Denali National Park Bear Viewing Tours
Your best chance to see bears lies between mile 20 and 60 of the Park Road, with the Sable Pass area at mile 39 being the sweet spot. Since the Park Road is closed to private vehicles after mile 14, your options are to ride the Park Shuttle or take a private bus tour offered by several concessionaires.
We hesitate to include Denali in our list of bear viewing locations, because unlike fly-in bear viewing hot spots, 1) you’re less likely to see them, 2) you may see only one or two, and 3) they may be far away. Yet both the Interior grizzly bear and black bear can be spotted from the road. Grizzlies or black bears may be spotted digging up roots and eating sedges, chasing down small critters or ambling across wide-open tundra. You are in a huge, protected wilderness, and seeing a massive, blonde grizzly grazing the tundra or sauntering across the road in front of your bus is truly a stirring moment.
You’ll be looking for bears, and other wildlife, from the windows of your bus. If you spot a bear, let the driver know, and they’ll stop. At this point, it’s great to have binoculars. Unless you choose to get dropped off by the Denali Park Shuttle Bus for a hiking or camping trip, you’ll be confined to the bus and won’t be wandering around on the ground too much. You can opt for bus rides ranging four hours to more than twelve hours.
Since the bears in Denali are not timed to certain salmon streams, you have a chance of spotting them anytime the Park Road is open, which generally runs from the first week of June to the second week of September. Peak season is June 11-Sept 8.
Bear Viewing Tours
Park Road Tours View All
These are the busses you'll ride into the park for bear and other wildlife viewing.
Explore all 92 miles of the Denali Park Road and have the entire trip narrated by an experienced driver. Not only will you see legendary landmarks such as Polychrome Pass, Wonder Lake and Reflection Pond, you will have opportunities to see the abundance of wildlife in the park. Enjoy a hot lunch, explore the grounds, pan for gold, or take a short walk along the creek, or relax in a rocker at the lodge and soak up the scenery.
Most people who visit the six-million-acre Denali National Park only see roughly the first dozen — or maybe 50 — miles of the legendary park Road. But this tour takes you all the way to the depths of Kantishna — the heart of the Park where you have the chance to experience postcard-perfect views of Mt. McKinley. This tour makes for a full day — from about 6 in the morning until 7 or 8 in the evening — but it’s an adventure of a lifetime.
Traverse Alaska can craft fully-guided custom adventures, or set you up on a trip into the Alaska wilderness arming you with some know-how — and providing you with the independence to freely explore. Traverse Alaska’s owner, Joe and his local team can help facilitate stays in lodges, cabins, tents or yurts, and provide the necessary gear and instructions..
The best way to get an overview of Denali National Park is aboard one of the park buses, which feature a trained naturalist who both drives and provides narration. Available tours include the Natural History Tour (4−5 hrs), Tundra Wilderness Tour (7−8 hrs), The Eielson Excursion (8−9 hrs) or The Kantishna Experience (11−12 hrs)
This is the only flightseeing company with an airstrip in Kantishna, inside Denali National Park. Because you depart so much closer to the mountain than other tours, in a one-hour flight, you’ll get 40 minutes circling the mountain. You may also combine a one-way park road bus tour with a Denali flightseeing tour for an incredible overview of the park.
This flexible alternative to the standard bus tour is a great option for independent travelers. Get off anywhere, spend a few hours hiking, then catch another bus back to the park entrance (as long as a seat is available). You can take a short ride before starting your adventure, or travel out to Kantishna, at the end of the park road.
Most Notable Bear Viewing Spots
These are the most common areas to spot bears along the Denali Park Road
The grizzly bears of Denali can be found feeding in almost every corner of Denali National Park. Early to mid summer, these bears can be often observed from Thorofare Pass. What draws these adaptable and persistent omnivores to this high alpine environment? Audio tour by Camp Denali Wilderness Lodge.
This hike does not require crossing any glaciers or dangerous streams, which makes for a good overnight hike for those who carry an overnight camping permit.
Sable Pass on the Denali Park Road is a wildlife hotspot. The area is designated as critical grizzly bear country in Denali National Park, so it is permanently closed in order to protect wildlife.
Igloo Creek is one of three tent-only campgrounds in the park. Situated right next to the creek, it is a great place to relax and enjoy the wilderness and the area around the campground offers great hiking opportunities.