Going to Alaska is sort of like going to Europe. It is so vast and varied that a lifetime could be spent exploring it. But a glance at my license plate leaves no doubt about where my favorite place is.

To me, no trip to Alaska is complete without a few days in Denali National Park. 95% of the people who visit here have a stay that consists of a night in one of the park hotels plus a bus ride in and out of the park road, often set up by their tour company or cruise line. They miss a great experience. By spending a few days and taking some long walks away from the road, over the tundra, along the rivers, and up the ridges you realize what an amazing place this really is.

Everyone comes to Denali to see two things--Denali (the mountain, called either Mt. McKinley, if you're a staunch Republican, or Denali otherwise) and grizzly bears. Denali park is one of the few places in the park system where a visitor is almost certain to see bears. A couple of trips along the park road will almost always result in a bear sighting. Because the mountain is often covered with clouds, a longer trip increases one's chances of a good look at it. The best way to see the mountain is to spend a night or two at Wonder Lake campground. At some point, often at night or early morning, clouds will break up enough to show it from top to bottom. From Wonder Lake, about 20 miles away, it's a breathtaking sight.

The large creatures of Denali get most of the attention--bear, moose, wolves, caribou, Dall sheep. The small creatures are probably my favorites, though. Arctic ground squirrels must be the tastiest morsels in Alaska, because a bear will dig for hours to get one.

Ground squirrels are right at the bottom of the food chain in Denali-everything eats them. Foxes are often seen pursuing ground squirrels, as well as ptarmagin. There's no better place than Denali to get a quick lesson in the interactions of predators and prey.

Visit the official site.

Best place to stay: Savage River Campground
Best place to sit for hours: At Wonder Lake campground when the mountain is visible, especially early or late in the day.
Best hike: Take a bus to the point where the Muldrow Glacier comes closest to the road, a couple of miles west of Eilson visitor center. Work back around the nose of the Muldrow, across the gravel plain to the bottom of the ridge below Eilson. A trail here leads up the the visitor center. Start early in the day in order to make it.
Read: Hall of the Mountain King, by Howard Snyder.

Any comments are appreciated. Send me an e-mail!


All photography and text by Bill Dummitt (all rights reserved)
Website designed by JULI
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