two backpacker smile as they walk down a path
Carrying bear spray is an important way to stay safe while exploring the park.

NPS Photo / Kent Miller


Are You Prepared?

Denali National Park is a wild, wonderful place to visit, but it is important to know the hazards before you head out into the park. Explore the sections below to prepare yourself for your Denali visit.

Dial 9-1-1 in Emergencies - Be prepared to give your location as Denali National Park. Call to report accidents, fires, or life-threatening emergencies. Cell phone coverage exists only within three miles of the park entrance. Since there are no phones west of Park Headquarters, emergencies in those areas should be reported to rangers on patrol, campground hosts, bus drivers, or to staff at Eielson Visitor Center or the Toklat Rest Stop.


Wilderness Safety

Even experienced wilderness travelers can have an accident that results in an injury or even death. Accidents are possible anywhere—so the information below is important to all visitors.

  • Wildlife
    Wildlife can behave unpredictably. Do not intentionally approach wildlife. Read the
    Wildlife Safety section for more details.
  • Plants
    Do not eat berries unless you know what they are and are sure you have no allergy to them. There are no poison oak, sumac or ivy species in the park, but some other plants can cause allergic reactions, such as cow parsnip.
  • Hypothermia
    Hypothermia is always a factor in the subarctic.
    Rainy, chilly days are normal in summer. Dress in layers, preferably made of wool or synthetic material that is able to insulate you even when wet. Bring rain gear or an umbrella.
  • Injuries
    Be wary of falls. Most of Denali is trail-less, and long hikes are often on a route of your own choosing. If you are hiking up a rocky hill or mountain, be careful of your footing. More people die from falls than any other cause in the park.

  • Don't go alone
    You should always hike with at least one other person. Even then, make sure someone else knows where you're going. Have that person contact us if you are overdue from your trip.

  • Know thyself
    Even if you plan to stay on trails or the park road the entire time you are here, keep in mind that even the entrance of Denali is several hours from the nearest hospital. Locations on the park road (i.e., during a bus trip) are even more remote. If you know you have a medical condition, such as a heart problem, talk to your doctor about your travel plans to see if there is anything you should do to ensure a safe trip.
More information on wilderness travel can be found in our backcountry camping webpages.


Wildlife Safety

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
12 minutes, 49 seconds

Seeing a wild animal in the backcountry can be an incredible experience. But knowing how to behave in an encounter scenario might make all the difference. This is chapter 5 of Denali's backcountry orientation video series.

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
1 minute, 3 seconds

Bear spray is proven to be highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears. Bear Management Biologist Kerry Gunther walks through the steps to deploy bear spray.

Learn more about using bear spray

Insider Knowledge on Staying Safe in Grizzly Country

By Gregory Colligan, Wildlife Technician, Denali National Park & Preserve

Over time, there has been much debate between bear safety educators regarding the best way to accomplish the task at hand. It’s safe to say that two camps have emerged from this debate.
  • Camp 1: Give people a few simple rules to remember that will keep them safe in most situations.
  • Camp 2: Encourage people to be fully prepared should they encounter a bear; this means more than just avoiding bears but also understanding how your behavior will likely influence a bear’s behavior.
My tent stakes are firmly planted in Camp 2. I think that the intention of keeping things simple and easy to remember backfires very quickly when people end up in close proximity to a grizzly bear. I believe the Camp 1 approach oversimplifies things, with the result that people don’t actually take the time to truly learn the rules. Grizzly bear behavior is complex, and oversimplification does a disservice to both bears and the people that encounter them.

If someone has never hiked in grizzly bear country, their other backpacking experience has almost no relevance in a close-proximity grizzly encounter. To me, the Camp 1 approach is a bit like teaching someone to take off in an airplane but not how to land it, and then sending them out on a solo flight. This inevitably leads to both people and bears being injured or killed.

Here’s how I approach the subject: Be fully prepared to encounter a grizzly bear. Do not begin a trip hoping to avoid bears; expect you will encounter them, and be prepared for the event. This means thinking about more than the normal list of cautions (though you should still practice these: carry bear spray, hike in groups, make noise to avoid surprising animals, and don’t run from a bear). Your preparation to react properly to an encounter with a grizzly bear could be the difference between a good campfire story and serious injury or death.

My number one rule for preparing for a grizzly bear encounter is to become a student of bear behavior. Learning to read bear behavior will enable to react correctly if you encounter a grizzly bear at close range. This may sound like an overwhelming task, but with some research and practice, your ability to recognize bear behavior may surprise you.

Grizzly bear behavior is complex, and can be highly dependent on geography, the individual bear, and the situation’s circumstances. The best way to learn about bear behavior is to watch bears. If you’re not lucky enough to watch live bears every day, watch videos of bears before your trip. Read about bear behavior. I highly recommend Stephen Herrero’s Bear Attacks, Their Causes and Avoidance. A close encounter with a grizzly bear is a dance of sorts, where the bear will be reading your behavior; and if you know how to read their behavior, the chance of everyone walking away unscathed is greatly increased.

The following is my distilled version of what to do if you have a close encounter with a grizzly bear:


Additional Bear Information

Loading results...
    Tags: bear safety

    Last updated: November 8, 2022

    Park footer

    Contact Info

    Mailing Address:

    PO Box 9
    Denali Park, AK 99755


    907 683-9532
    A ranger is available 9 am to 4 pm daily (except on major holidays). If you reach the voicemail, please leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we finish with the previous caller.

    Contact Us