When is a great time to spot wildlife? Wild animals can be found in ecosystems like deserts, forests, rain forests, plains or grasslands. Often wildlife is hidden and difficult to spot. Here you will find the right time and areas where the chance for a wildlife sighting is much higher.
Denali is open year-round. However, main activities and tours are being offered in summer only. Shuttle busses will get you into the wilderness from May 20 until mid-September (Jump directly to our bus tips here: Shuttle Bus and Tour Bus Tips). Find helpful weather details at: Denali Park Weather Monthly averages here: Climate Denali National Park (switch from C to F at the top right. Keep in mind that the temperatures vary depending on the elevation and the part of the park). Check the Denali Webcam at Wonder Lake and read on for more details about a summer, winter, spring or fall visit:
The best time to experience amazing fall foliage in Denali: Late August/early-September
Mid-May - late May (spring): May is the driest month and the weather starts to get warmer. Average high: 52°F (11°C). Most tours and the shuttle bus service start around mid-May. However, some snow has still to melt. As a result, the deeper parts of the park are often not fully accessible. Rates are low and there are no crowds.
June (late spring, summer): June is also a very dry month and temperatures climb. Average high: 66°F (19°). Flowers are in bloom and you get the most hours of daylight (Sunrise-Sunset Denali). After the first week of June, the park is usually fully accessible. Early June until mid-June is a great time before it starts to get crowded with tourists coming from cruise ships and everywhere else. Drawback: Mosquitoes are an issue from June until the end of July.
July (summer): July is the warmest months with temperatures climbing to 70°F (21°C) and still a lot of daylight (18-19 hours). There is slightly more precipitation than in June, but no need to worry about long periods of rain. July is the peak month in terms of visitation. Again, small drawback: Mosquitoes are still an issue.
August (late summer): It's still pleasant. However, temperatures already start to drop slightly but it's still a great month temperature wise. Average high: 62°F (17°C). Also, there are slightly fewer daylight hours in August (16-17 hours). August has the highest average precipitation of all months. However, nothing to worry about. You need to bring rain gear regardless of the month. In terms of visitors, it's still very crowded.
Early September - mid-September (early autumn): As temperatures drop it will be cooler in September and there is also less daylight (11-14 hours). Average high: 50°F (10°C). However, it's still a great month to visit as the temperature is still pleasant and all services are being offered until mid-September. After Labor Day Weekend (beginning of September) the crowds dissipate as well. You'll enjoy a much more peaceful park. Looking for the leaf color explosion? Fall foliage starts early in Denali. The peak time for the beautiful fall colors is usually the end of August and early September.
Mid-September - mid-October (autumn) and April - early May (spring): Most services are shut down, restaurants, hotels, and shops are closed from mid-September to mid-May. However, the shoulder season can be quite rewarding as you can experience the 'real' Alaska. In the fall temperatures can still be pleasant or already freezing cold in October. Always check the weather forecast. In fall and spring, you need to rent a car as the shuttle service is not available. More helpful details about visiting in shoulder season: Fall and Spring Visit
Late-October - March (winter): It gets freezing cold and it's time for Winter Activities. Including skiing, winter biking and snowshoeing. Temperatures are ranging from -40 degrees Fahrenheit and colder, the to high 20s on warm days.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
The summer months experience the highest visitation. Below the visitor stats chart, you can find our tips in order to enjoy a more peaceful visit to Denali National Park.
Shoulder Weeks (late spring/early fall):
To avoid the most crowds at the popular spots (entrance areas, bus tours, visitor centers, famous spots) during peak season, still use the shuttle bus service and enjoy mostly pleasant weather: Visit during either in the very short late spring or early fall season: End of May until mid-June or early September (after Labor Day) until mid-September.
Popular Tours in Shoulder Weeks:
The very popular day tours which do not include hiking like the Tundra Wilderness Tour or the Kantishna Experience Tour are usually fully booked during peak months. During shoulder weeks (see above) there is a good chance that a tour bus is less than half full. That means you can spread out. The tours usually run from mid-May until mid-September (Kantishna from early June until mid-September). Read below for more info on bus tours.
