MORE INFORMATION: Denali National Park P.O. Box 9 Denali National Park, AK 99755 (907) 683-2294
HIGHLIGHTS: It’s more than a mountain. Denali National Park & Preserve features North America’s highest mountain, 20,320-foot tall Mount McKinley. The Alaska Range also includes countless other spectacular mountains and many large glaciers. Denali’s more than 6 million acres also encompass a complete sub-arctic eco-system with large mammals such as grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and moose.
The park was established as Mt. McKinley National Park on Feb. 26, 1917. The original park was designated a wilderness area and incorporated into Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. The Park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1976. Today the park accommodates a wide variety of visitor use including wildlife viewing, mountaineering, and backpacking. It continues to provide a laboratory for research in the natural sciences. There are no trails in Denali National Park, so part of the excitement of a backcountry hike is plotting a course across the open tundra or just wandering along the many riverbanks and drainage ditches. For that reason, map and compass skills are a major plus if you plan to hike more than a mile from the Denali Park Road.
The National Park Service limits the number of backcountry permits, so you are nearly assured of a true wilderness experience. There is a large variety of wildlife in Denali, and you are likely to see moose, caribou, dall sheep, and even grizzly bear from both the Park bus and the open tundra if you are hiking the backcountry. The route we chose through Zones 28 was a brutal one. We hiked into a canyon that should be avoided. (See the trail tale for details.) However, Zone 28 is very picturesque in parts, especially north of the ridge that can be seen from the Denali Park Road. If you are looking for a challenging multi-day hike, consider crossing the mountain range and exploring the areas to the north.