K2 Aviation Denali Flightseeing with Glacier Landing Review
A flightseeing tour is an incredible way to experience Alaska. This enormous land really needs a flight over roadless wilderness or an epic road trip to start to really understand it. If you’re considering a flightseeing trip in Alaska, the K2 Aviation Denali Flyer with glacier landing is the best there is.
I know this is a bold statement, and there are many other wonderful flightseeing opportunities in Alaska (like helicopters to dog sledding, helicopters to ice fields and flying above the Arctic Circle). I’ve been lucky enough as a former Alaskan and a guide and travel writer who spends several weeks there are year to participate in several flightseeing experiences.
K2 Aviation’s Denali flyer rises to the top for me because it gives you the chance to see Denali National Park in a way that is truly unparalleled, from the air. If you’re lucky enough to get to do the glacier landing as I recently did, there’s really nothing like it. Add to that a better chance of clear weather (compared to Southeast Alaska) and lots to see even if weather alters your route and you have the recipe for an ideal flightseeing tour. I’ve never heard a single visitor regret doing this tour.
This review covers my experience on the tour on May 4, 2023. This 6 minute video is a over my shoulder on the tour, with just a few of the amazing moments we saw (including the glacier landing and takeoff!).
Where does K2 Aviation fly from?
K2 Aviation flies from the Talkeetna airport in Talkeetna. Talkeetna is NOT the same place as the entrance to Denali National Park, where the bus tours go and the Denali hotels are. It’s about 150 miles from the Denali National Park entrance area and about a 3 hour drive.
Who is Denali Flightseeing best for?
This tour is best for those who are looking for a unique experience in Denali National Park – experiencing this vast wilderness from the air! There is no better way to begin to fully grasp how immense this park is
It is also a wonderful experience for anyone who likes big adventures or loves aviation and flying.
This is not a great tour for those who are afraid of flying or don’t like small planes. If you’re feeling a little anxious about it, I say dive in and push your comfort zone a bit! However, if you really are not into small planes or flying in general, this is probably not the tour for you.
This is a tour you can absolutely do by yourself, so if your traveling companion isn’t into it, don’t try to push them into it. No one should ever be pushed into doing something they don’t want to do on vacation, particularly an expensive flightseeing tour. Save it for the people who are excited about it and let anyone who’s not enjoy the view from the ground instead.
Options for Denali Flightseeing with K2 Aviation
K2 Aviation offers several options for Denali Flightseeing, the main difference in cost is how long the flightseeing trip is and whether or not there’s a glacier landing (do it! It’s so awesome).
I did the Denali Flyer with glacier landing which I think is the sweet spot. This trip with the glacier landing is just under two hours. There is a shorter version of the tour called the Denali Experience and a longer version called the Denali Grand Tour and even a summit flight!
If you decide to do the summit flight, there are some additional restrictions because the plane will be flying at higher altitude than flightseeing planes usually go. I have not done the summit experience, but you can read more about that and the restrictions on it here.
Is the glacier landing in Denali National Park worth it?
Yes. There’s no question about it. It costs about $110 more per person to do the glacier landing and it’s totally worth it.
If you’re already doing flightseeing it’s is absolutely worth it to spend a bit more to have this truly once in a lifetime experience.
Wheelchair Accessibility and Denali Flightseeing
There is not room for a wheelchair on the small planes and there is not a wheelchair lift to get onto the plane. Each passenger does need to get up the short ladder to get into the plane. If you will need help doing this, it’s really important to contact K2 in advance and let them know the kind of help you need to take part in this experience. They will do everything possible to make this adventure happen for you as long as you let them know ahead of time within the limitations of the equipment.
What to expect on your flight
You will check in for your flight at the K2 Aviation office at the Talkeetna airstrip. Be ready to stand on the scale. When you book your trip, you will be asked for your weight and during check in you will stand on a scale. This is an important safety practice and part of the Alaskan experience! No one can see your weight except the person checking you in and the pilot. It’s no big deal, but it’s good to be prepared!
After check in, if you are attempting a glacier landing, you’ll get big boots that you put on right over the top of the shoes or boots you are already wearing. This will keep your feet dry while walking on the glacier.
When you walk out to the plane, you’ll go up a short ladder and then into your seat. Your pilot will be there to help you navigate getting in the plane.
The plane has wheels AND skis, so it can take off from an airstrip but use the skis to land and take off on glaciers. Super cool and a very unique Alaska experience!
How long is the flightseeing tour?
The Denali Flyer with a glacier landing (the tour I did) is usually just under two hours total, including the time on the glacier.
