The band was founded by Cam DiNunzio, Jonathan Fuller, Keeley Davis and Maura Davis. They recorded a five song demo in January 2001, and signed with Jade Tree Records later that year.

Denali released their self-titled debut album in 2002. In August 2003, they released their second album The Instinct. Shortly after the album's release, Jonathan Fuller and Keeley Davis left the band to focus their attention on Engine Down. Davis was replaced by Stephen Howard and Ryan Rapsys replaced Fuller. However, the new band configuration ultimately led to Denali breaking up in April 2004. In 2006, Lovitt Records released the DVD Pinnacle, featuring a concert from 2003.

In November 2004, Maura Davis, Ryan Rapsys, Stephen Howard and new member Matt Clark formed the band Bella Lea. They later changed their name to Ambulette. Maura & Keeley reunited as band members in Glös. They released their debut album through Lovitt Records in 2007.

Denali performed a reunion show on July 5, 2008 at The National Theater in Richmond. This was followed by two further shows in New York City in September. In June 2009, two additional shows were performed in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C..