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Denali Bus Tours in 2024: All Your Options Explained

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I can’t deny: Denali National Park is one of my favorite places on earth. If you ever talk with me in person about Alaska, you’ll quickly realize it’s true; I am passionate about protecting the park and believe everyone should visit it at least once – and preferably more than that!

You see, I was lucky to grow up in Alaska, and spent a summer working in Denali for one of the major cruise lines. I’ve taken the Denali bus tours more times than I can count, and have even driven into the park with my family when we won the Denali Park Lottery one year. I’ve introduced many people – ex-boyfriends, my college best friend, and my husband (Mr. V) – to Denali over the years, and never get tired of visiting. Heck, I visited Denali twice in 2021 and again in 2022 – and always want to go back on my next trip.

John Hall's Alaska Review - Day 4 - Denali Park Drive - Caribou Crossing

As you plan your own Alaska itinerary, you might have questions about the bus tours in Denali, which ones to choose, and updates on the construction in the park in 2024 specifically. In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to decide which Denali bus tour to book.

So read on: discover the different Denali bus tours available in 2024, which ones are worth it, and even a few alternatives to help you see Denali National Park in a completely different way. Denali is a very special place, and I can’t wait for you to experience it for yourself.

In this post, I promote travel to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Tanana peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally published in December 2021, and was updated in December 2023 for next year.

Complete List of Denali Bus Tours

Before jumping into the specific details of Denali bus tours this coming year (2024), I wanted to list all of the available bus tours in Denali during a normal year.

Historically, buses ran a variety of lengths in a single day, from as short as 17 miles (one way) to the entire 92-mile (one way) length of the road. Guests were able to choose what length of bus tour they wanted based on what they hoped to see, ranging from 3 to 12 hours in length. Here were the standard Denali bus tours:

TourTurnaroundDuration
Denali Natural History TourMile 173-4 hours
Tundra Wilderness TourMile 427-8 hours*
Eielson ExcursionMile 668-9 hours
Kantishna Wilderness Trails**Mile 9012 hours
Kantishna ExperienceMile 9212 hours
Denali Backcountry Adventure**Mile 9212 hours
*Limited to 6-7 hours in 2024 due to road closures in Denali National Park
**Operated by a third-party company, not the Park Concessioner Doyon Limited-Aramark

However, as you’ll see in the rest of this post, not all of these bus tours are operating in Denali this year. And there’s a very good reason why: the road is closed beyond Mile 43 in 2024.

Status of the Denali Park Road in 2024

John Hall's Alaska Review - Day 4 - Denali Park Drive Polychrome Pass

Unfortunately, the scenery in the image above will not be seen by anyone on a bus tour in 2024. In August 2021, an ongoing but accelerating landslide in the “Pretty Rocks” area – where the National Park Service had already been working to reinforce the road – caused the road surface to drop over 21 feet in just one month.

The Pretty Rocks Area has been a frustrating part of the park road for years; while the road used to slump about 1-2 inches per year before 2014, that rate has increased such that the road was slumping over one inch every two hours in 2021. Issues with the road caused some closures in 2019 and 2020 but got so bad this last year that the Park Service closed the entire road in August, cutting off the tail end of the 2021 season. Think of it as a slow landslide that has gotten faster in the past few years.

A gif showing the slump in Pretty Rocks between July 21 and August 25, courtesy of the NPS Geology Team

Scientists aren’t quite sure of the cause, though climate change is a very strong contender. Denali National Park has experienced the greatest increase in temperature of any National Park (7.7°F ± 2.0°F per century), which has increased mean temperatures above freezing throughout the year and led to increased rainfall (source, source). All of this has combined to destabilize the roadway, which is carved into the side of the mountain.

No matter the cause, the National Park Service estimates construction will continue until at least the 2026 season – if not longer (let’s be honest – it’s a government project so delays should be expected!).

As there is only one road in and out of Denali National Park, all bus tours must turn around before the damaged area. This means that no bus tours will go beyond Mile 42 in 2024, and has created substantial changes in the options available for Denali bus tours in 2024.

