Of the tens of thousands of places throughout Alaska from which Denali (Mt McKinley) is visible, the most celebrated and most published is probably that from Denali Viewpoint South. Visitors to the national park will stop at this prospect by the hundred without realizing they are seeing the great peak from within the confines of Denali State Park. The somewhat subdued coloration of Ruth Glacier at the foot of the range disguises its enormous dimensions, but one glimpse instantly reveals the thickness of the interior forests.
On clear days, Denali Viewpoint North gives a much different perspective of the highest point in North America. Viewed from a more westward-looking angle than that afforded by Viewpoint South, the great peak is less imposing, surrounded as it is by the remaining range (and much more conspicuous from this perspective). Denali becomes less isolated, and thus seems only the highest point in a great parade of high points.
Though not as long nor as monstrous as the nearby Susitna River (into which it flows near Talkeetna), the Chulitna River is more dramatic and more photogenic than any of the braided rivers throughout nearby Denali National Park. Unless you are hiking on its banks and high up the distant Kesugi or Curry Ridges, the low elevation of the river and the jealous guardianship of the spruce will seldom afford you an overal view. Nonetheless, the addition of this mighty river to the majestic mountain and the carpeting forests merely makes these images of Alaska so justly famous.
On a clear day, most of the Alaska Range can be seen from the elevated nature of the George Parks Highway at Denali Viewpoint South. There are dozens of parking spaces for the largest RVs and a marquee and observation point with telescopic tubes aimed at the summit. From this exact spot, the visitor is only 630 miles from the Asian mainland.
Away from the numerous cottonwoods farther south, Alaska's interior and Denali State Park especially is glutted with towering white spruce. Depending on the viewpoint, the forests seem to have the entire park for their stronghold, but closer to the foot of the Alaska Range the glaciers make room for no vegetation. On the other hand, the mighty rivers of the park (the Chulitna, Tokositna and Susitna) are wrapped by legions of spruce.
There's no problem whatsoever finding incredible sights and scenes in Alaska. It's impossible not to see something utterly fantastic and other worldly. It's a breathtaking world in Alaska. It's a wonderful world.
I approached Denali from the north, coming from Fairbanks. It's a beautiful little drive along the foothills of the surrounding mountains, taking a little over an hour or so to drive. There's very little traffic, so ease back and enjoy yourself while driving through nature's finest creation.
There's a large plain laying directly between Fairbanks and Denali. The foothills curve northwestward around this plain, with the road nestled in the rocks of these hills. There is no permanent foundation for roadwork under the plain, which shifts and heaves with icing of the seasons. The more solid foundation is there along the foothills, providing wonderful scenery to entertain you on your way.
This is only a taste of what is available in this remarkable part of the world. Alaska is the most outstanding place I've ever been, and the Denali Park is truly one of her finest examples. I can't wait to return.
Spring is a time for thawing out in Alaska. Be prepared for lots and lots of water. Also, be prepared for the most beautiful sights you will ever see.