Own Activities / Trail Hiking:
You can avoid crowds in peak season by planning your own activities. And even if you only drive to Savage River (by free bus shuttle or with your own car) for the short hike and to spend time there, you'll avoid tourist groups by starting early. Check the list of trails: Denali Trail Details. Always start early, and you'll avoid the crowds. If you take a shuttle bus: Make an online reservation and book the earliest departure.
Even in the summer, it's quite easy to get away from every group of tourists and spend time in solitude: Book a transit shuttle bus early in the morning departing from the WAC (Wilderness Access Center). Get off the bus wherever you like and start hiking or walking. Regardless of your fitness level or age! If you feel intimidated, you can stay close to the park road the whole time and still experience stunning wilderness and wildlife. Get back on the bus to WAC whenever you like for free. Find more details about easy off-trail hikes (even short 1-2 hours hikes/walks) below in the hiking and shuttle text section.
Stay at a Hotel Outside the Park:
The entrance area is always filled with thousands of people in the summer. The same applies to the hotels very close to the entrance (Princes Lodges, Bluffs Hotels, …). The easiest way to avoid those heavily crowded areas is to take advantage of the more quiet lodging alternatives in Healy (17 Minute Drive - Google Maps). You'd need a rental car (UBER is also available now), but the hotels there are also less expensive. Check the best prices and book well ahead: Healy - Recommended Hotels
Wildlife / Flora / Northern Lights
The best time of day to spot wildlife is in the morning or late afternoon/evening. Being on a bus long enough increases your chances. Best season is during the warmer summer months. There is not much wildlife in the winter due to hibernation. Denali also has a rich and amazing flora. Wildflowers begin to bloom in early June till late July. How to spot the Northern Lights? Since the Denali region is almost free light pollution, it's an excellent area to see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). The sky must be dark enough and clear. With a partly clouded sky, it's less likely to experience it. Time of day? Usually, you can start looking after 1,5 hours after sunset. It's possible to see the Aurora here between mid-August and early-May. However, the highest chance to spot Northern Lights is in March/April and September/October.
Winter is a great season to visit this place but if you aren't bothered by a few hours of afternoon rains then August-September is also a great time to go as there will be less tourists at this time of the year.
Jigokudani (means Hell Valley in Japanese) Monkey Park is open all year round, but its particularly photogenic when the area is covered in snow. So it's important to know when does it start snowing in the Snow Monkey Park?
The first snowfall cannot be predicted exactly but usually, it occurs by mid to late November. Although the first snowfall can be quite heavy, it will melt quickly due to the mild daytime temperatures.
Starting mid-December until February you can expect that the park is covered in snow and the monkeys live up to their name. The snow also hides a lot of the man-made pipes and other structures. Best conditions for plenty of snow on the ground are January and February, but you need to may check the live webcam for the actual conditions.
The Park is open daily from 8:30 to 17:00 (April to October) and in Winter 9:00 to 16:00 (November to March). Entrance fee is 800 yen ( 6 €) for adults and 400 yen for children in 2017. You can purchase an annual pass or if you are in a large group (more than 20) a group ticket.
You can expect crowds all year around, and it can become very busy. Most people gather at the upper man-made pool where you can find the monkeys (Japanese Macaque) playing in hot water. To make the upper pool more attractive to the monkeys, the park wardens sometimes throw food into it. There are fewer people at the lower pool but also fewer monkeys. You pass it anyway; therefore, you should spend some time there as well.
Tips for Photographers
You can photograph the most natural looking pictures from the staircase at the upper pool, but it is challenging to take pictures without any other visitor on it. At the lower pool, the angle is different, but there is no higher position for an excellent shot.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay close to the park we recommend the SENJUKAKU Hotel. The elegant property is well rated and perfectly located, surrounded by Japanese gardens with green pine forests, cherry trees, and Japanese maples. It is only a 15-minute drive away from the Park entrance, located in Kanbayashi Onsen, gateway to the Snow Monkey Park. It offers Japanese style rooms with a choice of bed or futon. Transfer and pick-up shuttles from Yudanaka Station is offered.
