Denali, Alaska, USA

Denali National Park Travel Guide | Tundra Wilderness Tour Review

We’ve traveled extensively over the past 10 years and there’s just nothing quite like the natural beauty of Alaska. 
Last year, we surprised Alicia’s parents with their bucket list trip and made the journey to one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Their main bucket list experience? Getting to see Denali National Park, arguably Alaska’s most famous park with its 6 million acres of wilderness. Here’s an in depth look into our Tundra Wilderness Tour through Aramark Leisure and why you should book it too. If you’re looking for more Denali specific questions like how to get there and how long to stay be sure to make it to the very bottom of this post.

Denali National Park Travel Guide | Tundra Wilderness Tour Review
Denali National Park Travel Guide | Tundra Wilderness Tour Review
Denali National Park Travel Guide | Tundra Wilderness Tour Review

The Tundra Wilderness Tour

It’s hard to find the words to describe what a great experience we had on this tour. It not only defied all of our expectations, it was also one of the top days of our entire Alaska trip.

The most popular tour offered by Denali National Park is the Tundra Wilderness Tour. Via Aramark Leisure, it operates between June 1 and September 12. The tour is about 7 or 8 hours long total and takes you 62 miles into the park on a motor coach to the Stony Hill Overlook where you have a perfect view of Mt. McKinley.

Denali National Park limits individual access to the park in order to protect the wildlife and land. Individuals are only permitted to drive 14 miles into the Denali. If you want to go further, you have to be on a bus tour. As explained to us, it’s better to have 50 buses in the park at a time than 1,000 cars. It’s also a bonus to have a tour operator narrating the history of the scenery and wildlife you come across.

We stayed at the McKinley Chalet Resort (stick around to the bottom of the post to read our review) and were picked up around 7am. On the tour, you will each receive a snack box, which we found to be really filling. A nice perk in addition to the tour guide's narration was that they also have drop down televisions on the motor coach that link to the tour guide's camera. They will zoom into areas so you can have a nice view from your seat.

We thought the tour was worth every penny and highly recommend anyone visiting Denali to take it!

Other tips:
  •  When boarding the coach we recommend avoiding the exit rows. We noticed those seat windows were more prone to be fogged up and the guests had a hard time seeing the view. 
  • Pack a pair of binoculars! The tour guide will be able to show you far away things via the televisions, but it is nice to be able to spot things with your own eyes
  • If you want to take photographs, we recommend bringing a huge zoom lens. It would be hard to capture photos of animals otherwise as they are not curious about the motor coach buses and don't often come very close

What We Saw

Our tour guide stressed how much luck plays a part in your day. Usually, if you see a lot of wildlife, the view of Mt McKinley is blocked by heavy clouds or vice versa. If you get a perfect view of the mountain, usually you don’t see that much wildlife. Luckily, we had both! We saw everything from Dall Sheep, to grizzly bears, and caribou. 

Beautiful Landscapes

There are multiple rest stops along the way to stretch your legs and enjoy the breathtaking views. It was hard at times to believe what you are looking at is real!

Denali, Mount McKinley

The main attraction and last stop! Seeing Denali from this outlook is the last stop before making the journey back. On a clear day you can see the full mountain, but due to the ever changing weather and it's massive height, it's likely to be covered with clouds. We were lucky to be able to see it for a few minutes unimpeded. The tour guide gives you plenty of time to be in this spot and take it all in. Our visit was unfortunately cut a tiny bit short because they received an alert of a bear in the area! So, with all your Alaska planning keep in mind that it's hard to plan everything and need to set your expectations to be able to go with the flow. Denali was incredibly beautiful and it was hard to comprehend its massive size.

How To Get to Denali

By car, Denali is 5-6 hours north of Anchorage and is 8 hours via the Alaska Railroad. We recommend driving.

How Long Should I Stay?

We only gave ourselves 2 nights in Denali, with 1 full day. With that said, we HIGHLY recommend giving yourself at least 2 full days. We were extremely lucky everything worked out for us, but many locals and tour guides told us we were lucky because the weather changes drastically in Denali. While one day can be perfectly beautiful, the next can be anything but and tours can even be canceled.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the McKinley Chalet Resort. It was very close to the park entrance and across the way from a plaza of many food options. Though it was convenient and quite beautiful, a huge downside is that there is no wifi offered in the rooms themselves. Free wifi is only offered in the main public areas such as the check in building. The resort is quite expansive so it took us 10-15 minutes to walk from our room to an area to access the internet.


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