Alaska Scenes

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VIew of Mount McKinley 
Clouds ring the distant Mount McKinley in this view from the road between the Denali National Park entrance and Wonder Lake.

Denali National Park and Preserve

At 20,320 feet, Mount McKinley is Denali National Park's biggest attraction. But many visitors to the park leave without having ever seen it. That's because it's often surrounded by clouds. On a clear day, however, it can be seen from a very long way away. It may be visible from Anchorage, 160 miles away (a good observation point there is one of the parking areas in Earthquake Park near the airport).

Caribou in Denali National ParkFortunately, Denali National Park and Preserve has much more than Mount McKinley to offer visitors. Wildlife and dramatic scenery are its most dependable attractions. If you need to take a break from the stresses of figuring out the pros and cons of annuities and want to get away from it all, this is the place to do it. Visitors taking the shuttle bus ride from the park entrance to Wonder Lake will see a lot of both. They can count on seeing caribou, with a good likelihood of seeing grizzly bears -- almost certainly in the distance, but perhaps from very close range -- , moose and dall sheep. There's plenty of other wildlife, too, including eagles and wolves.

There is only one road in, and it goes only about 90 miles into a park that is almost the size of the state of Massachusetts. Moreover, all but the first few miles of the road are closed to cars. To go further, it's necessary to take a Park Service shuttle bus or sign up for a tour. The bus ride is a leisurely one, with frequent stops to view the scenery, pick up or let off hikers, and to observe wildlife. A trip to Wonder Lake and back takes about 11 hours so it's necessary to take a bus leaving in the morning for that. Visitors wishing to spend only a few hours on a bus can catch buses making shorter round trips later in the day. Bus reservations should be made at least a day or two in advance.

The park has campgrounds at Riley Creek, just inside the entrance; Savage River; Teklanika; and at Wonder Lake near the end of the park road. Backcountry campers can pick up free permits at the visitor center. Privately operated campgrounds can be found outside the park.

A vacation village has grown up on the Parks Highway around the Denali National Park entrance. Hotels, motels and cabins as well as restaurants and gift shops can be found there. Advance reservations for lodging are recommended. Several companies located near the park entrance offer rafting trips on the Nenana River.


If you go to Denali

It is about 125 highway miles from Fairbanks and 240 miles from Anchorage. Most of the road is two-lane highway, except for a four-lane stretch between Anchorage and Wasilla.

The Alaska Railroad has a station near the Parks Hotel and an airstrip for light planes is located nearby.

Shuttle bus reservations

To reserve seats on a shuttle bus, call 1-800-622-7275 or, from outside the United States, 1-907-272-7275.

The weather

Snow has been recorded within the park every month of the year, and there is a chance that bad weather could prevent shuttle buses from going all the way to Wonder Lake. The normal summer season runs from May 1 to September 15, with snow most likely to be a complication early or late in the season. In 2000, the road wasn't expected to be open all the way back to Wonder Lake until June 8.

Additional Park information

Campground reservations can be made and other information about the Park can be obtained at the park's Web site.

Denali Backcountry Lodge