We spent Labor Day weekend driving from Fairbanks to Denali National Park and then onto Anchorage before flying back to Seattle.
Although this added some expense – one-way rental cars are not cheap! – I’m glad we did it this way so we had the opportunity to experience both cities and the very different experiences driving to/from the park in each direction.
Our trip itinerary was filled with things to do in and around Denali National Park, Fairbanks, and Anchorage. I shared greater details about a few of these experiences in other posts:
- Spend a day in and around Fairbanks (Note: two good places to eat in between Fairbanks and the park are 49 State Brewing, which is about 15 minutes north of the park, and Rabideau’s Clear Sky Lodge, which is about 45 minutes north of the park)
- Take a bus trip into Denali National Park
- Explore the Savage River area and Savage River loop trail in the park
- Hike the Mt. Healy Overlook trail for panoramic views of the park
- Spend a morning exploring the coastline in Anchorage
We squeezed in a few other adventures during our long weekend as well. Here are additional activities I recommend adding to your Denali National Park things to do/see list!
Visit the sled dog kennels
During my trip planning, I somehow completely missed that you can visit the sled dog kennels in the park. I’m so glad our bus driver recommended it! This ended up being a highlight of our time in the park, even though we missed the actual demonstrations.
Due to COVID-19, the area is set up with a one-way flow through a small building with great information about the sled dog tradition and then through the dog kennel area. Some dogs are in enclosed kennels while others are leashed next to their own personal wooden huts with the ability to wander out toward the roped walkways we humans can traverse. If they feel like wandering over to the ropes to visit, you can interact with them!
Many of the dogs were napping during our visit but one – Royal – came over and let us pet him. (Amazing!) We also liked looking in on Jewel who gave birth to a litter of one-month old puppies that were sleeping in a big pile in the area underneath her. (Adorable!)
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife
Although we didn’t see a great variety of wildlife this trip, we saw dozens of moose, dozens of spruce grouse, several magpies, and a couple of ground squirrels.
If you’re headed to the park soon or in the early fall timeframe, I recommend driving to Savage River in your personal vehicle to look for moose during the rutting season. I couldn’t believe how many we spotted from our car – take your long camera lens or binoculars for close-up views!
Try to spot Denali
Not as easy as it sounds and no good tips or tricks besides keeping a constant eye out for the clouds to part! Good hunting!
Stop at the viewpoints between the park and Anchorage
There are several marked viewpoints along the Parks Highway between the park and Anchorage with amazing views of the surrounding mountain ranges. There are also some unmarked areas and roads where you can pull over in a pinch.
Many of these are also good spots to look for Denali!
Enjoy a snack and sampler at Denali Brewing Company
Whether or not you spot Denali, you can share a toast to the park at Denali Brewing Company near Palmer.
With spaced out indoor and outdoor seating, rotating taps you can sample (including some great ciders!), and a wood-fired pizza oven, there’s something yummy for everyone at this roadside spot.