Alaska is home to many mountains. We’ve already posted about the Kenai and Chugach mountains, and the Wrangell and Saint Elias chains. Our next stop was the Alaska range, which forms a 600-mile-long arch north of all these. The tallest Peak in this range, and in all of North America, is Denali. This peak and 7,400 square miles of land around it are protected by the Denali National Park and Preserve.
Although the Denali park is just over a quarter of the size of Wrangell-St. Elias, and has fewer record-setting peaks, it is more accessible and gets six times as many visitors annually. We knew it would be crowded. We planned ahead for this. We would boondock for two nights just off highway 3 outside the park, and spend three nights in one of the park campgrounds.
In order to see more of the Alaska chain, we approached the park from the scenic Denali Highway. The skies were cloudy, as they were most of the time we were in Alaska. But at times we could spot spectacular peaks and glaciers in the distance. Gosh, it would have been nice if Duwan’s good camera wasn’t broken!
There are several things to do near the park entrance. There is a visitor center with excellent displays and ranger programs. There are hiking trails. And there is a short bus ride to the sled dog facility.
Public access through the park is on Denali Road. In the warm season, drivers can use Denali Road up to mile 15. From there tour buses run to mile 43. The road goes farther but has been blocked by a landslide.
But in the winter the best way to get around the park is by dog sled.
Scenes near Savage River Campground.
Here are some scenes from our bus ride.
Although Denali peak itself is 20,310 feet above sea level, it can be hard to spot from within the park. In addition to being surrounded by other mountains, it is often shrouded in clouds. On a clear day back when we were in Anchorage, we had caught a glimpse of it. After hearing that only a third of park visitors get to see the peak, we felt special to get a sighting on our 3rd day. Then, on our last day, there was a break in the clouds! Gosh, it would have been nice to have Duwan’s camera.