Denali National Park in Autumn

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Autumn comes early to Denali National Park—barely a blink of an eye after the midsummer crush of visitors from the Lower 48 departs. The air is crisp and the tundra flashes spectacularly with red and gold. Snow dusts the high ridgelines and animals scurry about accumulating last-minute calories for winter.
"A fantastic experience that allows one to actually see the backcountry of Alaska and still enjoy the pleasure of a wonderful lodge with an excellent room and absolutely terrific meals."
- M. Groves

Autumn in Denali offers the chance to photograph Alaska's greatest park cloaked as comparatively few see it. During any season, the park offers some of the most striking vistas found in Alaska, but at no other time is the vast tundra more colorful than in early fall.

A spectacular 90-mile drive across the park into the backcountry provides our group with a broad sampling of the exciting photo opportunities this remarkable park has to offer. With clear weather the drive places us within easy photo access of the great mountain itself—Denali. In autumn the mountain tends to be less frequently eclipsed by clouds, and stunning images can be made featuring it in sweeping fall-colored landscapes or reflected in lakes and tundra ponds.

During this time the tundra provides an endless variety of colorful macro subjects: dwarf willows and birch trees only a few inches or feet in height are in full golden hue, punctuated by the vibrant reds and magentas of wild blueberries and bearberries.

By September, most mammals have put on their heaviest and most photogenic coats in preparation for the coming winter. Moose and caribou have lost their antler velvet and their mottled midsummer pelage and many animals are moving down from the high country. In reality, the wildlife in this park, though spectacular, is occasionally distant. The prize here is to place these animals in “Robert Bateman-like” landscapes—a photographic haiku in an inspiring panorama.

Our accommodations at the famed North Face Lodge are far from the centers of tourist activity. We have more than three full days at this picturesque location as our comfortable base for scenic, wildlife and close-up photography.

Photography is both exciting and challenging within the park. The immensity of the landscape, coupled with National Park Service’s and our lodge’s restrictions, create some limits in travel. Yet this is by far the best way currently available to have photographic access to some of the park’s most scenic areas.


Check out Gary Alt's trip report from our 2018 Denali photo tour.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Sep 5)

We meet in the lobby of our Anchorage hotel for orientation and dinner. (D)

Day 2

Drive to Denali Park with stops to photograph whatever interests us. If the weather is clear we should get some spectacular views of “the great one” as we approach the park. (BLD)

Photographing in Denali National Park AlaskaDay 3

We drive the length of the park to its peaceful backcountry area. Many photo opportunities for wildlife work present themselves along this stretch of road, as we hope to see grizzly bear, Dall sheep, caribou, moose and wolf. Between the Eielson Bluffs and Wonder Lake we approach within 30 miles of Denali—at 20,310 feet, the highest elevation on the North American continent. (BLD)

Days 4–6

These three full days we spend in pursuit of the exceptional images of autumn in Denali National Park. The vast tundra landscape should be in blazing fall color. We venture out daily to photograph Wonder Lake, the animals in the area, and the mountain that dominates the skyline. We also have photographic access to many elevations on the alpine tundra and possibly up to the snow line, weather permitting. Some light hiking is required. (BLD)

Day 7

We have an early departure to the park’s entrance. On the return drive to Anchorage, we stop along the way for fall color and other photographic opportunities. (BLD)

Day 8 (Sep 12)

Participants may depart at any time today. (B)

About Our Backcountry Lodge North Face Lodge is located 90 miles inside the borders of Denali National Park. It lies in the shadow of the mountain and just two miles from Wonder Lake. The lodge has a spacious public room with stone fireplace, dining room, patios and covered porches—all with incredible views of Denali and the Alaskan Range. Rooms have private baths and are decorated in the manner of a comfortable North Country guesthouse.

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Denali National Park in Autumn

Sep 05, 2020 - Sep 12, 2020

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

A deposit of $1,000 per person is required. Full payment of the trip fee is due 180 days prior to departure date. We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
180 days or prior:
179 to 121 days prior:
120 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of entire trip fee
100% of entire trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Denali National Park in Autumn: Easy Activity Level

Bus transportation.  Hikes as far as one mile each way (on some days) over uneven ground.  Expect diverse autumn temperatures from warm to cold.  Snow is possible.

Trip Details
Sep 05 - Sep 12, 2020
Deposit: $1,000
Limit: 10 participants
Activity Level: EasyEasy
  • A prime time to photograph North America’s tallest peak and colorful autumn tundra landscapes 
  • Stay in the quiet Wonder Lake backcountry, far from tourist centers
  • Evening excursion to photograph alpenglow on Denali
Tour Leaders
Gary Alt

Gary Alt

As a first-time visitor to Alaska, I cannot imagine a better way to explore the incredible vastness, wildlife, and fauna than to take the Denali trip—it went way beyond my expectations
—J. Ferguson

Tour leaders…are superb teachers and genuinely caring individuals. A great group of participants, outstanding lodging and dining, well-organized agendas—and Alaska’s Denali National Park to photograph! What’s not to like?
—J. McFadden