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Denali National Park in Alaska

Fast Facts

Location: In south central Alaska along Alaska Route 3, about 380 km north of Anchorage, 190 km south of Fairbanks, and about 20 km south of Healy
Time to Visit: May to September beginning
Preferred Timing: Daytime
How to Reach: Fly to Fairbanks and thereafter proceed by road
Nearest Railway Station: Denali
Nearest International Airport: Fairbanks
Time required for sightseeing: 4/5 days

As the snow gradually thaw from the conifer leaves and the wind blow away a flake or two, something move behind the dense Alaskan vegetation. It runs, as though pursued by some animal of prey unseen, it calls out for some help, from some quarter it is not so sure of. Then suddenly, as if in realization of its own stupidity, it stops, and disappears again — a caribou in the wild. You, in the midst of your tour to Denali National Park, remain a silent spectator to this primal enacted every day behind your eyes. If you are lucky, you catch it on a camera, or a videotape — but in your memory it remains forever etched.

Denali National Park in Alaska is a fascinating destination in the Last Frontier of the United States. Alaska Denali Park surrounded by the Alaska Range features Mount McKinley, USA's tallest peak. Experience an adventure in the wilderness of taiga and tundra vegetation spread over 6 million acres. Extensive glaciers, majestic mountains, combined with a vibrant fauna consisting of the moose, caribou, wolves, Dall sheep, and grizzly bear makes your vacation in Denali National Park an unforgettable lifetime experience.

Charles Sheldon an acclaimed conservationist, hunter, and naturalist with the objective of protecting the wildlife of Denali. Sheldon traveled to this region of Alaska first in 1906 and then in 1907 with guide and mountain climber Harry Karstens. With the efforts of Charles Sheldon and Game Committee of the Boone and Crockett Club, Mount Mc Kinley National Park was established in 1917 which was renamed Denali National Park in 1980. Denali National Park is a unit of Denali National Park and Preserve, the other two units being the Denali Wilderness and Denali National Preserve.

'Denali' literally meaning the 'high one' was used to describe Mount McKinley, the highest peak in the 600 kilometers long Alaska Range, by the local Athabascan tribe. The Alaska Range located in south central Alaska extends from Canada's Yukon region at its southeast to Lake Clark to its south west. Located to the south of Alaska Range, Denali National Park and Preserve is characterized by coniferous, and needle leaf trees. Explore the evergreen pine, fir and spruce trees. Larch and tamarack are the deciduous varieties you will find in this taiga region. Shrubs like blueberries and dwarf birch are the principal source of food for the herbivorous animals like caribou and moose which thrive in Denali.

Beyond the coniferous trees you will be awed to see the tundra region on the higher slopes of the Alaska Range. The conifers gradually make way for lichens, dwarfed shrubs, and acacia which bloom in the summers. You will be amazed to learn that Alaska's state flower 'forget-me-not' is a tundra plant. Other flowers that will leave you baffled are dwarf rhododendron, moss campion, mountain avens, and dwarf firewood. The beauty of the locale goes beyond the vegetation to the topography. Young rivers laden with pulverized rock change courses within days. The flat valleys become a network of shallow mountain streams which can be waded across easily. But you need to be lucky to get a clear view of Mount McKinley massif since it remains shrouded in cloud covers most of the time.

Wildlife Safari at Denali National Park in Alaska

Go on a wilderness safari in Denali National Park to be with nature in its severest form. The sub-arctic condition during the major portion of the year allows very little time for summer, fall and spring. Animals are particularly active during the months from June to September to garner for their annual food provisions. You get an opportunity to see Dall sheep, and caribou in the lower slopes in the winter which move on to higher slopes as summer advances. Both male and female Caribous sport antlers and move great distances with seasonal changes. The Caribou and Dall sheep move in herds.

Unlike the Caribou and Dall sheep you will find the moose or reindeer move around alone. The bulls may however travel in groups of three or four. The cows are extremely protective abut their calves and be dangerous if approached. Wolves are not easily seen. Grizzly bears along with wolves play a major role in maintaining the food chain in Denali National Preserve. The grizzlies prey on old, newborn and sick animals. You can also discover a number of small mammals like porcupine, beaver, lynx, ground squirrel, red squirrel, marmot, shrew and fox.

Bird watchers can feast their eyes on golden eagles, northern harriers, hawk owl, goshawk, thrush, mew gulls, gyrfalcons, gray jay and magpie.

Activities in Denali National Park

Denali National Park and Preserve is an attractive venue for mountaineers, backpackers, naturalists, wildlife adventurers, and hikers. In winters dog sledging and skiing will keep you occupied. The period from May to early September is best for visiting this park, and a number of activities are organized to keep you engaged and entertained. Every member of your family can take up activities depending on his/ her capability and interests. Children below 12 years of age are thrilled to participate in a Junior Ranger Program. Participate in 'Kennels Hike' of 4 km from Park Hotel to Denali Kennels along Road Creek Trail. After reaching Denali Kennels enjoy dog sledge demonstration. Alaskan Huskies are used for pulling these sledges which are commonly used by Alaskan inhabitants as conveyance over snow in winters.

Hiking is a popular activity specially during the summer months. Undertake a 'discovery hike' through unknown terrain across numerous forest and mountain streams for about 3 to 4 hours. Do not forget to carry your ration of food, water, provisions and rainwear. If you are eager to explore tundra flora and fauna, embark on a 'tundra walk' on the low slopes of Alaska range in Denali National Park. If mountain hiking interests you, go for Mount Healy hike, which is a moderate 3 km trail on the lower slopes of Mount Healy. Horseshoe Lake is another trail destination. Access this oxbow lake of the Nenana River by trekking through spectacular landscape, and enticing fauna and flora.

Mountaineers find the Denali National Park an awesome destination. In addition to Mount McKinley, climbers can aim for Mount Foraker, Hunter, Cathedral Spires, and Mather. Climbers to Mount McKinley and Foraker are required to pay a fee which offsets cost of maintaining high altitude ranger station, rescue operations, helicopters and staff.

Related Links : For a wonderful safari into the Denali National Park, and views of the best flora and fauna of the region, watch this video! You will also have a wonderful view of the natural beauty of the region and some of the adventure activities, including river rafting. An authentic travel video that manages to catch some of the rarest wild animals of the Denali national Park, including Grisly. To have an idea of how it feels to be in a forest tour in the Denali National Park, watch this! For some wonderful Denali National Park photographs and related articles, click on this link.

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