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The Best Travel Options from Anchorage to Denali

Planning a trip from Anchorage to Denali National Park and wondering what the best mode of transportation would be? Should you consider a train ride, a bus ride, an organized tour, a road trip on your own, or a scenic flight to Denali? We’ll tell you the pros and cons of each option, as well as average prices and travel times. This information lets you decide on the most enjoyable and rewarding trip.

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trip from Anchorage to Denali National Park

How to get from Anchorage to Denali?

We have been to Denali National Park many times and have driven from Anchorage to Denali many times. Driving into Denali National Park is not easy because the 92-mile Denali Road is only accessible to private vehicles up to mile 15. So it’s much better to take the shuttle bus in the park, from the park entrance. After mile 15, you can only enter the park by special Denali park busses.

Therefore, sometimes it pays to consider other options to get to Denali from Anchorage. So let’s consider all the options, including train, bus, and car driving, with pros, cons, and prices.

Our Tip: Are you planning a trip to Denali? As we visited this park several times, check out also our guide to visiting Denali National Park, our recommendations for where to stay in Denali (including hotels and lodges near the train depot and with a free shuttle to the park entrance and train station), our Denali itinerary, things to do in Denali, and the best months for visit Denali.

Denali Park Road in fall colors

What are the best types of transportation from Anchorage to Denali?

  • You can get from Anchorage to Denali by train. And we’ll give you essential tips on reservations, fares, travel times, and options for the Alaska Railroad.
  • You can take the bus from Anchorage to Denali. We’ll give you a list of the best bus companies, prices, travel times, and other essential tips to consider when choosing this mode of transportation.
  • Or you can choose one of the Denali tours from Anchorage. And we’ll tell you what to remember to have the best memories of such an adventure.
  • You can drive on your own from Anchorage to Denali National Park. And we’ll show you how to prepare for such a road trip step by step, the best stops along the way, and how much time you need.
  • Finally, you can fly from Anchorage to Denali National Park, the most expensive but fantastic scenic option. So we give you some tips about Denali flightseeing from Anchorage.
bus in Denali

How long is the ride from Anchorage to Denali?

Distance: 240 miles (386 km)
Driving time: 4 – 8 hours, depending on transportation mode

Denali National Park, with the highest peak in North America, is 240 miles north of Anchorage, and the average drive time is 4 – 5 hours by car or 6 hours by bus. If you choose to take the train to Denali, the scenic drive takes 8 hours. The shortest trip is by plane, which takes 1.5 hours.

Bus from Anchorage to Denali National Park

Operating Dates: May 15 to September 15
Price: $105 for Adults, $52.50 for Children (0 to 11)
Duration: 6 hours

Anchorage to Denali by bus is one of the cheapest and easiest travel options. The Park Connection Motorcoach offers two daily trips from Anchorage to Denali, with a brief stop in Talkeetna. The best option is their first trip, called the “Denali Express,” which departs at 6:30 in the morning from the Dena’ina Civic Center in downtown Anchorage. It arrives at Denali Park at 12:30 pm. This ride is timed to connect with the busses that take guests to the backcountry lodges near Kantisha at the end of Denali Park Road. The coach stops at several hotels, including Denali Cabins, Denali Park Village, rail depot, Denali Princess Lodge, Grande Denali Lodge, and Denali Bluffs Hotel. It operates from June 5 to August 31.

The “Park to Park” route connecting Denali National Park with Kenai Fjords National Park features an afternoon departure at 3:00 pm from the Dena’ina Civic Center. Along the way is a short stop at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. This route offers an evening arrival into Denali. It drops off at various accommodations, such as the Denali Cabins, Denali Park Village, the Grande Denali Lodge, Denali Princess Lodge, and the Denali Bluffs. It arrives at Denali Park at 8 pm. It operates from May 15 to September 15.

fall colors in Denali National Park

Who do we recommend driving to Denali by bus?

  • Travelers who plan to spend a few days camping in Denali or backpacking in Denali, so do not need a car (there is a free shuttle bus in the park, which you can take if you camp there),
  • For travelers who plan to stay a few days in one of the best hotels near the park and do not need a car (the hotels often provide a shuttle to the park entrance)
  • Budget travelers
  • For people who have little time to travel, the bus is the fastest means of travel after the car
  • People who prefer to admire the views than concentrate on driving

Pros and cons of driving from Anchorage to Denali by Bus

Driving by Bus Pros

  • affordable price
  • comfortable and spacious seats with large windows
  • casual route narration by the experienced driver who knows the area
  • you don’t have to worry about driving, you can enjoy the views

