Experience Driving the Denali Highway
Do your tours go into Denali National Park?
No. Private vehicles are not allowed past Mile 15 (Savage River) in the National Park. In order to get into the Park, you will have to reserve space on the park buses. The Denali Highway runs east along the Alaska Mountain Range and the DNP Road runs west along the same mountain range. Before the Parks Highway was completed, the Denali Highway was the only way to get into the park. Along the Denali Highway you will get a park experience same mountains, same animals, same taiga and tundra! Glaciers are easily seen from the road and Denali is often visible (weather permitting.)
Can we see Denali from the trail?
Weather permitting, Denali is visible along the Parks Highway as the tour heads south to Cantwell and onto the Denali Highway. Denali is also visible along the first several miles of the Denali Highway. Since the tour is out and back, this provides an additional chance to see Denali.
We have limited time in Denali. Should we go into the Park or go on your tour?
You came to Denali because of the National Park and most likely to see Denali and wildlife. We will never tell you to not go into the Park. The park buses will give you the best chance of seeing wildlife and seeing the mountain. However, Denali is visible from the Denali Highway and we see wildlife on our tours. The park buses are packed with visitors; our tour offers a more intimate Alaskan experience and a chance to escape the crowds. Park buses have driver narration and stops for scenery and wildlife but you are only allowed out of the buses at designated stops. Jeep Guides offer narration and stops and will allow guests to get out of the Jeeps as long as conditions are safe. Glaciers are visible from the Denali Highway, unlike in the Park. Park tours can take up to 12 hours; the Denali Highway Jeep Excursion is 4 hours, leaving plenty of time for other activities. This is especially nice if the weather has turned and you would like to do something else with your day!
Which is the better tour? Morning or Evening?
With almost 24 hours of daylight during most of our summer tours, there is no difference between the morning and evening departure! Choose which one fits into your schedule best. Animals usually prefer the cool of the morning and evening to the heat of the middle of the day. Both our tours have similar chances of seeing wildlife.
Will we see wildlife?
Yes! Maybe! No! This is not a zoo, so animals are not guaranteed – Moose, fox, porcupines, snowshoe hares, caribou, and occasionally sheep and bears. Morning and late afternoon are typically best times. The Jeep tours get back further into the Alaskan wilderness offering better changes to see wildlife.
What is the best time of the day to see the most wildlife?
During the summer, we have almost 24 hours of complete daylight so no time is really better than another for animal spotting. Often rainy days bring out more moose looking for relief from the direct sunlight. It seems that animals are more active early morning and later evening but there really is no difference!
How many miles do we travel?
Each Jeep tour has a 4 hour window. Mileage traveled will depend on how many times and how long the tour group is stopping – animals, scenery, photography, restrooms, etc. Some tours will travel less mileage in 4 hours and some may travel more. Approximate mileage is based on an average tour and round-trip travel. Most tours will travel around 100 miles.
Do I have to stay with the group or can I go off on my own?
Tour groups need to stay together, within CB radio range, as there is no cell reception on the highway. It is not permissible to travel off-road in the Denali Highway area due to local restrictions. Tour groups stay together so that no one makes a wrong turn or gets separated The Denali Highway is regularly patrolled by AK State Troopers and our groups make sure that everyone is abiding by local laws and regulations.
How many people go in a tour group?
Our tours average 6 Jeeps and we cap tours at 10 Jeeps. Since Jeeps can fit 1-5 persons, the number of actual people on a tour may vary.
Will I be able to stop and take pictures?
There are designated stopping points during each tour at scenic points and overlooks. If the tour sees moose or other animals, we can stop to take pictures. If you need to stop during your tour, simply alert a guide.
Are there restrooms at the Launch?
Port-a-potties are located at the Denali Jeep Launch site.
This is a long tour. What if I have to use the restroom?
There is a port-a-potty at the Jeep Tour Launch Site. There are restrooms in Cantwell at both of the gas stations. There are very nice pit toilets at the Brushkana Campground.
What if I need a restroom stop while the tour is going?
Alert the guide over the CB radio and they will direct you to a good area. Jeeps are equipped with basic toiletries.
Are the tours guided? How will I know where to go?
All Denali Jeep tours are guided by professional, knowledgeable guides. All Jeeps are equipped with 2-way radios for communication with the Guide or between Jeeps.
How do I communicate with the Guides?
Use the CB radio in each Jeep to communicate with the guides.
Should I tip my guide? How much?
It is customary to tip your guides about 10% if they did a good job and you had a great time. Tips can be made on site in cash or even in the Tour Office after the tour by cash or credit card.
What certifications do the guides possess?
All guides are First-Aid and CPR certified. The guide unit on all tours is equipped with first aid, emergency supplies, satellite phone, spare tires and tire repair kits.
What if I do not want to continue on tour?
