"The High One and Higher Expectations" Top 5 Page for this destination Denali National Park and Preserve by mrclay2000

Diversity and Range and Climate

First-time visitors to Denali will likely be struck by two things. One is the wealth of scenery and wildlife, and two, the often monumental task of exploring that scenery and embracing that wildlife. Denali can also be expected to overturn pre-existing expectations. The entire park is bisected east and west by the celebrated Alaska Range, which boasts the highest spot in North America, none other than Denali (formerly Mt McKinley) at 20,320 feet. After Yosemite Falls, this is arguably the second-greatest spectacle in America. Despite its great elevation, the highest point on the park road is under 4,000 feet, and comes no closer than 29 miles from the great summit that lends its name to the park.

In such an overwhelming expanse, the topography is varied and often confusing. The forests are limited in number but dense where they exist. Mile after mile of Denali looks like barren waste and empty grasslands, but is actually a range of smaller shrubs and tundra that can either make footing a breeze or a nightmare. A handful of river systems slice along the 88-mile long park road from south to north, making enormous basins wherein much of the wildlife is to be spotted. The Alaska Range itself, the huge backbone of the park, is essentially a row of short mountains averaging 5 to 6,000 feet in elevation, almost snowless in summer for its first 50 miles, but afterwards, the glaciers seems to hang in every recess until the west-roving eye cannot see past the massif of Denali.

As to wildlife, the moose and the black bears like to frequent the forested areas around Wonder Lake and Kantishna to the west. Foxes, caribou, porcupines, and grizzlies can be spotted throughout this immense domain, but often only the sharpest eyes can spot the distant speck that at close range would be a 600-pound grizzly or caribou.

Access to the park is unlimited, but travel beyond Milemarker 14 is strictly regulated. Patience is a virtue which Denali will enforce. Buses into the interior are limited and come with a price. Almost any section is available to hikers and campers, but many terrains are demanding, and some too exacting to tolerate for long. Check with park personnel to know exactly what kind of terrain you will face in whatever section you intend to explore. Otherwise, your long expeditions into the interior might condense into the barest compliance with park regulations before you pitch your tent in complete exhaustion.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:All the big wildlife, the highest spot in North America
  • Cons:difficult terrains, impassable rivers, often-dreary weather
  • In a nutshell:A great park for scenery and wildlife sightings
  • Intro Updated Nov 23, 2003
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Reviews (49)

Comments (25)

  • asturnut's Profile Photo
    Mar 21, 2007 at 2:41 AM

    Excellent information! Content is fantastic. Love your pics too.

  • starship's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2006 at 5:03 PM

    Never made it as far north as Denali so your page is a real treat. Particularly enjoyed all the info. & pictures of wildlife there! Nice page!

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo
    Mar 4, 2006 at 7:03 AM

    Fantastic pictures, what a trip. I only hope that you had quite the zoom on your camera to capture that great shot of the grizzly. Wow!

  • Ben-UK's Profile Photo
    Feb 8, 2006 at 2:46 PM

    I've just finished reading a book about Denali and your fantastic photos and detailed tips have brought it all to life -- a great page, thank you.

  • chewy3326's Profile Photo
    Jan 29, 2006 at 4:12 PM

    What a beautiful place. I hope I can visit someday

  • Sep 16, 2005 at 9:20 AM

    One day I`d like to get out here. I have friends who are currently trying to organising a trip in the Wrangle Mountains. I am slightly jealous.

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Jun 8, 2005 at 4:43 PM

    Excellent information and quality pics. Up to our normal expectation.

  • Jun 5, 2005 at 5:58 PM

    my uncle built that bridge

  • janiac's Profile Photo
    Feb 28, 2005 at 3:15 PM

    ahhh, your page is too beautiful -- I can't wait to be able to get to Denali some day....

  • beckyz's Profile Photo
    Jan 11, 2005 at 3:15 PM

    Your pages make me long for another trip to this stunning, remote wilderness. Great photos and accurate & helpful tips.


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