapes left us in awe.

Each photo stop along the shuttle route offered a chance to immortalize the majestic beauty of Denali, proving that the park's allure extends far beyond its elusive mountain peak.

Denali National Park Trip Report

After three and a half hours of driving, we arrived at the Eielson Visitor Center, deep within Denali National Park. This stop marked the farthest point of our journey into the park.

Chavez, our driver, announced he would be heading back in thirty minutes, inviting anyone ready to return to join him. Alternatively, we could explore more around the Visitor Center or catch a later shuttle for further adventures.

The Return Journey

We opted to return with Chavez, finding the shuttle pleasantly less crowded. This allowed for window seats for everyone, enhancing our return trip with more of Chavez's engaging narration and the opportunity for light-hearted conversations among travelers.

During this return journey, we enjoyed a significant portion of our wildlife sightings, adding a final touch to our memorable day in Denali.

Reflections at the Aurora Denali Lodge

Back at the Aurora Denali Lodge for another night, we reflected on the day's extraordinary experiences. The journey through Denali offered us breathtaking views, remarkable wildlife encounters, and a deep connection with Alaska's wild beauty.

As we continued our travels the next day, the impressions of Denali lingered, leaving us with a collection of memories to cherish and stories to share about the profound beauty and untamed wilderness of Alaska.

9 Tips for Making The Most Of Your Visit to Denali National Park

So, now that you know what we did in Denali and saw the photos, here are my tips for a successful visit to Denali.

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

Denali National Park attracts visitors from across the globe. Almost all of them arrive between June and September. Which means the park is bustling during that time of year. Everything is in high demand and expensive too.

Moreover, you can't just drive your car into the park like in Yosemite or Yellowstone. Nope, in Denali, you're only allowed to drive the first 15 miles of the road that goes into the park.

You'll have to take a shuttle or a tour bus to see the views from the other 87 miles of road. Which one? I will discuss that later, but I just wanted to mention that you want to reserve your ride in advance.

Finding accommodation near Denali National Park can be challenging, especially considering it was the most costly part of our trip to Alaska.

Our stay wasn't even immediately next to the park; we chose Healy, a quaint town about twenty miles from Denali, for its balance of convenience and cost.

For those seeking accommodations closer to the park entrance, it's important to note that options tend to fill up quickly and may come at a premium.

Staying in Healy or similar areas offers a viable alternative, but booking as early as possible is crucial regardless of location.

During our visit, we stayed at the Aurora Denali Lodge, a choice that offered comfort and value. I'll share more detailed insights into our stay in a separate review. Consider flexible options, such as free cancellation policies, when booking your stay.

This way, you're better positioned to adjust your plans if you come across a more appealing deal later.

Tip #2: Opt for the Shuttle Over Guided Tour Buses

To fully experience Denali National Park beyond the initial 15-mile mark, you're presented with two primary options:

Narrated Tours:

These tours, promoted as "Narrated Bus" on the park's website and "The Denali Tour Experience" on booking platforms, are the pricier choices.

They promise a comprehensive, narrated tour by a driver-cum-naturalist and may include talks by park rangers or Alaskan natives. However, these tours are more rigid, requiring participants to stick with the group for the duration.

The Green Shuttle Bus:

Described as "non-narrated" shuttles by the park and simply as "shuttles" on booking sites, these buses offer a journey identical to the narrated tours but with added flexibility.

Passengers can hop on and off at various stops throughout the park, making it a more adaptable and budget-friendly option. There's no assured narration, yet the significantly lower cost and the freedom it offers make it an attractive alternative.

Our decision became clear after reading other travelers' reviews praising the unexpected high-quality narration provided on the shuttle.

For a family of four, including two kids under 15, the shuttle offered substantial savings and flexibility that suited our exploratory nature.

Our experience validated our choice. Our shuttle ride was unexpectedly rich in narration. Our driver, embracing the role of an impromptu guide, ensured our trip was as informative as it was breathtaking.

