Crowned by the highest mountain in North America and with only one road in and out, Denali National Park is perhaps the most storied expanse of wilderness in the entire U.S. National Park system. In the summer, grizzlies, moose, and caribou roam the tundra, and long days feed an explosion of wildflowers, which seem to emerge all at once to make the most of Alaska's short growing season. Mountaineers line up to summit 20,312-foot Denali, which means The High One in the local Athabaskan language. In the spring and fall, cyclists bike the park road, and in the summer, the road is open only to buses, ferrying hikers and backpackers to the parks' various backcountry units and trails.
Much of the park is trailless wilderness. If you're planning a backcountry trip, stop by the ranger station to prove you have a bear canister and bear spray, get a permit, and pick your backcountry unit. Pick one with a river corridor to limit bushwhacking, and bring sandals for river crossings. Make sure you're very experienced with backcountry safety before you embark on one of these.
When to Go
The best time to visit Denali is between mid-May and mid-September. Summer days at this latitude are long—expect only a few hours of daylight—which means you can hike as long as you want. May can bring late-season snow flurries and cold nights, but it can be a good choice, as mosquito season doesn't start in earnest until June. August brings relief from mosquitos as well as a healthy crop of wild berries.
You can start reserving campsites in mid-May when the park road opens to vehicles. Camping and backpacking in the off-season is currently free.