Visitors awed by Denali’s natural beauty

DENALI PARK, Alaska  — The beauty of Denali National Park and Preserve is unparalleled. The snow-topped mountains span as far as the eye can see. The lush greenery is home to hundreds of different species of animals.

The park offers multiple ways for travelers young and old to see just some of its six million acres. Whether you choose to travel by foot, bus or even ATV, your Denali park experience will surely be one you’ll never forget.

A view of an old totem pole on a trail hike in Denali National Park and Preserve (Photos by Emily Eidelman). IMG_2068

Denali can easily be explored on your own two feet. Park and preserve officials say the most popular trail is the Horseshoe Lake Trail. It is near the main entrance of the park, making it easily accessible. The three-mile hike takes around an hour and a half to complete.

“Horseshoe lake attracts a lot of visitors,” summer ranger Jon Craver said. “I recommend it for its stunning views of Nenana River. Even with the steep incline, many visitors young and old enjoy the trail.”

If you prefer to hike off a trail, Denali makes it easy with its uncharted territories. Visitors are free to hike where they please. All you need to do is take a park shuttle to your desired location and flag it down on the road once you’re finished.

“I’ve hiked before, but I wouldn’t say I’m the most experienced,” visitor Travis Lau, from San Francisco  said. “The staff at the Visitors Center was so helpful, though, and I felt totally comfortable. They encouraged me to get off the trails and explore whatever I thought looked interesting. The area I chose didn’t even have a name, but I got to see moose up close! For my first time hiking off trail, I’d say it was a success.”

Hiking trails may be too exhausting for families with young travelers. If this applies to you, taking a bus is a great option. There is only one road that crosses through Denali and it is 92 miles long. Since private vehicles can not pass mile 15, the bus is the best way to see the park in its entirety.

“I always recommend the bus to all of my clients,” travel agent Ada King, located in Chicago, said. “I can tell they are a bit reluctant, but it is always a great trip. They get to see almost all of the park has to offer, plus with multiple stops throughout the ride, they can get up close to the beautiful nature surrounding them.”

The animal lover in you will also love the bus, because although it is not guaranteed, you will almost definitely spot multiple species of wildlife. According to park bus driver Alex Brown, it is common to see over five types of animals on each ride.

“Many of our patrons are surprised at the end of the day,” Brown said. “I love pointing out the animals and giving everyone an up-close and personal look at the wildlife that surrounds them. This is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and I consider my day to be successful if my bus sees that.”

IMG_2132 Denali ATV Adventures shows travelers a new and exciting way to explore Denali National Park and Preserve.

For the family who’s looking for a bit more of an adventure than a bus ride, there’s one more vehicle that makes its way through the park day and night: an ATV. Denali ATV Adventures provides travelers with the most exhilarating rides through the park. They offer four different rides within the park, each different lengths and routes. Travelers can also choose between a one-person, two-person and four-person ATV, Zach Morris, a guide, located in Denali Park, explained.

“This was the first time I had ever ridden an ATV,” Anne Lotsoff, originally from Glencoe, Ill., said. “I was terrified, and I had to be convinced just to go on the trip. We crisscrossed our way through the park. I felt that I got an up close and personal view, all while having the time of my life on the ATV!”

You can explore Denali at any speed, from 2 to 40 m.p.h. Each option guarantees you a personal connection with the park.

“Alaska is untouched beauty,” Lau said. “When you’re in Denali, you can feel how special it is. You realize how small you are in a place so large and full of history. You will connect with nature and realize its beauty. I wouldn’t trade any experiences I’ve had here for the world.”


If You Go

  • Wear sneakers or hiking shoes – no matter which way you choose to see the park, you will be doing a lot of walking. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes that will hold up against gravel and mud.
  • Book your bus tour – the bus tours are run through National Park Service. The tour lasts approximately five hours, so plan your day around it. All children under 15 are free. Adult tickets range from $26.50-34.00 depending on the specific tour. To reserve tickets, call 800-622-7275.
  • Book your ATV tour – Denali ATV Adventures is open from May 18 to Sept. 11 each summer. They offer multiple tours daily and nightly, so you will be able to book at your hotel in Alaska. If you’d prefer to book in advance, you can email or call 907-683-4ATV.

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