Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024 1
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Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024

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Greetings, Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel guide Get Lost, and welcome to the best what to do in Denali AK day. Denali National Park is one of the most beautiful and special places in the entire United States. I know that many people come here on intrepid hiking expeditions, performing the kinds of athletic feats that I could never dream of performing.

However, you don’t need to do that to have a great time in Denali. Instead, you can come here and go on a fascinating ranger tour, fly high in a helicopter, and enjoy some down home entertainment. Join me for a what to do in Denali AK day, and you’ll see exactly what makes this place so special.

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: What to Do in Denali AK

#1 TOP PICK

Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
ATV TOUR
✔️ Amazing nature experience
✔️ All equipment included

#2 PICK

Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024 3

SEE DENALI BY PLANE
✔️ Bucket list experience
✔️ Get incredible views

#3 PICK

Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024 4

ALL OTHER DENALI TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

best things to do in denali ak

what to do in Denali AK day

Morning: Explore Denali

Denali National Park is absolutely massive, so especially if it’s your first time, you’ll want to explore on a group tour. You have several options. The first is to go on a large bus guided tour through Denali Park Village.

Your second option is to go on a more intimate ATV tour, which you can book easily by going here. However, either way, I’m sure you’ll love…

Approximately Top 5: what to do in Denali AK day

best things to do in denali ak
1) Wildlife

Of course, one of the most exciting things to see in Denali are the wildlife. On our bus tour, we mostly saw caribou, who were beautiful, but it was hard for me to get a great picture of them, especially through the window of the bus. However, I was lucky because I got to the bus early and was able to get a window seat for better picture taking.

The Big 5 of wildlife in Denali are moose, caribou, wolves, bears, and Dall sheep. It would have been exciting to see all five on this bus tour, but alas, it was not to be, and you wouldn’t expect to see Dall sheep on this particular tour because they live at higher elevation.

However, we were able to see Dall sheep on the mountains later on our helicopter flight, so keep an eye out for that one!

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2) Leaf Peeping

One of the best things to do, if you are enjoying your what to do in Denali AK day in August, like I was, is get an eyeful of these stunning fall leaves. I bet you didn’t associate Alaska with leaf peeping did you? You probably thought it was just covered with snow 24-7. And yet look at those amazing yellow leaves.

Our guide told us that leaf peeping season ends in Denali…on Labor Day weekend. So we were lucky enough to get here just in time to see the golden leaves. I had to laugh because back in my hometown New York City, Labor Day is a weekend for going to the beach, and we don’t get our leaves to change color for over a month. But this is why we came to Alaska, isn’t it?

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3) Savage Cabin

I know it sounds like I’m being insulting, but this really is called the Savage Cabin. This cabin was built to be a shelter for people and dogs patrolling the park during the cold months.

There weren’t ATVs or buses back then, so people patrolling Denali had to use dogsleds and stay here overnight. I legitimately cannot imagine how cold it got back then! I get cranky when I have to turn the space heater on in my apartment.

Nowadays, the cabin is used for education, like it was on this tour. We got to explore inside and outside. My favorite part was that we got to pet some Dall sheep horns. That’s as close as any of us are likely to get to a Dall sheep!

best things to do in denali ak
4) Native Alaskan Storytelling

After visiting the Savage Cabin, we went further down the road to hear some Native Alaskan storytelling. Our presenter talked about how his community is working hard to preserve aspects of their culture, especially the language, because the number of people who speak their language keeps shrinking.

He also said that he was learning to hunt in the traditional way (he was a pretty young guy), and that his grandfather is an especially accomplished hunter because he can do a perfect moose call. I honestly think that’s one of the coolest skills I ever heard. I wish even one of my grandfather’s could do a semi-decent moose call.

Finally, from this point of view, you can get absolutely stunning views of Mount Denali, which used to be called Mt. McKinley by some people. I actually took that photo myself! Just being able to get those views of the highest peak in North America was worth the whole trip for me!

best things to do in denali ak
5) Visitor Center

If you take the bus tour, you’ll probably get dropped off at the Visitor Center, which is only open in the summer. There are several great trails here, if you have time for going for a walk. They’re all well marked, and none of them were too crowded.

Going for a stroll here was a super way to unwind after a long morning on a (beautiful) tour. And can you believe I took this photo in August? I told you that the leaves change early here.

best things to do in denali ak

There’s also a little museum at the Visitor Center where you can learn more about the history of Denali. My favorite part was this statue of a Dall sheep because this is probably as close as I’ll ever get in my life to one of these beauties. They are a symbol of Denali because they were being overhunted, and now they are carefully protected. Plus, they have sweet as horns.

Just keep in mind what time the shuttle bus will come to pick you up here to take you back to your hotel. You don’t want to miss your helicopter ride, which will pick you up at the hotel. Plus, you’ll probably want to have lunch before the ride.

best things to do in denali ak
6) Lunch at the Thai Food Truck

Yes, this place is literally called Thai Food Truck, just down the road from Denali Park Village. You can always get lunch at the visitor center, but this food is much better. You can even buy it the night before, keep it in the hotel fridge, and eat it the next day.

I recommend the Pad Thai, which is full of tasty vegetables. Just keep in mind that it won’t be spicy at all unless you ask for it spicy. I guess Alaskans like Thai food, but they seem a little scared of spice. I had to tell all the Thai restaurants I went to in Alaska that I am from New York before they’d give me spicy food.

best things to do in denali ak

what to do in Denali AK day

Afternoon: Helicopter Ride

Well, after a full morning traveling over land, it’s time to take to the air in a helicopter! I had been in a hot air balloon twice in my life. Once was in Albuquerque, and the other time was in Jaipur. However, I had never been in a helicopter. I’m not afraid of heights, but small airplanes scare me because I’m a big Otis Redding fan.