As an alternative, you may choose the JINPYOKAKU Hotel. It is also close by and located just 2 km from the Snow Monkey Park. Although it offers only a view Japanese style rooms, the atmosphere is exclusive and complemented with a luxurious Japanese-style hot springs experience. Here you can enjoy an exquisite Japanese cuisine with fresh local ingredients. The hotel is one of the best-rated locations in Yamanouchi.
Bear Watching Season
Starting in April, black and grizzly bears begin emerging from hibernation and head to Glendale Cove to feed on the succulent new spring growth. Glendale Cove is home to one of the largest concentrations of grizzly (brown) bears in British Columbia. Tours for Grizzlies start mid-May until end of September. Best time to see grizzly bears is June. At this time the berries are not yet ripe, and the bears are seeking for other food close to the water. They will collect eels, crabs, and isopods at the beach by rolling rocks.
Although August and September are mostly the months to see Grizzlies hunt for Salmon, it is not predictable. The salmon run, the time when the salmon will swim up the rivers and inlets to spawn, usually start after heavy rain falls. You need the luck to choose the right time for your trip. Planning a trip at this time requires pre-booking due to limited availability.
During our visit in early September 2017, not much Salmon had been seen compared to last year's early run in July. Peak season and tours should be booked in advance from mid-August to mid-September. It's a spectacle when the bears hunt the salmon, but this year they are feeding on a high protein grass. Grizzlies are hungry in the morning and come out of the higher vegetation to the shoreline. Therefore, the trip starts before 7:00 am because the travel time from Telegraph Cove to Knight Inlet is about 2 hours. In September the start time for the trip needs to be synchronized with the tides.
The summer climate at Telegraph Cove and the Johnstone Strait is characterized by still, cool mornings with not much wind and usually some fog. As the day progresses the fog lifts, sometimes slowly and shows the spectacular views to the area. In the late afternoon, winds can fresh up but drop for early evening to yield marvelous sunsets. In summer storms with rain are not very common, but it can occur when the wind changes to the South East. Usually, the wind blows from the North West. From July to August the precipitation is low compared to October until January, but you will always get some days with rainfall each month throughout the year.
Best time is early morning and late afternoon when the ring-tailed lemurs are most active. Although it is worth to stop by all year round, the dry season in July/August is the best time for a visit. Another reason to start early is the length of the long hike because you should avoid the hot mid-day temperatures.
The Anja Community reserve is one of the most visited community-managed sites in Madagascar. It is famous for the large groups of ring-tailed lemurs and the dry forest is located just beneath three large granite mountains. Like other community manages sites the Anja Community provides a protected area for the natural resources and enables the Malagasy inhabitants to benefit from ecotourism. Besides more than 300 cattas (ring-tailed lemurs), three different lizards (Chameleons), several snake species and many birds. The ring-tailed lemurs had been fed by humans in the past and lost their fear.
Seasons / Weather
The dry period lasts from April to December. However, there is not much precipitation year-round. Day temperatures reach 30°C and more.
In October the lemurs have their babies. That's why our preferred time is from mid-September throughout October.
The National Park is open year round although most hotels close during the monsoon season from late June to the end of September. Best time for a visit is the dry season and especially the end of the dry season when Bengal tigers, elephants and other wildlife gather around the waterholes.
The boiling hot season lasts from March/April to May with temps above 40°C which gets even worse due to the high humidity. Monsoons can occur from June to end of September which makes safaris in Chitwan almost impossible. Rivers are flooded. More stable weather during the winter months from October to March although showers can occur. Pleasant day temps and freezing cold nights from mid-October until February.
Highlights - Wildlife
Wildlife spotting is outstanding late January and February when the towering grass, several meters high gets annually cut by the villagers for their own use. October to December is also an excellent time because of the increased chance to spot tigers, elephants, and other wildlife as they gather around the waterholes. Sloth bears are rare to spot.
The Bengal Tigers population is increasing due to the enormous efforts of the rangers to prevent poaching. There are an estimated 235 tigers in entire Nepal nowadays.
Spotting One-Horned Rhino
Very popular is elephant riding which generally lasts 1 1/2 hours to spot rhinos. The best time for it is early morning, the second tour and late afternoon. The advantage of the second tour they already may know where they are grazing.
Best Time for Birding - Migration (almost 550 species of birds occur in Chitwan)
- September to November
- February to April