How to Plan Anchorage-Denali National Park 7-Night Itinerary

How to Plan Anchorage-Denali national park 7-Night Itinerary-Wendy-pointing-to-Denali

Alaska Trip Itinerary – 7-nights/8-days

You may be wondering ‘what is there to do for 7-nights and 8-days in Alaska?’ So much! This Alaska Trip Plan concentrates on the Anchorage-Denali area, with plenty to do in a 7-night and 8-day itinerary. We have some cherished Denali memories from our 4-days in Denali, one of the best parks in Alaska. We believe the best way to visit Alaska is a road trip where you can visit each area in more depth.

After spending 10 weeks in Alaska last summer, I can offer the best of our experience and help you consider your itinerary, and this series can be your Alaska trip planner. This post, How To Plan Anchorage-Denali National Park 7-Night Itinerary, is a second itinerary in a series on Alaska. My last itinerary post was Anchorage to the Alaska Kenai-Peninsula. It started in and returned to Anchorage, so we head to Denali and back to Anchorage in this itinerary.  (Denali north to Fairbanks will be a separate Itinerary).

While this is an Anchorage to Denali 7-night/ 8-day itinerary, we only spent 4 days in Denali National Park, and missed things that are included in this 7-night itinerary. We were in Denali in June, and believe it is the best month to go to Alaska since it’s not as hot as in July.

Denali-Wendy&Tom

Plan Anchorage to Denali

The distance from Anchorage to Denali National Park is about 240 miles. In your Plan Anchorage-Denali National Park 7-Night itinerary, gas up in Anchorage or Wasilla, and stock up on groceries too. If you are staying in a hotel, you may still want snacks and food for picnic lunches. You’ll find your best prices and choices in the Anchorage or Wasilla areas before heading north.

How to Plan Anchorage-Denali national park 7-Night Itinerary-Moose and calves roadside

There are great stops to make along the way, and these are what we missed, and I included them in this itinerary. I recommend a stop on the way north and another on the southbound trip. If going on to Fairbanks, do both stops on the way to Denali National Park.

Stop between Anchorage and Denali

A wonderful place to spend time is Denali State Park. Halfway to Denali National Park, at 2.5-hours or about 100 miles north of Anchorage is Denali State Park in Trapper Creek.

Stop 1 – Denali State Park

Denali State Park – 2 nights – Day 1 and 2

There’s camping, excellent hiking, lots of wildlife, and some of the best views of Mount Denali. Wildlife sightings can include brown and black bear, moose, marmots, beavers, fox, porcupines, and more. There are rivers, a lake, and creeks for fishing in Denali State Park.

You’ll find everything from roadside camping, camping in the park, and a vast wilderness to explore. The views are stunning, as the park is between 2 impressive mountain ranges, the Talkeetna Mountains and the Alaska Range. Be sure to stop at the visitor contact station to learn about how to stay safe in this wilderness. If you plan to hike, be sure to have bear spray and know how to use it properly!

There are beautiful day and multi-day hikes in Denali State Park, like the Kesugi Ridge, where you can catch views of Mount Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, called ‘The Great One’ by Native Americans. 

K’Esugi Ken Visitor and Interpretive Center

Worth a visit is the K’Esugi Ken Visitor and Interpretive Center, and there is a campground there as well. The facility has interpretive exhibits, best views in the state, electric hook-ups in the RV Park inside the park. There are hiking trails from the campground where you can see the mountain views or go to the lake.

We are sorry that we did not have time to spend at Denali State Park, but we will next time. I recommend at least 2 nights here, and if you have time for more, stay longer.

Check and fill your fuel and propane before leaving Trapper Creek. From Trapper Creek drive the approximately 2 hours to Denali National Park Visitor Center.

How Long Should I spend in Denali National Park

Plan Anchorage-Denali National Park 7-Night Itinerary

This Park is Alaska-sized; it is HUGE!  By overnighting inside the Park, you can save hours of travel time each day. From the Denali Bus Depot near the Park entrance to the Eielson Visitor Center is an 8-hour round trip. Plan to stay inside the Park for at least 3 nights. 

