Alaska is the largest US state, covering an area of 665,384 square miles. The state is full of adventure and has many opportunities for playing year-round.
Some major outdoor activities include fishing, hiking, biking, and camping. You can also take train rides, flight tours, or a day cruise to spot the wild animals that call Alaska home. Alaska’s most prominent cities include Anchorage, Juneau, Kenai, and Kodiak.
Here, we’ll discover the general topography of Alaska. Then, we’ll track down Alaska’s highest point, learn how to get there and discuss activities you can do in the area.
Keep reading and learn more about the highest peak in Alaska!
Alaska’s Highest Point
At 6,190 meters above sea level, Denali, once known as Mount McKinley, is the highest point in Alaska. It is a gigantic mountain in south-central Alaska and the third highest after Mount Everest and Aconcagua based on topographic prominence. Denali occupies six million acres and a ribbon of the bisecting roadway.
Per estimates, up to 400,000 explorers visit Denali National Park yearly. Climbing Mt. Denali is tricky because of the severe weather and steep vertical incline. Hundreds of people try to climb it each year, but only a few reach the peak. However, tourists also come for the breathtaking environment, offering close contact with nature and minimal noise pollution. Tourists also enjoy taking photographs of the wild animals that inhabit the area.
The name Denali came from the native Koyukon people and translates to “the tall one.” In 1896, the mountain was renamed McKinley as a strategy for boosting publicity for William McKinley, who was running for President of the United States. Perhaps the strategy worked because McKinley won the election. However, in 2015, President Obama officially renamed the mountain Denali.
Below Denali’s peak, to the southeast, lies Paxon town, home to 26 people as of 2020. It is situated in a strategic position at the junction of the Denali Highway and Richardson Highway. This small town is a great place to stop for a snack just before entering the park.
Denali Park Road, a 92-mile stretch, boasts stunning views of the landscape. The park entrance, located just 240 miles north of Anchorage, is located at George Parks Highway. If visiting from the south, the best option is to drive north through Talkeetna, but if you’re going south, take the route through Fairbanks. As additional options, visitors can take the railroad from Anchorage or arrive via air taxi.
Where is Alaska’s Highest Point on a Map?
Alaska’s highest point is Denali, located within Denali National Park. The park consists of 4.741 million acres situated between Fairbanks and Anchorage in the southern part of the state. It is 120 miles to Fairbanks, which is north of the park, and 240 miles to Anchorage, which is south of the park.
Denali’s Mountain Climate
Denali’s northern temperatures are always cold during winters and warm in summers, with precipitation considerably low. May to September are the warmest months in Denali, while the cold season lasts from November to March.
Denali’s peak is known for its cold weather because of its towering height. The icy mountain can reach -76 degrees Fahrenheit!
If you’re interested in climbing the mountain, consult an expert to determine what is required of you. Also, always collaborate with the tour guides to be aware of the challenges you may encounter.
Denali National Park Overview
In 1917, Congress created the park to protect the Dall sheep. With time, they expanded the park boundaries to cover Denali Mountain and offer a place for wilderness recreation.
Denali Road is 92 miles long from east to west and is the only road with access to Denali. The scenic route comprises dirt and gravel road from the low forested area to the mountain. The entrance to the park is on the eastern end, where Alaska Highway 3 meets Denali Park Road.
From May 20 to mid-September, visitors can drive the first 15 miles of the park road to Savage River. After that, they can board the bus at the entrance to the park. Bus visits offer an excellent chance to observe the landscape and the park’s wild animals.
Snow covers a huge part of the park from late September to early May. As a result, most of Denali Park Road remains closed for a few months, with no visitor access. But there are plenty of outdoor recreation activities to enjoy. Keep yourself busy at the Winter Visitor Center and learn more about the park by watching educational films. You can also venture outdoors for some adventure. The most common winter activities include snowshoeing, biking, and skiing.
Things You Can Do Around Denali
If you are a nature lover and adventure enthusiast, Denali is the place to be. Below are some suggested activities to help you enjoy the beautiful Denali Park:
A great way to explore the park at your own pace, visitors can bike from Savage River to Sanctuary River and back.
