Category Archives: Denali National Park

Denali National Park

Heading to Denali National Park I realized I did not know much about it, other than is was supposed to be beautiful and it had views of the highest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley.

Our first day we drove the fifteen miles they allow cars into the park (after that, you have to take a shuttle bus). It was really stunning!

Our first day we drove the fifteen miles they allow cars into the park (after that, you have to take a shuttle bus). It was really stunning!

We booked four days at Riley Creek Campground and drove the beautiful Parks Highway to Denali from Fairbanks. I learned a few things my first day at the park:

1. Denali┬ámeans “the high one” in the native Athabaskan┬álanguage, and most Alaskan’s refer to it as Denali, not McKinley (I was getting a little confused….)

2. When you see the top of Denali highlighted in sunlight TAKE A PICTURE, don’t drive away to make a salami sandwich because you are hungry and then plan to take a picture after lunch. Chances are you will never see it again. (We were there four more days and never saw the clouds lift again from Denali). I have a beautiful picture in my mind though!

After my tasty sandwich I was waiting for the clouds to lift to see Denali again. And waiting...........argh!

After my tasty sandwich I was waiting for the clouds to lift to see Denali again. And waiting………..argh!

3. Moose are huge when you see them up close. Like a Clydesdale with very large antlers. I wish there was moose spray, they scare me.

Sure, just come into our campground and have a snack!

Sure, just come into our campground and have a snack!

Another one very close! Without the antlers they look a lot like horses.

Another one very close! Without the antlers they look a lot like horses.

4. If a Grizzly or brown bear attacks, don’t run, wave arms, play dead if it charges. If a black bear attacks fight back (WTF? seriously? Fight a bear?) My plan for both scenarios is to release the bear spray and pray it works.

One of the many grizzlies we saw in Denali

One of the many grizzlies we saw in Denali

Our second day in Denali was spent hiking. There are not a lot of “formal” trails in this National Park, but you can ask the shuttle driver to let you off and hike pretty much anywhere in the park. But after seeing 14 huge grizzlies I am not sure I am hard core enough for that (I saw the documentary Grizzly Man, I saw how it ends!) We did take a really fun hike that gave us stunning views of the mountain ranges.

Taking a break on my way up the mountain. It was very hot this day, we were both sweating buckets.

Taking a break on my way up the mountain. It was very hot this day, we were both sweating buckets.

The third day in Denali we took the shuttle bus to the Eielson Visitors center, which is an eight hour day on the shuttle. We saw more wildlife than I ever imagined we would see. Also, the scenery was other worldly. The mountains looked green screened in, their reddish colors contrasted with the green tundra around them, making them just pop against the blue sky.

I swear this is not a green screen. It was stunning.

I swear this is not a green screen. It was stunning.

I am not sure what I expected at Denali, but I did not envision this.

I am not sure what I expected at Denali, but I did not envision this.

Denali Park was founded to protect the Dall Sheep, they are the two little white dots on the mountain, see if you can find them.

Denali Park was founded to protect the Dall Sheep, they are the two little white dots on the mountain ridge, see if you can find them.

Me looking at the dall sheep. I think this is how I looked most of my time in the park, it was like walking around a National Geographic episode.

Me looking at the dall sheep. I think this is how I looked most of my time in the park, it was like walking around a National Geographic episode.

My absolute favorite moment during our time in Denali was watching two grizzly cubs play. They would chase each other into the fast flowing river, and just when we thought the current was about to take them out, they would swim hard, jump onto the river bank then dive back in. I have never see anything like that other than on Animal Planet. It was something I will never forget.

Grizzly cubs getting ready to dive in again

Grizzly cubs getting ready to dive in again

We saw a few foxes

We saw a few foxes

Bull Moose

Bull Moose

Grizzly families

Grizzly families

And Caribou (very far away)

Fall was already coming to the park mid August, it is really far north, oh, and another bear….

Overall, we loved Denali and plan to go back one day, I may even back country hike if I can just get over my fear of grizzlies….