Denali (McKinley) Flightseeing Tours: Anchorage vs Talkeetna vs Denali National Park

We have an expression in Alaska: the best place to flightsee from is where you are when the weather's good. Alaska weather can change quickly, and visitors unfortunately do get shut out. Check the forecast. If it looks like it's changing for the worse, go now.

Talkeetna (South Side) Advantages

This authentic pioneer town south of Denali is the closest takeoff point to the Denali massif itself.

Denali's south side features towering granite monoliths, steep-spilling glaciers, ruggedness, and rock spires.

  • Since weather is unpredictable, it offers the best chance for good flying weather.
  • Get to the mountain fast (15 minutes); have more time to explore.
  • Glacier landings.
  • Learn rich climbing history in this town where climbing expeditions base out of.
  • More operators.
Denali Park (North Side) Advantages

The north side of Denali plunges 17,000 feet to the tundra in just two miles (versus 30 miles on the south side).

The north side has fewer spires and cornices, but long glacial slopes with huge ice blocks and cliffs perched to fall off.

  • Get closest to Denali proper (unless you do a summit flight from Talkeetna).
  • Get right up to the 17,000 foot Wickersham Wall, the highest relief on the planet.
  • Spot more wildlife, including bear, Dall's sheep, and caribou.
  • See mining community of Kantishna and stampeders' trails.
  • Also helicopter tours.
Anchorage (South Side) Advantages

If you're headed north to Talkeetna or Denali National Park, and the weather forecast looks good, wait until you get there.

Denali flightseeing from Anchorage is still spectacular, but you spend more time getting there than seeing the mountain.

You'll fly north over a roadless wilderness of braided rivers, vast forests, and thriving wetlands while looking for moose and bear.

After 45 minutes, you'll enter the glacial amphitheaters of Denali for close-up views of crevasses, granite walls, and the mountain itself, which you explore for 30 minutes.

  • Opportunity to see Denali and and be back in town in 3 hours.
  • Longer tour (but less of it at the mountain).
  • On the return, some tours land on a wilderness lake.
  • If you're not headed north, this is a must-see.


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