The basics. Denali National Park and Preserve covers more than 6 million acres: tundra, glaciers, mountains, and lakes. Only a single road goes into the park, and it’s 92 miles long.
When to go. The park is open year-round; shoulder season (May or Sep) is the best time to visit; wildlife sightings remain about the same, but spring flowers and the tundra turning in late summer add dramatic color. Buses, the main public access into the park, run May 20 to the second Thursday after Labor Day. $10; nps.gov/dena.
Getting here. You can rent a car and drive to Denali from Anchorage (about five hours) or Fairbanks (about two hours). The Alaska Railroad stops at Denali daily in summer. The train has better scenery, including Hurricane Gulch, where the tracks seem to tightrope-walk over a canyon. Anchorage–Denali is $156 one way, or $241 in GoldStar service, which gets you upstairs with a much nicer view; Fairbanks–Denali is $68/$123. alaskarailroad.com.
Seeing the park. Most of the park road can only be traveled by bus. The park has two kinds: Tour buses are more comfortable and offer narration, but only The Kantishna Experience bus gets you deep enough into the park to see the real glories; shuttle buses let you get on and off almost anywhere to hike and go as far as Kantishna. From there, Denali looks like a wall. Reservations for either kind of bus: reservedenali.com.
Park lodging & food. One lodging option within the park is Camp Denali—where writer Steve Friedman stayed—located in a 67-acre private in-holding. Staying in a cabin here is like getting Alaska to yourself. Three nights, including all meals and transport in and out, runs $1,665/person. campdenali.com.
The area around the park entrance is crowded with hotels and restaurants. Good lodging choices include Denali Cabins (from $142; alaskadenalitravel.com/cabins) or EarthSong Lodge (from $165; earthsonglodge.com).
For a nice dinner out, 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern ($$$; 229parks.com) serves superior Alaskan cooking with fresh local ingredients. Or go for a classic: Denali Park Salmon Bake ($$$; Mile 238.5 Parks Hwy.;
There are more choices in Talkeetna, 150 miles south of the park entrance. Here, Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge (from $285; talkeetnalodge.com) has big rooms and gorgeous views. And the caribou burgers are tasty at West Rib Pub & Grill, on Main Street ($; westribpub.info).
Guided hikes & flightseeing. Get up close to the landscape with Alaska Nature Guides, who lead walks in nearby Denali State Park and around Talkeetna. From $59; alaskanatureguides.com.
From Talkeetna, K2 Aviation offers flightseeing tours around Denali. The route follows Ruth Glacier to the rock spires of the Great Gorge; some tours fly around the peak of Denali itself. From $205; glacier landing adds $85; flyk2.com.
From Camp Denali, Kantishna Air Taxi flies out from a landing strip deep in the park. Flightseeing $250; katair.com.