With just one gravel road amidst Denali National Park's six-million acres, guided bus tours are the very best way for most visitors to see this beautiful place. We've got all the details on how it works.
There are two park tours operating in the summer of 2023:
- Denali Natural History Tour - Travels 25 miles to the Teklanika Flats. Fully guided with a focus on the natural and human history of the park. Tour is approximately 4.5-5 hours long.
- Tundra Wilderness Tour - Travels 43 miles to the Murie Cabin at East Fork River. Fully guided with excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Tour is approximately 5-5.5 hours.
Both tour rates include a $15 NPS entrance fee. Holders of a Golden Age Pass will need to go to the Denali Bus Depot in person to receive a refund of their park fee.
Tour Times and Pickup
When you book a park tour you have the option to choose a morning or afternoon departure (on your Alaska Tour & Travel confirmation documents, this is noted as AM or PM). Specific departure times are assigned by the tour operator 48 hours prior to your tour, but generally:
- Denali Natural History Tour - Morning tours depart between 4:45 AM and 11:30 AM, while afternoon tours typically depart between 12:45 PM and 4:50 PM.
- Tundra Wilderness Tour - Morning tours leave between 5:00 AM and 11:00 AM. Afternoon buses leave between 1:30 PM and 4:50 PM.
Upon check in at your Denali hotel, ask the front desk or tour desk representative for departure information on your park tour. The tour desk staff will give you the departure time, location, and bus number for your Denali Park tour.
Guests staying at some smaller hotels including the Denali Grizzly Bear, Denali Cabins, or camping will need to call Denali Park Village at 907-683-8900 to get their tour departure information. Note that the tour operator reserves the right to change departure location from what is reported on your initial itinerary so check the tour information that they provide carefully.
What to Wear/Bring
Weather will change through the day and as you go farther into the park. Dress in layers and comfortable walking shoes. In a small day pack bring a warm coat and rain jacket, binoculars, a camera with extra battery and memory card, water, and snacks (more on food below). If you're visiting with kiddos under the age of eight or weighing less than 65 pounds, you must provide a car seat or booster seat.
On Your Tour
Here's what to expect on your tour:
- Tour Bus - Tours are operated on modified school buses. Tan colored buses run tours. Green buses, also known as camper buses, run non-narrated trips into the park for hikers and campers.
- Pickup - Arrive early for your assigned pickup time. Depending on where you're staying, there may be a few more pickups before you head into the park.
- Seating - Seating is first-come, first-served. There is no "better" side of the bus to sit on: Since tours are out-and-back, you'll have the chance to see it all no matter what seat you claim.
- Guide - Tours are narrated by experienced naturalist driver-guides, many of whom have worked in the park for years. They'll narrate over a loudspeaker system so that all guests can hear. Keep your eyes peeled for grizzlies, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, foxes, and maybe even wolves as you go, and be sure to call out any animals you spot.
- Accessibility - Tours are ADA accessible but accommodations must be requested in advance. Visitors who can walk up and down bus stairs may use courtesy wheelchairs at all stops in the park to avoid bringing their own wheelchair or needing a bus with an ADA lift.
- Bathroom Breaks - Bathroom stops occur approximately every 90 minutes. Facilities in the park are basic vault toilets.
- Snacks and Drinks - On the Denali Natural History Tour, only water is provided. Guests on the Tundra Wilderness Tour receive a snack box that usually includes a beef stick, chips, cookies, trail mix, and a small bottle of water. There are no concessions or water fountains available in the park, so be sure to bring any other snack or water that you think you may want.
And, most important...
- Absolutely Gorgeous Landscapes - Spotting wildlife is always the highlight of a Denali Park bus tour, but prepare to be wowed by the vast, ever changing scenery throughout your tour. Alaska at its best!
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Posted in: Alaska Parks, Local Advice