We recommend splitting at least 4-nights between the village and staying deeper in Denali National Park, unless you have longer than a week for exploring the Denali area. If so, camp inside the park for as long as you can live off the grid.

Overnights and campground information. 

To plan your Anchorage-Denali National Park 7-Night itinerary, on your first night, you can stay (if you have secured a campsite in advance) at Riley Creek, which is in the Park just before the Visitor Center. Riley Creek is the only campground in the park with utility hook-ups. Otherwise, there are private campgrounds near the village with hook-ups. We stayed in Denali RV Park and Motel just north of the village for the first night; it is a nice place. We liked being outside of the village and away from the summer crowds. There are hotels, and BnBs in the village too; some hotels run tours into the park.

Buy the camper bus (Denali Shuttle Bus) ticket before entering the park, and pick up a bus schedule; Denali Camper Shuttle Bus tickets are good from the date for which you purchase them until the day you check out of your campsite. 

If camping in the park starting the following day, get all of your camping paperwork and passes completed the day prior. Then you can head into the park as soon as the rangers allow. The rangers at the Visitor Center will explain where to go to sign-in for campgrounds.

Stop 2 – Day 3

Plan Anchorage-Denali national park 7-Night Itinerary - Sled Dogs at Denali

At Denali National Park Visitor Center, explore the many exhibits, talk to rangers about the best hiking choices to meet your interest and fitness level. Be sure to meet the sled dogs and watch the demonstration on your first day at Denali National Park. There are also some short hikes from the Denali Visitor Center.

Also, on Day 3 be sure to check out McKinley Village near the entrance road to Denali National Park. Some of the galleries, photographers, and artists are fabulous! Have a meal in the village; there are plenty of choices in all price ranges.

If you have time and money to do a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the visibility is good, there’s nothing more beautiful than a flightsee of Denali. A small plane or helicopter tour is the most breathtaking way to see Denali. Of all the flightsee’s I have done, it was the most awe-inspiring. Our pilot was a fantastic guide, describing the history, terrain, climbers, other mountains, and glaciers as we passed them. The Denali flightsee ranks as top experience in our 10-week trip.

Day – 4 – Head into the park. 

If staying at the furthest point in the park, enjoy the scenery on the long 89-100-mile trip from the Bus Depot to Camp Denali, the North Face or Skyline Lodges, or Kantnisha Roadhouse (almost 100 miles inside the park). Once settled, ask the concierge for the best way to see the park during your stay. Some bus tours are run from here, and you may want to secure those in advance.

The furthest RV campground in the park is Teklanika. We camped with our RV for 3-nights at ‘Tek,’ at mile 29; there are no-hookups in Tek.  A 3-night minimum is required here, and there are tent sites too. No private vehicles or RVs are allowed beyond this point. If camping at ‘Tek,’ you are allowed to drive in and out once.

There are some hikng trails on the way into Tek, before the check-in point. There is also a small lot just after the checkpoint where you can park and hike before going to Tek. Once set up in the campground, explore the riverbed or hike out through the wilderness. Be aware of your route since there are no trails.

Each night there’s a ranger program at Tek about flora, fauna, history, and natives of Denali. It’s a chance to learn more about what there is to experience in the park, and how Natives used the park.

Day – 5

The Denali Camper Shuttle Bus stops at ‘Tek’ daily, on a regular schedule. When buying a ticket, there are 2 things you must choose: 1) what is the furthest point that you want want to go to in the park, and 2) what time you will get on the bus. On the day for which you purchase your ticket, you’ll have a reserved seat on the camper bus/Denali Shuttle Bus; this is the day to take the bus to the furthest point for which you bought your ticket. Be sure to get on the bus at the reserved start time. If going past Eielson on the bus to Wonder Lake or Kantnisha, plan to stay with the bus for the day so you can see the whole park; it is a long day of 8 or more hours. Pack your lunch and snacks, and take your camera. 

There are many stops where the driver lets passengers get out and briefly explore; some of the bus drivers are excellent informal guides. Drivers will stop to point out wildlife and allow passengers time to take photographs. This is also a good time to assess the places to which you want to return to explore and hike. 

