“explore six million acres of wild land”
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, 20,320' Mount McKinley. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility and wilderness await. Denali, the "High One," is the name Athabascan native people gave the massive peak that crowns the 600-mile-long Alaska Range. Denali is also the name of an immense national park and preserve created from the former Mount McKinley National Park. In 1917 Mount McKinley National Park was established as a game refuge. The park and the massif including North America's highest peak were named for former senator - later President - William McKinley. In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) enlarged the boundary by 4 million acres and redesignated it as Denali National Park and Preserve. It exemplifies interior Alaska's character as one of the world's last great frontiers, its wilderness is largely unspoiled. More than 650 species of flowering plants as well as many species of mosses, lichens, fungi, algae, and others grace the slopes and valleys of Denali. Only plants adapted to long, cold winters and short growing seasons can survive in this subarctic wilderness. Permafrost ground underlies many areas of the park, where only a thin layer of topsoil is available to support life. After the continental glaciers retreated from most of the park 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, hundreds of years were required to begin building new soils and revegetation. The dynamic glaciated landscape provides large rivers, countless lakes and ponds, and unique landforms which form the foundation of the ecosystems that thrive in Denali.
Breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe Denali National Park. From the end of June to the end of August the campgrounds are pretty packed. The road is busy with buses and tourists are hiking all over. But, during September the crowds dissipate and the bugs also go start to leave, so I'd recommend a fall visit if you can manage it. The weather is beautiful, less people and less bugs. Plus, you get the added bonus of some gorgeous leaf-peeping in autumn. Shuttle buses stop around the second week of Stepmber, so you'll need to bike it in, or enter the "road lottery" which gets you a chance to be one of 400 cars that's allowed into the park per day. But you can always bike in. Towards the end of September it gets a bit chillier, and you only have a little over four hours of daylight.
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Denali National Park
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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Not Wheelchair Accessible
- 10:00pm - 6:00am
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