As a lifelong Alaskan who has always lived near Denali National Park, I LOVE recommending the BEST things for visitors to #DenaliNationalPark to do. To make things easier, I've compiled a list of the TOP 10 FREE Things To Do in Denali National Park! And these aren't simple ideas such as "Look at Denali's wildlife." No sir, I've got 10 concrete activities for your family to participate in.
1. Visit the National Park Service Sled Dogs! These pups LOVE their job - and you'll love them too. It’s one of the most charming things about #denalinationalpark ! They have their own team of sled dogs to reach the farthest parts of the parks that become inaccessible by vehicles in winter months. These hardworking pups are a crucial part of keeping our land preserved! AND YOU can meet them!! (🎉) for free!! (🎉🎉) Located at Denali Park Headquarters.
2. Take a Hike Around Horseshoe Lake. We often see wildlife near the lake during this 2 mile hike; beavers are actively working on their dams at this lake and moose LOVE to take a swim here.. Trail recommended for: nearly any age group! 👶➡️👵. There is one large hill that you'll need to be able to hike down, and then back up. But once you're near the lake it's such a peaceful walk around the lake and past the Nenana River. We do not recommend you use a stroller on this trail, but it's great with hiking back packs for those littles!
3. Visit the Denali National Park Visitor's Center. See life-size animal exhibits and watch a film of the Park's history. I consider the Denali Park Visitors Center a must-see. There are life size animal replicas, a giant topographical map of Denali (the mountain, not the park) a movie that plays regularly throughout the day, and more interactive exhibits. This year, the Park Service has moved their visitors center outdoors in an effort to keep guests safe and the visitor's center sanitary. As you can see from the above image, from 2020, their display is right in the entrance to their visitors center, and you can only walk up to those tables where Park Rangers are waiting to assist you!
4. Drive Your Personal Vehicle to Savage River. Personal vehicles can drive 15 miles into DNP and it is a beautiful ride! You will be on pavement the entire time, and it is very clear where there is a parking lot to park in and hike two different trails! Only buses or park-approved tours are allowed past this parking lot, and there is a rangers station where it's very clear where to stop before. Ask this ranger if you have any questions as there is likely not cell phone service this deep into Denali.
5. Calling all Junior Rangers! Children ages 2 - 18 can become a Denali National Park Junior Ranger! If you visit the Denali Park Visitor's Center you can meet with a Park Ranger to receive your Junior Ranger packet! In our experience, the packets were great for ages 3+. Our three year olds weren't old enough to do the packet on their own but were VERY excited at the thought of earning a Junior Ranger badge.
6. Hike the Savage River Loop Trail. Beautiful brook, epic mountainsides, 1.7 miles of serene peaceful scenes. Once you've driven your car as far as you're allowed to go, jump out and stretch your legs!! I've personally seen a moose on this trail more than once, as well as sheep! There are two trails that leave from this parking lot, but this loop trail is a perfect afternoon hike before exploring more of Denali.
7. Photograph the Alaska of Your Dreams. Take a snapshot of majestic Denali or many of her beautiful scenes. I will let you in on a little secret - there are gorgeous places *around* Denali that are not even *in* Denali National Park! This is my one of my favorite spots, located outside of park boundaries. You can find this photo location at Otto Lake in nearby Healy, Alaska.
8. Catch and Release Fishing. It might be more fishing than catching, but memories will be made. Search for clear creeks and ponds as many of our local streams are glacier fed and are filled with silt! One of the easiest spots to try your hand is the Savage River.
9. Take a bus! Denali National Park offers several different free bus services. Be sure to check the Denali National Park Website as the bus tours offered vary from year to year, as well as different times within the same season. You need to get on a bus to go past mile 15, but there are free shuttles within Denali up to Mile 15.
10. Browse Locally Owned Shops In "The Canyon". This one is only free if you don't find something you love - browse all sorts of shops and bring home something memorable. There are lots of locally owned gift shops & food stops in Denali! Enjoy an evening strolling “the boardwalk” after a fun day exploring Denali National Park!⠀