There is a place in Alaska, 240 miles wide, where you can be a part of the wild frontier. The expansive and untouched area of Denali National Park welcomes thousands of visitors ever year with stunning natural wonders and incredible wildlife like grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and more.
As home to North America's tallest peak, Denali has attracted nature adventurers from all over the world. Established in 1917 as wildlife refuge, Denali National Park contains areas of tundra and taiga. Taiga zones are covered in evergreen, spruce and aspen trees, while tundra zones are full of miniaturized versions of the plants including flowers, mosses and shrubs.
Remember that the weather changes without warning in Denali. It is a well known to the locals that you can expect sun, wind, rain and clouds in the same day. Pack accordingly.
Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, is the highest mountain in the United States at 20,310 feet (6,190.5 m).
The Denali National Park is quite large. The entire region is worth looking at, so selecting certain sights is difficult, but here are just a few.
Begin your adventure at the Denali Visitor Center. Watch an informative film about the park and then join your ranger-led trail walk. During the summer months, the visitor center gives sled dog demonstrations to visitors. Keep in mind; you must take a shuttle to reach the visitor center.
The Savage River is a beautiful spot that most visitors reach, as it's the point where private vehicles are no longer permitted. There are several trails on both sides of the river for visitors to stroll and take in the natural beauty.
The Polychrome Pass is an area filled with stunning multi-colored bluffs unlike anything you've ever seen. With amazing views of the Alaska Range, this area provides amazing opportunities of beautiful photography at night. A shuttle takes visitors there once a day.
Stop at the Eielson Visitor Center for one of the most dramatic views of the mountain. Pray for a day with no clouds for a better, more clear view of Denali.
Another photography favorite is Wonder Lake. Located at the bas of the mountain, this area is gorgeous and just ready for photos. Be sure to snap a picture of Reflection Pond on the east side of the lake.
The park is split into three units. Denali Wilderness is made up of the original park and was meant to maintain the undeveloped wilderness. There is no hunting allowed in this region of the park.
The Denali National Park section contains some of the 1980s additions and allows for some subsistence hunting.
The Denali National Preserve is home to the two areas of the park with subsistence and sport hunting. Be sure to get your permits.
The easiest way to see the entire park is by bus tour. Look for privately operated tours. This option is perfect for budget travellers and groups who want to see as much of the park as possible.
There are lots of trails for the adventurous hikers, but take the risk and find your own path. Backpacking through the park is completely possible and well worth it for those who love the great outdoors. Remember that permits are required for all overnight stays. They are available at the Backcountry Information Center, but there are limits to how many people can camp at any give time so get your permits in advance.
Denali is one of the most challenging climbs in the world even for the avid climber. There is only one route up the mountain, the West Buttress, and it's completely accessible by fit and experienced climbers. You must register with the park service at least 60 days in advance.
And if a little cold water doesn't bother you, give the whitewater rafting a try. The two different two-hour trips are available at the Nenana River. Note, though, this water isn't just cold it's near freezing.
Food and Dining
There are several bars and restaurants outside of the park entrance with plenty to eat and drink. While you're in Alaska, don't miss out on the seafood especially the salmon!
Inside the park, there aren't any restaurants, but there is the Riley Creek Mercantile. Here you can stock up on small food items and supplies.
Park Road is 92 miles of unpaved road, and is the only vehicle access into the park. Keep in mind the road is closed to private vehicles at mile 14. Beyond that, the only travel allowed is park shuttle buses or bicycle. Mountain bikes are also a great option, but the unpaved roads can prove to be quite a challenge.