Getting the information you need to plan your visit is especially important at Denali because of the need for advance reservations.
The most important resource for setting up a trip is the concessionaire: Doyon/ARAMARK Joint Venture, 2445 W. Dunlap Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85021 (tel. 800/622-7275 or 907/272-7275; fax 907/258-3668; www.reservedenali.com). The concession is operated by a joint venture of ARAMARK, which manages visitor services at many parks around the country, and the Doyon Native Corporation of Interior Alaska. They handle the reservations system for the campgrounds and shuttle buses, as well as several hotels, bus tours, a rafting operation, and a dinner theater. The best place to make in-person contact with the concessionaire is at the reservation and ticketing desks in the Wilderness Access Center, on the Denali Park Road, half a mile from the park entrance. The access center is open from mid-May to mid-September daily from 5am to 7pm (reservation desks don't open until 7am); it's closed October through April. Since there's no park entrance station, this center is also a good stop for the park map, a copy of the Alpenglow park newspaper, and other handouts. A small store offers a limited selection of conveniences and camping supplies.
The National Park Service can be reached at P.O. Box 9, Denali National Park, AK 99755 (tel. 907/683-2294; www.nps.gov/dena). Make contact in person at the Denali Visitor Center, near the railroad depot at mile 1.5 of the park road on the right side. It's open summer daily 8am to 6pm.
Besides the centers at the park and the website, you can get park information on the way there at the interagency Alaska Public Lands Information Centers in Anchorage and Fairbanks and Tok. The park's nonprofit publishing arm is the Alaska Geographic, Denali Branch, P.O. Box 230, Denali National Park, AK 99755 (tel. 907/683-1272 summer, or 683-1258 off season; www.alaskageographic.org). They operate the shops in the park visitor centers, and you can use their website to order books, maps, and the Alpenglow before coming.
The Reservations System
Here's the system for reserving shuttle-bus tickets and sites at the developed campgrounds. This section may look long, but paying attention to the details of the reservations system greatly improves your chances of a good visit to the park.
For Advance Reservations -- Sixty-five percent of shuttle-bus seats and all campground sites (except Sanctuary and Igloo) are offered for booking by Internet, telephone, fax, or mail; the balance is held back for walk-ins up to 2 days before the trip. Use Doyon/ARAMARK Joint Venture.
Reservations online, or by phone, fax, or mail, open for the whole summer on December 1 of the preceding year. Phone lines are answered daily from 7am to 5pm Mountain Standard Time (that's 2 hr. later than Alaska Standard Time, where the hours would be 5am-3pm, and 2 hr. earlier than Eastern Standard Time, where they would be 9am-7pm). Using the Internet (www.reservedenali.com) allows you to reserve any time. You will need a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover Card. You can pay by check if you're reserving by phone, mail, or fax; payment is due within 10 days. But this option is not available within 30 days of the date you are arriving. If using mail or fax, you will need to go online or call anyway to get a form.
A confirmation will be sent out within 2 days of making the reservation. Take it to the reservation desk at the Riley Creek Mercantile. If closed, go to the Wilderness Access Center. Campers check in at the Riley Creek Mercantile, near the Riley Creek Campground. Exchange the confirmation for a camping permit and bus ticket. The Wilderness Access Center closes at 7pm, and the Riley Creek Mercantile closes at 11pm most of the summer. If you'll be later, call tel. 907/683-9274 to avoid losing your site or shuttle seat.
For Walk-Ins -- Walk-in reservations begin 2 days out, offering the 35% of shuttle-bus seats that are held back for those visitors and any leftover car-camping sites (usually none), and all sites at Sanctuary and Igloo campgrounds. Desirable shuttle reservations may be snapped up early in the day, so you may not get a good reservation for the day of your arrival or even the day after, only the next day after that. That's why it's so critical to reserve in advance.
On the other hand, don't despair if you arrive without reservations, as the flow of visitors rises and falls unpredictably. It's perfectly possible that you'll walk into the visitor center and get a good shuttle seat on the same day.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.