The first side of the brochure offers three scenes written by author Kim Heacox. The top scene features a landscape photograph of the Alaska Range with text about the creation of the park, as framed from the perspective of Charles Sheldon, an early park advocate. The second, center section, which is illustrated by a winter scene with a team of sled dogs, describes the historic role that Denali has served in reshaping the scientific study and management of natural resources, as framed from the perspective of Adolph Murie, a renowned wildlife biologist. The third scene at the bottom, which features an image of a Dall sheep ram on a steep, rocky hillside, describes public lands legislation to assure conservation of park resources for future generations, as framed from the perspective of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
The second side of the brochure features a large overview map of vast park and preserve areas, with a smaller inset of the park entrance area, and text that covers trip planning and logistics involved with visiting Denali, such as "How to Get Here," and "What to Do."
Autumn Denali reflections.
A vast range of rugged, snow-covered mountain peaks rises to a high and massive summit of Denali. In the crisp, middle distance a hillside saturated in vibrant autumn colors, such as red dwarf birch, yellow willow, and green stands of mature spruce, descends gently to the shoreline of a lake soaked in reflections that fade with a quick rhythm of surface ripples.
Denali means “the High One” for Athabascan Indians north of the Alaska Range.
© QT LUONG / TERRAGALLERIA.COM
Charles Sheldon had a dream. Standing on a rise in the Kantishna Hills in January 1908, he pulled out his field glasses—more important to him than his hunting rifle—and looked around. Everything his eyes feasted on could one day be a premier national park, the Yellowstone of Alaska, preserved and protected for one reason above all others: to celebrate restraint as an expression of freedom, our rare ability to save a place so it will one day save us. He studied the ocean of land, storm-tossed by mountains and glaciers, waves of rolling tundra, a landscape like no other, vast, intact, winter-white, and holding its breath, so still yet dynamic, epic and epoch in its dimensions, the America that used to be. Such a grand ambition. More than a dream, it was a spark of idealism, a vision. Could Sheldon do it? Could one person with help from a few committed colleagues and friends successfully campaign for the creation of a national park?
Thomas Jefferson had said it would take 1,000 years for Americans to civilize their emerging continental nation and build cities on the Pacific coast as they had on the Atlantic. It took 50 years. The so-called “myth of superabundance”—that we would never run out of fish and bison and bears and so much else—was rapidly becoming just that: a myth. A Yale man who preferred to be in the wilderness, Sheldon decided to dedicate himself to the conservation cause of President Theodore Roosevelt. He journeyed to Alaska when the young US territory had no roads and only 30,000 people (fewer than five percent of what it has today), and found his way to the mountains.
Due south of him rose the icy granite massif that gold miners in Kantishna and Fairbanks called Mount McKinley but that Sheldon simply called “the mountain,” or “Denali,” the Athabascan name meaning “the high one.” Certainly a mountain like that could take care of itself, being the highest in North America. But what of the magnificent wild animals that embroidered it, the grizzlies, caribou, wolves, moose, Dall sheep, and others that moved over the land with ancient grace? Market hunters were coming into the country with an aim to kill wild game to feed gold miners and railroad workers. It had to stop. Sheldon spent 10 months in the Denali region, then headed back east with one purpose: to make a wild dream come true.
—by Kim Heacox
Dog teams haul freight at Wonder Lake.
Across the wide, flat surface of a snow-covered, frozen lake, a team of 12 sled dogs running hard in harness pulls a red sled and a musher wearing a gigantic white arctic parka. In the distance, an imposing range of mountains is bathed in a pale silhouette of bright sunlight. In the middle distance, the shoreline is hemmed in with a dense stand of tall and narrow spruce trees.
copyright 2011 JEFF SCHULTZ / ALASKASTOCK.COM
. . . let us be guardians, rather than gardeners.” —Adolph Murie
Adolph Murie had a theory. Wolves were not bad or evil. They were keen predators that helped to maintain healthy populations of prey species by taking out the old, sick, and injured. Wolves, in fact, were beneficial. They made everything around them stronger, healthier, more agile, and alert. This was heresy in the 1930s, when books, films, and legends demonized the wolf, the wild dog that thousands of years ago had refused our obedience training yet remained our four-legged shadow, a ghost of the hunter we used to be. A wildlife biologist who had studied coyotes in Yellowstone, Murie found great inspiration when he came north to Mount McKinley National Park.
Here was a dream come true, a park signed into law in February 1917 by Woodrow Wilson after nearly 10 years of campaigning by Charles Sheldon and other activists. Here was a once-upon-a-time land, the most accessible wilderness in Alaska, a park to protect wild animals by protecting the place where they lived, the first national park created after the creation of the National Park Service in August 1916.
The world was changing and Murie wanted to be part of it. “Ecology” and “wilderness” were beginning to find their way into the American vocabulary. Nature wasn’t a commodity people owned, it was a community they belonged to. Over-civilized people needed nature—big, mysterious, wild—to find themselves and lose themselves and find themselves again, to rewrite the definitions of progress and wealth, and be reminded what it meant to be truly alive.
For three years, 1939–41, Murie lived with his family in a cabin on the East Fork of the Toklat River, in the heart of the park, and studied Dall sheep, caribou, and wolves. His young daughter sometimes joined him on the tundra, field glasses in hand, like Charles Sheldon, to watch wolf pups play near their den. A single 90-mile-long road had been built through the park, and while traffic was light, it increased steadily and then jumped in 1972 after a highway was built between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
People were coming to see the once-upon-a-time land, the America that used to be.
