denali national park things to do in anchorage

Bird’s-eye view of the glaciers await on a helicopter tour. (Photo: Alamy)


Find Urban and Outdoor Adventure in Anchorage and Denali National Park

Anchorage, Alaska, was born as a railroad tent city on the shores of Ship Creek. Today, Alaska’s biggest city holds about half the state’s entire population, but it still feels like an outpost in the middle of a vast wilderness — and that is part of its charm.

A stay in Anchorage lets you enjoy all the amenities of big city life, but still vault into the Alaska wilderness within about a half-hour drive. You’ll also be within easy striking distance of one of Alaska’s most spectacular destinations, the more than 2.4 million hectares that make up Denali National Park.

Exploring Anchorage’s Wildlife

Anchorage’s slogan — “Big. Wild. Life.” — is a great fit for a town where you can start your morning in a funky downtown eatery, then walk the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail along Cook Inlet.

Better yet, jump on the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery Train to visit the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, a wilderness destination that’s accessible only by rail. Salmon Berry Tours is another great option for the adventurous. The outfitter offers everything from zip lining to dog sledding to glacier hikes.

If you would like to enjoy a day in town, explore the Anchorage Museum and then hop on a bus to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, or take a two-hour walking tour into downtown Anchorage’s storied — and haunted — past with the Ghost Tours of Anchorage.

You can also hop on the Flattop Mountain Shuttle to visit Anchorage’s most popular mountain, or rent a car and venture into the wilds of the more than 200,300-hectare Chugach State Park on your own. Finish your day by sipping a local craft beer at one of Anchorage’s many brew pubs.

North to Denali

Rent a car for the six hour drive north from Anchorage to Denali National Park. You can also get to Denali aboard Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star Train, (about 7.5 hours), or ride a motorcoach bus from The Park Connection (five to six hours).

Go Big at Denali

In 2015, the tallest mountain in North America was renamed from Mt. McKinley to Denali, a word meaning “the high one” in the Koyukon language. At 20,308-feet, it is literally the biggest attraction in Denali National Park, but it’s not the only amazing thing you will see.

The park is packed with stunning scenery, wildlife and adventures for the bold, from horseback riding to whitewater rafting and ATV tours. If you’re not sure where to start, take a quick “flight-seeing” trip. These trips in small planes give you an unparalleled overview of land so wild, few people will ever see it.

For the curious but not quite so adventurous, consider taking a narrated bus ride along the park’s 92-mile roadway (private cars are only allowed on the first 15 miles). You can also participate in ranger-led hikes and sled dog demos. Denali National Park has several visitor centers, which can be a little confusing; just remember that for bus tickets you go to the Wilderness Access Center, while most ranger-led programs start at the nearby Denali Visitor Center.

This article was published through a partnership with Visit the USA, inspiring travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.