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Denali Bus Tours in 2024

Denali National Park Itinerary - Tundra Wilderness Tour

So where does that leave us for Denali bus tours in 2024? Well, the options are limited – there’s no way around that. But there are options! Denali National Park is still open to visitors, and the bus tours in 2024 are still a great way to see the park. No matter which bus tour you choose, be sure to book in advance – bus tours and transit buses sell out!

Denali Natural History Tour

The first Denali bus tour available is the Denali Natural History Tour (DNHT), a short version that’s perfect for those who can’t sit for extended periods of time but still want to explore a bit further into the park than the 15 miles you can drive a private vehicle.

This 3-4 hour tour goes to Primrose Ridge, at Mile 17 of the Denali Park Road. Primrose Ridge offers a great view of Denali on a clear day, making it a perfect tour for those who are especially keen to see the mountain but less concerned with spotting wildlife. Bus driver-guides will narrate the geologic and natural history of Denali National Park during the tour.

The DNHT is offered from May 12 to September 19 in 2024, and costs $116.25 for adults and $50.75 for children. Click here to book.

Tundra Wilderness Tour

The Tundra Wilderness Tour (TWT) has long been my go-to recommended tour for everyone visiting Denali National Park who can handle sitting for a long time. Typically, this is an 8-hour tour that goes to Stony Dome at Mile 56, but that obviously won’t happen this year due to the road closure.

Instead, the TWT will operate as a 6-7 hour tour to the East Fork Cabin at Mile 42. This is a great opportunity to go deep into Denali National Park – nearly half the length of the entire Park Road, and spot wildlife in addition to the mountain herself on a clear day. During the tour, your driver-guide will narrate the tour, point out wildlife, and take plenty of stops for photos and “bio breaks” where facilities are available.

If you’re trying to choose between the DNHT and TWT, I always advocate for the longer tour that goes further into the park. The only exceptions to this would be for people who can’t sit that long or with small children who won’t do well on a multi-hour tour with no cell service to keep them entertained.

The TWT is available from May 20 to September 12 in 2024, and costs $144.00 for adults and $64.50 for children.Click here to book.

If you’re wondering whether the Tundra Wilderness Tour is still worth it with the road closure, I’ve shared my experience riding both the longer route in August 2021 and the new, shortened route in September 2021 in the next main section.

East Fork Transit Bus

One final way to get into Denali National Park is on East Fork transit buses, which are green rather than tan like the DNHT and TWT buses. These buses typically run campers and hikers into various parts of the park, but those who want a more budget-friendly, less touristy option can take them in and out of the park too. Transit buses are not guaranteed to be narrated, so you won’t get the same experience as the tour buses.

Transit buses, like all buses, will operate from May 20 to September 12 and will only run to Mile 43 in 2024. The cost is $33.25 for adults, and are free for children (15 and under).Click here to book.

If you are planning to ride a transit bus into Denali to go backcountry camping, backpacking, or hiking, you can still ride the camper bus to Mile 43 and hike from there.

Is the Tundra Wilderness Tour Worth It?

So is the Tundra Wilderness Tour still worth it, despite the road closure? Heck, is it even worth it to visit Denali National Park at all in 2024?

First of all, let’s be real: skipping Denali National Park because the road is closed at the halfway point is what my mother calls “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” Of course, Denali National Park is still worth visiting! There’s so much more to do in Denali than just the bus tours; I always advise people to spend 2-3 days in Denali to experience it all – and only one of those days is spent on a bus tour.

But speaking specifically about the bus tours and my go-to recommendation for the Tundra Wilderness Tour, yes, the TWT is still worth it even with the road closure.

I was fortunate to visit Denali twice in 2021, once in August as part of my adventure with John Hall’s Alaska (before the road closure) and once in September after the road closed. Mr. V was with me on that second trip, and I didn’t hesitate for a moment to forge ahead with our plans to do the Tundra Wilderness Tour during our trip. I knew it would be truncated and miss some of the best scenery (it’s not called “Pretty Rocks” for nothing!) – but I also know that the TWT is the best way to see the mountain and wildlife in Denali National Park.

We made the 43-mile journey in early September, and it was absolutely worth it. On our 6.5-hour tour, we saw bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep – four of Denali’s Big 5. We also had epic views of Denali the mountain several times during the tour, including at two stops we made to stretch our legs.