This gesture, exceeding our expectations, warranted generous tips from all of us, a small price for the invaluable insight into Denali.

Additional Note: While the park does operate three free shuttles for shorter distances within the first 15 miles, they don't offer the whole park experience. For a comprehensive exploration, the paid shuttle options are the way to go, blending cost-effectiveness with the thrill of discovery.

Tip #3: Secure Your Tickets Early and Explore the Kennels

Picking up your tour tickets a day in advance is a strategy I highly recommend to reduce stress. While getting your tickets on the morning of your tour is possible, doing so the day before eliminates the worry of potential delays or long lines at the counter.

This early preparation not only eases the morning rush but also opens up an opportunity to spend a leisurely half-day exploring the park.

With our tickets in hand the day before, we visited the park's sled dog kennels, a unique feature of Denali. These kennels house working sled dogs and offer insight into traditional modes of winter transport within the park.

The visit provided an engaging and educational experience, allowing us to enjoy the park's offerings without the time constraints of our tour day. It also meant we could return to our lodge early for a restful evening, a welcome preparation for an early start the next day.

Tip #4: Leverage Your National Parks Pass for a Refund

For those planning to take a shuttle or bus tour within Denali, be aware that each ticket includes an additional charge, ostensibly as an entrance fee to the park. However, if you possess an annual National Parks Pass, you're eligible for a refund of this additional fee.

Upon collecting our tickets, I inquired about this possibility and was pleased to learn that the extra charge could be refunded. The process was straightforward, with the fee promptly returned to our credit card, a small but appreciated saving for pass holders.

This tip not only underscores the value of the National Parks Pass but also highlights the importance of asking about potential savings or benefits it may provide during your visit.

Tip #5: Multiple Trips Into the Park Aren't Necessary for Everyone

Standard advice for visiting Denali is to venture into the park multiple times to increase your chances of seeing wildlife and catching a glimpse of Mt. Denali.

While more trips statistically boost your likelihood of diverse encounters, our experience showed that one well-planned visit can be just as fulfilling.

The rationale behind multiple visits is sound—each journey through Denali offers a unique experience with the potential for varied animal sightings and natural phenomena.

We were fortunate to have a rich wildlife experience on our single trip, though the elusive mountain remained hidden from view, a common experience for many.

Our decision to limit ourselves to one excursion was primarily influenced by the practicalities of traveling with children. Despite the promise of extraordinary sights, the idea of spending 8 to 11.5 hours on a bus seemed overwhelming.

At the end of our day-long adventure, the unanimous feeling was that our journey had been thoroughly rewarding, negating any desire for repetition the next day.

This sentiment was especially poignant as we noted we were one of the few families with children among our fellow travelers.

This isn't to dissuade you from multiple tours if your schedule and patience allow. However, for families or those who prefer not to spend consecutive days on lengthy bus rides, a single, well-timed tour can capture the essence of Denali's majesty and wilderness.

Our singular journey into the heart of Denali National Park was immensely satisfying, affirming that quality can triumph over quantity.

Tip #6: Opt for an Early Morning Shuttle

Catching the earliest shuttle into Denali National Park can significantly enhance wildlife viewing opportunities. The shuttles start as early as 6 AM, and we aimed for the 6:30 AM departure.

Despite booking three months in advance, the earliest slots were already taken, underscoring the importance of early planning.

Early mornings and late evenings are prime times for wildlife activity, including bears, often spotted foraging. This pattern holds across various natural settings and has been consistent with our experiences.

Indeed, our early start rewarded us with numerous animal sightings, including close encounters with grizzlies.

Many travelers I've spoken with who visited Denali at later times reported fewer wildlife sightings, sometimes missing bears entirely or only seeing them from afar. The difference, it seems, lies in the timing of the visit.

Setting an early alarm during your vacation might seem daunting, but the potential reward of witnessing Denali's wildlife up close is invaluable.

