What is the best way to see Denali?
Many travelers come to Alaska just to catch a glimpse of Denali, but only about a third are successful as the mountain is routinely hidden by clouds. Interestingly, it is its very height that creates these less than optimal viewing conditions. Weather systems moving northward from the ocean hit the mountain and condense into clouds as the air rises over the peak.
Despite this weather phenomenon, there are several ways to give yourself the best chance to see the mountain in all its glory.
Take a Denali Park Road Bus Tour
Head to Denali National Park and take one of the bus tours along the Park Road. There are multiple bus tours to choose from that vary in time and mileage, but if you want the best possible chance to see Denali, you should take the longest bus tour possible. Stony Pass, the Eielson Visitor Center, and Wonder Lake have the most sensational Denali views if the weather cooperates.
Stay at a Denali Park Backcountry Lodge
The more time you can spend near the mountain, the better chance you have of seeing it. You can do this by staying at either the Kantishna Roadhouse or Denali Backcountry Lodge inside Denali National Park. These lodges are at the end of the Park Road, and while Denali is not viewable from them, the Wonder Lake viewpoint is just 10 minutes away. Assuming there's no major weather moving through, there also tends to be fewer of those mountain-made clouds in the morning, a perk enjoyed only by those staying overnight in the area.
The National Park Service has begin construction of a bridge to bypass an ongoing landslide on the Denali Park Road. The project is expected to take two years, during which bus tours and access to backcountry lodges will be impacted. For current information, please check the Park Road page.
Take a Flightseeing Trip
A flightseeing trip not only provides a chance to see Denali, it takes you into the heart of the Alaska Range. These flights leave from Talkeetna, the Denali National Park entrance, and even Anchorage, but the most popular is Talkeetna. The town is just 50 miles by air from the summit of Denali. Even if the weather is not clear enough to see Denali specifically, you will still be surrounded by some of the most extraordinarily beautiful mountains in Alaska. It's helpful to have flexibility built into your itinerary in case your flight is delayed for weather.
While You’re in Talkeetna
If the mountain is "out," the deck at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge has a wide-open view of the Alaska Range. You can also see Denali from the Talkeetna Riverfront Park at the end of Main Street and at the overlook pullout just before town on the Talkeetna Spur Road.
While You’re in Anchorage
Denali is about 125 miles from Anchorage, so if you do get a chance to see the peak, it will be from far away. Even so, there's no mistaking its immensity. One of the best viewpoints is Point Woronzof near the Anchorage airport. The upstairs deck at the 49th State Brewery in downtown also has a great view (and good brews, too).