Entrance Sign to Denali State Park Alaska

Where is Denali State Park

Located in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Denali State Park resides entirely within the state of Alaska. The state parks crowning feature is acres of undeveloped and undisturbed Alaskan wilderness. Denali State Park also contains two major trail heads, three developed campgrounds, and the Alaskan Veterans Memorial. The closest city to Denali State Park is Trapper Creek. Denali State Park is located 189 miles or a three-hour drive south of Fairbanks, Alaska.  Denali is also 133 miles or a two hour and fifteen-minute drive north of Anchorage, Alaska. The state park is also near several other outdoor recreation areas. These areas include Chugach State Park, Denali National Park and Preserve, and the Chugach National Forest.

How Large is Denali State Park

Denali State Park covers more than 325,000 acres. The park’s geography mainly consists of undisturbed and undeveloped acres of Alaskan wilderness, forest, and mountains. The average visitor to Denali State Park is drawn to the park for a variety of reasons. The main reasons are the acres of expansive wilderness, the opportunity to backpack in this wilderness, limitless wildlife viewing, and the park’s two hiking trails. These two trails are the Upper Troublesome Creek Trail and Little Coal Creek Trail. Denali State Park also contains three campgrounds. Visitors can decide between reserving a site in each of them. The park offers views of the Alaskan range and the Talkeetna Mountains.

Denali State Park Weather

The weather at Denali State Park varies frequently throughout the year. In the summer, temperatures in the park average between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, these temperatures cool considerably and average between 0 and 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest temperatures of the year arrive at the park in June, July, and August, and the coldest temperatures find the park in December and January. On average, Denali State Park receives around 90 days of rain per year. These 90 days of rain accumulate to a yearly average of around 32 inches. Denali State Park also experiences snowfall throughout every year. Snowfall in the park is normally heaviest in the winter months of December, January, and February, but normally occurs in every month except June, July, and August. The park’s yearly snowfall totals average around 180 inches per year.

View of Mount Denali and Pond During Sunset at Denali State Park Alaska

When did Denali State Park Become a State Park

Denali State Park first became a state park in 1970. However, the park did not reach its current size until 1976. The park is located on the southeastern border of Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali State Park provides direct views of Denali peak. The peak is the highest peak in North America. The peak sits at an elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level. The state park also provides a home to a variety of other Alaskan ecosystems and wildlife. Denali State Park is managed and maintained by the Alaska Department of State Parks.

Things to do in Denali State Park

Denali State Park provides visitors with access to one of the last undisturbed plots of wilderness in North America. This wilderness is rough, rugged, and full of outdoor adventures. The most popular adventures and experiences found in Denali State Park are listed below: 

Explore the Visitor Contact Station

The visitor contact station at Denali State Park is the best place for visitors to start their Alaskan state park adventure. The contact station contains park maps, brochures, and other pamphlets that discuss several important features of the park. The contact station also contains several displays and exhibits that discuss the ecology, geography, and geology of Denali State Park. Visitors looking to find the visitor contact station should drive to mile marker 147.1 on the Alaskan Parks Highway. The visitor contact station is located near the Alaskan Veterans Memorial.

Observe the Alaskan Veterans Memorial

The Alaskan Veterans Memorial is located at mile marker 147.1 on the Alaskan Parks Highway. This memorial honors veterans from Alaska who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard, and the Merchant Marine. The Alaskan Veterans Memorial also honors specific Alaskan veterans who were awarded the medal of honor. The memorial is outdoors and was dedicated in 1984 by veteran and former governor Bill Shellfield.

Take in Views of the Alaskan Range

Denali State Park is one of the best sites to take in views of the Alaskan Range. Arguably the best roadside view of the Alaskan Range can be found at mile marker 135.2 on the park's highway. At this marker there is an interpretive display that names the various peaks of the range and displays their elevations. Backpackers in Peters Hill will also be granted superb views of the Alaskan Range and the largest peak in North America; Denali.

Hike the Little Coal Creek Trail

The Little Coal Creek Trail is 6.2 miles in length and listed at a difficulty of moderate. The trail is only lightly trafficked. Visitors looking to take advantage of this trail will be in store for a variety of Alaskan treats. Wildlife sightings on the trail are normally very likely. Visitors bringing their dog to Denali State Park can also choose to bring him or her with them on the trail.

