My son Jeff and his wife just got back from a breathtaking trip to the great state of Alaska and when my wife asked what was the most prevalent thing they saw….the answer was “Grizzly Bears”. But if you plan a visit to Denali National Park, you should learn how to stay safe around bears (both black and brown), and always keep your food and other scented items stored in a safe location (e.g., a hard-sided vehicle).
Denali is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. Travelers along it see the relatively low-elevation taiga forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America’s tallest peak, 20,310′ Denali. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility and wilderness await.
In many ways, Denali is simpler than most national parks. If you plan to understand the park, or plan a visit, it helps to know some basic details:
Denali has only one road, and only one road entrance.Called the Denali Park Road (or simply “the park road”), it is 92 miles long and runs from east to west. It is a scenic road made mostly of dirt and gravel. It starts in a low, forested area, but rises and falls through mountain passes (and along some precipitous mountain sides!) on its journey west. The park entrance, where the Denali Park Road meets Alaska Highway 3, is at the eastern end of the park. Like many rural roads and landmarks in Alaska, the Denali entrance is referred to by its mile along the highway. In this case, the park entrance is at Mile 237 on Highway 3 (Mile 0 is in Anchorage, where Highway 3 originates).
Summer travel in DenaliIn the summer (May 20—the middle of September), privately-owned vehicles may drive the first 15 miles of the park road, to a place called Savage River. Travel beyond Savage River is mainly limited to a variety of narrated and non-narrated buses, and passengers must board their bus near the park entrance (or in some cases, at their hotel outside of the park). Bus trips are a great way to see the landscape and wildlife of the park.
Denali is home to wild lands and many wild animalsCongress created this park in 1917; at the time, the purpose was to protect Dall sheep from over-hunting. The park’s size and purpose grew over time. The park is now around 6 million acres, and much of the park must remain devoid of human development. This means that the only trails in the park are near the park road, and mainly near the park entrance. However, Denali offers visitors a rare opportunity to hike off trail in a wild landscape.
The National Park Service does not run a lodge or hotel There are six campgrounds in Denali, but no NPS-run lodging. Learn more about lodging in the area.