The guides will do what they can to make you comfortable and secure while driving the Denali Highway. If you feel you cannot complete the tour, alert the guides. The best time to completely opt out is before you start on the tour; as you continue, there are fewer and harder means to exit and return to the launch site. Once the tour reaches the Denali Highway, about 20 minutes into the tour, the group must stay together. There is no cell reception or amenities along the Denali Highway.
Driving the Jeep
Do I get to drive my own Jeep?
The 4-door Jeeps are spacious enough for 4 Adults. We allow all riders that meet the requirements (over 25 and valid driver’s license) the opportunity to drive during the tour. There are several stops during the tour where drivers can switch.
Do I have to drive?/ Can I ride with the Guide?
This is a driving tour. Someone in each party does need to be over 25 and willing to drive. Seats in the Guide Jeep are limited and only one or two Guides accompany each tour. Seats in the Guide Jeep may be requested at any time. Denali Jeep Excursions does not provide drivers.
I have never driven a Jeep before. Is it different than driving my personal vehicle?
All customers will receive instruction from their guides on the operation of their Jeep. Customers will then have the chance to ask questions and must demonstrate that they have understood the instructions. Jeeps are four-wheel drive, have automatic transmissions and perfectly equipped to handle the road conditions. Jeeps handle and drive just like any other car.
Will we have to share the Jeep with another party?
That depends on your party size. We sell seats in a Jeep on a per person basis and we also sell the entire Jeep. Parties less than 4 riders may have another party placed with them. Private Jeep options are available.
What is the age limit to drive the Jeep?
25 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Anyone under 25 or without a driver’s license may still go on tour, but they may not drive.
I have a learner’s permit. Can I drive the Jeep?
No. Participants must be 25 with a driver’s license to drive the Jeeps.
My kids would like to go but I would prefer not to. Are youth/minors allowed to go on tour by themselves?
Unfortunately, they are not. We require anyone under the age of 16 to be accompanied by a responsible adult.
What happens if I forget my Driver’s License?
Driver’s Licenses are required upon tour check-in. Anyone without a driver’s license can go as a passenger with their party or with a guide, space available.
What happens if I have an accident on the tour?
Zero Tolerance Policy is in effect for all drivers and passengers. Reckless, careless, and unsafe driving will result in tour termination and no refund. Jeep accidents are treated the same as a car accident with personal and witness statements, video and picture evidence, and a full police report. Damage to the Jeeps above and beyond normal wear and tear is the financial responsibility of the participant as outlined in the participation waiver and safety briefing.
Who can go as a Passenger?
Anyone can go as a passenger! Anyone without a valid Driver’s License is restricted to being a passenger.
Can I bring my baby on tour?
We provide car seats and booster seats for small children and infants or guests can bring their own. Our car seats are forward facing so infants should be over 35lbs, able to sit up and hold their head up on their own.
Can my children go on the Jeep tour?
Yes! The back seat of the Jeep can fit up to 3 passengers. We also have forward facing car seats and booster seats available upon request.
Can my child ride on my lap?
No. The Denali Highway is a state maintain public highway and all US road laws apply.
Can I take my dog with me on the tour?
As much as this pains us to say this, we do not allow animals to join us on tour. EXCEPTION: Service Dogs
What is the weather like in the summer?
During the summer, the temperature can be anywhere from 30-90 degrees and you may experience that all in the same day! There are multiple microclimates in the Denali region, making it difficult to predict the weather on any given day. The weather in the canyon is often very different from the weather when driving the Denali Highway. Summer is monsoon season and rain is expected. It is not uncommon for it to snow.
It’s raining/snowing/windy/cold. Are we still going on tour?
Jeep tours depart and continue in all conditions. Weather changes quickly in the Alaska Range so it’s best to be prepared for everything! The Denali Highway is on the opposite side of the Alaska Range from the Denali Canyon hotels/Jeep Office and the weather is often dramatically different.
Will I get dirty/muddy/wet?
The Denali Highway is unpaved and during a dry, hot day, there will be trail dust kicked up by the Jeeps. Make sure to leave enough distance between your Jeep and the Jeep in front of you so that you can see clearly and drive safely. During the early part of the Summer, when everything is thawing/melting, the Denali Highway can flood. Use caution when crossing puddles, streams, etc. The Denali Highway is regulated by the Alaska DOT and they may close the Highway at any point if the conditions are unsafe.
What to Wear or Bring
What should I wear?
Clothing appropriate for all weather and conditions. Layers are best in Denali, including a wind/rain layer.
What type of shoes are recommended?
Sturdy sneakers or boots are best for our tour and for Denali. Since you will want to get out of the Jeeps and walk around, flip-flops and sandals are not recommended. Rocks and trail debris can hurt and the ground can be wet and soggy.
Can I bring a camera with me?
Yes! Cameras and video equipment are HIGHLY recommended!
Can I take a bag with me?
Yes. You may store your belongings in the back of the Jeeps.
Can I take drinks/snacks?
Yes, you can bring non-alcoholic beverages and snacks. Some guests like to bring their own cooler.