Denali National Park

Scenic Denali Park.

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.

Denali, the highest point in North America. Named Mount McKinley in 1896, its traditional native American name was officially restored in 2015.

12 thoughts on “Denali National Park

  1. Before the pandemic, my wife and I went to Alaska, and much of your post brought back happy memories. We rode the train and saw Denali on the Alaska Railroad. It was from quite a distance, but apparently, we got lucky, as the engineer indicated this happens only about 10% of the time.

    We also drove to a sled dog training facility for Dallas Seavey, the five-time winner of the Iditarod. We visited in June when there wasn’t snow on the ground, but I got to drive a land sled (ran on wheels) pulled by six dogs for seven miles. The dogs’ excitement from being one of those who got to pull the sled was something to see. One of the other parts of the facility that I remember was they had an indoor treadmill for the dogs to run on when the weather didn’t allow for outdoor training.

    1. Nice scenes. But I can imagine the disappointment about not having Duwan’s good camera for the shots. You’ll have to go back! Just kidding

      Meeting sled dogs looks cool and congratulations on spotting Denali. I’m not even sure Karl and I actually ever saw the peak during the few days we visited Denali NP. One needs a lot of time to do Alaska justice and work around the weather! Did you go on hikes in the park?

      1. Yes, we went on several hikes in the park. We were considering getting off the bus where it turned around and going for a hike further into the park but there were worries about getting a bus back – and it was really cold and rainy anyways.

        We really didn’t give ourselves enough time in Alaska but I’m pretty sure we got a good sample of things. The real disappointment of not having my good camera will be coming in our next and last Alaska post. Hopefully published very soon.

    2. I imagine the train was fun. It’s great to be a passenger and watch Alaska go slowly by out the window. We felt super lucky to get a clear view of Denali on our last day in the park. So many people were pulled over on the side of the road you would have thought they had stopped to see axwild animal and not a distant peak.

      What fun to be pulled by sled dogs for 7 miles! They really do seem to enjoy their work. Sounds like you had a great experience!

  2. Thank you so much for this beautiful post. It gave my morning a much needed lift. Happy travels and Happpy New Year. Love, Meredith and Ed

    1. You are welcome! It always gives me a lift to know that you are enjoying our posts. Happy New Year to you and Ed, too.

  3. I know you’re disappointed about not having your good camera, but these photos are still fantastic!

    I recently read a book about the Iditarod and wow! Those dogs are just incredible. Totally psycho, but in a good way. 🙂

    I wish you guys many fun adventures in 2023. Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks! My phone takes pretty ok pictures – so that’s good. But the good camera would have captured much better wildlife pictures.

      A friend of mine used yo have a dog she thought would make a good sled dog. The dog was a little bit psycho!

      Happy New Year to you too! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures fir the new year!

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