Denali National Park Itinerary - Panorama

While I can’t promise you’ll have exactly the same experience we did – the weather was very cooperative, and we saw a good amount of wildlife – I can promise that there is no better way to explore Denali National Park in 2024 than on the Tundra Wilderness Tour.

Bus Tours that are NOT Offered in 2024

Before wrapping up this post, I want to very clearly state which Denali bus tours are not operating in 2024:

  • Eielson Excursion – An extended version of the Tundra Wilderness Tour, the Eielson Excursion used to run to the Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66. This tour will not be operating this year.
  • Kantishna Wilderness Trails – This 12-hour, 90-mile bus tour is usually operated by the Kantishna Roadhouse. For 2024, they will offer fly-in stays, starting at $1,450 per person per night (plus tax); see more on their website.
  • Kantishna Experience – This is the longest tour offered through the National Park Service, and used to traverse the entire 92 miles of the road with a park ranger aboard the bus. It won’t be happening in 2024.
  • Denali Backcountry Adventure – Operated by Denali Backcountry Lodge, this is another 92-mile tour that won’t happen in 2024; like last year, they will offer fly-in stays but prices are not listed on their website so you’ll have to call to inquire.
  • Toklat/Eielson/Wonder Lake/ Kantishna Transit Buses – As I stated before, the only transit bus in 2024 will be the “East Fork” transit bus – all others are not operating. If you were planning to take a transit bus further into Denali National Park this year, such as to the Toklat River or Wonder Lake, you’ll have to disembark at Mile 43 and hike the rest of the way in.

Additionally, the Denali Park Lottery – which allows private vehicles to traverse the Park Road in late September each year – will be limited in 2024 (if it occurs at all; it was canceled in 2023). While details haven’t been announced yet, it’s safe to assume that if it happens, it too will require a turnaround at Mile 42.

*All properties in Kantishna can receive fly-in visitors thanks to Kantishna Air Taxi (more on that below). However, this will add a considerable cost to the already-spendy stay, so won’t work for most Alaska travelers.

The “New” Denali Backcountry Adventure

After first publishing this post in 2022, I was tipped off to a new bus tour. It’s called the Denali Backcountry Adventure, and is operated by Pursuit Alaska – but it is not the same tour as the previous Denali Backcountry Adventure and didn’t even operate in Denali National Park – or in 2023 at all!

While I have left my review of the Denali Backcountry Adventure live on my site, this tour is also not operating in 2024.

Other Ways to See Denali in 2024

If you’re feeling a bit depressed about your options for visiting Denali this year, don’t! The TWT is still a great experience, and there’s another fantastic way to see Denali National Park: flightseeing.

I always recommend splurging on a flightseeing tour during your Alaska trip, and Denali is the place I most often recommend doing so. Here are the best options.

Fly Denali Glacier Landing Tour

I first took the Glacier Landing Tour from Fly Denali in 2007 while working for Holland America Line in Denali. It blew me away, and I’ve been dying to do this tour again ever since.

Mr. V and I took the tour again in 2021, and even 14 years later, it’s still the most awesome experience we had (in my opinion anyway!). Fly Denali has new ownership but is still the coolest way to go flightseeing in the park. You’ll follow the park road in before diverting across the glacial landscape surrounding Denali. Then you’ll land on a glacier flowing down from the mountain herself, where you spend 20 minutes throwing snowballs, making snow angels, and being generally awed at your surroundings. Finally, you’ll fly back out along the park road, spotting wildlife before touching down in Healy.

I think this is the best way to see Denali hands-down, and I’m not the only one; click here to read some quotes from other folks I recommended book with Fly Denali in the past.

Kantishna Air Taxi

Kantishna Air Taxi is another option for flightseeing in Denali. I had the opportunity to fly with them during my August trip; we took off and landed from Kantishna where I was staying, but they also offer flights from Healy. They don’t offer a glacier landing tour, but have a number of other flightseeing routes to get you up close and personal with the mountain.

