Alaska's Denali National Park
More Than Just Clean Air
Yes, it’s true; Denali National Park in Alaska is consistently ranked as having the cleanest air and clearest visibility of any National Park in America. Visitors, especially those from big cities, will be amazed at the air quality — it’s almost intoxicating in its freshness. However, Denali offers so much more than fresh air and clear skies. With the nation’s tallest peak, six million acres of protected land, and a primordial atmosphere and solitude so rarely found in the U.S. today, this park offers visitors the wilderness experience of a lifetime.
The Tall One
For eons the Alaskan Native people revered this tranquil land and its snow-capped mountains. And they called the peak that so dominated the others Denali, or "the tall one". Topping out at 20,310 feet, Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) is considered to be the third tallest mountain in the world. Over the years, about 32,000 people have attempted the climb to its peak — only about half have been successful. Among climbers Denali is known as a very challenging and technical climb.
A True Wilderness
Aside from the majesty of the mountain, Denali National Park boasts an embarrassment of natural riches in flora and fauna. Most of its millions of acres lie relatively undisturbed, resulting in a rich and diverse sub-arctic wilderness unmatched in its unspoiled solemnity.
Some of the most iconic animals in North America call Denali home, offering visitors the chance to see grizzly and black bears, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, wolves, and bald eagles, just to name a few. In total, Denali National Park is home to over 160 species of birds, 39 mammals, and 1,500 species of plants, mosses, and lichens. Where many National Parks have seen changes to their ecosystems due to invasive/non-native plant species, Denali, and much of Alaska, has been spared this fate, primarily due to the scarcity of roads and remoteness of the region. Lending further to its reputation as "untouched country."
Away From It All — Really
And, of course, there’s that famous Denali solitude. Other parks and wilderness areas are often overrun with too many visitors, taking away from the experience. Not so in Denali. Its 400,000 visitors per year is a small number in comparison to other parks like Yellowstone (3.5 million visitors per year), Yosemite (3.8 million visitors per year), or Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway (1 million visitors per year). With opportunities for ranger-led hikes and self-guided on- and off-trail (backcountry) hiking, Denali National Park let’s its visitors get as far away from it all as they choose. And for those looking for a more communal, less adventurous experience, a bus tour along the park’s 92-mile Denali Park Road fits the bill nicely.
Those coming to Alaska are usually in search of something they can’t get anywhere else. Whether it’s the landscape and its wilderness, the wildlife, or the chance to experience a little of what those first people to the continent must have felt thousands of years ago, Denali National Park delivers on that quintessential Alaskan mystique.