5 Day Denali Highway & Denali National Park
Mid-May through mid-September
Why This Trip?
Iconic Alaskan scenery greets you at every turn on this itinerary. You'll explore the mountains and wildlife of Denali Natonal Park before embarking on one of the world's most scenic drives along the Denali Highway.
Arrive in Anchorage - Drive to Denali
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Arrive in bustling Anchorage and grab your rental car. Because this itinerary includes driving the Denali Highway, you'll need a rental that allows for travel on gravel roads, like Alaska 4x4 Rentals or Alaska Overlander. It's a little over 4 hours to drive to Denali. If there's time when you arrive, head to the park's visitor center to start getting acquainted with this vast expanse of nature.
Day & Overnight in Denali
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Today, you'll spend all day exploring the beauty of this park. Private vehicles are not allowed beyond mile 15, so you'll explore by bus. Opt for the National Park Service's hop-on, hop-off transit bus, or take a narrated tour. Spend 7-8 hours traveling 62 miles into the park on the Tundra Wilderness tour, or take 12 hours and go all 92 miles to the end, at Kantishna. Along the way, look for wildlife and of course, North America's tallest peak.
An alternative to a bus on the Park Road is to ride a bike! Bike Denali offers afternoon, full-day, and multi-day rentals. Bike from the park entrance, or put your bike on a shuttle to catch a ride into the park and then pedal out!
Drive the Denali Hwy Day 1
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You'll spend the next two days driving one of the world's most spectacular routes: the 135 miles of the Denali Highway, which mostly lies above treeline and offers spectacular views that go on forever. It's a trip that few people make, and the gravel road means that you'll need a special rental car as previously mentioned. You'll also be driving slowly, but you wouldn't want to speed past the scenery anyway. Stop at pullouts like the MacLaren Summit (at milepost 37), where there's a great hike. Spend the night at the Clearwater Mountain Lodge, which offers camping, lodge rooms, and cabins, all surrounded by majestic scenery.
Drive the Denali Hwy Day 2 to Copper Center
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Get back on the road and continue your scenic drive along the Denali Highway. You'll find especially dramatic mountain views at mileposts 95 and 124, so factor in some time to stop and take it in. From the Denali Highway, get on the Richardson Highway and head to Copper Center, on the edge of America's largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias. If you have time, stop in at the Copper Center VIsitor Center Complex and start to learn about the beautiful park you're about to explore. Also tour the Ahtna Cultural Center next door to see a hand-built fish wheel and hear about the Native Alaskans in this area. And check out the short hiking trails and scenic overlooks.
Travel from Copper Center to Anchorage
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Today you'll head back to Anchorage. Along the way, stop off at the mammoth Matanuska Glacier, one of Alaska's few roadside glaciers. Get right up to it and take a guided hike on the ice. Once in Anchorage, get an in-depth picture of the city and state at the Anchorage Museum, or visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center for a dose of history and culture. And don't forget to do some souvenir shopping before you leave!