Biking Denali National Park

ride denali

The Mission: Cycle 30 miles through Denali National Park.

The Prep: 
Since I was visiting Denali in June- the height of tourist season, I contacted Denali Outdoor Center a few months prior to my visit to reserve a bike. For $40, I reserved a bike including helmet for the day of my choice. There are 2 locations for bike pickup so be sure to specify that you would like to pick your bike up at the Canyon office. The Canyon office is a short 2.5 mile ride to the Wilderness Access Center at the park entrance where you will board the bus into the park.

At 92 miles long, you could spend days biking the road through Denali, but as an amateur biker, I thought 30 would be more reasonable. I contacted the park to reserve a space on the shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor Center at 9am for $34.50. It’s important to make your reservation in advance and let them know you will be bringing a bike as not all buses have bike racks and they fill up fast!

The Gear:
Check the weather before your trip as weather can be quite unpredictable. At this time in mid-June, it was quite chilly in the 40s and raining so rain gear was a must!

Light layers
Rain jacket
Rain pants
Wicking socks
Waterproof hiking boots
Bike gloves
Skull cap for under the helmet
Hydration pack
Lunch/snacks
Camera
Road ID
Bike and helmet from rental company

The Execution:
After gearing up at Denali Outdoor Center, I cycled the short 2.5 miles to the Wilderness Access Center where I picked up my ticket, loaded up my bike, and boarded the bus toward Eielson. My goal was to take the bus into the park and ride back out toward the entrance. After some time on the bus, I decided I would hop off before Eielson and disembarked at mile 39- Sable Pass.

The road through the park is unpaved gravel and on this lovely rainy day, I was covered in mud before long. The wet and muddy road conditions definitely made cycling more difficult this day. The ride started off easy heading downhill and cruising into fairly flat terrain. After a few hours of enjoying the lovely scenery, I stopped for some lunch and a rest only to be immediately attacked by swarms of mosquitoes! I’ve never seen so many mosquitoes, and the only way to escape them was to keep moving so I cut my break short and hopped back on the bike.

I continued riding until I reached Sanctuary River where I hit an intense incline. After much stop and go (and a little walking my bike), I had climbed over 1000 feet. After the climb, my legs felt like Jello and I wasn’t sure how much further I would make it. I continued pedaling, though much slower now until I ran into a shuttle bus heading toward the entrance of the park with an open bike rack on the front. I flagged the bus down, mounted my bike, and headed back to the entrance covered in mud and mosquito bites! After another 2.5 mile ride back to the Denali Outdoor Center, my journey came to a wet and muddy end.

photo (7)

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: ugh!
  • You cant control the weather so be prepared for various riding conditions.
  • Wildlife sightings are NOT guaranteed! Im still disappointed I didn’t see a bear or moose.
  • I only saw one bathroom along the route so bring TP in case you need to make a stop in the woods, but remember to always take out what you bring in…preserve nature!
  • Reservations for the bike and shuttle are necessary in peak season.
  • You can hop on and off the shuttle buses at any time so if you want you can ride a ways, wait for a bus, hop on, bypass the giant inclines, and hop back off to continue riding.
  • Buses do not run that frequently so may have to wait awhile before you can flag one down to hop on.
  • Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray.
  • Check the elevation map from nps.gov below before you plan your route.
  • Take your time and enjoy the scenery!

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