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A Quick Guide on Camping in Denali National Park, Alaska

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Camping in the Denali National park is quite the opportunity for one to experience some of the most scenic spreads of wildlife in the Alaskan landscape. The Denali National Park services offer numerous campgrounds for travelers and campers. With around six million acres of picturesque landscapes, the Denali National Park is the quintessential example of wildlife preservation and serenity; making it the perfect spot for a weekend camping trip.

Who wouldn’t want to escape the noise and chaos of civilization, and retreat into the peaceful wilderness of the Denali Riverside RV parks?

With lush meadows, sparkling rivers, icy glaciers and blinding white fields of ice, this part of the Alaskan is a true sight for sore eyes. But planning a trip to their camping grounds isn’t exactly a walk in the park. With the various options for camping grounds, reservations, and fees, planning a camping trip to the Alaskan haven can be a tad bit overwhelming. 

From renting a tent to reserving camping space, we’ve put together a brief but nifty list to make sure you have all that you need before you head out into these great Alaskan camping grounds.

Camping Grounds at Denali State Park

The magnetic attraction of the Denali State Park comes primarily from the ginormous mountain of Mt. McKinley, for which the national park is iconic for. The 20,320-foot snow-capped peak of is a sight definitely worth catching.

And while Mt. McKinley dominates the southern half of the national park, it’s actually just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the region’s flourishing display of wildlife and scenic landscapes. 

There are six camping grounds in the Denali National Park.

Out of the six, Riley Creek, Savage River and Teklanika campgrounds have abundant space for RV trailer sites (however, with no hookups).

Know all details for Car Camping 101 - Essentials and Tips for a Worry-free Adventure

For tent campers, the Sanctuary, Igloo Creek, and Wonder Lake are the best options.

Check out How to Choose a Warm Winter Tent and Set it Up

And while vehicles are generally restricted on the park roads, you can drive to these sites with a permit and appropriate reservations. Advance reservations are available and best recommended for sites like Riley Creek, Teklanika, Savage River and Wonder Lake.

denali national park
Welcome to the wonder of Alaska (source)

Reserve Your Camping Ground 

Reservations at the Denali State Park, for the summers, can be made as early as the beginning of December of the previous year. The chance of finding limited availability in the Denali campgrounds, if you choose to reserve on arrival, is quite high in the summers especially.

That is why it’s best to book your spaces/tents in advance. 

The fees for the grounds vary according to the site but vary from around $12 to 27$ a night.

However, can only make your reservations online through a third-party system, as the National Park Services don’t handle any campground reservations. 

LivingIt Tip-
Want to make your camping trip to the Denali State Park as economical as possible?
Pay a visit in the winter (from late September to mid-May); camping is entirely free! 

No Availability? Not An Issue!

In the off-chance that you end up finding no campgrounds available on the day of arrival, you can always stay in one of the many private lodging/campground options near the Denali National Park.

There are many campgrounds spread around the periphery of the state park, ranging from 1 to 30 miles away. 

To Shuttle Or Tour?

The Denali National Park’s entrance lies to the northeastern corner of the regions and is about a four-hour drive from downtown Anchorage. The Denali road stretches over 92 miles, and to reach the internal campgrounds, you will need to take a bus; either a shuttle or a tour bus. 

Tour buses have trained guides explaining the paths and various tourist spots along the way, while you can get off and on a shuttle bus as frequently as you’d like. 

But it’s important to remember that these shuttle bus rides aren’t exactly swift and quick. The shortest round trip takes around 6.5 hours, and the rides aren’t really the comfiest.

The shuttle bus to the Teklanika River campground is the fastest and best one to take, as it’s only hour away from the WAC, which is located near the entrance of the park and is where most buses begin their route. 

Livingit Tip
You can purchase a Tek Pass for $30 if you stay at the Teklanika River campground. This pass can allow you to take any shuttle bus as far in and as often as you’d like. 

