Choose Your Adventure
Do you already know what bus trip you want? Head over to our concessionaire’s website. They manage most of the buses in the park (both narrated and non-narrated types), and you’ll reserve your tickets through them.
Otherwise, read the rest of this page to decide which bus is for you.
Know Before You Come
There is only one road in Denali. Private vehicles can drive a small part of it, but most of the road is open only to bus traffic.
Bus trips are available only in summer (roughly mid-May through mid-September). All bus trips are operated by a private company with a contract to do so – not by the National Park Service.
Advance reservations aren’t always necessary, but are strongly encouraged if you are only visiting for a short time (less than 2 full days).
There is only one road through Denali National Park, which until milestone 15 is freely accessible to traffic. After the fifteenth mile, the park road is unpaved and private vehicles are forbidden. If you want to go further into the park you can use the green shuttle buses or beige tour buses. These buses run from late May or early June to September (weather permitting).
The shuttle buses run four different routes and depart frequently and according to fixed times at the Wilderness Access Center to Toklat River (total duration: 6.5 hours return), Eielson Visitor Center (8 hours return), Wonder Lake (11 hours return) and Kantishna (13 hours return). You have to pay for these buses; the price depends on the route. We advise you to book in advance. In the high season it is possible that the buses become fully booked for several days. Half of the places can be reserved well in advance, the other half is released two days before the departure date. More information about shuttle buses can be found at:nps.gov. Once you are in possession of a ticket, you can board and disembark anywhere on that bus route. Please note that food and drinks are not available on board the bus. The driver is not officially a guide, but often tells a few things about the environment.
Besides the shuttle buses there are the so called tour buses. These are a lot more pricey and need to be reserved in advance. The buses run a fixed route and you can not get on and off the road, as is the case with the shuttles. The bus driver is at the same time your guide: he tells extensively on the way about the history, geology and flora and fauna of the area. Snacks, coffee / tea and lunches are often included in the tour bus price. There are three different tours: the Denali Natural History Tour (5 hours), Tundra Wilderness Tour (8 hours) and the Kantishna Experience (13 hours).
Finally, there are the camper buses. These buses have more space for luggage and are equipped for the transport of backpackers, walkers, campers and cyclists. You must also make reservations for these buses. This can be done in advance, but also on site at the Wilderness Access Center. You also need to have a backcountry ride or a camping ticket. The buses run from the beginning of June to mid-September. In May, the groups mentioned can use the green shuttle buses. If you camp in Denali national Park, you can buy the TEK pass. With this you can use the shuttle bus that stops in front of the campsite for two to three days. Once you are camping with the camper, you can not use the camper anymore. There is a minimum stay of three nights for RV sites on the campsites.
Which Bus Do I Choose?
While simplistic, this matrix may help you decide which bus trip is right for you.
Beyond Buses: Recommended Itineraries
Planning a trip to Denali can be a big undertaking! Just getting to the park can take quite a while, and it is distinctly different from many national parks, so even seasoned park travelers can be unsure how to plan their trip.
Use the simplistic table below to start thinking about what might work well for you, given the amount of time you’ll be here. There are plenty of other things to do than what is listed below – this is just a starting point.
Beyond the Savage River Check Station at mile 15 of the Park Road, you’ll need to be on a bus, bicycle, or on foot.
Prior to the 1972 completion of the George Parks Highway (Alaska Route 3), which is the main travel artery into interior Alaska, visitation to Denali National Park and Preserve was fairly low. Anticipation of major increases in traffic resulting from a direct route to the park prompted park officials to implement a mass transit system beyond Mile 15 on the Denali Park Road. To provide for visitor access and enjoyment of the world class resources, our concessioner, Doyon/ARAMARK Joint Venture, offers several types of bus services along the park road.
Extending 92 miles from the park entrance to its terminus in the old mining community of Kantishna, this mostly-gravel road traverses boreal forests and sub-arctic tundra. Crossing rolling mountainsides and sheer cliffs, the road meanders through scenic vistas and prime wildlife viewing areas.
By riding a bus, you help to reduce traffic congestion and to protect the natural resources of the park. Even more information on how the park road is managed, as it relates to vehicle traffic, can be found in the Denali Park Road Vehicle Management Plan.