There's something extraordinary about starting your day with the sight of a grizzly bear near your bus, a moment of natural wonder that justifies the early wake-up call.

Tip #7: Strategic Bus Seating for Optimal Views

Choosing where to sit on the shuttle can enhance your Denali National Park experience. A simple yet effective strategy is to sit on the left side while heading into the park and switch to the right on your return journey.

This positioning offers panoramic views of the landscape to the south, ensuring you don't miss any of Denali's breathtaking vistas.

People on the shuttle in Denali NP

For wildlife observations, your seat choice is less crucial. The shuttle's protocol is to halt animal sightings, allowing all passengers to gather and view from the best vantage point.

This communal approach ensures everyone can witness Denali's diverse wildlife up close, regardless of their seat.

It's also worth noting that the shuttle makes several stops for restroom breaks, during which passengers generally leave their belongings to reserve seats.

However, on the return trip, our shuttle was only half-full, allowing us to switch seats for a change in perspective. This may vary depending on the time of day and shuttle occupancy, but it's an excellent option.

Tip #8: Layer Up for the Weather

The weather in Denali National Park can be unpredictable, with temperatures fluctuating between warm and cold throughout the day. In the early morning, buses may be heated, making lighter clothing like T-shirts comfortable.

However, as windows open for wildlife viewing or you step outside, additional layers, such as sweatshirts and jackets, become necessary. A rain jacket is also advisable for sudden weather changes. Dressing in layers ensures you're prepared for any condition.

Tip #9: Pack Sufficient Food and Water

No food services are available along the park's shuttle routes, so bringing enough food and water for the day is crucial.

Although you can refill water bottles at the Eielson Visitors Center, having enough for the journey there is essential for staying hydrated and energized.

#10: Essential Gear for Viewing

Bring binoculars and a high-quality camera to fully capture the beauty of Denali and its inhabitants.

Many animals may appear at a distance, and binoculars can enhance your viewing experience, while a good camera ensures you capture those memorable moments in detail.

Tip #11: Embrace the Unpredictability

Denali's wilderness is wild and untamed, making every visit unique. Despite careful planning, seeing the mountain or encountering specific wildlife is not guaranteed.

Approach your visit with openness and gratitude for the park's experiences, from serene landscapes to unexpected wildlife sightings. The sheer wonder of being in such a vast, untouched natural space is a remarkable experience.

Sharing Your Experience If this guide has enriched your understanding or anticipation of visiting Denali National Park, consider sharing it with others who might appreciate these insights.

Social media shares, Pinterest pins, or simply discussing your plans with friends can spread excitement and prepare others for their adventure into the heart of Alaska's wilderness.

Are you looking to see more of that famous Alaska wild scenery? Check out my mega-post about the National Parks of Alaska. Or try my posts about things to do in Fairbanks and things to do in Anchorage for other adventures.

Questions? Comments? Please do share them here!

Visiting Denali National Park - Trip Report & Tips

Visiting Denali National Park - Trip Report & Tips

Visiting Denali National Park - Trip Report & Tips

Visiting Denali National Park - Trip Report & Tips

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  1. I want to visit so I can see the Northern lights, take a train ride to the National Park. My main focus to see the Northern lights. I dont have much time to stay. My daughter will need to return to school. My mother passed and she was not able to see the lights so I want to go with my daughter. Please advise. I dont want to go when there is too much darkness or too cold. We would fly in and out. I need to book soon with my travel agent.

    • Hi Francyne,

      Unfortunately, your best chances of seeing the lights are when it’s dark (and cold). You don’t have to see the Northern Lights in Denali necessarily. If you’re lucky enough to be there when there’s a good solar storm, you should be able to see them from anywhere, really. There are specialized tours for seeing the northern lights. Something like this –
      They take you up north where you have the best chances of seeing the lights. Though really, you should be able to see them from anywhere in Alaska. It’s just a question of being lucky enough to have a good display while you’re there, clear sky and a good dark place for watching them. Good luck!