Denali national park
Scenic road trip to the park

Basic Rules And Regulations for Denali National Park Camping

Keeping in mind the vast stretch of wilderness, the camping at the Denali National Park comes with a set of rules and regulations. They include:

Check-in and Checkout Timings

The timings for both are standard for all visitors, and campers are expected to be in and out by 11 am (according to their reservations). Check-in for all the campgrounds can be done at the Wilderness Access Center or the Riley Creek Mercantile.

RV Size and Accessibility

Visitors can only travel and camp with RV’s and other trailers, at the Riley Creek, Teklanika and Savage River campgrounds. The other three campgrounds are restricted to only tent campers and are accessible by the Denali National Park shuttles. 

The maximum accommodation for an RV at any of the Denali campsites is 40 feet in length. For RV’s and trailers bigger than this, hotels outside the Denali National Park are suggested. 

Pets

Pets are allowed on the camping grounds and roads but are prohibited on the trails and wilderness. 

Amenities

None of the campgrounds at the Denali state park have any electrical and water hookups. Basic amenities that you can find at the campsites include, port-a-potties and potable water sources.

Also, read and know more about Water Filtration Techniques 

LivingIt Tip: 
If you’re camping at Igloo Creek or Sanctuary River, do not forget to bring a water filler, as you won’t find any at these sites. 

Fires

Riley Creek, Teklanika River, and Savage River campgrounds have fire grates. You aren’t allowed to saw, cut or harvest wood, and can only use dead wood or that from the ground to start your fire. 

Know How to Build a Campfire

Fires are prohibited at the Igloo Creek, Wonder Lake, and Sanctuary River sites. Here, cooking is restricted to only using a cook-stove. 

Quiet Hours

Quiet hours are from 10 pm to 6 am, in every Denali campground site. Generators can only be operated from 8 AM to 10 AM, and from 4 PM to 8 PM. 

Group Size

The campsites at Wonder Lake, Igloo Creek, and Sanctuary River only allow three tents (and four people per tent) per site. Savage River and Riley Creek campgrounds allow up to two vehicles - as long as their combined length does not exceed the site’s specified limits. The Teklanika River campgrounds only allow one vehicle per site. 

Duration

Every visitor has a maximum reservation limit of 14 nights, in the summer. Campers lodging at the Denali National Park for more than 14 nights would have to consider staying in one of the campgrounds near the park, or in the backcountry.

Choosing a Campsite

In every campground, you can only choose your site upon arriving. There are even different categories of sites in certain campgrounds. For example; if a Type A campsite has an unoccupied space in Riley Creek, you can reserve your spot upon arrival.

campsite at denali
Choosing the perfect campsite

Backpacker’s Guide To The Denali Campgrounds

In addition to camping at the Denali National Park, you can indulge in so many other activities such as day hiking, cycling, fishing, mountaineering and even backpacking, at this iconic location. Backpacking at the Denali State Park is whole new ballgame in itself and is best to be avoided by the novice.

With no established backcountry and true wilderness in every corner, these trails are best suited for experienced backpackers. The trails can be found mostly near the entrance of the park.

However, while day hikers do not require a permit, backpackers have to go through a rigorous five-step process to get a permit. 

Check out all about Ultralight Backpacking: Your Answer to a Smart Trek

The Denali National Park is divided into 87 backcountry units, out of which 41 have limitations on the number of backpackers allowed in the areas. Backpackers can determine their exact routes only after they pick up their permits.

Summing Up 

Camping in the Denali National Park is a fantastic way to experience the spectacular wonders of the great Alaskan mountain range. Whether it involves pitching a tent, or staying in your RV or even hiking through the trails, the Denali State Park has more than enough campgrounds that suit your interests.

While there are numerous restrictions and limitations that come with camping at the Denali National Park, each of its six camping grounds has its own perks and unique qualities that would not fail to meet your expectations. And even if you don’t end up getting a reservation on one of the campsites, there are plenty of hotels and lodging options inside and outside the national park.

This way, you won’t be missing out too much on the adventures within the vast Denali campgrounds.

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