Denali National Park & Preserve (Mt. McKinley)
The Denali National Park is perhaps the most famous and most visited national park in Alaska. The highest peak in North America and the third highest in the entire world, Mt. McKinley has inspired generations of artists, photographers and nature lovers.
As we drove north from Anchorage up the Parks Highway, there were times when the ghostly giant would shimmer in all its grandeur before us. There are several places just north of Wasilla and Willow where stretches of the Parks Highway aim directly for Mount McKinley. The Parks Highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks passes along the eastern edge of the park. This stretch of the Parks Highway is spectacular. The Nenana river winds through canyons cut between mountains and through plains containing little white fish camp tents along its banks.
To gain access to Denali Park, turn into the park on McKinley Park Road at mile 237 of the Parks Highway. There is a fee to drive into the park which you will pay at the visitor center.
One may only drive so far into the park. Beyond a certain point, only park buses may continue. Vehicle traffic has been minimized to protect the park as a true nature preserve. This does not mean that one may not camp in the interior of the park. There are several campgrounds that are only accessible via the park service buses. And camping anywhere in the park is allowed, as long as you camp in a spot that cannot be seen from the road.
I cannot recommend more highly taking one of the bus tours. The park service offers several different lengths of tours depending on how far you would like to go into the park. Take a shorter tour if you have young children with you. There are restroom breaks along the way. Bring some food and drinks for lunch and get into the park for as far as you can. The meager photos we include in this space cannot even begin to do justice to the park's grandeur and beauty.
Denali draws people from all over the world. The campground is usually full, especially for peak seasons (July & August). Plan to make reservations in advance by calling the park service if you wish to camp in the park's designated campgrounds. Click here for contact information and website with tons of info regarding camping, buses and fees. The website also has some pretty impressive maps.
Wildlife? Yeah, we got wildlife. You like bears? Yeah, we got bears. Moose, eagles, mountain goats, caribou, ptarmigan and a number of other large animals and birds all thrive in this protected ecological zone. Actually, you will have a better chance of seeing these animals than you will of seeing Mt. McKinley! The mountain is so large that it generates its own weather - often cloud banks obscure its view.
Last Visited: September 2000