Grizzly bears, emus, dall sheep, caribou and elk. Denali National Park is the reason why you travel to Alaska. In a helicopter you fly over the wilderness. You see forests, glaciers and the highest mountain in America, Mount McKinley.
Rocks, snow and glaciers cover the tops of Mount McKinley. The 3048 meter high mountain is part of the Alaska mountain range. He is also known as Denali, which means “The High” in the language of the native Athabasque population
Denali Almost every tourist visiting Denali National Park stops at least at Savage River. At this point you can find a number of shorter walking routes starting from the parking lot
Sled Dog Demonstration
From May to September there are one to three shows daily with sled dogs. During these thirty-minute shows, the way of traveling in Alaska is demonstrated. You can visit the kennels and learn more about how the dogs help protect nature and wildlife.
The highest mountain on the North American continent can be seen from Mile 9 onwards. The 6,190-meter summit was first reached on June 7, 1913 by Hudson Stuck, an amateur mountaineer from London. The expedition, consisting of four people, had already begun the restoration in March and was faced with very extreme weather conditions and a fire during which a large part of their food and material was lost. All returned healthy and well and nowadays thousands of mountain climbers follow their example every year. Half of them actually reach the top. The mountain was known to the indigenous people centuries ago as Mount Denali, until the American government renamed Mount McKinley, in honor of the eponymous president. In 2015, Obama reversed this name change.
Polychrome Overlook is located on mile 46 of the Park Road. From this viewpoint you have a kaleidoscopic view of the breathtaking surroundings. This landscape, the Polychrome Pass, is named after the volcanic rocks that have multiple shades of color. At this point there is a lot of vegetation and you see the streams, mountains and glaciers that make this landscape so unique. From the highest viewpoint you can search for bears, elk and caribou.
At milestone 53, about 85 kilometers from the parking entrance, lies Toklat River. It is a popular place because it is the least distant from all four shuttle bus stops; a round-trip from the starting point at the Wilderness Access Center takes a total of 6.5 hours. At this point the eastern and western branches of the Toklat River meet. You can walk well and spot wildlife.
Eielson Visitor Center
The free new visitor center offers a lot of information about the park through interactive exhibitions. On a clear day you have a beautiful view of Mount Denali and in the immediate vicinity there are a number of shorter hiking routes. The visitor center is located at Mile 66 and a return journey with the shuttle bus from the starting point takes about eight hours.
After passing various mountain passes and tundra’s you arrive at Wonder Lake, a mountain lake in which you see the surroundings beautifully mirrored. A popular photo point is Reflection Pond, just after Mile 85. If you take the Wonder Lake shuttle, it is about 3.5 kilometers walk from the stop. The shuttle and bus tour to Kantishna both pass by. On clear days, the view of the Alaska Range and Mount Denali, the total eleven-hour shuttle bus trip (total duration back and forth) is more than worth it.
At the end of the park road, at Mile 92, is Kantishna. Some remnants recall the mining history of the town. In the Fannie Quiqley house there are exhibitions about the heavy life of the first residents. A large part of this area is private, if you want to walk there you have to ask permission and guidance beforehand.
Fanatical hikers can go off-trail hiking. Before you go outside the landscaped paths, you are well advised to prepare your route at the information center and to discuss things with a ranger. Studying the topographic map of the area where you want to start is essential. If, in addition to a walking tour, you also want to spend the night outside the camping grounds, you need to have a Backcountry Permit. These can not be requested or reserved in advance, but must be requested on the day at the visitor center at the entrance.
Into the Wild
Denali National Park was also known for the film Into the Wild after the book by Jon Krakauer. It tells the true story of Chris McCandless who leaves behind materialistic civilization and travels into the wilderness. He finds an abandoned school bus in the remote Denali Park where he will live and eventually die. The film acquired a cult status. This place and the magic bus still attracts many young people who want to leave the modern (consumer) society behind to become one with nature.
Spotting animals in Denali
A 150 kilometer long road cuts right through Denali National Park. From here you can make long hiking or cycling tours. You spot animals on the way. Not only bears, but also wolves, marmots, foxes and mountain goats show themselves.
In the summer you can also go rafting on the Nenana River. Dry suits protect you against the ice-cold water. This is also the time when the tundra comes to life. Wild flowers color the vast plains.
On the other side of Denali National Park are endless pine forests. The deciduous trees are made for severe winters, when temperatures up to -40 are not uncommon. On the website of National Park Service you will find more about spotting animals and other practical information.
By train you travel over the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park. The wagons have glass roofs so you do not have to miss anything along the way.
Mount McKinley quickly comes into the picture during the ride over the Alaska Railroad. The mountain has one of the most difficult mountain tops. Professional climbers come from all over the world to stand at the highest point. The trip is not without danger and accidents occur every year.
From the bright blue Wonder Lake you have a beautiful view of Mount McKinley. Have patience, because the mountain is in the clouds most of the time. As soon as the air clears, you can make the photos you know from the postcards in the adjacent Reflection Pond.
The largest part of Denali National Park is not accessible to private vehicles: from milestone 15 (24 kilometers from the parking entrance), you can only enter the park by bus. This can be done with an organized bus tour of a full or half day, where a guide tells you more about nature and you point out wild animals in the area. There are also paid shuttle buses. More Information about the busses here.
Denali National Park An impressive way to get to know Denali National Park is by plane or helicopter. From the north side of Denali National Park you can take a scenic flight over the 51,816 meter high Wickersham Wall. On this side you see mainly glacier slopes, excellent cliffs and huge ice blocks. You have a chance to see wildlife, including caribou and bears. You can also fly over the mining village of Kantishna
Climate in Denali National Park
Since Denali National Park is relatively close to the North Pole, it has long winters and a short summer season in which nature comes to fruition. In winter, eighty percent of the bird population migrates to other areas and many animals keep their hibernation.
The park has two climate zones: a maritime zone south of the Alaska Range and a continental zone in the interior, north of the mountain range (where the central part of the park is located). The mountain range has a great influence on the inland weather, because it stops a lot of humid air flows from the Gulf of Alaska. The northern part of the park is therefore drier than the southern part. In addition, the fluctuations in the temperature are greater: in winter it can occasionally freeze forty degrees, while in the summer temperatures of thirty degrees (above zero) are occasionally achieved. The summer temperature is normally around 20 degrees during the day, at night it is a few degrees above zero. In addition, it can be very sunny during the day, but it can also become cloudy within a short time, blow hard, rain or even freeze and snow.
In winter it is generally icy cold, with temperatures between -20 (at night) and -10 degrees (during the day). The facilities in the park are closed in the winter and the buses run from midway or late May, depending on the weather conditions.