The team that owns Kantishna Air Taxi also owns Skyline Lodge in Kantishna (Mile 90 on the Park Road), but they didn’t open the Lodge or operate any flights in 2022 or 2023. I wouldn’t keep your fingers crossed for 2024, but I hope to report better news for the 2025 season!

K2 Aviation (Talkeetna)

Denali Bus Tours - K2 Flightseeing
Photo courtesy of K2 Aviation

For a third option, consider booking a flightseeing tour with K2 Aviation, based out of Talkeetna. This is a great option if you’re planning to spend a day or night in Talkeetna on your way to/from Denali. They also offer a glacier landing tour in Denali, and usually land on the same glacier as the Fly Denali team; the approach from Talkeetna is different than from Healy though, so you’ll see an entirely different part of Denali National Park during your flight.

And there you have it: a breakdown of the Denali bus tours available this year, as well as alternatives if you want to experience the park in a different way. Have questions about the Denali bus tours in 2024? Let me know in the comments!


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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

69 Comments

  • Sarah

    Hi! I stumbled upon your blog while planning a late-May 2022 trip to Alaska. We’re planning about 7 days in Alaska. We are interested in a flightseeing tour, with the landslide road closures in the park is it still worth driving into the park or perhaps just stopping in Talkeetna, doing a fly over and seeing some of Denali State Park instead?

  • Sharon

    HI Valerie, thanks for all the great info on your site. i have 2 questions. We will be in Fairbanks on 8/10/2022.
    We are interested in seeing the Northern Lights. Do you think it will be visible at that time?
    My second question is about driving in Alaska with the closing of the Denali National Park Road. Is it possible in 2022 to drive from Denali National and then to Fairbanks now that the Denali National Park Road is closed going further north. Are there alternate roads to get to Fairbanks in a reasonable amount of time.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Sharon.
      First of all, no, you won’t see the aurora that early in the summer.
      Second, the Denali National Park Road is not the same as the Parks Highway which connects Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks. The Parks Highway is open, so you won’t have any issues driving from Denali to Fairbanks.

      • Valerie

        Wow, you have a glaringly rude attitude and are afraid to put your own name on your comment. Makes you really trust-worthy too… 🙄

        First of all, it’s called Stone Dome – and it’s on the map from the National Park Service as a stop/turnaround at Mile 56 (source).

        Second, I did the 92-mile ride and the 43-mile shorter ride in 2021, so I think I might know better than you on these details. If you’re willing to put your real name on your comment to verify why you’re the true and ultimate expert, I’ll approve your next comment. Otherwise bugger off and waste someone else’s time on the internet.

  • Alexis

    Hello Valerie,

    Me and my best friend are going to Alaska next month and we are so excited! You blog has been really helpful in the planning process. I just had a quick question, are the flight seeing tours available year round? We are trying to figure out the best way to see Denali National Park.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Alexis. Unfortunately, no, most flightseeing is only available in the summer months due to the weather. Denali isn’t a winter destination unless you want to go in by skiing or dog-sledding.

    • Dallin

      Hello Valerie,

      Just wanted to let you know the TWT will be a 5-5.5 hour tour for the upcoming season. I know this as I am a Tundra Wilderness Tour Driver. If you look on the reservedenali website you’ll see it notated as such.

  • Gail

    Valerie, your blog is very informative, I appreciate that. I am really strugling with the idea of the “school bus’ tour. I am not a fan of busses in general, and when I do ride them, I go on the fancy ones with bathrooms and all. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hike and all the outdoor stuff, but I need dramamine to survie busses. I defintitly want the views, am I “cutting of my nose to spite my face” if i opt for a plane tour? Thanks for your insights.

    • Gail

      Just discovered Kantishna Air Taxi will not be operating in 2022 🙁 I forgot to mention we will be traveling in early June. I notice your latest visits have been in September. Does your view of the bus tours differ if they are taken in early June? Thanks again

      Sorry about the typos

      • Valerie

        Ah, thanks for that info – I had tried calling KAT and they weren’t even answering their phones! My opinions on the buses do not differ; I recommend them in any part of the summer season.

