There are three distinct “bases” from which to explore Denali National Park. Each certainly has it’s merits, and there’s nothing to say a traveler cannot employ more than one “base” during any given trip.
Talkeetna is the closest to Anchorage itself and is accessible by bus, train or car. With (distant) views of Denali, at least some small-town character and the capability to do overflights of the famous mountain, Talkeetna, is a base for folks who want to explore Denali without ever needing to actually set foot in the park itself.
McKinley Park is known locally as “Glitter Gulch” and accessible by train, bus or car. It's the cluster of hotels, restaurants and assorted support services just outside the park entrance at the far eastern end of the park. The visitor center, the front-country trails, the sled dog kennels and the first dozen miles of the park road are all best accessed via McKinley Park. (If you arrived by train or bus, a shuttle system is in place to get around the park, and most hotels have a shuttle of some kind.) It is important to note that there are no views of the Namesake Mountain from McKinley Park.
Kantishna is the old mining district at the heart of the park, which now has a handful of lodging options for the intrepid travelers who want to explore more than just a few miles into this massive park. Lodge-owned buses will pick travelers up by the train station at the park entrance and methodically transfer folks all the way to mile 90, at the absolute heart of the park. We recommend 3-7 nights in the park, taking advantage of daily excursions and explorations led by lodge staff. When not exploring, sit and enjoy the views of Denali itself – particularly at hilltop properties like Camp Denali. If you want more than just a cursory glance of the park as a whole, Kantishna is the place to spend your time.