I found this quote about Denali and found it strikingly prescient. I wanted to share it with you:
"Mt. McKinley National Park will always be unique and in a class by itself. It will never be over-run with the hordes of automobiles of the campers that are beginning to detract from the enjoyment of many of the other great national parks. Although the number of its visitors will increase annually as its fame spreads abroad, its isolation will always prevent it from becoming the Mecca of the jitney fleets and the crowds of summer campers, and will preserve it for the true lovers of nature and those who appreciate the primitive."
-George Lingo, Farthest North Collegian vol. VII #3
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Tall, flat and wide
Before I arrived in Denali, I pictured deep canyons with narrow valleys. I learned upon arriving that my expectations were all wrong. Every thing is bigger, wider and taller than I imagined. Mountains are tallest. Valleys are widest. But rivers are not deepest. They are very shallow and are a lattice-work of meandering streams on a flat silty wide river bed. The ground is frozen almost all of the time, and therefore, water cannot cut deep gorges like it can in other parts of the world.
Nowhere that I have been on the North American continent have I seen more impressive and diverse wildlife in such profusion as at Denali National Park. It is one of the few places anywhere that the average visitor can realistically expect to see Caribou, Moose, Dall Sheep and Grizzly Bear all in the same day. Many also report sighting one of the several packs of Wolves which prowl the vast Denai expanse, although I was not personally so fortunate.
Smaller animals also abound in this harsh sub-arctic environment: fox, weasel, wolverine, lynx, marten, snowshoe hare, hoary marmot, red squirrel, arctic ground squirrel, pika, porcupine, beaver shrew, vole, and lemming. A total of 37 different species have been recorded within the park and preserve.
Birdlife is also varied and interesting. Most of these birds migrate far from their winter feeding grounds in the south to mate and raise their young during the long summer days of Denali. Of the 159 species recorded a few one may see include: ptarmigan, golden eagle, spruce grouse, raven, magpie, gray jay, varied thrush and many more.
There are two ways to camp in the park.
(1) You can camp in an established camground such as Igloo, Riley Creek, or Wonder Lake. Check with the visitor center for availability. All of these are accessible from the main park road.
(2) You can get a backcountry permit for a particular zone in the park. There will be certain rules about where in this zone you can camp. For example, you have to be out of sight from the road, and you cannot camp right next to water. Each zone has a limited number of permits available. The visitor center will let you know what is available. Be sure to buy the topo maps there. You will need them. The backcountry is amazing, and I recommend camping there if you get the chance. The park will issue you a bear proof canister to stash your food. Camping out in this park is an experience of a lifetime. It is just you and your party, the scenery, and the wildlife. Waking up, getting out of that tent, and seeing caribou coming straight out of the fog towards the campsite. then, the fog suddenly lifts to reveal the mountain range and the nearby Muldrow Glacier.
The Visitor's Center is a good place to start and pick up information and brochures on Denali. There are 2 Visitor's Centers, one at the entrance of the park, the other at mile marker 66 (Eielson Visitor Center). You can watch a 15 minute film on Denali, talk with rangers, book shuttle or tour buses, join a ranger-led hike and purchase books and souvenirs. Can pay the park entrance fee here.
Admission to the Park - $5.00 per person, $10.00 per family. Admission price is included in Tundra Wilderness Tour but not the shuttle buses.