However, my tour guide told me that in Alaska, you want to do as many small plane rides as you can, and I had friends who had done the helicopter ride in Alaska and loved it. It was truly amazing, and I strongly suggest you give it a try. I mean, it’s a bit pricey, but you only live once, right?

I went with this company and took their ride that lands on the Yanert Glacier. I’ll be happy to tell you all about what it was like so you can learn…

Three Fun Facts: Denali Helicopter Ride

best things to do in denali ak
1) What do I need to do to prepare?

Well, you won’t need to worry about how to get there. They sent a driver to pick us up at the hotel. You also don’t need to worry about using the bathroom because they have facilities there that you can use before your flight.

Don’t bring any bags because they won’t be allowed. You can’t take anything in the helicopter that can’t fit in your pocket. (Cell phones and cameras were fine, obviously.) However, they were able to store my little purse in the office of the helicopter agency, no problem.

Dress as warmly as you can because you’re going on a glacier! However, you don’t need to worry about special shoes. They’ll give you special shoes that you can wear over your regular shoes so you won’t slip and fall on the glacier. (The walking on the glacier will take some getting used to, but it won’t be so bad.)

2) What was the flight like?

So much fun! They weigh you before the flight wearing all your clothes and gear, but don’t worry because they won’t tell you how much you weigh. I don’t think anyone likes being weighed in all their heavy clothes with winter boots on.

Then you follow the crew carefully and listen to their simple instructions on how to get into the helicopter. It’s super noisy in there, so if you want to communicate, you need to speak into these microphones. You also have to sit where the pilot tells you to sit, for balance. I was lucky and got to be right by the window!

It was amazing being this close to the mountains, but my favorite part was that we actually got to see some Dall sheep! It was from a distance, so we couldn’t see them as well as I could see the Dall sheep at the Visitor Center, but these sheep had the advantage of being real.

best things to do in denali ak
3) What was it like on the glacier?

So cool! I mean, it was cooler than cool, it was cold, but I’ve never seen any landscape like this in my life. We only spent a short time walking on the glacier, but I’ll always remember it. First, we got to drink glacier water with our hands, straight from the glacier. I’ve never had anything so cold and clean in all my born days.

Then we walked around, following our pilot because she’d taken this walk so many times and knew where the best path was. As we walked, it got a lot easier to stay upright on the ice. (I was proud of myself for not falling even once because I am super clumsy. But no one else in our group fell either.)

The glacier wasn’t as blue as I was expecting, except for the blue part of the little canyon that you can see in my photo above, so don’t be surprised when you go. Just take the experience for the amazing journey that it is and enjoy!

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what to do in Denali AK day

Evening: Dinner at Cabin Nite

Cabin Nite is a delightful dinner and a show event at Denali Park Village. You don’t even have to be staying at Denali Park Village to go there! However, you do need to reserve your spot in advance. I suggest going to the later show so you’ll have plenty of time to get back after the helicopter ride.

At first, when you arrive, you’ll be seated at a communal table, where you will be given a salad appetizer. The bowl just gets passed around, so take as much as you want!

best things to do in denali ak

Same goes for the main course, which is all you can eat! We’ve got barbecued ribs, corn, baked beans, mashed potatoes, and, of course, salmon. It’s Alaska, and it’s actually the law that you need to eat salmon at every meal. The food isn’t fancy, but it was filling and tasty and, again, you can have unlimited portions.

best things to do in denali ak

Finally, we have berry crumble. What it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in berries and crumbs.

best things to do in denali ak

Finally, we enjoyed the show! I don’t want to spoil the show, but they did teach us the difference between a cheechako, which is a person who is new to Alaska, and a sourdough, which is someone who is experienced at surviving an Alaskan winter.

I’m not a sourdough, I admit it. I don’t think I could survive even one month of an Alaskan winter, though I definitely can do fifteen minutes on a glacier.

The show is a musical with comic interludes, like a hilarious performance of “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”, which is by the Canadian poet Robert Service, who wrote about the Gold Rush. He also wrote one collection of poems called Songs of a Sourdough and another called Ballads of a Cheechako, so I guess he was a fan of Cabin Nite too!

what to do in Denali AK day

Where to Stay

If you want to really enjoy your what to do in Denali AK day, you’ll need a great hotel. I recommend the Denali Park Village. You can have easy access to all the tours and activities in Denali National Park that you could possibly want, as well as places to eat and drink.

My room was very comfortable and cozy, and there was easy access to coffee and ice first thing in the morning, which is all I really care about.

You can go ahead and book a room at this hotel by clicking here.

If you’d rather book a room in another hotel in Denali, just click here. This search engine will help you explore other excellent options for your what to do in Denali AK day

That’s the best what to do in Denali AK day

What would you do on a what to do in Denali AK day? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Denali? Any questions about anything in this post? Please email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: What to Do in Denali AK

#1 TOP PICK

Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
ATV TOUR
✔️ Amazing nature experience
✔️ All equipment included

#2 PICK

Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024 3

SEE DENALI BY PLANE
✔️ Bucket list experience
✔️ Get incredible views

#3 PICK

Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024 4

ALL OTHER DENALI TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the best things to do in Denali AK.

Add on the best Icy Strait Point things to do. Check out the best things to do in Sitka Alaska. Add on 24 hours in Anchorage. Enjoy a day of what to do Skagway Alaska. Experience what to do Seward Alaska. Go for the best Talkeetna AK things to do. You can also try the most fun things to do in Fairbanks AK.

Best What to Do in Denali AK 2024 8

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