A Denali flightseeing tour is likely nothing like you’ve ever experienced. Depending on the plane size, a dozen or fewer people contort themselves into the small plane, buckle up, and for some, pray the sudden jolts don’t bring back up their lunch.
As the engines roar to life, the plane begins to bobble ever so slightly from side to side as it cruises down the gravel runway. Then you’re airborne, heading towards North America’s tallest peak and a magical trip through the Alaskan Range.
Below, we’ll dive into all you need to know to plan, book, and experience your Denali flightseeing tour out of Talkeetna. So get ready for the flight of your life!
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Everything you need to experience a Denali flightseeing tour
How to Choose the Right Denali Flightseeing Tour for You
Is Flightseeing in Alaska worth it?
A resounding yes! Years later, this is still the best vacation experience I’ve ever done, and it will blow your socks off. It is honestly something you will think back to for years and years and be like, “Wow, remember when we flew around the Alaskan Range and Denali National Park?”
The Best Time to Take a Denali Flightseeing Tour
Summer is hands-down the best time to do your Denali flightseeing tour. While you’re not guaranteed clear blue skies as we had, the weather will be much less chaotic, and you shouldn’t have flights canceled. Plus, with long summer days, if they have to move your flight around to avoid a storm, there’s still lots of daylight to work with.
Why do they fly out of Talkeetna?
Talkeetna is the best place to fly out of because it’s the shortest distance from the Alaskan Range. This means there’s less time spent on the approach and more time spent amongst the snowy jagged peaks. Plus, you get to hang out in the town of Talkeetna, which is a fun little spot!
Who can I fly around Denali National Park with?
Three tour companies embark from Talkeetna: Sheldon Air, K2 Aviation, and Talkeetna Air. We flew Talkeetna Air and found they ran a great experience.
I broke down the flight options below, but I’ll give more detail on each.
Talkeetna Air offers the Southside Explore, Mountain Voyager, Grand Denali, and Summit Tour. Additionally, when the weather allows, they offer a Winter Explorer in winter.
The Southside Explorer is the shortest trip and gives you just an introduction to the range. You stay on the south side and over two glaciers.
Mountain Voyager – Denali Flightseeing Tour
The Mountain Voyager is 1.25 hours long and follows the same entrance and exit as the Southside Explorer. However, this one travels further northwest and east, giving you wild shots of the Alaskan Range.
Grand Denali – Flightseeing Denali
We took the Grand Denali flight, which was perfect. Two hours long with the glacier landing, this Denali flightseeing tour circumnavigates Denali, so you get a 360-degree look at the tallest mountain in North America. (The full route is below.)
Summit Tour – Denali Flightseeing Tour
The Summit Tour is the real deal. You must wear oxygen masks as the flight takes you above 20,000 feet. This also swings wide west, taking you around Mt. Foraker, to the top of Denali, and then coming around the backside.
How much does it cost to fly around Denali?
It ranges in cost to do a Denali Flightseeing tour. The least expensive flight is $255 with K2 Aviation. If you want a glacier landing, they’re about an extra $100, though each company charges slightly different prices.
If you do a glacier landing, expect to be on the ground for 20-25 minutes.
The Different Types of Denali Flightseeing Tours Available
Can you fly over Denali?
If you choose the Summit Tour, they will get you up to 20,000 feet to see the top of Denali. However, I believe they only offer this when they can get a full flight. I remember them telling us it wasn’t available when we considered going.
Can you land a plane in Denali National Park?
Absolutely, you can land a plane in Denali. These three companies all of the right to do glacier landings in Denali National Park, and it’s an incredible experience. Seeing the mountains up close is a truly mesmerizing experience. If you have the financial means, I strongly recommend adding a glacier landing to your flight. It’s a memory you won’t forget.
How to plan your trip for Flightseeing Denali
How far is Talkeetna from Anchorage?
It’s a two-hour drive from Anchorage to Talkeetna. Once you pass Wasilla, unfortunately, there are no major stores, so get all the goodies you need there before making the final 1.25-hour drive.
How many days in Talkeetna?
I would recommend a night in Talkeetna in case your tour gets bumped due to weather or something wacky happens. A few hikes are nearby, or you can drive an hour to Denali State Park.
Overnight Options Near Talkeetna?
There are two campgrounds and plenty of lodging options in and around Talkeetna.
Book your Denali Flightseeing Trip
If you’re as hooked as I was after reading through this and seeing the photos, let’s book some flights!
You can check out all the options here or use the widgets below.
(They don’t always appear on mobile. Sorry!)
