Denali National Park and Preserve is north of Anchorage, Alaska and can be reached via car or Alaska Railroad. Denali National Park, Alaska encompasses six million acres of boreal forest, tundra, rivers, glaciers, and dramatic geologic relief, including the impressive massif of Mount McKinley.
Standing at 20,320 feet, Mount McKinley is known around Alaska as Denali, which means “the great one” in the Dena’ina language, and which is also the official name currently recognized by the State of Alaska. The name it has been called by native Athabascan people for thousands of years.
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Denali is the centerpiece of the 600 mile Alaska Range, and the tallest mountain in North America. Mount McKinley or Denali in Alaska is the highest mountain peak in North America at a height of approximately 20,320 feet (6,194 meters). It is located in the central portion of the Alaska Range, which spans much of south central Alaska. It is approximately 130 miles (210 km) north-northwest of Anchorage and 155 miles (250 km) southwest of Fairbanks.
But it’s not just the big mountain that draws thousands of visitors to Denali National Park each year. The park is also home to 37 species of mammals, ranging from lynx, marmots and Dall sheep, to foxes and snowshoe hares, while 130 different bird species have been spotted here, including the impressive golden eagle. You don’t have to be a backpacker to see this wildlife – people who never sleep in a tent have excellent once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to get a close look at these magnificent creatures roaming free in their natural habitat.
The tundra landscape fills with wildflowers, and migrating birds visit the region throughout the summer. The park’s 6 million acres of wilderness makes Denali an explorer’s paradise, and with a wide variety of accommodations, Denali National Park’s summer operating season is from mid-May to mid-September. The main Visitors Center at the park entrance, is open from approximately 8am to 6pm daily during the summer months. The Visitor Center has an enormous amount of information about the park, including displays, maps, and short films. Ranger guided hikes leave directly from the center, and vary in length and activity level.
For visitors interested in viewing wildlife, no trip to Denali would be complete without a bus tour deep into the park for the chance to see Mt. McKinley in person. For those wishing to escape deeper into the wilderness of Denali, remote lodges are located within the park. These lodges offer comfortable accommodations in cabin or motel style buildings. They are less luxurious than some of the park entrance hotels, but are tastefully decorated. The lodges offer guided hikes and nature programs for their overnight guests.