Savage River Campground
If you want to camp in Denali National Park and would like to drive up to your campsite, there are only two options: Riley Creek and Savage River. Since private vehicles are not allowed beyond mile 15, Savage River is the last official campground accessible by car. We spent three nights camping at Savage River, and from our experience, it was the perfect place to camp in the park. It provided easy access to the shuttle bus, hiking trails, views of Denali, and having access to our vehicle provided much more flexibility than we would have had otherwise.
A big part of the Denali camping experience is weather, and we lucked out on this front. We visited the park in late August and barely saw a cloud the entire time we were there. The temperature during the day was in the 60’s and 70’s, but plummeted at night and it was around 25 degrees when we woke up in the mornings. We had good sleeping bags and bundled up but the nights and mornings were still bitter cold. Had it been raining, we probably would have hated our lives. It’s no surprise that the campground is only open during the summer months. Additionally, the clear skies in late August gave us the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. We saw a few streaks in the sky but apparently we missed out on some of the more impressive light shows by a few hours.
There are 32 total sites at Savage River, including standard tent sites and RV sites which can be reserved through the park website. Pretty much what you expect from a campsite…dirt, trees, the occasional rock to lay your head on, etc. There are small fire pits with grates at each campsite, and fires are permitted as long as you remove any food residue afterwords to avoid attracting bears. The campground also has restroom facilities with toilets and running water; however, if you want to take a shower, you will need to drive back to the visitor center near the park entrance. Prices are reasonable:
- Small Tent/RV Site: $24
- Large RV Site: $30
- Group Site: $46
The Savage River
The river itself is located directly behind the campground and it became our designated hangout spot during our three night stay. Perfect place to set up the WindPouch and chill a few beers in the freezing cold water. We saw lots of moose prints in the mud around the river but never actually saw any animals down there.
Views of Denali
On the walk down to the river you can see the peak of Denali over the tops of the foothills. However, if you drive about two minutes down the road, the views are much more impressive, particularly at sunrise on a clear day. If you want to go for a day hike near the campground, you can access the trailhead to the Savage Alpine Trail directly across the Park Road. This trail provides some excellent views from the mountain as you walk across the mountainside.
Q: Are there grizzly bears in the area?
Q: Do they eat people?
A: Only when they’re hungry.
*For more information on how not to get eaten by a grizzly, click here. You can also borrow bear spray from the ranger at the campground.
*For proof that bears frequent this area, click here. The best quote from this article is easily, “The juvenile bear caused the closure because it ate candy and soda from a backpack thrown by a hiker and needs to be retrained not to approach people for food.” If you ask me, the only area in which this little guy needs training is in its dietary choices.