Beating the crowds at Denali

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 16-22, 1997
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Beating the crowds at Denali

Beating the crowds at Denali
Question: My brother and I are planning a backpacking trip to Denali National Park for early June. What are the weather conditions like at that time of the year, and are there going to be a lot of people in the park? Thank you.

Joe Henry
Marquette, MI
[email protected]

Early June is one of the best times to
avoid Denali's human crowds

Adventure Adviser: Of all the times to visit Denali, early to mid-June is by far the least crowded. Except of course for the winter, when the park's no-motorized-vehicles rule, three hours of daylight per day, and sub-zero chill keeps visitation down. Early June is when the park starts to lose its wintry grayness and green up--wildflowers peak in mid-June--but before all the backpack-slinging tourists arrive in swarms. Things have warmed up considerably, but daytime highs still only average about 66 degrees, with nighttime lows in the 40s. Nights spent at higher passes in the park's interior can drop to a downright chilly 30 degrees. And, regardless of the month, there's always plenty of rain--usually low clouds and showers on one out of every two days in the summer. Still, go prepared with plenty of warm layers and waterproof gear and you'll likely be too distracted by the incredible scenery to notice the weather.

Backcountry permits are required throughout the year but, sadly, you can only reserve them in person, at most two days in advance at the backcountry office at the park entrance. In June, however, you'll likely get your first choice of campsites--a far cry better than mid-July, when the park's most popular backcountry zones are full. A backcountry permit automatically guarantees you a spot on the camper's shuttle bus, which for $15 will drop you off at your trailhead and pick you up again when you come out. As for deciding where in the park's 6.5 million acres you want to go, you're free to browse through the office's copy of The Denali Backcountry Companion. Once you get your permit you'll automatically be funnelled into a backcountry assimilation course, which will lead you through the fundamentals of stream crossings, minimum impact camping, and grizzly bear safety, and provide you with the essential piece of camping gear: A bear container. For details, call the park at 907-683-2294.

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