There is no doubt that Alaska has an abundance of berries, especially in August and September. Searching for berries is a wonderful family-friendly activity. Don’t forget your buckets!
Explore the Savage River and Mountain Vista
Drive out to Savage River and Mountain Vista. The scenery is terrific, and the area features numerous trails and picnic areas.
Watch the Wildlife
Denali is a habitat for 39 mammal species, 169 bird species, 14 fish species, and one amphibian species.
Although the Big Five animals — moose, bears, Dall sheep, caribou, and wolves — draw most of the attention, the mountain is an excellent place to spot hundreds of wildlife varieties. If you spend long hours in the area, you will see many different species of wildlife that Denali offers.
Land On a “Glacier”
A helicopter ride around the mountain offers amazing views of the landscape from above. Some tour companies can even land on a glacier!
Discover the Flora
Denali is home to different beautiful varieties of plant species. Due to the diversity of both the water-loving and drought-resistant plants, Denali is a perfect place to learn about subarctic flora. Apps like DenaliFlora will guide you during your botanical exploration.
Engage in Summer Sightseeing
Sightseeing activities in Denali are primarily experienced by bus, and you can choose from a variety of trips. For those looking to stretch their money, the transit bus is a cheaper and more flexible option.
Look for the Aurora Borealis
Aurora occurs when the far north is dark and weather forecasts become less precise. This is the perfect time to search for the Northern Lights.
Eating and Sleeping in Denali
Many restaurants and accommodation facilities are near the Denali Park entrance, giving you plenty of options if you want a quick bite or a place to relax after a long day of exploration.
Restaurants and Grocery Stores
During summer, all the restaurants along Highway 3 stay busy. You can relax and enjoy a meal at Molino Grill, next to the Denali Visitor Center. Order sandwiches and camping food from Mercantile in the Riley Creek campground. However, the Wilderness Access Center is the place to be if you want to purchase snacks. Note that most of these eateries close during the spring, fall, and winter.
Denali has a few privately-owned lodges inside the park. But campsites offer accommodation and transportation to and from the Denali Visitor Center.
Camping in Denali
Denali provides six campgrounds; three offer tent and vehicle camping, while the others are for tent campers only.
Riley Creek is a partially wooded campground that’s open year-round. Its trails from the campground conveniently connect to the Denali Visitor Center and other businesses outside the park. However, there may be occasional traffic noise because of its proximity to Highway 3.
Savage River is another Campground at mile 13 on Denali Park Road, but it only opens during the summer. It sits in the spruce forest, provides moderately spaced sites, and allows open fires in grates. On bright days, Denali Mountain can be seen below the campground.
The Sanctuary River
The Sanctuary River campground opens during summer only. It is a heavily wooded campground that has screening between its many sites. Nearby mountain paths allow campers to hike directly from the campground. Sanctuary River only allows tent-only camping. Unfortunately, the campground does not have potable water.
The Teklanika River
The Teklanika River campground is another campsite only open during the summer. Although most private vehicles must turn around at Mile 15, Tek campers are permitted full access. You must stay a minimum of three nights, and the vehicle must remain on the campsite during your visit.
The Igloo Creek
The Igloo Creek campground is the smallest in Denali. It is located along Park Road at Mile 35 and offers only seven sites. It allows tent-only camping and is accessible by camper bus. The bus stops a short walking distance from the campsites. Visitors can only stay a maximum of two nights. The campground doesn’t have water but provides toilets, food storage boxes, and numerous hiking trails.
The Wonder Lake
The Wonder Lake campground is along Denali Park Road at Mile 85 and offers 28 tent sites. It is the closest campground to Denali and offers bear-proof food lockers. However, mosquitos tend to be a nuisance here.
Denali offers many activities and numerous short trails with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, plants, and animals. The park is worth visiting for its quiet beauty and sweeping views of the Alaska Range.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © jolciad/Shutterstock.com
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