Best Time to Visit Denali National Park


When Not to Visit

See more Monthly Travel Guides

The crowning jewel of the park is 20,320-foot Denali (which people outside of Alaska know as Mount McKinley), the highest mountain in North America. Even during the best months to visit the park, from May until mid-September, the peak can be shrouded in clouds. Still, this is the season when the days are long, flowers are blooming (there are more than 650 species of flowering plants, plus mosses, lichens, and fungi), and wildlife is wide awake. And there is an embarrassment of wildlife: bears, sheep, caribou, and moose abound (wolf sightings are relatively rare), not to mention 167 species of birds. You might want to bring along a copy of The Birder’s Handbook, or download an app to your smartphone to help you identify what you see.

Cars are allowed to travel just the first 15 miles of Denali Park Road, the 92-mile route that meanders from the park’s entrance to the gold town of Kantishna. Beyond that, travel is by foot, bike, or bus, with one exception: visitors who are interested in obtaining a one-day road travel permit may apply for the pass via lottery on the National Park Service’s website. The permit gives them access to drive as much of the Denali Park Road as the weather allows during specific weekends in September.

Snow typically falls well into early May, but Denali Park Road is generally plowed by the first weekend of April. During the fall shoulder season, there are no guided activities within the park, but the road is open until snow makes it impassable.