  2. I know it says you booked the “earliest possible tour.” What time did you go? We are looking at the 6:30 AM, but there is a 6 AM available. I wondered if a half hour really would make a difference for wildlife viewing purposes. (I know there is no guarantee that we will see wildlife…I just want to increase our chances by whatever means possible.)

  3. If we take the bus into the park as you recommend, does it stop for hiking trails or is this for wildlife viewing? Starting to plan a family trip with teenagers that want both and pictures?

    • Hi Abby,
      There are several designated routes. At these routes, the bus stops for about 10 minutes, allowing people to get off the bus, stretch their legs, have a snack etc. You’re free to hit the trails at any of these points too, and then board another bus to continue your journey later on. The only thing is, that would be based on availability. So, if you’re 3-4 people, there is a chance you may need to split up if there aren’t enough seats on the other buses.

  4. Thank you for your post! Early stages of planning our trip!!
    When you say left side of the shuttle bus…is that facing the driver…or facing the back of the bus.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Carrie,
      It’s the side behind the driver, so facing the driver. The front seats on the other side are awesome too. Enjoy Alaska!

  5. Hi, Anne, I enjoyed reading your post about yur trip to Denali. We have a cruise planned in Sept., arriving in ANC on 9/7, renting a car and driving to Denali on the 8th, then returning on the 10th to catch a train/bus to Whittier on the 1th. Your article was very helpful because it sounds like the amount of time we have in Denali with plans like yours. I had just finished reading about the Dog Sled training camp on another post, and I like the idea of going there the first afternoon. We, too, are staying at the Aurora Denali Lodge, I would love to see your review on it. The staff up there have all been very nice on the phone and sent me a few tips about the area. I also like the tip about asking for a refund for the Park Entrance. My husband has a senior National Park card, so I wondered about that. I love the tip about the green shuttle bus, too. I would like to go the entire route, but doubt my husband would like the 11-hour ride either. I plan on checking out your posts about what to see in ANC. Thanks again.

    • Hi Gail,
      I’m so glad you found this post helpful! We had a good experience at the Aurora Denali Lodge and I hope you will as well. The room was spacious and clean and they had a nice breakfast. No complaints. Enjoy your visit!

      • Thanks so much for the reply, Anne. I’m looking forward to the whole visit. Personally, I like quaint motels over the major chains. Do you have a recommendation for a stay in ANC that is inexpensive and clean?

  6. Hi. I enjoyed reading about your trip into the park. Do you know if there is a 1 day train tour? I keep seeing 3 days mentioned, but I don’t think we will have time for that this summer. We are looking to do a cruise ( never been on a cruise ship) and do some land and sea adventures. Any help would be much apprreciated. We have 5- 7 days available.

    • Hi Denise,
      I think you mean a train tour from Anchorage and back? I can see how that would be a three-day excursion. You’d need to spend some time to get from Anchorage to the park and some time getting back. In between you want to have at least one full day to explore the park. I don’t think it makes a good day trip from Anchorage, to be honest.
      If you have 5-7 days available once in Anchorage, I would look into renting a car and then traveling to Denali as well as to Seward. Here’s my post about things to do in Seward, AK. I hope this helps!

  7. I’m headed there in August 2019,(last week of) I’m curious if you were able to see any northern lights? Great blog by the way….Karen

  8. Your Denali visit sounds perfect. I am planning a trip for my sister and her husband for next year for their anniversary of two weeks in Alaska, Denali of course being on the agenda. Can you tell me why you started in Fairbanks. I have started a trip in Anchorage and departed from Fairbanks in the past, but not the other way, will need to consider that also. Was airfare the consideration? It is still too early to look at airfare but we are putting together a travel agenda on paper. I have taken the fully guided tour bus in Denali and knew nothing of the kennels so obviously did not do my research. We will definitely consider the shuttles. Thanks for a great report.