K2 Aviation operates both longer and shorter flightseeing tours as well. I think this one is the sweet spot, but there are other options.
Will I have a window seat?
Everyone gets a window seat! That is part of what makes K2 Aviation so awesome. Everyone also gets an aisle seat, so even though the plane is small you’ll have plenty of room around you.
K2’s planes also have the wings above the windows so you can see really well without the wing interfering with the view.
Will it be bumpy?
There is a chance of some bumps here and there whenever you’re flying around in the mountains, but your pilot will do everything possible to give you as smooth a ride as possible.
On the flight I did, I was surprised at how smooth it was, there was almost no bumpy air at all. This of course varies every day and different times throughout the day based on the weather and winds.
Will it be loud in the plane?
It is noisy inside any small plane when you’re flying, but you’ll be wearing a headset and have a microphone to communicate with your fellow passengers and your pilot. The headset also protects your ears from the noise of the plane.
Your pilot will check before take off to make sure that everyone’s headset is working and that everyone can communicate with each other and the pilot.
Will I see Denali?
Going on a flightseeing tour is the absolute best chance you have to see Denali, but it’s still not guaranteed. Even when you see amazing mountains and glaciers, Denali’s summit could be hiding behind a cloud.
When I went on the K2 Aviation Denali Flyer, we did not actually see the summit of Denali while we were in the plane. There was a bank of clouds in that location and I can tell you it didn’t matter at all. This was still the most incredible mountain scenery – beyond what you can imagine without seeing it in person.
Don’t despair if the summit of the mountain is behind the clouds – this could change during your flight and even if it doesn’t it will still be amazing.
How much time will I get to spend on the glacier?
Even though I highly recommend the glacier landing, sometimes the weather or ice conditions do not make it safe to do so, and the pilot may abort the glacier landing even at the last minute. If this happens, know that this is out of concern for your safety as well as the other passengers and the pilot.
If you are lucky enough to get to land on the glacier, the amount of time you spend there will again be up to your pilot, as they want to give you the best experience possible, but they are also in charge of making sure it’s a safe flight! Usually you will spend about 15 minutes on the glacier, which goes by fast but is also plenty of time to walk around and take in the stunning view – and get about a million photos of course.
Can I bring a carry on bag?
You can’t bring a carry on bag with you on the plane, there’s nowhere to put it! You can bring your camera or phone that you hold in your hand and anything you can fit in your pocket.
What about weather?
Weather in Alaska is notoriously unpredictable and sometimes flightseeing tours do get cancelled because of weather. K2 Aviation will decide whether or not flights are operating based on the weather and the forecast.
I recommend giving yourself some time where you are going flightseeing (the whole day free for example, or even a couple of days) to give you the best chance to get up in the air around any weather.
Just because it is cloudy or even raining does not mean your tour will be cancelled! The flightseeing trip I did was quite cloudy part of the day but we were still able to go.
The exact route that the plane flies also depends on weather, sometimes adjustments are made to maximize the experience with the current conditions.
What to wear and pack for Denali Flightseeing with K2 Aviation
The two most important things to pack are your phone FULLY CHARGED and sunglasses.
The photos and videos you will take on this flight will definitely take your battery to zero! Put your phone in airplane mode for the flight to help preserve the battery but make sure it’s at 100% when you depart. You can also bring along your portable charger (which I always recommend for every Alaska traveler).
Sunglasses are so critical that they will even loan you a pair if you don’t have your own. Even if it is not sunny the glare from the snow, clouds and sky is really intense without sunglasses and if it’s sunny it’s even more critical.
Beyond that, generally wearing something comfortable that you can move around in easily is the most important. A rain jacket and quick dry pants may be helpful especially if you want to make a snow angel on the glacier like I did! (see video above).
Cost and Booking Information
The Denali Flyer with Glacier Landing is $435 per person and $385 for children under 13. Often flightseeing does not offer a lower price for children so that is an awesome thing about K2 Aviation! This is $110 more than doing it without the glacier landing and it is totally worth it.
The shorter Denali Experience tour with Glacier Landing is $365 for per person ($305 under 13). It is also $110 more than this option without the glacier landing
If you want to go even further and higher up and even do a Denali summit flight, those costs are higher. Get all the details and booking information here.
A Denali flightseeing tour is just about the best flightseeing experience you can have in Alaska as far as fully experiencing the rugged and remote landscape of Denali National Park. There are lots of great places for flightseeing in Alaska, but if you’re only going to pick one, make it a glacier landing in Denali!