In the heart of Alaska lies its most popular land attraction, Denali National Park, and Preserve. With more than six million acres of vast, unspoiled wilderness, it’s easy to see why Denali National Park lands on many travelers’ “must-see” lists.
The Great One
Alaska is home to 17 of the 20 highest mountain peaks in the United States, one being Denali, formerly named Mt. McKinley, and is the tallest peak in North America. At more than 20,310 feet, Denali’s granite spires and snowy summits stand majestically against the skyline, although it is not visible from the park’s entrance or any nearby hotels or campgrounds. In 2015, President Barak Obama and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell officially renamed Mt. McKinley to Denali, restoring its native Athabaskan given name meaning “The Great One” or “The Tall One.”
Into the Wild
The abundance of untamed wilderness and unique wildlife make Denali one of the greatest natural places in the world. Here, visitors have the chance to see grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves, and foxes. Many small animals also inhabit the park, such as lynx, wood frogs, hoary marmots, arctic ground squirrels, pikas, and snowshoe hares. The park is also a bird watcher’s paradise with over 130 different species of birds including golden eagles, willow, arctic warbler, ptarmigan, and American golden plover.
Things to Do
The activities in Denali National Park are nearly endless. Mountaineers travel from all over the world. Visitors take bus tours, bicycle rides or long walks down the 90 mile Denali Park Road, which is closed to most vehicles after Mile-15. As a result, Denali is still the great wilderness as it was 20 years ago. Other favorite activities include hiking, camping, rafting, fishing, wildlife viewing and flightseeing. For winter lovers, cross-country skiing, dog mushing, snowmobiling, and viewing the spectacular display of Northern Lights are popular activities.
When to Visit
More than 400,000 travelers journey to Denali National Park and Preserve every year, primarily during peak season – mid-May through mid-September. However, Denali is open all year round, so if you wish to ski or view the Northern Lights, visit between November and March.
Denali is a five hour and 30 minutes drive by car from Anchorage, eight hours by train, and Fairbanks is three hours by car, four hours by train. Although to really experience Denali, it’s recommended visitors stay at least two nights.
Visiting Denali National Park and its great scenic mountain is unlike anywhere else in the world. If you’re ready for an adventure of a lifetime, your local AAA Travel Agent is prepared to help you plan the perfect Alaska vacation for you and your family. Contact a AAA Travel agent at (800) 222-1469, visit AAA.com/travel or stop by your local AAA store.