Denali National Park is a United States National Park that is home to Mt. McKinley, North America's highest mountain, known to the native Athabascan Indians as Denali. In addition, the park protects an incredible wilderness area that contains grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and numerous other creatures. It is in the state of Alaska
, 240 miles north of Anchorage and 120 miles south of Fairbanks.
Denali National Park comprises a massive area of six million acres, slightly more than the entire state of Massachusetts. The park is best known for the 20,320 foot Denali/Mt. McKinley (named after then-senator and future President William McKinley). The tremendous 18,000 foot difference from the mountain's lowlands near Wonder Lake up to its peak is a greater vertical relief than that of Mount Everest. The park is bisected from east to west by the Alaska Range and the Park Road is the only vehicle access into the park.
Denali, the "High One," is the name Athabascan native people gave the massive peak that crowns the 600-mile-long Alaska Range. 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 Denali
» Flora and fauna
The terrain of Denali includes "tundra" and "taiga" zones. Taiga zones are made up of the stubby evergreen, spruce and aspen trees that are found in areas around the Arctic Circle. The taiga zone within Denali extends to approximately 2700 feet above sea level, above which few trees are found. The treeless areas of the park can generally be classified as tundra. Within a tundra zone the plants are often miniaturized, including tiny flowers, extensive mosses, and various shrubs. Be aware of the willow thickets in the tundra zone as they can be a major impediment while hiking.
Congress created the park to protect its abundance of large mammals. Today it is common to see grizzly bears, caribou, Dall sheep, moose, and foxes throughout the park. Less common but still regularly seen are the park's many wolves. Black bears are also occasionally seen, and the very lucky visitor might glimpse a wolverine.
Weather in Denali is extremely variable, and changes occur without warning. Many rangers tell visitors to expect sun, wind, rain, and clouds, and expect them all on the same day. Average summer temperatures range from 33 to 75°F. It has been known to snow in July, so prepare by wearing layers of clothing that can be removed or added as needed, and carry a waterproof raincoat or jacket.
Winters can be extremely cold with temperatures ranging from -40°F and below to high 20s on warm days. Specialized cold weather gear is necessary for mountaineering and winter visits. For more information on winter visits contact park headquarters at (907) 683-2294.
The mountain is at least partially shrouded in cloud during most of the summer. If the mountain is "out" be sure to take advantage, as it may only be fully visible for a few days each month.