    • Hi Linda,
      In our case, we drove all the way from Los Angeles and also included Seward and Valdez in our itinerary. The way we did it was – Whitehorse > Fairbanks > Denali > Anchorage > Seward > Valdez > Whitehorse. We could have switched directions but that would have meant doing Whitehorse > Valdez > Seward > Anchorage > Denali > Fairbanks > Whitehorse. Totally doable but I thought Fairbanks would be a bit of an anti-climax coming in the end. Also, coming in, we sort of wanted to have a bit of “city time” to start with.
      It ended up working very well for us. A long stop (four days) in Fairbanks was great after driving the Cassiar and parts of the Alaska Highway. A sort of “returning to civilization” feeling. Then heading out to wild Denali, Seward (Kenai Fjords) and Valdez.
      For a fly-in-fly-out trip between Anchorage and Fairbanks, I would definitely go with the cheaper flights. I don’t think it really matters in that case, which direction you’re going. In fact, if they don’t mind the drive, I hope they get to spend some time outside the cities. I would plan for the entire loop (maybe minus valdez if they don’t have the time). Something like –
      Fairbanks – 2 days
      Denali – 2 days (total, including arrival from Fairbanks and touring the kennels and park entrance on that day)
      Seward – 3 days (lots to do in Seward!)
      Anchorage – 2 days
      Drive to Valdez – 1 day
      Valdez – 1 day
      Drive to Fairbanks – 1 day
      Fly out of Fairbanks

      That’s with time to spare, so they can add days in places of interest. We found Alaska very easy to drive through. There was cell reception in most area – as good as anywhere else in the Western US – and the roads were good. I’m sure your sister and BIL are going to love Alaska – they’re very lucky to have you help them out with planning!

  9. Thank you for all the information! Very helpful! I was wondering…. we have a cruise and then land package with Holland America at the end of June. As part of the land package they are taking us on a 7 hour bus trip through the park. Do you think that it is the same as the Tundra Tour as you mentioned, or do you think that it would be best to book that as well? Supposedly we are in the park for three days, but I am dubious as to whether we will actually be there that long considering the time taken to travel to and from there from anchorage. We want to see and do it all to get our money’s worth. Also, we are told that while our accomadations are included, our meals are not. What would you suggest as to dining without breaking the budget. I’d appreciate your advise. Thank you! Neva Abbott

    • Hi Neva,
      Sorry for taking so long to reply. It’s been a hectic week here!
      I agree with you that with 3 days dedicated to the Denali excursion, they’re probably counting one day of getting to the park and one for returning, so probably just one full day in Denali.
      Sounds like they already booked you on either a shuttle or an actual tour bus. I don’t think you could fit in an additional tour. However, you may prefer to take that day to tour Denali in a separate shuttle tour to go further into the park. A 7 hour tour means they’re taking you only as far as the Eielson Visitor Center. You can book your own shuttle tickets for the same day, leave your group and take the longer drive into the park instead. I’m not saying that I recommend doing that, only that it’s probably an option. Personally, I found the 7-8 hour tour to Eielson and back enough but many recommend taking the longer tour.
      Having said all that, if you plan on making changes, definitely check with Holland America first. You don’t want to book anything that will end up conflicting with your overall plans to get back to your cruise.
      As for food, there is no food available inside the park itself once you’re on board the bus/shuttle. It’ll have to be sandwiches and snacks that you bring with you. You can get those in the facilities in the park entrance (before boarding the shuttle/bus) or anywhere near where your accommodation will be. Check with Holland America and try to find out which hotel they booked for your Denali visit, then you can check for grocery stores and/or cafes/restaurants around that.
      Enjoy your Denali trip!

  10. I am visiting Denali in 6 weeks time and I have been doing lots of reading up in the meantime.
    So excited. Loved your post and I have sent the link to my partner so he can read it too.
    Will be camping in an RV within the park at one of their dedicated RV camp sites.

    • Sounds amazing! I hope we can do that too someday! If you feel like writing a guest post here about your Denali camping trip, that would be super awesome! Enjoy!

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