Driving by Bus Cons

  • a short stop in Talkeetna adds at least an hour to the journey time. This is a quick rest stop; you can’t explore the town
  • you can admire the views, but you’re unlikely to be able to take good pictures through the windows of the bus
caribou with mountain backdrop in Denali

Anchorage to Denali by Train

Operating Dates: year-round
Price: prices vary depending on the season and the selected option: a one-way ticket in peak season from June 1 – September 4 is $187 for Adventure Class for Adults, $ 94 per Child (2-11), and $348 for Goldstar Service for Adults and $193 per Child.
Duration: 8 hours

Taking the train from Anchorage to Denali takes at least 8 hours and is the longest travel option. But it’s an adventure because the Alaska Railroad offers one of the most scenic train routes in the U.S. You can enjoy the beautiful views from the comfortable seats on the train.

The cost of your travel experience can vary depending on the class you choose, but Goldstar Service is the ultimate option if you’re looking for a luxurious trip. This first-class service offers you an exceptional way to travel Alaska. The glass domes provide a breathtaking panoramic view of the Alaskan landscape as the train travels along the tracks. In addition, the GoldStar Service features a unique observation deck on the upper level where passengers can breathe fresh air while taking some of the best photos of their trip. You can enjoy the full-service dining room on the lower level of GoldStar Cars. GoldStar tickets include all non-alcoholic beverages, meals, and two complimentary alcoholic beverages per trip for passengers 21 and older.

Anchorage to Denali by train

It’s not a cheap option either, but you can always buy a train ticket from Anchorage to Denali and take a bus back from there. This way, you’ll save several hundred dollars, which you can spend on Helicopter Ride over the Alaska Range, a Park River Rafting Tour, or Helicopter Flight with Glacier Landing.

We highly recommend a flight with a glacier landing. We had a similar flight while visiting Talkeetna. We had booked this Flight Tour with Glacier Landing, and it was more than a spectacular experience. As I’m not a poet or experienced writer, no words describe this majesty, beauty, and thrilling flight. But maybe you will be convinced by our photos and a short review from Denali Flightseeing.

Who do we recommend driving to Denali by train?

  • For railway enthusiasts
  • For travelers who love to enjoy beautiful views and people who like to take pictures
  • People who have more time to travel because it is an all-day adventure

Pros and cons of driving from Anchorage to Denali by train

Train to Denali Pros

  • scenic drive
  • great photo opportunities
  • travel in style
  • meals and drinks included

Train to Denali Cons

  • high price
  • long journey
  • you spend the whole day just riding the train

Our Tip: Another option, if you’re traveling on a budget and want to take the train in Alaska, consider taking the Anchorage to Seward train, as it’s much cheaper. Then take a bus to Denali (or even from Seward to Denali)

Denali Tours from Anchorage

Operating Dates: year-round
Price: prices vary depending on the tour and its duration, starting from $600 for a day trip
Duration: full-day trip or multi-day trip

An interesting idea might be to consider an organized tour from Anchorage to Denali. But we are always honest with you – a day trip may not always be a good idea. If you are in Anchorage in the summer, when the days are long, you have over 19 hours of light, then a day trip to Denali makes sense. You will have a great adventure, and you will see a lot. You can enjoy the views, take many pictures, and have a beautiful time. Honestly, it’s even hard to find a good day trip in the high season, so we don’t recommend anything specific. The best options you have are 3-5 days.

Multi-day trips are the best, but it’s essential to consider that the cost will be significantly higher. Here is a five days and four-night organized tour that combines two of the most spectacular and iconic Alaska National Parks: Denali and Kenai Fjords.

If you have some free time in Anchorage and don’t know what to do in this city, check out how to plan an Anchorage itinerary.

mountains in Denali

The days are much shorter in spring and fall, and considering that the commute is about 5 hours, a day trip to Denali isn’t worth it. Rather, focus on other places around the city because you have many options for day trips from Anchorage that take no more than 1-2 hours one way. If you love the mountains, consider hiking on Hatcher Pass, as the scenery is one of our favorites after Denali, and be sure to visit Independence Mine. The perfect idea is also to book a Portage Glacier and Wildlife Full-Day Tour or Full-Day Tour to Matanuska.

Who do we recommend Denali Tours from Anchorage?

  • Travelers who want to learn about Alaska because you can learn a lot with local experienced guides.
  • Travelers who want to focus on admiring the views, making memories, and taking photos. And don’t want to stress about time management and proper planning, which is often challenging in Alaska.
  • For travelers with less experience organizing independent trips or traveling to Alaska for the first time.

