If you’re planning a trip to Alaska, you’ll want to make sure a visit to Denali National Park is in your itinerary. With only one road entering the 6 million acres of protected land, the park experience allows visitors to intimately observe this beautiful area and the wildlife that makes this habitat their home. Speaking of homes, you’ll want a home base for your adventures. The Denali Bluffs Hotel and Grande Denali Lodge are the perfect place to start and end your day while you explore the area.
The hotels are nestled along the hillside of Sugarloaf Mountain, allowing you to still feel close to nature. Enjoy stunning views from your room, easy access to the park entrance, delicious food options, a comfortable hotel experience, and a range of adventure opportunities at your fingertips!
Whether you choose to start your Alaska adventure via train, bus or car, you’re in for a scenic treat. From Anchorage you’ll pass by the Chugach Mountains, then head up the Matanuska Valley. As you approach Talkeetna, you might catch some of your first views of Denali. The route continues along the park. After 238 miles you’ll arrive at the gateway: The Denali Bluffs Hotel and Grande Denali Lodge. The hotel is happy to provide a shuttle for guests arriving via train and makes getting checked in as seamless as possible.
When we checked into our room I was delighted at all the small touches they included to make our stay as comfortable as possible. The views from our room were terrific, and after a long day of travel, I could have spent all evening (and that’s quite a while in the summer!) on the balcony enjoying the mountains, fresh air, and never-ending daylight. Luckily we had plenty of dinner options close by.
A big day of adventures calls for a for a hearty breakfast, and the buffet at the Mountaineer Bar and Grill did not disappoint! For those making an early start or wanting to take their breakfast with them, the Perky Moose Pantry and Cafe offers a variety of grab and go options. You can even have them make you a lunch box or snack pack if you put your order in by 8pm the night before.
Hike and Bike in Denali National Park
Fueled for the day, we headed out for our first adventure. Along the highway was the Denali Bike rental tent. We decided biking would be a fun way to experience the park, so we rented two bikes, and headed over to the Denali Bus Depot and caught our ride into the park. We even got to take a free shuttle to Savage River Campground. This is the last stop before entering the park, and can be reached by personal car as well.
There, we locked our bikes and decided to hike the challenging Savage Alpine Trail. The 4 mile trail doesn’t waste any time in gaining elevation. Luckily there are plenty of views to take pictures if you need an excuse to catch your breath. Most of the trail is above the treeline, which means panoramic views the whole time. When we got to the end of the trail at Mountain Vista, we grabbed the bus heading back to our bikes. Be forewarned, everything is bigger in Alaska, and the mosquitos are no exception! We didn’t notice them while we were moving, but they sure were happy to keep us company while waiting for the bus!
There are no bike trails in the park, and riding on hiking trails is not allowed, so we enjoyed the 15 mile bike ride on the paved road from Savage Creek Campground back to the entrance. Other than buses and a few cars, we mostly had the road to ourselves. There’s a bit of a climb in the beginning, but the last 9 miles are a fun ride down.
Earn Your Dinner at the Denali Bluffs Hotel and Grande Denali Lodge
After all the activities of the day, we freshened up at the hotel, and took a quick ride up to dinner at the Alpenglow Restaurant located inside the Grande Denali Lodge. The views were absolutely amazing, and the food matched. After all that hiking we were hungry, so after enjoying the most amazing fried Brussel sprouts my husband and I decided to split the Tomahawk for two—a delicious prime 36 oz bone in ribeye. It was hands down one of the best meals we had during our trip. Just when we thought the day couldn’t get better, we got birds eye views of a double rainbow.
There is no shortage of ways to explore Denali National Park. The Denali Visitors Center has some wonderful exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the area. Here you can join along with ranger led hikes or talks. The park also offers a variety of bus options including transit buses to help visitors access hiking, camping, and photography.
They also have several narrated bus tours led by certified naturalists with different tour lengths. For those who have the time, the Kantishna Experience Tour goes all the way to the end of the 92 mile road. If you want to experience Denali National Park from the air, try a scenic plane tour! No matter how far in you go, you’re likely to see wildlife, so keep your eyes open, and have your camera ready!
Denali National Park: an Epic Vacation
After you’ve experienced the park by foot or bus you may want to consider exploring it from another angle. Maybe on horseback, or rafting the Nenana River. You could take a jeep tour on the historic Stamped Trail, or get a bird’s eye view of Denali with a scenic flight. No matter what your fancy is, the concierge at the Denali Bluffs Hotel are happy to give suggestions. Check our pre-made Alaska itinerary to help plan your trip and get inspired!
We had so much fun during our time in Denali, we already can’t wait to come back and experience all these options from our new second home at the Denali Bluffs Hotel!
Check out our Alaska road trip itinerary to help plan your trip!