Tips for a Safe and Comfortable Denali Flightseeing Experience
What to Wear on a Denali Flightseeing Tour
Wear comfortable yet warm clothes on your flight. You’re going to be 8,000 or so feet in the air, and it can get chilly inside (this is not like a Boeing 747!). I wore a long sleeve wool shirt, pants, and a down jacket to stay warm while on the glacier. Also, bring sunglasses with you if you are booking the glacier walk.
Plan your meals and bathroom breaks.
It’s a smooth flight, but there will be turbulence and some bumpiness as you take off and land. Ensure you don’t overeat food before hopping on your Denali flightseeing tour.
Furthermore, make sure to ‘go’ before the flight. There’s no bathroom on these small planes.
The Best Photo Opportunities on a Denali Flightseeing Tour
Here are a few tips if you plan to take photographs on the Denali flight tours trip.
Camera and Lenses
The camera body matters less than the lens in this case. I used my Canon Mark5D III – a great used lens for people just getting into photography. But, of course, any full-frame body should do the trick. But what does matter is the lens.
I brought both a 24-70 and a 70-200. I recommend only bringing the 70-200 because you’re so close to the window that anything wider than 45 will get the window frame in it. Furthermore, having the zoom ability out to 200mm was amazing in catching finer details of glaciers and peaks.
The weather will slightly decide your settings, but if you have a bluebird day, make sure your shutter speed is 1/1500 or greater and then have your aperture at something over f/5 to keep things in focus. (I had mine near f/8 due to sunny skies.) Lastly, if you have a new camera, don’t be afraid to push your ISO around 500 if it means you can have a quicker shutter speed to capture the sights as you’re flying.
Denali Flightseeing: A Bird’s Eye View of the Great One
Only 30% of visitors to Alaska get to see Denali. The 30% club, as they call it, makes the mountain more mystical than it already is. Yet, for those who see it, few get as good a view as those who fly next to it.
This is due to the proximity of Denali to the roads and highways around it. You never get close enough for a damn good view! This fact was precisely why I wanted to hop on a flight from Talkeetna and find my way among the towering peaks of the Alaskan Range.
Oh, boy, was it worth it.
You’re already in uncharted territory for most visitors just minutes after take-off. The Earth below is scattered with lakes; the remaining terrain is a tundra. But then, the mountains come into view, and your mouth opens in awe.
With a late May Denali National Park flight, the peaks were still snow-capped (probably always are). Yet, the cloudless day gave us unparalleled views of every peak, ridgeline, and glacier crevasse. Stunning was an understatement.
Experience the Thrill of a Lifetime with a Grand Denali Flightseeing Tour
What You’ll See on a Denali Flightseeing Tour
Our Grand Denali route (seen below) went clockwise around Denali, showing us long glaciers, Denali Camp 2 or 3 (unsure precisely), and the most beautiful sights of my life.
It was a bumpy start after take-off, but I quickly went into photographer mode, trying to figure out how to take high-quality photos from a moving airplane. (I had never done it before, so there were plenty of bad shots.)
But the plane entered the mountains before long, and it was glorious. The views were – and are to this day – the most incredible I had ever seen.
Before long, we could see Denali, all 20,100 feet of her, directly in front of us. I think I got goosebumps. Then after zig-zagging through some peaks, we began our turn to Denali’s backside. Here we could see one of the basecamps for those planning to summit. The scale was immense!
Our plane sank lower and lower toward the glacier below as we came around the backside of the Denali flightseeing tour. We were landing; on a glacier; in Denali’s shadow. It was a sight to see!
A Denali Flightseeing Glacier Landing
For the next fifteen minutes, we gazed out at the white blanket of snow with peaks more dreamy than I could have imagined. It was snowy heaven.
While flying around is amazing, getting a chance to slow down and soak in the views from the ground was dazzling. I really couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have such a clear day to witness this beauty on this Denali flight tour.
Before long, the Denali flightseeing tour group was again squeezing their way into the tight seats. Minutes later, the engines throttled, and we zipped across the snowy glacier, somehow becoming airborne.
Our Denali flight tour route followed a receding glacier, quickly turning white to brown, then the Earth turned to rock, and finally the tundra again. As we sped towards Talkeetna, I craned my neck, trying to spot the snow peaks once more out of the tiny 8×8 window.
Denali Flightseeing Photos
Here are some more of my favorite shots from the Denali flightseeing tour.
Denali Flight Tours – Wrapping Up
I know it probably sounds like I’m high on my own supply, but this is, honest to God, the most amazing experience you can have in Alaska. Hopping on a Denali flightseeing tour is definitely pricey, but it’s worth it for a lifetime of memories.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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