    • Valerie

      I generally don’t love school bus tours either, but I think this is one of those must-dos – the flights are cool, but there’s nothing like being on-the-ground in Denali, spotting wildlife, experiencing the vastness of the space. I hope you choose whatever works for you though!

  • Rachel Helms

    Hi! I went to go book the Tundra Wilderness Tour for either July 12 or 13 and it said that it isn’t available that day. Do you know why that is?

    • Valerie

      To be honest, Rachel, it’s probably sold out. It’s shaping up to be a crazier year than last year! However, I’d keep checking in the coming weeks – last summer they had to do a second round of hiring to meet demand and released a ton more dates/tours in late May to meet summer demand.

  • Karen

    Hi Valerie
    Thank you for all the great information on your blog, it has really been helpful
    Planning our trip for September. Would you recommend the early morning bus tour or the the lunchtime tour to see the wildlife or are they both about the same.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Karen. Early morning is the best time to potentially see animals as they get started on their day; however if you’re planning later in September (not sure exact dates) you may want the lunchtime tour since it’s cooler in the morning and animals get started later as they prepare for winter.

  • Danielle

    Great article! We will be in Denali May 18-23. Still undecided about taking te Tundra Tour or East Fork Bus. It can be a little confusing. Do you know if the East Fork bus ($30) stops at all for wildlife/pictures/bathroom or does it just go straight to Mile 43?

    Thanks!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Danielle! It depends a lot on the driver as to how much or how long they stop for wildlife. Most stop, but narration is limited if it happens at all on the East Fork Bus. However, I would book ASAP as things are booking up!

        • Michelle

          Hi Valerie,

          My husband and I will be visiting Alaska April 26th through May 3rd of this year. Will any of the buses into Denali be running yet? If not, will the road be open at all for cars to enter by then?

          • Valerie

            Hi, Michelle. Nope, that’s too early for the tour buses. As for the road, there’s no way for me to predict this – some years it’s open to Mile 15 by this point, at other times there’s still 10 feet of snow! I recommend bookmarking the Denali NPS website as that’s the most accurate resource for updates on the status of the road.

  • Karen

    I guess we were lucky being in Denali late May 2022 for the TWT, it was Awesome! Appreciate everything I read on your blog to plan my trip. Thank you!
    On our TWT we saw 4 of the 5 big ones, did not see wolves. BUT, we were lucky and saw a lynx!

    While there, due to weather, my flight seeing glacier tour was cancelled. The people at Fly Denali were nice and transferred my money over to Denali Air and we got to do flightseeing tour which didn’t land on a glacier, but did a 360 around Denali. Was the best experience of my life probably.
    Do you have a reason for not mentioning this great company? Just curious.
    Dan, the owner, was our pilot and gave us a great tour by air of Denali, highly recommend.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for all the feedback, Karen – and for sharing your experience with Denali Air! I’ve never flown with them so I didn’t include them, simple as that ☺️

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reaching out, Linda. I’m not sure what you’re referring to with that link – it looks like the same tour information about the TWT and DNHT. Alaska Travel is basically just an online travel platform – they don’t offer tours, they just allow you to book through them. I hope that clarifies, though I’m not sure it does 😅

  • Cheryl Dunham

    Hi Valerie,
    My husband and I have both enjoyed reading your blogs. They have been very helpful in planning for our trip in late July! In this post, you mention that the part of Denali you see is different if you do the Fly Denail vs. the K2 trip from Talkeetna. Is one better than the other?
    My husband is leaning toward doing the one from Talkeetna as they are offering the Glacier Landing and Summit tour, weather permitting. The last time he checked, Fly Denali wasn’t offering the Summit tour due to COVID. Have you done the Summit/Glacier Landing tour with K2? If so, what are your thoughts? Honestly, I’m a bit nervous about having to wear an oxygen mask and fly in a small plane but do not want to miss out!
    Thanks so much!
    Cheryl

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Cheryl! I’ve never flown with K2 so I can’t speak to that experience – but I would reach out to them and ask specifically what percentage of times they actually do the summit tour. Denali is a very temperamental gal (as mountains go!) so you might end up booking that tour and not actually doing the summit flight anyway. With regard to the differences between them, the two flight routes approach the mountain from different angles; I prefer the flight form Healy (Fly Denali) since it follows the Park Road and that’s fascinating to me. However, the routes can vary – sometimes Fly Denali goes around the south of the mountain first, other times they go west first then south to do the glacier landing. IT really all depends on the weather so it’s impossible to predict what your flight route and experience will be!

