Denali National Park is open year-round. In the course of 12 months, it takes an extreme ride through the seasons. Most people visit in the summer only, when lodges and tours are operating, and that's generally early June through mid-September. Crowds are relative in Denali—once you're here you'll never feel 'crowded'!
Summer months offer the best chances to see wildlife, the most moderate weather and the easiest time to visit since that's when services and activities are all operating. Regardless of the month, the key to your visit to Denali is getting organized ahead of time.
Denali in March, April and May
As spring arrives, winter slowly lets go of its grip on the park! March and April can be cold and wet in Denali. May, surprisingly, is the driest month for this area. Plowing begins on the Denali Park Road in mid-March, usually. Depending on conditions, private vehicles can go as far as Mile 30.
Denali in June
Late spring is short but sweet in Denali. It seems that the entire landscape turns from brown to green in only a few days at the beginning of June. Some say June has the clearest weather. Mosquitoes are usually present in Denali from June through the end of July. Long days bring up to 20 hours of sunlight during June in Denali. Wildlife activity peaks as animals are busy eating, moving and living as much as possible. Wildflowers begin to bloom in June and can be seen through July.
June is also the month that lodges in and around Denali, including Denali Backcountry Lodge and Denali Cabins open for the summer. The regular shuttles into the park, as well as the day tours like Denali Backcountry Adventure, also begin mid-June.
Denali in July
With comfortable weather (including the warmest temperatures of the year), long days and evenings dominated by the Midnight Sun, wildflowers in bloom and the entire place bursting with life, July is prime time in Denali. Wildlife are busy in July roaming, exploring, feeding, playing and soaking up the warmth as well. Activities, lodges and tours are usually booked solid so be sure to plan well ahead if you're hoping to come in July. You'll likely be dealing with mosquitoes as well, but they're a small nuisance compared to all this majesty!
Denali in August
The warmest weather wanes in August—it's been known to snow in August and evenings are chilly. That helps usher out mosquitoes, which will have disappeared from most areas of the park by August (except wetlands). The landscape in August is chocked with berries, providing a feast for wildlife like bears. Fall foliage starts early in Denali, usually towards the end of August when the tundra turns a brilliant golden rose color. Because days are shorter, you've got a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights in late August.
Denali in September
As soon as Labor Day comes, Denali becomes quieter. Snow on peaks and vivid colors make for outstanding photos and shorter days lead to great chances for seeing the Northern Lights. Day tours (like Denali Backcountry Adventure) and shuttles on the Denali Park Road wrap up their seasons mid-September. Then, the annual Parks Service Road Lottery in mid-September allows some lucky folks to drive the Denali Park Road right before winter rolls in. The landscape turns brown, once again, before being covered in a blanket of white.
Denali in October and November
The park begins to wrap things up. Lodges, outfitters, shuttle buses and campgrounds are all closed.
Denali in December, January and February
The dark, deep freeze of winter dominates Denali. Wildlife move into hibernation or low-activity modes, and some migrate to warmer climates. Nordic skiing, winter biking and snowshoeing are optional activities but temperatures can drop below -40 degrees F.
Denali National Park sits in the heart of the jaw-dropping Alaska Range, and can range from a frozen winter wonderland to the perfect summer getaway. Make sure you pick the right time to visit for your favorite activities and adventures.