Alaska is a world unto itself, a state that might as well be a different dimension than your typical weekday. It’s the stuff vacation daydreams are made of, and nestled deep within this time-capsuled country is Denali.
Now, that name requires some clarification: Mount Denali is the tallest mountain peak in North America. As far as the world goes, it can stand with the best of them — it’s the third most prominent and third most isolated peak on Earth. Only Mount Everest and Mount Aconcagua have greater bragging rights. Denali National Park is the surrounding area and as far as national parks go, it’s utterly epic. There’s no shortage of things to do, sights to see or ways to approach exploring Denali. But, to help you break the ice in planning your getaway, we’ve proposed a few different options on the next page.
Spanning 7,402 square miles, there’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to exploring Denali National Park — and if you’re the type who gets excited imagining that, then hiking is obviously for you. The park hosts myriad hiking options, but the two flavors boil down to trail hiking and off-trail hiking. Trail hiking is perfect for the adventurous family or casual hiker: Most are short and near the park entrance. Off-trail hiking is more of an embarkation, but quickly proves immeasurably rewarding. Hiking with the guidance of a ranger is also an option with either. Or, if you’d rather soak up the sights in a more leisurely manner, there is a singular road that runs 92 miles into the wilderness, allowing for the most scenic bus ride of your life.
If your idea of experiencing Denali is a little more hands-on, then it could be well worth your while to turn your attention to water. Exploring Denali along the Nenana River makes for a sublime experience — watching the scenery swim by you as you navigate white water will do that. For a less intense, more meditative experience, consider fishing. At first glance, fishing might seem a pinch too calm for adventure, but reconsider this notion! Just getting to a body of water with a good fish population is a journey into the park, and any fish caught is undoubtedly going to take time. That’s time filled with the sounds of undisturbed nature, or maybe some light conversing and jokes if you’re fishing with company, all while you battle wits with a fish that probably rarely experiences humanity. That sounds like the makings of a grand fishing tale, or at least a treasured memory.
If the urge to see as much of Denali as possible is greater than the time you have to spend, consider discovering the park by air. Helicopter tours of Denali are a frequent option, allowing you an eagle-eyed view of the vast mountain range below. Some tours even land on glaciers, offering you a chance to step out onto the utterly alien terrain of frozen tundra. Flightseeing in a plane is an equally awe-inspiring option. Either of these allows for the full scope of Denali sights — caribou, bears, wolves and moose can be spotted as specks against the sprawling wilderness below. Turning your gaze from down to out, you might see tiny neoncolored climbers scaling the cliffs and mountainsides, like colorful ants clamoring to reach the crown of the world. From up here, everyday life feels like a lifetime ago — a perspective that enriches the soul.
When it comes time to plan your great expedition northward, we’re here to help. For example: did you know one of the best ways to travel to (and experience all of) Alaska is onboard a cruise ship? Or, did you know that Denali is primarily reachable through cruisetours — a combination cruise and inland trek that makes navigating this untamed land a breeze? An adventure of this undertaking is quite a few steps simpler when the toughest question you ask yourself is, “Did I pack warm enough?” Once you’ve contacted our agency to plan your adventure, all that’s really left for you to do is to daydream how you’ll go about discovering Denali.