Introducing Denali National Park
For many travelers, Denali National Park & Preserve (www.nps.gov/dena) is the beginning and end of their Alaskan adventure. And why shouldn’t it be? Here is probably your best chance in the Interior (if not in the entire state) of seeing a grizzly bear, moose or caribou, and maybe even a fox or wolf. And unlike most wilderness areas in the country, you don’t have to be a backpacker to view this wildlife. The window of the park bus will do just fine for a close look at these magnificent creatures roaming free in their natural habitat.
For those with a bit more time and the desire to get further into the wild, there are vast expanses of untracked country to explore – more than six million acres of it to be exact. That’s more landmass than the US state of Massachusetts. At the center of it all is the icy behemoth of Mt McKinley, known to most Alaskans as Denali and native Athabascans as the Great One. This is North America’s highest peak and rightly celebrated as an icon of all that is awesome and wild in the state.
There’s only one road through the park: the 92-mile unpaved Park Rd, which is closed to private vehicles after Mile 14. The park entrance area, where most visitors congregate, extends a scant 4 miles up Park Rd. It’s here you’ll find the park headquarters, visitor center and main campground, as well as the Wilderness Access Center (WAC) where you pay your park entrance fee and arrange campground and shuttle bus bookings to take you further into the park. In a trailer across the lot from the WAC sits the Backcountry Information Center (BIC), where backpackers get backcountry permits and bear-proof food containers.
There are few places to stay within the park, excluding campgrounds, and only one restaurant. The majority of visitors base themselves in the nearby communities of Canyon, McKinley Village, Carlo Creek and Healy.