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A Weekend in Denali National Park

Six million acres of stunning wilderness await in Alaska's Denali National Park.

fall landscape at denali national park
Denali is the third largest national park in the United States, but it's still possible to get a feel for the park in two days.
Uwe Bergwitz / Shutterstock

In this 6-million-acre park, you can spot grizzly cubs beside their mothers, Dall sheep climbing across hillsides, and lanky moose plucking willows—all in one day.

Things to Do and See in Denali

At the Denali Visitor Center near the park entrance, nature exhibits reveal some weird truths: Did you know that wood frogs freeze and thaw during winter and that blood siphoned by biting mosquitoes aids the survival of plants? 

Private vehicles can only drive a small portion of Denali Park Road, the 92-mile road that cuts through the park. Most of the single road in the park is only to bus traffic. Step off the hop-on, hop-off shuttles at scheduled stops to hike on paths such as the Eielson Alpine Trail, which zigzags up to panoramic views of Mount McKinley. Advanced reservations are recommended.

On this “flightseeing” tour, you’ll soar in a fixed-wing plane among stonefaced peaks and land on Ruth Glacier. 

Plunge through icy rapids on a two-hour rafting tour along the forested Nenana River.

a moose on display at the Denali Visitor Center, image

Get close to local wildlife at the Denali Visitor Center.

Bob Pool / Shutterstock

Where to Shop Near the Park

The funky Denali Arts & Glass Studio in Glitter Gulch—the boardwalk of stores near the park entrance—is packed with sparkling glass assemblages and hand-crocheted scarves.

Check out Native Alaskan spirit masks and fantastical carved whalebone totems at Three Bears Gallery.

photo of a mug of coffee and a fruit danish on a table

Coffee and danish at the Tonglen Lake Lodge café.

Courtesy Tonglen Lake Lodge

Where to Eat

Black Bear Coffee House has two locations to pick up a coffee and cookie for the bus ride into the park. 

In a wood-timbered house, 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern serves dishes made with ultrafresh local produce, such as smashed purple potatoes and roasted fruit tart. 

The café at the upscale Tonglen Lake Lodge features scones with bacon and dates or apricots and ginger. 

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This article was first published in July 2014 and last updated in June 2022.