      On my end, I just love Fly Denali; I think they’re a great small Alaskan company and I love supporting them. I know K2 is good too, but I don’t have direct experience with them so I don’t include them in my recommendations. I hope that all helps!

  • Victoria J Livingston

    Thank you so much for the information about 2022. We had waited for 2 years to visit Alaska and were disappointed that the bus cannot go to Wonder Lake. I tried to book the TWT for July 19 or 20, but it must be sold out. I guess someone else had that problem and you said to keep checking since they might add more. If that tour is gone, would it be worth it to take the non-tour bus there? Or what would you recommend? Again, thank you!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Victoria. The transit buses are a good backup option – I recommend booking them ASAP so you have spots, and then you can always switch your reservation if more TWT are added.

  • edan

    Loved reading your Blog.

    I wanted to ask about the transit buses.
    how frequently do they stop? and when they do
    ( i know it is driver dependant) they wait for the people that were on them right? ( i mean, we wouldn’t loose our place, if other people decided to get up on it…?)

    • Valerie

      Thanks for asking! Transit buses stop at certain points along the route, and then whenever someone wants to get off. There isn’t a set schedule, and there no assigned seats – they pick up people as they have seats available, so if you get off the bus and other people get on before you get picked back up, there may not be seats for you. This is why I advise against the transit buses – they aren’t the right fit for most travelers, and people don’t really know what to expect for hiking in the park (there are no trails!).

  • Karl Mueller

    Loved your post! We’re planning to do the Tundra Wilderness Tour in September. Is there a better pick up location to choose? We have an AirBNB cabin so we’ll be driving to whatever spot we choose. Not sure if there is one that is picked up first or anything that you know. So excited for this trip!

  • Cynthia Lucksted

    Greetings; Our family is coming to Denali in July and I just have a couple of questions. We’ve seen where the road is closed on the Tundra Wilderness Tour due to the land slide. First question: Are the rates on this website still correct since the Tour Bus can’t travel the same distance. Second question: The rates shown at $30.00 per individual is for buses with no guide correct (like the school buses)? Last question: Are mask required on either of these trips? Thank you for your help concerning our questions. Look forward to hearing from you. Sincerly Cynthia Lucksted

    • Valerie

      Cynthia, thanks for reaching out. All the prices and info should be correct for 2022 and the buses offered this year. For masks and other policies, I recommend trying to book your tours and then you’ll see what they require. (It’s always changing so I didn’t include that!)

  • Katie

    Valerie – thank you for all your wonderful info!

    I am going in August and have time for 2 tours. Based on your info I am thinking the TWT for sure, and one other. Paired with the TWT, if you had to choose, would you do the flightseeing or white water rafting? And what order would you do them in?

    Thank you!

    • Valerie

      Flightseeing all the way! I’d do the bus tour then flightseeing so you get to travel the road, then fly above it!

  • Avi Bloch

    Hi Valerie
    Thanks for all the info.
    I see that you recommend K2 Aviation. Do you know if they’ve made any changes in their safety procedures since the crash in 2018?
    Thanks

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Avi. I’m sure they have, but you should reach out to them directly if you want specific safety info.

  • Denise

    Now is May 26, 2022, all the bus tour is booked for August 2022. What’s the option for me now? Using the transit bus? Are they also need to book?

    • Valerie

      Yes, the transit bus is the only other alternative – and yes you absolutely need to book in advance because those sell out too!

      • Thorne

        I’m trying to decide between the TWT and the regular transit bus. It seems like most of the official hiking trails are near the visitor center and savage river campground which are both accessible by car I believe? So with that in mind, I’m not sure if it’s worth taking the transit bus for the hop on hop off privileges. I wish I could get the narration and have the option to hop on hop off! Are there places you would recommend getting off the transit bus even with the closure? Or is the narrated tour going to be a better experience?

