“Denali National Park and Preserve is a shining gem in America’s national parks system—six million acres of lakes, tundra, peaks, and wildlife dominated by America’s highest peak and interrupted by a single 90-mile road. Denali offers your best chance to see Dall sheep, caribou, moose, fox, wolves and bear. The park road hugs the north side of the Alaska Range. Unlike the more distant views from the south-side roads, here a 30-mile massif of the continents loftiest peaks plunges straight down to the tundra. To reduce traffic and protect natural resources, private cars are not allowed pas mile 15. Instead, use the park’s visitor transportation shuttle bus.”
Things to do in Denali include:
Park tours, which are narrated by a park ranger. One choice is a three hour Natural History Tour that goes 17 miles into the park; the other is a six and one-half hour Tundra Wilderness Tour that heads 53 miles into wild Alaska. If you take the shuttle bus to the end of the park road, you’ll see spectacular ground-level views of Mt. McKinley: along the way some of the popular hop-off points are colorful Polychrome Pass (mile 46), Toklat River (mile 53), where Dall sheep are often seen, Eielson Visitor Center (mile 66), which is one of the highest points on the road), and the often-photographed Wonder Lake (mile 86). Contact Denali Park Resorts (800-276-7234), Kantishna Wilderness Trails or Denali Lodges (877-336-2545) to make arrangements.
Flightseeing by helicopter. One choice is the 50 minute Denali Excursion tour, which flies along the spine of the Alaska Range over colorful hillsides, glaciers and miles of wildlife-filled tundra. Another choice is the 75 minute Glacier Expedition, which flies east through wild country to land on a glacier at the base of 13,500 foot Mount Deborah. Other heli-hiking packages and fixed-wing flights are also available. Contact ERA Helicopters or Talkeetna Aero Services to make arrangements.
Flightseeing by Cirrus. A self-guided air tour of Denali is well within the capabilities of Cirrus pilots.
Hiking across the trail-less wilderness of Denali, or on one of the few maintained trail near the visitor’s center (including Horseshoe Lake and Healy Overlook Trail). Buy a copy of Kim Heacox’s “Denali Road Guide” before you go.
River rafting on the glacial-fed Nenana River, which runs along the border of the park. Take either a 2 or 4 hour run, which offer both scenic floats and whitewater adventure (gear is provided); or plan a multi-day tour through Denali with top-rated guides (gourmet cuisine included). Contact Alaska Raft Adventures, Nenana Raft Adventures or Nova to make arrangements.
Other activities include fly fishing at a private lake for arctic grayling and rainbow trout (gear and instruction included in the tour packages) and horseback riding to a stunning panorama of three valley. Dogsled demonstrations, mountain bike rentals and golf in the Alaskan tundra can also be arranged. Contact Denali Fly Fishing Guides (907-683-3500) or Tumbling B Ranch to make arrangements.
Logistics: The main entrance to Denali National Park, near Healy, is a five hour drive from Anchorage, past Talkeetna. There are two airports nearby: Healy River (PAHV), which is 11 miles from the visitor’s center and has a 2,900 foot paved runway; and McKinley Park (PAIN), which has a 3,000 gravel runway and mountains at each end. If you choose to flightsee near Mt. McKinley enroute to one of these airports, monitor CTAF on 122.7 or 122.725 for tour plane traffic and periodically announce your position, altitude and intentions in Denali National Park.