Pros and cons of Denali Tours from Anchorage

Tours Pros

  • everything is well organized
  • don’t have to worry about anything
  • excellent and very experienced local guides who share their knowledge
  • you can focus on collecting memories and taking pictures

Tours Cons

  • higher prices (but you don’t have to worry about anything)
  • you cannot change the tour itinerary
  • you don’t know the other participants of the trip (but usually, they are small groups of people who want to get to know Alaska as much as you do)

Scenic Flight from Anchorage to Denali

Operating Dates: year-round, but scenic flights are always weather depending
Price: prices vary, starting from $500; some tours include photo-stop landing
Duration: 3 hours

Although we haven’t yet taken a scenic flight from Anchorage to Denali, we have had the pleasure of experiencing several other breathtaking flights over Alaska. One of those flights was over Denali with glacier landing, the others were from Anchorage to King Salmon and from King Salmon to Katmai for bear viewing. We also flew to Lake Clark to see brown bears. On our last road trip to Alaska, we took a scenic flight over the Brooks Range, home to the least visited park in the US – Gates of the Arctic National Park.

There are no scheduled flights from Anchorage to Denali. You can book an air taxi to take you there one way or take a round-trip scenic flight tour (then you will only visit Denali from a bird’s eye view). Flying by plane is the most expensive option, but it is worth considering because these views will stay with you for life. It’s a fantastic adventure. Choose a flight depending on your Alaska itinerary. Denali flightseeing tour from Anchorage takes approx 3 hours. You have several tour operators to choose from Rust’s Flying Service, Alaska Air Service, or Regal Air.

mountain peaks from the plane window during scenic flight over denali
scenic flight over Denali glacier view

Who do we recommend travel to Denali by plane?

  • Enthusiasts of small planes, as having a flight over Alaska is an adventure in itself.
  • Travelers with limited time to visit Alaska who wants to experience as many adventures as possible in the shortest time possible.
  • Photographers who want to take pictures of mountains from a bird’s eye view.

Pros and cons of Denali flightseeing from Anchorage

Scenic Flight Pros

  • once in a lifetime experience
  • stunning views
  • amazing photo opportunities

Scenic Flight Cons

  • higher price
  • short duration
  • you can only admire the park from a bird’s view; it’s different than experiencing Denali wilderness while hiking
moose during Anchorage to Denali Tour

Drive from Anchorage to Denali

Operating Dates: year-round, but road conditions are weather depending
Price: it depends on the activities you intend to undertake
Duration: 4-5 hours or a few days, depending on your itinerary

A road trip from Anchorage to Denali National Park is our favorite option, as you can enjoy many exciting stops along the way. If you are in a hurry, have limited time to travel, and want to get to Denali as soon as possible – the route in good weather should take about 4-4.5 hours via scenic Parks Hwy (without stops for photos and without visiting Talkeetna). Information and tips on renting a car and preparing for this road trip are included in our 10-day itinerary in Alaska.

If you have one full day to travel, it is best to stay longer in Talkeetna as it offers plenty of activities. One of the best is the scenic flight with landing on a glacier in Denali, one of our most exciting flights in Alaska. In addition, it is also worth stopping for a short stop in quirky Igloo City en route.

Who do we recommend driving by car from Anchorage?

  • Independent travelers who like to follow their itinerary [if you have more time in Anchorage, check out how to spend two days in Anchorage]
  • Travelers who want to get to Denali as soon as possible
  • People who plan to see other places in the area besides Denali, wanting to visit Healy, visiting Fairbanks, Arctic Circle, or perhaps even planning a trip via Dalton Highway. If you plan a trip to Fairbanks, you can check out the cheaper and faster ways to get a Fairbanks from Anchorage.
  • Travelers who plan to reach by private vehicles as far as Mile 15 of the Denali Park Road to Savage River. But the road is only open to vehicles from late April until the first snow in fall.

Pros and cons of driving by car from Anchorage to Denali

Driving by Car Pros

  • quickest trip
  • maximum flexibility
  • cheaper accommodation options a bit further from Denali
  • the possibility of seeing places north of the park

Driving by Car Cons

  • the car will not help much in touring Denali, as the road is open only to Mile 15, and the parking lot is limited

Summary of Transportation from Anchorage to Denali

We hope you found the information on transportation options to Denali helpful and that you were able to decide how to get to this beautiful park. Whatever you choose to do, there are many unforgettable adventures ahead of you because Denali is a park you can explore endlessly and offers many activities. Whichever option you choose, remember that Denali is a wilderness. There is no range or internet, so pack essentials for your Alaska trip.

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