9 Things to do in Denali National Park in the Rain… And it Will Rain!

Rainy day in Denali National Park

I’m guessing it hasn’t even occurred to you to prepare a list of things to do in Denali National Park when it rains, has it? I’m here to let you know that you can pretty much guarantee that a summer visit to Denali National park will include rain. According to the Denali Park Rangers, “… expect sun, wind, rain, and clouds, and expect them all on the same day.” We found that to be so very true!

Most important is to go forward with your plans in spite of the rain. It can be raining one minute and sunny the next. With a little preparation you will have a great adventure! We always carry a rain jacket and pants in our pack. Even if the sun is shining when you head out, you should also wrap your belongings in plastic in your pack if it isn’t waterproof. Soggy peanut butter sandwiches can ruin a trail lunch!

However after 3 days of camping in the Alaska drizzle we were ready for something warm and dry. So after a breakfast of cold cereal standing under the hatch of our SUV, we headed up to the Visitor Center to explore. What a great idea! Here are 9 fun and interesting things that filled up our day hiding out from the rain.

#1 Grab a Cup of Hot Coffee

Our first stop was the Morino Grill right next door to the Visitor Center. Not only did they have hot coffee, they had gourmet coffee and pastries. Several days of morning rain had meant cold breakfasts and Brad was really missing his morning java. The only restaurant in the park, the Morino Grill had a great hot and cold short order menu including box lunches for the trail.

Things to do in Denali National Park Visitor Center - Moose Display

#2 Get Close to the Wildlife in the Visitor Center

So maybe not the actual wildlife, but in the exhibit area you will find amazing life size, life like replicas of the animals that make Denali their home. The displays are filled with interesting notes about the wildlife habitats and behaviors. You don’t realize how big a bull moose is until you are standing right next to it!

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#3 Chat with a Ranger for more Ideas of Things to Do in Denali National Park

If you want the best advice about things to do in Denali National Park (because the rain will end) chat with one of the rangers in the visitor center. I love asking a ranger “If your brother came to visit you in the park for the first time, what the one thing you would make sure you did?” You’ll always get a top notch recommendation with that question!

#4 See a Movie

The award winning, 20 minute, movie “Heartbeats of Denali,” shows in the visitor center daily. It features the life behind the beauty of Denali National Park using only the natural sounds, no narration. It’s beautiful!

Things to do in Denali National Park Nenanah Dancers

#5 Check the schedule for Featured Events

On the day of our visit, we were happy to watch a native Alaskan dance group from the village of Nenana. They shared several dances from their culture and the stories behind them.

#6 Look for a Ranger Talk

The visitor center has a beautiful, large theater where they feature various Rangers talking about the park. On the day of our visit, a young ranger presented the story of the raven. The ranger was all full of pep and smiles and laughter. Apparently she did not spend the night in a downpour monsoon! It was a great presentation sharing both native lore and facts about the life of ravens in the park.

Things to do in Denali National Park - Dog Kennels

#7 Visit Denali’s Dog Sled Team

A shuttle runs directly from the Visitor Center to the kennels so we were able to avoid a wet hike. Yes, it was a little wet wandering around to meet the pups, but they didn’t seem to mind the rain so we pretended we didn’t either. There is an awning over the seating area for the mushing demo which was only a little dryer. The rangers joked that this was the “Dog Sleds and Sea-World” show. Here’s more about visiting the Denali Kennels.

Thing to Do in Denali National Park - Murie Science Center Wolf Skeleton

#8 Poke around The Murie Science and Learning Center

It’s just a short walk from the Visitor Center so when the rain let up for a few minutes we popped on over to check it out. Here they showcase the research that is ongoing in Denali National Park. Many of the displays were hands on designed for young and old alike.

#9 Browse the Alaska Geographic Bookstore

Situated next to the Morino Grill, the bookstore profits support many of the educational programs in the Alaskan National Parks. The selection was huge and we enjoyed browsing while we warmed up.

And then the rain stopped!

The remainder of the evening was spent creating traffic jams on the way back to our tent in Savage River Campground. We would stop at the turn-outs and point the spotting scope out the window and look for distant wildlife. In a matter of minutes there would be 5 cars backed up all staring in the direction of Brad’s scope! Yes, he was THAT “guy”. In the last moments of our return trip we spotted a cow moose above a beaver pond way off in the distance. A nice end to a very full day!

We enjoyed our impromptu list of things to do in Denali National Park when it rains. Taking a break from tromping around in the rain recharged our batteries and we were ready to hit the trail again the next day.

If you are planning a trip to Denali, don’t forget to Pin this article to your vacation board! If you have more ideas about things to do in Denali National Park when it rains we’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

You will want a really good rain jacket for any trip to Denali National Park as you will get rain at some point. Think “cute” because you can’t let a little rain stop you from getting amazing vacation photos!
The raven is an important part of native story telling. The Alaskan Native Knowledge Network has documented many of those stories on there website. Here’s another one in the form of a children’s book that you might enjoy exploring.
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