        • Valerie

          As I mentioned in this post, I’m a die-hard for the TWT. I know lots of people recommend the Transit Bus because it’s cheaper, but I have been on too many of them where the driver doesn’t really do any narration and sorta rushes through the experience/any wildlife sightings – that’s not what I want people to remember from Denali!

    • Valerie

      Unfortunately, the bus tours signal the end of the season – did you find a hotel for those days? Usually they close at the same time the bus tours stop. Also, flightseeing will stop then too…

  • Brian

    Hi Valerie,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience with others. This is by far and away the most helpful blog I have come across for what to do in Denali while we are there this summer (July 2023). So very helpful. Thank you. The only thing we are struggling with is how to get from Healy to the Alaska Train Bus Depot near the Visitors Center.

  • Lynn capurro

    Loved your post, covered almost everything I wanted. Years ago we went to Denali and there were 2 types of buses going into the park. One was the park service and they had unrenovated school buses, the other was a private company and had renovated the buses with comfortable seats. I couldn’t tell from your info if that is still the case. We took the private tour for only an extra 10 or so dollars and it was well worth it.
    Are there currently any comfortable buses?
    Thanks, Lynn

    • Valerie

      As far as I know, Lynn, there are no comfortable buses. I’ve ridden several different companies in the past few years and they all just use standard school buses, no matter how far they go or what service the provide.

  • Erin

    Such a great article! Do you recommend things like whitewater raft tours instead of the bus ones as an alternate way to see Denali this summer?

    • Valerie

      Hi, Erin – absolutely NOT. You should not skip the bus tour, it is the only thing like it, and the rafting tours will be no comparison. Bus tour, bus tour, bus tour!

  • Ron

    Hello Valerie,

    Thanks for detailed blog, very well written.
    I have question on the Transit buses, they calim to be “hop-in/hop-off”, do they make exact same stops as the Tour buses?
    And I see they provide 4:45 time slot while booking (ex: 6:30AM – 11:45AM), does it mean I can do my first boarding aytime in this window or it doe it mean I need to complete my roun-trip and exit the park within this window?

    Thanks much,
    Ron

    • Valerie

      Hi, Ron. No, transit buses do not make the same stops. I don’t know when Transit bus departures are assigned; usually, it just means you’ll be assigned a departure time within that window, just like the Tundra Wilderness Tours. You don’t need to exit the park within that window, but you do need to be aware of the last buses of the day our you’ll be walking out of the park – so check when you arrive at the bus depot to see when you need to be back on the bus. (Also, remember that everyone will be trying to catch the last bus and they will not pick you up if they don’t have room, so it’s best to not plan for catching the very last bus out of the park.)

  • Liz

    Hi Valerie – Thank you for this highly informative post! My husband and I will be visiting Denali 9/2-9/5 of this year. On 9/2 we’ll be coming from Fairbanks, so we plan to do some hiking near the visitor center in the afternoon. Per your advice, we’re planning to do the Tundra Winderness Tour on 9/3. We’re debating booking the Transit Bus for 9/4 so that we can access hiking from somewhere other than from the visitor center as well. Do you recommend this? The booking form is a bit confusing as it requires booking a specific time window and pickup location time (7AM). We don’t want to pay for something we don’t ultimately need, but we also don’t want to regret not having booked it in advance. Thanks in advance for the help!

    P.S. Do you have a buy-me-a-coffee spot on your website? I would!

    • Valerie

      Thanks, Liz! I don’t have “buy me a coffee,” but appreciate the offer. For your 2nd day, I’d do something else – either hiking trails in the Frontcountry (from the Visitor Center) or doing another activity like flightseeing, rafting, etc.

  • Mai Nguyen

    Hello,
    Your blog is very helpful. If I am staying in Fairbacks, is there a way to take the train to Denali, do the TWT, then take the tran back to Fairbanks in the same day? Is the timeframe reasonable so we don’t get stranded?
    Thank you,
    Mai

    • Valerie

      Nope, that’s not possible in a single day. First off, you don’t get to chose what time your TWT is set, just the date. Given that the train arrives in Denali at 12pm and leaves at 4pm, you can’t fit a 5-6 hour tour into that time.

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