Day – 6

Plan Anchorage-Denali national park 7-Night Itinerary

Choose a place you’d like to see closer, more of, or hike. We took the Denali camper bus to mile 66, Eielson Visitor Center and hiked from there. It gave us time to see exhibits and movies at the Eielson Visitor Center, and hike and see wildlife. We enjoyed the Thoroughfare trail; we saw the Alaska Range, Denali peak, and brown bears from here.

Plan Anchorage-Denali national park 7-Night Itinerary

Make sure to pack your food and drink for the day, since there is no place to purchase food. Catch any camper bus to get back to the campsite. Consider another evening ranger talk; each night rangers present on different subject matter about the park.

Day – 7

From the Park, you can either return south to Anchorage or continue north to Fairbanks. Our next itinerary will focus on the Fairbanks area. In this itinerary, we’ll take you back to Anchorage.

What is there to Do from Denali to Anchorage

Stop 4, Day 7

Upon leaving Denali, head back toward Anchorage and spend the day in Talkeetna, a cute, artsy small town filled with adventures, scenery, and relaxation. Or take the round-trip Talkeetna to Hurricane train. 

Riding the Hurricane Turn is Alaska’s flag-stop train. It does a round-trip to and from Hurricane Gulch, an area with no roads, just forests and rolling rivers. Some Alaskans have cabins along the route, and use the train for transport and fishing, while visitors enjoy the ride for the scenery. These views can only be seen from this train. It offers a chance to see gorgeous panoramic views of Denali. If you go, pack your own food and drink. It is in Toursaver, which offers a 2-for-the-price-of-1 coupon. This train is generally not listed in tourist brochures.

You can stay in Talkeetna to see more of the town or head to Anchorage. Spend your last night in Anchorage before flying out.

Stop 5 – Day 7 and 8

If you have more time in Anchorage, do anything you may have missed from my first itinerary post. Here are other places and activities to consider:

  • Tony Knowles Coastal Trail for a walk or bike ride
  • Anchorage Museum (free)
  • Potter Marsh (Free) – part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
  • Kincaid Park (Free)
  • Alaska Aviation Museum
  • Chugach State Park
  • Alaska Botanical Garden
  • Alaska Zoo

There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Anchorage so splurge on your last night, enjoy Alaskan fare. I can personally recommend a high-end restaurant (with prices to match) that a local told me is tops in Anchorage – Bridge Seafood overlooking Ship Creek.

Denali to Fairbanks

If you are continuing on your Alaska adventure and haven’t been to Fairbanks, I highly recommend it. Stay tuned for my next itinerary on the Fairbanks area.

Leaving Alaska

This plan of Anchorage-Denali National Park 7-night itinerary should provide you with an adventure filled with Alaska’s beautiful scenery, variety of wildlife sightings, hiking options, educational opportunities, and some cultural experiences. Wishing you happy travels through Alaska!

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12 thoughts on “How to Plan Anchorage-Denali National Park 7-Night Itinerary

  1. Wow this looks like an incredible adventure! Thank you does the details this has is exactly what I was searching for.

    • Our whole 10 weeks was an incredible adventure. Glad this is what you are looking for! Last week, I wrote did an itinerary on the Kenai. Check out my previous Alaska posts too, and subscribe to be notified when I post about Alaska again. I am doing a series of itineraries.

  2. We did this in three, one night in Denali State Park and two nights in Denali National Park. And so we saw less than what you did! We agree that the best way to explore Alaska, any place actually, is by road trip.

  3. Wow, all that wildlife is pretty amazing and the landscape is also spectacular. I need to add this to my bucket list of places even though I hate cold weather.

    • No cold weather in June and July. The glaciers are always around, and the photos are from a flightsee. You don’t need to go on the snow to see the galciers.

  4. Visiting Denali was one of the highlights of my years in Alaska. I’m so impressed that you were able to drive your RV up and around there. We lucked out and were able to drive in late at night in mid-summer decades ago. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences with all the wildlife spotted along the way. Truly, people need to spend several days in the area.

    • I am glad you like the plan! Have been to Denali? Do you plan to go at some future point? Is it on your bucket list?

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