Venture into the Backcountry

The backcountry of Denali State Park draws visitors every year into its lush and isolated environment. In the backcountry, visitors will find a plethora of terrain and very little in the way of human involvement or evidence. Visitors venturing into the backcountry should be prepared for anything. The backcountry of Denali State Park is attractive but dangerous. A backpack loaded with bear spray, fire making supplies, and other essential wilderness equipment should accompany every backcountry hiker.

Wildlife Viewing

The wildlife of Denali State Park is unparalleled. The state park provides and undisturbed home to a lengthy list of avian and wildlife species. The most popular and more commonly spotted species in Denali State Park are black bears, grizzly bears, beavers, deer, moose, various smaller mammals, loons, ospreys, trumpeter swans, and various other avian species. The waters surrounding Denali State Park spawn all five species of Pacific Salmon.

Camping in Denali State Park

The several campgrounds of Denali State Park provide visitors with access to sites either designed for primitive tent camping or equipped with electric and water hookups for recreational vehicles. Reservations for these campsites can be made online through the park’s website and camping reservation portal.

View of Moose Bull in Denali State Park Alaska

When to Visit Denali State Park

Denali State Park is open year-round, and visitors can choose to plan a trip to the park throughout the year. However, during the fall, winter, and early spring months snowfall in and around the park can be quite heavy and dangerous. Occasionally, inclement winter weather causes the park’s roads and facilities to close momentarily. The best time for visitors to plan a trip to the park is during the summer. During the season, warm temperatures fall upon the state park and snow is absent. The season allows visitors to explore the park and see all it has to offer.

Must Have Items to bring to Denali State Park

Every trip outdoors requires packing and planning. A trip to Denali State Park requires additional and more specialized gear and supplies. The essential supplies below will help visitors remain comfortable and safe in the isolated wilderness of Denali State Park and the surrounding area. 

Water & High Energy Snacks

Like most outdoor adventures, a trip to Denali State Park requires vast supplies of water and high energy snacks. Visitors looking to spend time in the park’s backcountry or days on end in the park should bring additional supplies of water and high energy snacks. The best meals and snacks for backpacking are lightweight, easy to consume, and full of calories and energy.

Sturdy Hiking Boots

One false move in the Denali State Park backcountry can lead to a sprained ankle and a serious situation. It is important that all visitors to Denali State Park come prepared with a pair of sturdy hiking boots they are comfortable in. Visitors looking for added comfort and protection should look to invest in a lightweight and waterproof pair.

Backpacking Equipment

Backpacking is different from regular hiking in several ways. One, all of your supplies for the night, including your tent and sleeping materials, are carried with you. Two, anything can happen in the backcountry of Alaska. Visitors looking to backpack in Denali State Park should come prepared with lightweight equipment that is organized and efficient. In the backcountry every ounce counts.

Wildlife Field Guides

Denali State Park hosts a variety of wildlife species. Wildlife enthusiasts visiting the park should look to purchase an Alaskan or North American wildlife field guide. These field guides will include color photos and a lengthy species description that will make identification easy and educational.

First Aid Kit

Somewhere in the vehicle or backpack of every visitor arriving at Denali State Park should be a first aid kit. Visitors backpacking in the park should carry a lightweight, but effective first aid kit with them into the backcountry. The park is rugged and isolated. In the event of an emergency, you may need to be the one to help yourself or others in your party.

View of Denali State Park Alaska on a Cloudy Day

Where to Stay in Denali State Park

Visitors looking to stay within Denali State Park should make a reservation for one of the park’s campsites. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel in the area should first look for places in Trappers Creek. Visitors looking to stay in a larger city can make the drive to either Anchorage or Fairbanks.

Food Near Denali State Park

The closest food to Denali State Park is located in Trappers Creek and its surrounding area. Visitors looking for more options or a larger culinary scene can make the drive to Anchorage or Fairbanks. Anchorage is located about two hours and fifteen minutes south of the park, and Fairbanks is located about a three-hour car ride north of Denali State Park.

Airports Near Denali State Park

The closest international airport to Denali State Park is located in Anchorage. The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is 138 miles and a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of the park. The next closest international airport to the park is located in Fairbanks. The Fairbanks International Airport is located 187 miles and about a three hour and fifteen-minute drive north of Denali State Park.

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