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RV Camping in Alaska’s Denali National Park

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Denali National Park was established in 1980 when the Mount McKinley National Park — established first in 1917 to protect Dall sheep — and Denali National Monument were combined into one park.

Denali  is best known for its wide variety of wildlife and the 20,320′ tall Mount McKinley, named after President McKinley. This name is only used by those outside of Alaska; locals refer to it simply as Denali. The park’s remote location and beautiful scenery make it an excellent Alaska camping destination.

Denali National Park has only one road in and out, called Denali Park Road. It is 92 miles long, but only the first 15 miles are paved. The paved portion ends at Savage River. Shuttle and tour bus rides spanning the rest of the road are  available in the summer season. The shuttles create an excellent opportunity to see the wildlife and scenery offered by Denali National park. The buses and shuttles sit higher than the average car, making it easier to see over the brush along the road. Also, the road is windy, unpaved and travels along cliffs and through mountain passes. With a professional driver, travelers can sit back, relax and soak in the beauty of the park.

The entrance fee for the park is $10 per person or $20 per vehicle and is good for seven days. Those making an attempt at Mount McKinley or Mount Foraker, however, must pay a special use fee of $200 per person. Bus and shuttle fees range between $24 and $155.

The most popular time to visit is during the summer season, which is late May through early September. The weather, however, is very unpredictable year round, sometimes even snowing in August. One can expect rain, sun, clouds and wind all on the same day.

The rainiest months tend to be June through August, although there have been instances of bone dry summers. Denali National Park always keeps campers on their toes. Winter begins in late October and stretches into March. The temperature can get as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, with the higher end barely reaching the high 20s. Specialized winter gear is needed for winter Alaska camping and visits, and is best left to the more extreme campers. Spring is a short season, April through early May, with temperatures ranging between freezing and the 40s and 50s. Fall season, in September, is similar.

Denali National Park offers plenty do do year round. With Mt. McKinley being the highest peak on the continent, many mountaineers come to test their climbing and survival skills. For those that don’t climb, there is still plenty to do. During the summer season, there is hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting in the Denali National Preserve, and of course, shuttle and bus rides past Savage Lake. For the hardier winter campers, there is cross country skiing, snowmobiling, dog mushing, snowshoeing, and winter wildlife viewing. Savage River offers hikes both on and off trails, chances to see Mt McKinley, and wildlife viewing.

To find a campsite that fits your needs, see more Alaska Campgrounds.

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