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10 Reasons Why Denali National Park Should Be On Your Bucket List

In the vast wilderness of Alaska, Denali is a crown jewel among America’s National Parks. Covering more than 6 million acres, this expansive park encompasses the summit of Denali, and its surrounding glaciers, forests, and foothills.

You may also know Mount Denali as Mount McKinley. The peak had this name for over a century, after our 25th President, William McKinley. It was just recently when Obama announced that Denali, the mountain’s original name, was going to be restored after decades of dispute.

Whatever you want to call it, this slice of the Last Frontier has something to offer every season. In the fall, the landscape becomes ablaze with warm autumn colors. By winter, the snow-capped mountains are like something out of a dream. And once summer rolls around, there‘s blooming wildflowers, lush greenery everywhere, and a bright blue sky above.

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These are just 10 of the many reasons why a trip to this stunning park up north is worth experiencing in your lifetime.

1. You can see the tallest summit in North America up-close.

denali national park
Denali National Park, Wikipedia
Denali National Park and Preserve, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Denali – or Mount McKinley – is not just the highest peak in the United States, but the entire continent of North America. Mountaineers from all over the globe flock to Alaska to attempt climbing the summit – 20,310 feet above sea level.

But of course, you don’t have to go all the way to the top to take in views of the mountain. All throughout the park, it looms high in the horizon nearly everywhere you turn.

2. And you can see an amazing variety of Alaskan wildlife roaming the park.

Denali National Park
Denali National Park
Denali National Park and Preserve, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Moose, grizzly and black bears, caribou, wolves, and Dall’s sheep all call Denali National Park home, as well as smaller animals like squirrels, foxes and marmots. Watching them stroll around in the midst of their natural environment can be so fascinating…from a distance, of course.

3. It’s just as mesmerizing at night as it is during the day.

denali national park
Denali National Park/Flickr
Northern Lighs by Denali National Park and Preserve is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Camping and RVing around Denali National Park always has something special to offer at night. For the majority of the year, the pitch-black Alaskan night sky provides one of the best backdrops to go stargazing and see the colorful beams of the Northern Lights.

But in the summer, it can be almost impossible to see the Aurora Borealis because it will still be so light out in the evenings. Alaska even gets the nickname, “Land of the Midnight Sun” because the sun will still be up and shining throughout most of the night this season.

This natural phenomenon occurs every year in places north of the Arctic Circle, making long summer nights seem almost never-ending.

4. Hiking through the Alaskan wilderness is an experience of its own.

denali national park
Denali National Park/Flickr

Hiking at Denali National Park can be experienced two different ways. You can either follow any of the few, short marked trails – many of which can be taken all in one day. Or if you’re full of wanderlust and equipped to explore the wilderness, you can make your own adventure off-trail in almost any direction you’d like.

5. The landscape is even more gorgeous in the fall when it’s painted with warm autumnal colors.

Denali National Park
Denali National Park
NPS Photo / Tim Rains, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of Alaska tends to greet fall earlier in the season. Foliage color change usually peaks by early September, with fiery shades of red, orange and yellow.

6. Even in the middle of a frigid winter, there’s still so much to experience here.

denali national park
Joseph from Cabin On The Road, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sure, the sub-zero temperatures in Alaska during the winter can be hard to bear. But there’s still so much to take in across Denali National Park during the coldest season of the year.

Not only can you partake in activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, but the park also offers visitors the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go dog-sledding. It’s the only national park in the country with a working dog kennel, and remains open to visitors all year long.

7. The alpine lakes across the park will blow you away.

denali national park
No machine-readable author provided. BillC assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pictured is Wonder Lake, the best known lake in the park at 268 feet deep. Story has it, the lake got its name from a miner back in the early 1900s who stumbled across it and said, “I wonder why we didn’t notice this lake before?”

8. It’s a world-class setting for photography.

denali national park
Wikipedia/Paxson Woelber
Paxson Woelber, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Everywhere you look in Denali there is something to capture on camera. Both professional photographers and hobbyists can find endless photo opportunities, between candid shots of wildlife to all of the surrounding unspoiled beauty.

9. The summer wildflowers are too beautiful to miss.

denali national park
Albert Herring/Wikipedia

Over 650 species of lovely plants and flowers grow throughout the park, as well as many species of mosses, lichens, fungi, algae, and others. By early June, the valleys become filled with vibrant blooms, including pink louseworts, blue lupine, and forget-me-nots.

10. And the views along Denali’s one and only winding road are seriously out of this world.

denali national park
Nic Mcphee/Wikipedia
Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With striking views every turn, Denali Park Road winds through valleys and mountain passes for 92 miles along the Alaska Range. It’s open to private vehicles in the summer, but only for the first 15 miles leading up to Savage River.

Along the paved road there are several pull-offs where you can stop and snap photos of Denali in the distance. By Mile 15 the road turns to gravel, and they restrict the traffic to buses only.

Both shuttle buses and tour buses take visitors even deeper into the park. The shuttle buses are usually cheaper, and operate more on your own terms as far as where you’d like to go. They’re not narrated like the tour buses, but they’ll both stop for wildlife, restroom breaks, and just simply to take in the views.

Would you like to visit Denali National Park someday? Or have you already been here? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

SEE ALSO: Scenic National Parks Along The National Park-To-Park Highway