The Best Wildlife Viewing Spots in Denali National Park

People visit Denali National Park for two main reasons: to see Denali (Mt. McKinley) and to view wildlife. While neither experience is guaranteed, your odds of seeing wildlife are good if you know where to look.

The best chance to view wildlife in Denali is on an excursion, specifically an early morning bus tour down the Denali Park Road. These tours are available in varying lengths from 4 to 12 hours, and the likelihood of spotting wildlife improves the longer you stay on the bus and the deeper into the park you go. The animals you can hope to see include moose, bear, caribou, wolves, dall sheep, other small land mammals like marmots, as well as a variety of birds.

80 to 90% of visitors see bears, sheep, and caribou, though often from a distance. 35% see moose (but your chances double in the late season), and only 20% of visitors see wolves.

We have put together a list of wildlife viewing hot spots in Denali National Park. Most are points along the Denali Park Road that you will see from a bus tour, while others are viewing points from hiking trails and visitor’s centers.

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Best Wildlife Viewing Spots in Denali National Park

Denali Park Road Tours

Private vehicles are not allowed on the park road beyond mile 15. These busses are the way you'll gain access to the park for wildlife viewing.
Season: May 14 to Sep 18 $101.75+ 4.5 to 12 hrs

Denali is an absolute­ly stun­ning park — full of amaz­ing wildlife and unfor­get­table scenery. And the best way to get an overview is aboard one of the park bus­es, which fea­ture a trained nat­u­ral­ist who both dri­ves and pro­vides narration.

Season: Jun 04 to Sep 12 $199 14 hours

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.

Season: Jun 07 to Sep 17 $199 13.5 hrs

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.

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. 

$270+ 1 hr+

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.

Season: Year Round Group HIkes $199/person | Denali Park Road $895/vehicle (up to 8 people) Full Day

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..

Best Wildlife Viewing Spots in Denali National Park

These are the spots to look for wildlife along the Denali Park Road during your bus tour.
Difficulty: Easy Distance: 2 miles

Either dri­ve your own car or take the free shut­tle 15 miles out the park road to the Sav­age Riv­er check sta­tion. This is a pop­u­lar hik­ing trail, and you won’t be alone, but at least you’re away from the entrance area and enter­ing the true wilder­ness of Denali Nation­al Park. This is a tun­dra walk on a devel­oped trail that fol­lows the riv­er. Good hike for kids, with pos­si­bil­i­ty of see­ing Dall sheep, mar­mots, and cari­bou. You can do a loop walk,  ...more

This is the most pho­tographed view of Denali (Mt. McKin­ley) from the road. You’re up high, at the edge of a moun­tain pass, and there’s alpine tun­dra all around, with the road snaking towards the moun­tain in the fore­ground. And this is the first spot where you can see the whole moun­tain from base to sum­mit. On clear days, Tun­dra Wilder­ness Tours will extend their trip sev­er­al miles just to reach this spot. Stony Hill is also a great place to…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate

This infor­mal hik­ing area begins at the Prim­rose rest area and heads up a gen­tle ridge until you reach the bench, which pro­vides panoram­ic views of the park. Wild­flow­ers are abun­dant in this area and usu­al­ly peak between July 20 and August 10.

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.

Tat­tler Creek is named for the Wan­der­ing Tat­tler, a large shore­bird that you may be lucky enough to spot. The first Wan­der­ing Tat­tler nest known to sci­ence was found at Denali Nation­al Park. The first nests of the Arc­tic War­bler and Surf­bird were also found here.

A great place to catch a glimpse of Dall Sheep, Igloo Moun­tain is also where the first dinosaur tracks in the park were dis­cov­ered. You can see them your­self, if you go on one of the many easy day hikes that start here.

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. 

Difficulty: Easy

Only 33 miles from the sum­mit of Denali, and at an ele­va­tion of 3300’, Eiel­son offers some of the most spec­tac­u­lar views of Denali (for­mer­ly Mt McKin­ley). There are many activ­i­ties you can do here, includ­ing ranger-guid­ed hikes up to near­by Tho­ro­fare Pass and self-guid­ed expi­ra­tion of the high-alpine tun­dra environment.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 9 miles Elevation Gain: 3200 feet

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.

The 20 miles before Kan­tish­na offers views of hun­dreds of small ket­tle lakes. These lakes pro­vide crit­i­cal habi­tat for moose, birds, and beavers. What are these ani­mals after and how do the lakes pro­vide? Audio tour by Camp Denali Wilder­ness Lodge.

Cari­bou trails weave back and forth across the alpine slopes above Stony Hill. These trails are evi­dence of the sea­son­al migra­tion pat­terns of Denali’s cari­bou. Find out why cari­bou under­take this migra­tion, and where you can expect to find them depend­ing on the sea­son. Audio tour by Camp Denali Wilder­ness Lodge.

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.

Difficulty: Moderate

Pick up the trail right after you cross over Tat­ter Creek. Fol­low Tat­tler Creek upstream for 14 mile to a steep ravine that comes in from the left. Fol­low this ravine up until you reach a ridge that over­looks the Sable Pass restrict­ed area. If you only plan to spend time on the ridge with­out going far­ther afield you may want to stock up on water in the ravine because there are no sources on the ridge­line. From the ridge you can choose to…  ...more

Poly­chrome Pass gets it’s name from the col­or­ful vol­canic rocks that you can see from the over­look, but the name could also be applied to the col­or­ful veg­e­ta­tion, streams, moun­tains and glac­i­ers that make this spot unique. This high over­look is a great spot to watch bears, moose and cari­bou from far enough away that you won’t risk dis­turb­ing them.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 32 miles Elevation Gain: 4200 feet

This is an unmarked, unmain­tained trail and can be dif­fi­cult to fol­low, but is a good exam­ple of the real out­doors in Denali Nation­al Park.

The best spots to see moose near the entrance of Denali Nation­al Park, and along the 92-mile Denali Park Road.