Gentiana algida is a small flowering herb found in moist meadows, openings in mossy shrub tundra and alpine tundra with large white and blue trumpet-shaped flowers. Plants grow 3-15 cm tall from a short branching caudex, with both basal and stem leaves. Leaves are shiny yellow-green, linear or oblong, with entire margins, and oppositely arranged on the stem (as in all gentians). Stems have 1-3 terminal flowers. Flowers are disproportionately large, the fused petals 3.5-5 cm long. Flowers are white to cream to pale greenish with dark blue patches, folded into sinuses. Fruits are an ellipsoid capsule, 2-3 cm long, which splits open by two valves to release the seeds. No other species in Denali has similar folded, large blue-marked white flowers on an opposite-leaved herb.
Gentiana algida is a perennial plant that flowers in late-summer; it is often flowering when most other plants are in seed.
Other species of the genus Gentiana are obligately pollinated by bees—the closed morphology of the flowers prevents wind pollination or visits by other insects. However, it may also be self-pollinating. The pollination of Gentiana algida has not been studied. Seeds are dispersed by gravity, wind and water.
Gentiana algida is an amphi-Beringian species with an interrupted, arctic-alpine distribution. This species occurs widely in Eurasia, then occurs in Alaska-Yukon, with a disjunction southwards to the Rocky Mountain states in the lower 48, where it occurs from Montana southwards to New Mexico.