Is Denali National Park Worth It?

Denali National Park is a remote national park in the middle of Alaska. To get there, you will need to drive a lot and to spend some money. But is the experience worth the effort? Is Denali National Park Worth it?

57% of travelers to Denali National Park say it is worth it. 90% of those people recommend Denali to rent a car and jump on a shuttle bus. However, among the ones who do not recommend Denali National Park, 80% say that Denali is not worth it for a family trip.

pie chart about denali national park worth it
This chart shows the opinion of 30 past travelers to Denali National Park. The data was found on Tripadvisor Forums, Lonely Planet Forums, and Fodors Forums and was analyzed by myself

As you can see, opinions are shared. It is important to understand why. This is why I analyzed the data and summarized 3 reasons why Denali National Park is worth your time, and 3 reasons why Denali National Park is not worth your time. After that point, we will get deeper into the experience and what to exactly expect when traveling to Denali (including a price range, and things to know before traveling).

3 Reasons why Denali National Park is worth your time

There are 3 major reasons why you should visit Denali National Park:

  • Denali itself, the highest peak in North America, with an elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190 m) above sea level
  • The rich wildlife, including bears, grizzly bears, moose, and wolves
  • The experience of the wilderness: you will drive through one of the most preserved national parks

3 Reasons why Denali is not worth your time

There are 3 major reasons why you should visit Denali National Park:

  • You cannot drive through Denali National Park in a private vehicle
  • Denali is not always visible (it is visible around every three days)
  • There are no hiking trails to follow

To summarize those two opinions, here is what you should do: if you really want to visit Denali, you should rent a car, spend a few days in the area, get on the shuttle bus several times to maximize your chances of seeing Denali. And not expect to see it anyway, because Denali is only visible every three days (rounded average: out of the 30 travelers used for this article, 9 mentioned that they saw Denali. But maybe some saw it and did not mention it).

And as we will see later, you cannot get inside Denali National Park in your private vehicle: you need to park your car and get in a bus instead (we will see why later). So unlike Glacier National Park or Badlands National Park which have scenic roads, this is not the case here.

Is Denali National Park worth it for everyone?

After reading the previous paragraphs, you may have mixed feelings about Denali. This is okay. Now we will get deeper into the experience itself to make sure you know what to expect. Once again, I analyzed the raw data to give you the best statistics possible. First of all, costs.

How much does it cost to go to Denali National Park?

To know if Denali National Park is worth your time, we need to talk about money. Indeed, you may be planning a road trip to Alaska and your budget for Denali is very short. Will that be enough? How much does it cost to go to Denali National Park?

It costs $75 per adult to go to Denali National Park without taking food and hotels into account. This is only the price of the entrance fee to Denali Park ($15) and of the bus ticket to Eielson Visitor Center ($60).

Visiting Denali National Park is expensive. This is because the way to visit is special: you cannot drive through Denali National Park. Instead, you need to hop on a bus to get to the different hikes and viewpoints.

This is also because the road to get to the middle of the park is not for everyone. Driving in Denali National Park is dangerous. It is a gravel road and sometimes there are no protections between the roadside and the ridge (as you can see in the following picture).

gray transit bus on mountain road in denali national park
As you can see from this picture, the gravel road in Denali National Park is a little dangerous. This is why tourists cannot drive their private vehicles and need to hop on the bus. Credits to Federico Artusi

Here are the detailed costs of a trip to Denali National Park including only transportation.

Entrance Fee to Denali National Park$15
Non-narrated bus ticket to Eielson Visitor Center$60
This table details the prices of the trip to Denali National Park

If you need to include food and hotels for a few days’ stay, the prices can increase really fast. On average, travelers spend $40 for food for one day, and $150 for a room in a hotel.

Is the narrated bus tour in Denali National Park worth it?

If you also add the price of a narrated bus tour to the previous costs, it will be even more expensive. What are the narrated bus tours in Denali? Are they worth it? This is what we are going to see.

Narrated bus tours in Denali National Park are expensive and not particularly worth it. The best option is to use the shuttle buses and hop on and off when needed.

Also, narrated bus tours cost around $170 for adults and $80 for children, which is expensive. You can see the detailed prices in the following table.

Tour NameAdultsChildren
Natural History Tour$101.75$43.50
Tundra Wilderness Tour$162.50$73.75
Kantishna Experience$240.75$113.00
2021 narrated bus tour prices in Denali National Park

Is Denali National Park worth it for families?

As you just saw in the previous table, narrated bus tours are not free for children! Denali National Park is not really family-friendly and we are going to see why right now. So, is Denali National Park worth it for families?

Denali National Park is not worth it for families because they will not enjoy sitting on the bus for several hours, even more after a long drive from Anchorage. 90% of the past travelers do not recommend Denali National Park for families.

It seems like Denali National Park is just not for families: it’s too remote, there is too much transportation involved, you cannot see the wildlife from close-up, there are no hiking trails.

10 Things to Know When Visiting Denali

Denali National Park is a little adventure in itself, and it definitely a great place to visit, but you need to know what to expect. Just like other parks, like Monument Valley, or some attractions like the Grand Canyon Skywalk, there are things you need to know before! And this is exactly what the following video is about.

The tips are on point and they are really what you need to know before visiting Denali National Park so I recommend that you check this video.

Rationalizing a topic is never easy. Of course, only you can choose whether Denali is worth your time. However, what I did in this article is breaking down Denali National Park in the smallest pieces possible. This way, you can really know what to expect when you choose to visit it.

If there are some points I did not cover, please let me know in the comments section below. I will be happy to answer you. And if you want to know more about Denali National Park, you can also shoot me an e-mail!

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