Long or short, by ground or air, there are a few ways to arrive at the furthest point in Denali National Park.
Kantishna is literally the “end of the road” in Denali National Park. It marks the end of the Denali Park Road, which is restricted to private vehicles for almost the entire year, making the location a true backcountry experience. Getting there is worth the time and effort—you’ll have unmatched scenic vistas, endless solitude sitting by Moose Creek, and the Alaska-rustic (but very comfortable) wilderness experience you’d expect staying at Denali Backcountry Lodge to top it off. Plus, you’re only three miles from Wonder Lake and picturesque early morning views of Denali.
Kantishna is an unincorporated Alaska community founded in 1905 by gold miners, and you’ll see Alaska history and culture all around you—from the homestead of Fannie Quigley to the mining buildings near the creek.
Kantishna can be a trek for the modern visitor, but there are a few transit options that will work for any travel style.
Entertaining local guides make the Denali Backcountry Adventure a life-changing experience and epic way to explore the park. Starting at the Denali Park Entrance, the 13-hour round-trip tour is worth every minute with wildlife watching and educated narration by the tour guide. You’ll be rewarded with a backcountry lunch when you arrive in Kantishna at the aptly named Miners’ Day Lodge. Stretch your legs with afternoon activities like gold panning (Kantishna is a gold rush town, after all!) or a naturalist hike before heading back to see the stunning landscapes of Denali from a different vantage.
Flightseeing with Kantishna Air Taxi is one way to see the park from above, with a pickup or drop off at the Kantishna air strip. Flightseeing is popular in Alaska, because access can be limited in remote areas. Small planes are a fun way to see the vast landscape and save a little travel time. Flights take you through the Alaska Range to view dramatic peaks and glaciers while en route to or from Kantishna.
Kantishna Air Taxi flights on the Denali Depot Express route are 55 minutes and cost $335 per person. This is a great option for travelers that can’t make it from a base in Fairbanks or Anchorage to Denali in time for the last bus, or those that want a new experience on the way out of the park.
The Denali Road Lottery is the only way to drive your car into Denali National Park and is a coveted experience for most Alaskans. The lottery is competitive, with about 11,000 entrants for 1,600 permits, making the odds about 1-in-7 to get a permit. If driving the road in your car is a bucket list item, put in for the lottery on May 1. The lottery is a real win (pun intended) if wildlife viewing, photography opportunities, a little independence and taking your sweet time in the Denali backcountry are high priorities.
Note that since the lottery days are in the fall, the distance available for driving is based on how far the road is open. Sometimes it’s open only 15 miles due to early season snowfall, and other years the entire road is open for cruising. Come to Denali prepared, as most businesses will have already closed for the season. Most car rental agreements won't permit travel on the road, either.
The best way to experience Kantishna is to spend a few nights there. Get the most out of the journey by taking the bus one-way to the renowned Denali Backcountry Lodge. Then, stay in Kantishna for a few days to appreciate the backcountry pace and explore the area on guided hikes. Leave on a plane ride from the Kantishna air strip for a scenic flight back to the Denali Park entrance. You’ll find the heart of Alaska in adventures like this.
You can learn more about travelling to Kantishna and Denali National Park by calling our Alaska Experts at 1.800.808.8068.