Denali National Park has three visitor centers inside the Park. The Denali Park Visitor Center and the Murie Science & Learning Center are both located just inside the Denali Park entrance, about a mile up the Park Road. The third is the Eielson Visitor Center which is located at mile 66 of the Park Road. A stop at Eielson Visitor Center is included in both the Kantishna Wilderness Tour and the Kantishna Experience Tour. Because these tours are about 12 hours long, their best suited for adults and families with older children. The most popular park tour, the Tundra Wilderness Tour, is shorter but does not go to Eielson due to only traveling to mile 53 of the Park Road. You can also reach the Eielson Visitor Center by purchasing a shuttle bus into the Park. This option is popular to local Alaskans and other returning visitor’s to the park as well as those who are camping inside the park. But be sure to not purchase the Toklat shuttle if a visit to Eielson is important to you as it turns around before the visitor center.
This fall, my family and I were lucky enough to visit Eielson on a beautiful fall day. The Visitor Center has limited displays & exhibits, allowing Mt. McKinley and the surrounding vistas to be the focus of your attention during your time there. However, I was impressed with the Denali themed art work on display inside the Center and it is well worth viewing. My kids love viewing dioramas, and the Alaska Range diorama inside the Visitor Center provides a great perspective on the Alaska Range, the path of the Park Road, and Mt. McKinley itself. Outside the Center, there are plenty of benches and tables to enjoy the views from while eating a snack that you packed or a lunch provided on your tour. Keep in mind that there is no snack kiosk or restaurant at Eielson so be sure to bring along all your family will need for a long summer day in the park.
Park Rangers are on hand to answer questions and to help observe wildlife. You didn’t have to look too far, as there were Dahl sheep just above the visitor center easily observable without binoculars. Also, the Park Rangers had an exhibit set up to discuss animal identification and the surprising interesting subject of Moose scat which my youngest daughter found to be very amusing. Below Eielson there is a short walking loop which is a good option to take if after the long drive you need a few minutes to enjoy the peace and tranquility in the shadow of North America’s tallest mountain. If you have more time and the kids need to burn off some energy, there is a hiking trail up Thorofare Ridge, which on the day we were there was very popular as it was in the general direction of the sheep, which were perched above Eielson, seemingly enjoying the views of Mt. McKinley as well.
For our family, Eielson was a worthwhile stop and one of many highlights of our trip into the Park. While in the Park, my daughters took many more photos of the wildlife, the park’s scenery as well as of the Eielson Visitor Center. Our day in Denali turned out to be a highlight of the summer, and a great place to explore and experience as a family.