February is an adventurous time to visit Denali National Park! If you're planning a trip to Denali in February, here are a few things you should know beforehand.
There is a celebration called "Winterfest" that happens annually in Denali National Park during the month of February. This is a delightful weekend, and if you're visiting in February, this is the weekend to do so! Winterfest is a community wide event that offers an array of activities for all ages & interests! Past events have included hosted dinners, ski races, guided ski tours, a snow block sculpting competition, exhibits, hockey games, snow science field activities, dog sled rides, camp fires with s'mores, snow shoe walks and more.
February is "off season" in Denali. We are deep into winter. There will not be tours running, nearly all restaurants are closed for the winter, there could even be snow and you're likely to experience below zero temperatures! February is fantastic for seeing the northern lights, taking winter hikes, going cross country skiing and you’ll get to experience our area more like a local than like a tourist. It will take a little creativity to still achieve all of the items on your Denali National Park bucket list.
You need to make sure your rental car can "plug in". When checking out your rental car, make sure to ask if it has been winterized. If you are going to be traveling the Parks Highway (that's the highway to get to Denali from either Fairbanks or Anchorage) your car needs to have a block heater that can be plugged in every night. February is an incredibly cold month and this is a *must* for winter travel - and your car rental company might try to skimp out on this necessity.
The Park Road is likely not open past mile 3, and certainly not past mile 15. There are still plenty of things to do in the area before mile 3, but snow and ice conditions typically make maintaining the Park Road in the winter months a chore.
Can I see the Northern Lights at this time? Yes!! October is a great time of year for Northern Lights - it's in the height of the Aurora season but you'll usually have to see them while enduring the below-zero-temperatures. Cool nights make for crisp lights! We use this site from the University of Alaska Fairbanks to help track how visible the aurora might be on any particular night. (And if you stay with us in the winter, we do our best to print out a forecast for your stay!!)
Where can we go to view the Aurora/Northern Lights? When they are visible, you can typically view them straight from the Hideaway bedroom windows!! If you're looking to experience them in the Denali area with a little bit more open skies - head to Otto Lake or Stampede Road where the skies are open and there is little light pollution. There are some fabulous opportunities for photographing them - here's our 7 best tips on how to take a good northern lights photo. To read on our opinion about if northern lights tours are worth it, check out this blog post.
What winter tours are available? Looking to go white water rafting, ziplining or on an ATV in Denali in February? Sorry!! You're out of luck! Most of these tours close in accordance with the Denali National Park official season, which typically runs through about September 15. For up to date information about visitor information, visit the Discover Denali Winter Visitation Page where local business share their availability. At the time of this publication, it looks like there several dog sled tours and even a winter hiking tour. To see all winter tours, click here. To book a stay with us in February, click here!
Can we still go hiking in Denali in February? Absolutely - well, maybe!! The weather is unpredictable this time of year, and trails may not yet be cleared. If they are full of snow, you are still able to hike them. Trails in Denali are not maintained everyday to snow conditions, so you might be the first hiker breaking trail on a maintained path! Make sure to have good hiking boots or snow boots and solid winter gear.
Restaurant options are considerably more limited in the Denali, Healy, McKinley area in the deep winter months. Many restaurants close up for the winter beginning in September and will not reopen until May. There is likely to only be one or two restaurants available, but Healy does have its own full service grocery store, and there are several food options there even if your lodging does not have a full kitchen.
What other questions do you have about visiting Denali in February? We are eager to help!