An RVers Guide to Denali National Park and Preserve
From grand snow-capped peaks, wide-open panoramas, crystal clear lakes to an amazing diversity of flora and fauna, Denali National Park and Reserve ticks all the boxes of an epic RV adventure destination.
Denali National Park and Preserve is a wild and raw place sitting on 6.1 million acres, making it the third-largest national park in the U.S. Every year, over 600,000 visitors troop there to hike, climb, fish, camp, or just catch a glimpse of North America’s highest peak, Mount Denali.
If you’re planning RVing Denali National Park, one of the best ways to explore this magical wonderland is through an RV. You can rent a motorhome in Alaska, catch a flight to the destination, pick up your camper at the other end and go exploring.
History of Denali National Park and Preserve
Known as Alaska’s Crown Jewel of the North, Denali National Park and Preserve was established in 1917, effectively becoming the first national park created specifically to protect wildlife. Its main highlight is the iconic and elusive Mount Denali. Denali is the original indigenous name. It means the great one or the high one.
The mountain was renamed Mount McKinley in 1896 by gold prospectors to pay homage to the future president. Today, the official name of the park and mountain is Denali.
An Overview of the Denali’s Features
Denali’s landscape is decorated by the Alaska Range, glistening glaciers, alpine tundras, untamed river valleys, and lush forests. The park is also renown for its unique wildlife, including Dall sheep and the Peregrine falcon. In total, there are 39 species of mammals, 14 fish species, 169 species of birds, only one species of amphibians, plus 1,500 species of beautiful native flora.
Getting to Denali National Park and Reserve
If you’re looking to adventure the last frontier in the comfort of an RV, it’s better to rent a rig in Alaska, fly in, then drive to Denali National Park and Reserve.
The park isn’t part of mainland USA, so taking a long drive can present a unique set of challenges. For instance, the distance from Seattle, the closest major mainland city, is a whopping 2,260 miles. Instead of taking a long and grueling drive from the lower 48 and passing through Canada to reach Alaska, just fly and drive a rental RV.
Getting to Denali is comparatively easy once you land in Fairbanks or Anchorage, the two largest cities. The park is approximately three hours’ drive(123 miles) southwest of Fairbanks and five and a half hours’ drive(240 miles) north of Anchorage.
There’s only one road running through Denali National Park and Reserve. It’s 92 miles long and largely dirt and gravel. It’s only accessible in a private vehicle for the first 15 miles. From there on out, you can explore on foot or bike, take a shuttle bus, or purchase tickets for the park’s popular bus tours.
Where to Rent an RV Near Anchorage
If you’re wondering where to rent an RV near Anchorage, check out Go RV Rental’s marketplace. Whether you prefer piloting a bus-like rig, a regular-size motorhome, or a small campervan, you’ll find the perfect abode for your needs near Denali National Park.
Here, you’ll discover the most popular drivable RV-style rentals in Alaska–Class C and Class A rigs. Motorhome rental costs range from $200-$400 a night. If you prefer a towable mobile dwelling, expect to spend between $100-$160 a night.
Where to Rent an RV Near Fairbanks
Go RV rentals also has excellent selections if you want to rent an RV near Fairbanks. Your options range from a Class A like the 2016 Forest River Georgetown to a Class C, such as the 2019 Winnebago Outlook that sleeps eight.
You can also find a campervan or travel trailer. The average price of Class A and C rigs is $209 per night, while campervans cost $160. Travel trailers will cost you an average of $110 per night.
Things to See and Do in Denali National Park and Preserve
Because the park is open year-round, you’ll find activities at all levels of difficulty and exertion. You can hike, camp in an RV, view wildlife, fish, backpack, cycle, ski, climb a mountain or even go dog sledding. Whether you stick to the beaten tracks or strike out into the unknown on foot or mountain bike, the call of the wild awaits.
Here are some of the best things to do in Denali.
- Take a Peek of Mount Denali – Anyone who comes to the park wants to catch a glimpse of the highest mountain in North America–Mount Denali. It is a staggering mass of rock, ice, and snow that rises to 20,310 feet. The massive peak often taunts visitors by hiding her head in cloud cover, so you’ll only have about a 30 to 40 percent chance of seeing the mountain.
- Hop on a Tour Bus – To protect the park, you won’t be able to drive your rental RV beyond the campground. The best way to explore the park is to buy a ticket and hop on one of the tour buses. The tour will immerse you in the park’s culture and geographic history while taking you to the most popular viewpoints. Plus, the bus offers narration from a trained naturalist.
- Wildlife Watching – Denali is home to a bevy of wildlife. Predators like bears (both black and grizzly) and wolves roam free, while caribou, Dall sheep, and moose graze the unspoiled acres. Birding enthusiasts can also spot majestic raptors like the regal bald eagles, golden eagles, and northern hawk owls.
- Hike the Park – The park is a hiking paradise with a wildly diverse landscape. While roaming and rambling, you’ll get to soak in beautiful mountain vistas, blue lakes, idyllic valleys, braided rivers, and glaciers in the area. For easier hikes, try those near the park entrance. If you decide to wander beyond the beaten path, make sure you bring a map because there are very few maintained trails.
Whichever activity you choose, remember to stop by one of the park’s many information centers, including the Denali Visitor Center.
Places to Camp in or Near the Park
One of the best ways to experience the vast beauty of Denali is to RV camp in one of the established campgrounds found along Denali Park Road. Here are the three places to RV camp in Denali.
- Riley Creek – Located at the Denali Visitor’s Center near the park’s entrance, Riley Creek is the only RV campground open year-round. It has nearly 150 campsites and plenty of amenities, like a shower block, dumping station, laundry, WiFi, camp store, and cell phone coverage. If you miss out on booking a site, you can take advantage of the 20 non-reserved spots it has on offer.
- Savage River – Only open from May 20 to mid-September, Savage River campground is one of the most picturesque RV campgrounds in Denali. It’s laid out in a patch of trees at Mile 13 on Denali Park Road and offers Mount Denali views within a short walk of the campsite. Features include 33 reservable sites, potable water, toilets, and picnic tables.
- Teklanika River – Open in summer only, Teklanika is located within the restricted section of Denali Park Road. It rests off the beaten path in a beautiful forested area along the Teklanika River, making it a fantastic option for those who want a truly remote experience. It offers 53 sites for RVs and tents, but there is a 3-night minimum stay for RVs.
Note that motorhomes that are over 40-feet long can’t be accommodated in any of these campgrounds, and there are no electrical or water hookups for your RVs. On the plus side, they all have toilets and potable water.
Rent an RV and Adventure Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve has more than enough native beauty for one person to explore in a lifetime. From majestic peaks and snow-covered summits to an unspoiled wilderness teeming with wildlife, there’s a lot to keep you engaged. Regardless of what draws you to these wildlands, an RV provides the best way to soak in everything the park has to offer.
If you dream of piloting an RV to this raw and untamed park, book a camper near Denali in advance, fly in, pick up the rig, and start exploring the ceaseless scenery of the area.