Since you can’t drive your own car more than a few miles into Denali National park, most people end up seeing the park by way of a tour bus. But if you want to explore Denali National Park, rather then just "tour" it, the Denali Park Transit Bus is a pretty ideal option.
2023 Partial Road Closure Update: In the summer of 2023, construction will continue on a bridge to bypass a landslide at MP 45.4 of the Denali Park Road. Tour buses and transit buses will only travel as far as MP 43. Construction is expected to take two years. The Transit Bus will access the East Fork area, turning around at mile 43. This half-day bus trip is available for sightseers, and those wanting to hike in the Denali backcountry. The East Fork Area offers access to the East Fork River hiking area. En-route, you'll enjoy scenic points such as Sable Pass. The Camper Bus will also be available for campers without a private vehicle with reservations at Teklanika and Sanctuary Campgrounds. The Hiker Bus will be available to visitors who register in advance for the Park Ranger guided, Discovery Hike at the Denali Visitor Center.
Easy Hop-On, Hop-Off Access
The transit buses are perfect for the do-it-yourself traveler. They go 92 miles one way to Kantishna, pairing flexibility with low cost. You can get off anywhere, spend a few hours hiking, then catch another bus back to the park entrance - as long as a seat is available. Designated transit buses even accommodate campers, hikers, bikers, and all their gear.
Keep in mind, though: These trips are not officially guided tours. Drivers/guides are not required to provide commentary. Don't hesitate to ask questions. When you see a bear or a moose, just yell at the driver to "Stop!"
Plus, the buses are far from luxury motorcoaches: they’re essentially converted school buses, and you’ll look forward to getting off. So where should you hop off? Depends what you want to do. Most riders are on the bus to experience the following:
Where to Hop Off for Wildlife
Bear, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, and tons of birds make their homes in Denali National Park. Bring binoculars. And talk to the bus drivers; they know this road as well as anyone and can give you the inside scoop on where the wildlife is that day.
Mile 9. A great place to see moose, especially during fall rutting season.
Mile 34. Igloo Mountain—look for Dall sheep.
Miles 38-43. A bear habitat area
Mile 64. Thorofare Pass is a good place to find bear and caribou.
Where to Hop Off to Hike
Bring those hiking boots, because Denali is a great place to walk and hike.
Mile 53. The flat plain by the Toklat River makes for easy walking.
Mile 58. The soft alpine tundra makes for a comfy walk from here to the Eielson Visitor Center at mile 66.
Mile 66. Rangers at the Visitor Center lead one-hour walks on the tundra every day at 1pm, starting in mid-June. Start your bus trip by 9am to get here on time.
Where to Hop Off for Big Views
Words can barely begin to describe the views of nature along the road. Bringing extra film or memory cards goes without saying.
Mile 9. The closest spot to the park entrance with a view of Denali.
Mile 46. Top of Polychrome Pass, the most scenic point on the entire park road.
Mile 58. Dramatic views of Denali start here.
Mile 85. Gorgeous Wonder Lake, the closest road point to Denali. Its massive presence here makes it hard to believe it’s still 27 miles away.
What Will You Find at Mile 85?
Some buses continue on to the very end of the park road, at Kantishna. If you want to experience an old mining town tucked deep into the wilderness, journey the extra half-hour.
No experience necessary. No minimum age, but little children will have a hard time sitting still for the entire ride.
Note: State law requires that children under the age of 4, or less than 40 pounds, be in a car seat. Parents are responsible for providing an appropriate car seat. Advanced bus tickets, reservations handled by Doyon/Aramark Joint Venture.