Denali Park is home to North America’s highest mountain, Mt. McKinley, towering over 20,300 feet tall. The 6 million acre National Park will also give you one of your best opportunities to see Alaska’s wildlife such as grizzly bear, moose, wolves, Dall sheep and caribou. Denali Park is located about 240 miles north of Anchorage, about 5 ½ hours by road or 8 hours by train.
The park is open year round, but the road into Denali Park and most visitor facilities are only open from mid-May through the third week in September. Denali Park offers a wide selection of lodging choices as well as an exciting line up of excursions and activities, and no one offers a more complete selection of Denali lodges, hotels, tours and transportation than Alaska’s Inside Passage Resorts.
More than a hundred years ago, two remarkable men spent the winter in a cabin not far from the present-day Toklat Road Camp. Their experience and interaction with the wild landscape changed them. In turn, they came to have a profound influence on preserving the landscape for generations to come.
Charles Sheldon, an early conservationist and gentleman hunter from Vermont, along with Harry Karstens, a legendary outdoorsman and dog musher, struck upon an idea over the long winter to make of the place the world’s first national park established to conserve wildlife.
By 1917, after almost a decade of hard work, Sheldon and others persuaded Congress to create Mount McKinley National Park. Four years later, in 1921, Karstens was hired on as its first superintendent.
In an effort to preserve the fragile ecosystem of Denali National Park and Preserve, the National Park Service has limited access on the park road for private vehicles. To experience the best of the Park, we suggest taking one of our fascinating and awe-inspiring interpretive tours. These tours give you the opportunity for wildlife spotting – and also allows you the chance to sit back, relax, and listen to your Certified Interpretive Guide share their stories about the history, culture, and geography that surrounds you.
The Alaska Range
The great mountain and its companion peaks are accented by spectacular valley glaciers and steep ice-carved gorges and a year-around mantle of snow and ice above 8,000 feet. These glaciers, such as the Ruth, Buskin, and Eldridge, are from 14 to 38 miles long and up to four miles wide.
They flow from the high peaks and melt into the broad U-shaped Chulitna Valley, giving the Chulitna River the milky waters and braided channels that are typical of a glacial stream. Though only 35 miles from the summit of Mt. McKinley, the flood plain of the Chulitna is but 550 feet in elevation.
Denali State Park has superb vantage points for viewing the breathtaking heart of the Alaska Range. Perhaps the best roadside view anywhere of the Alaska Range is at mile 135.2 Parks Highway. An interpretive bulletin board at this site names the mountains and other terrain features. Other excellent views of Mt. McKinley along the highway are at mile 147.1, 158.1, and 162.3. Day hikers on Kesugi Ridge or backpackers in the Peters Hills in the western end of the park have an unencumbered view of the Denali massif that is almost overwhelming in grandeur.
The beauty of Mount McKinley and the Alaska Range from the Peters Hills was captured on large canvas oil paintings by preeminent Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence in the early part of this century. When the railroad trip from Seward and Anchorage to Fairbanks took two days, travelers in the early 1900’s sometimes stayed an extra day at Curry to ascend the east side of Curry Ridge and gaze upon Mt. McKinley and its wonders from Curry Lookout. This small hexagonal-shaped building still weathers storms on the ridge.
Wildlife Within the Park
From the alpine tundra of Curry Ridge to the river bottoms of the meandering Tokositna River, the park’s varied landscape is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Moose, as well as grizzly and black bears, are found throughout the park. Though seldom seen, the wolf frequents much of the park, and caribou occasionally reach the park’s northern end.
Smaller, elusive residents include lynx, coyote, red fox, snowshoe hare, land otter, and flying and red squirrel. The weasel family is well represented by ermine, marten, mink and wolverine. Wet areas are habitat for muskrat and beaver, while pika and marmot may be found in rocky areas above timberline. Porcupine will be glad to browse through your food box for salt. Several species of vole and shrew make their minute paths throughout the park.
Wildlife, particularly bears, can be dangerous. Never approach wild animals closely, especially those with young. To avoid surprises, warn animals of your presence by making noise, singing, or carrying bells when in the brush. The tapestry of habitats in the park yield an especially rich bird community. More than 130 species use the park for breeding or during migration.
Year-round residents include the ubiquitous common raven, his cousin the gray jay, willow ptarmigan (the state bird), and acrobatic flocks of black-capped and boreal chickadees. However, most birds migrate long distances to frequent the park.
The champion marathoner of the bird world, the arctic tern, flies some 12,000 miles to breed in Denali, repeating the journey to winter in the Antarctic. A shorebird, the lesser golden plover, nests on the alpine tundra after wintering in faraway Polynesia.
Water birds such as the rare, majestic trumpeter swan, the common loon with its haunting call, and the fish-eating osprey are attracted to the park’s myriad lakes and streams. Early on a June morning, the woods and ridges are alive with the ringing of bird song as a host of small birds, like the golden-crowned sparrow, Wilson’s warbler, and ruby-crowned kinglet, proclaim their territories.
Fishing in the Park
Fishing Denali’s clear streams is a great delight to many park visitors. However, the large rivers are clouded with pulverized rock known as glacial flour and provide poor sport fishing. All five species of Pacific salmon spawn within the waters of the park and share the streams with rainbow trout, arctic grayling, and Dolly Varden. Small numbers of lake trout inhabit Byers, Spink, and Lucy Lakes. Burbot and whitefish can also be found in Byers Lake.
Lodging Within the Park
Kantishna Roadhouse offers an all-inclusive once in a lifetime Alaskan travel experience. Located 90 miles into the pristine natural wonder of Denali National Park in a remote area where few are lucky enough to travel, you will find adventure, tranquility and an escape from every-day modern life. Come and experience true Alaskan hospitality in this historic backcountry lodge.
Your stay provides private bus transportation into the heart of Denali Park, deluxe log cabin accommodations (accessible cabins available upon request), meals, a variety of daily activities, hiking opportunities, naturalist programs and the chance to observe wildlife and experience the breathtaking scenery of Denali Park — up close and personal.