Nature couldn’t be more resplendent than in Alaska, which prides itself on iconic landscapes and breathtaking scenery. Along with Fairbanks, which attracts visitors internationally for its mystifying sight of the swirling aurora borealis, the Denali National Park and Preserve is indisputably Alaska’s other jewel in the crown.
Cut across by the Alaska Range, the century-old Denali National Park occupies six million acres (about 9,500 sq mi) and welcomes nearly half a million visitors each year. Denali also boasts the highest peak in North America, formerly known as Mount McKinley, in honor of the 25th U.S. president. The mountain’s Native American name, Denali, was just restored in 2015, three decades after the national park received the same designation.
Denali has sights to offer every season of the year, but summer is by far the liveliest. From mid-May to mid-September, shuttle buses take throngs of travelers along Denali’s only park road, where they can catch the sight of Dall sheep, reindeer, and moose.
In May and June, tints of green emerge from under the white snow carpet, filling the park with vitality after a long wintry slumber. Over the next two months, the air becomes warm and cozy, and the entire land is bathed in a luxuriant green. In September, visitors are greeted by a splash of color, covering the hills and dales against Mount Denali’s snowy towering peak. For those looking for a more intimate experience with the scenery, campsites are scattered across the park.
It’s hard not to fall for Denali’s beauty. Each second spent there, and each step forward, only serve to captivate you further. Born and bathed under streams of sunlight and an azure sky, the lakes are so numerous and radiant that they greet you from seemingly everywhere. Their gentle ripples ready to wash away all stress and sorrow. Any hill or lake here offers a picturesque backdrop, and you will undoubtedly want a photo as a keepsake.
The profusion of color doesn’t last long. After September, the park’s colorful glory dims to a snowy white, and ice seals off the lone road. That is until the following May, when summer rays melt away the snowy blanket, and rejuvenates the forest with a fresh coat of color and vibrant energy once more.
Denali is about a 4-hour drive north from Anchorage, or a 2-hour drive from Fairbanks. Alaska Park Connection Motor coach also provides a 5.5-hour bus service from Anchorage to Denali. If you are not in hurry, taking the train is a cozy and reliable option that makes the trip from Anchorage in 8 hours. Also note that in order protect the wilderness, only a small part of the road is open to private vehicles.