As big as the park was, it wasn’t big enough. Murie and others wanted to protect its ecological integrity. And so they campaigned, and hoped for a president one day who would be as conservation-minded as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
It took 40 years.
— by Kim Heacox
Dall sheep ram, Polychrome Pass.
A white Dall sheep ram with dirty knees stands squarely on the steep, green grade of a rocky hillside. Its horns are thin and twist gently, but they don't quite complete a full curl.
© 2011 KENNETH R. WHITTEN / ALASKASTOCK.COM
Jimmy Carter had a final act. In December 1980, with only weeks left in his presidency, he signed into law legislation that established over 100 million acres of new national parks, preserves, and wildlife refuges in Alaska. Mount McKinley National Park, enlarged from two million acres to six million, became Denali National Park and Preserve, with new boundaries to encompass entire watersheds and the home ranges of wildlife populations.
Today, hundreds of thousands of park visitors travel by bus every summer on the single road through the park. The bus system (versus private vehicles) reduces traffic and roadside disturbances so you can better see what you come to see. A single wolf or a bear, breathtakingly close, is priceless. An entire bus goes quiet, cameras softly clicking, as a mother grizzly and her cubs eat blueberries only 20 meters away. Later, everybody talks with new animation, enchanted like children, alive with stories to last a lifetime.
Imagine. Here’s a place we did not harvest or plunder or otherwise conquer but allowed it to enrich and to inspire us over many generations. Not only did we care about the place, we cared for it. We defended it, and still do.
There will always be a good economic argument to overcrowd an experience until we redefine what a good economy is. National parks don’t happen by accident. They are established—and preserved—by great force of character, heroic at times, often tedious and downright hard. This is stewardship.
Challenges remain. Wolves are routinely shot and trapped in Alaska, some near Denali. The climate shifts, the air grows warmer, permafrost melts, habitats disappear. Every year thousands of people want to climb “the high one” or fly around it. Dedicated people rise to meet the management challenges, to save the wild essence and character of Denali: A Charles Sheldon here, an Adoph Murie there. A few committed citizens can bring about big, thoughtful change for the common good. It always works that way. Now it’s your turn.
— by Kim Heacox
Please check the park website www.nps.gov/dena or the free visitor guide Alpenglow—also available online—to plan your trip or to learn about park programs, safety guidelines, and regulations. For firearms regulations check the park website.
Denali National Park and Preserve
PO Box 9,
Denali Park, AK 99755
Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center,
101 Dunkel Street, Suite 110,
Fairbanks, AK 9 9 7 0 1,
605 West 4th Ave., Suite 105,
Anchorage, AK 9 9 5 0 1,
PO Box 230
Denali Park, AK 9 9 7 5 5
Contact the park concessioner, Doyon/ARAMARK Joint Venture 800-622-7275 (nationwide), 907-272-7275 (international), or www.reservedenali.com
The National Park Service gratefully acknowledges Alaska Geographic for financial support of this brochure.
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A shape of the state of Alaska is offered in solid black with a white dot and text label for the location of Denali, which is near the center of the interior, east to west, and slightly lower than center, north to south.
The shape of Alaska has roughly three parts. A large central land mass has a straight line border with Canada to the east, running north to south. A jagged coastline, interrupted with several large bays and islands, spans in a vast arc from the northeast, across the north, down around the west, and tucking eastward in the southwest. A second major part to the shape of Alaska is a long, narrow arc of islands, attached to the most southern and westward point of mainland, and threading west and north toward Siberia. The length of this island chain, in total, is longer than the width of the state's interior land mass. The islands grow smaller and more remote the farther west they extend into the ocean. The third major part of Alaska extends southeastward toward the continental U.S. along the border with Canada in a deep, dense, and complex archipelago of islands and intricate ocean passageways.
The main park entrance is 237 miles north of Anchorage and 120 miles south of Fairbanks via George Parks Highway, Alaska 3, which is open year-round. Bus companies provide service to the park in summer.
The Alaska Railroad offers daily summer passenger service to the park from Anchorage and Fairbanks. Service is limited in winter. Contact 800-544-0552, or www.alaskarailroad.com.
Private vehicles are restricted beyond Savage River (Mile 15). To protect wildlife viewing, limits are set on park road traffic, including the buses. Shuttle bus service begins May 20 and ends in mid-September. Waits are possible for walk-in reservations; have flexible departure plans. Buses travel regularly from the Wilderness Access Center to the Toklat River (six hours round-trip), Eielson Visitor Center (eight hours), and Wonder Lake (11 hours). Except in wildlife closures, you can get on or off the shuttle buses along the Park Road to hike. You then reboard on a space-available basis.
Interpretive bus tours include: Tundra Wilderness Tour, Denali Natural History Tour, and Kantishna Experience. Make reservations with the park concessioner (see section titled All Reservations for Campsites,Tours, and Shuttle Bus Tickets).
No food service is offered beyond the park entrance area. Bring food, drink, warm clothes, and rain gear.
Fire, medical, and law enforcement, call 911.
Most people visit between late May and mid-September. Summer is cool, wet, and windy, and it can snow. Bring clothing for temperatures from 35 to 75°F: hat, mittens or gloves, and rain gear are essential. Sturdy foot gear, insect repellent, binoculars, and a camera are desirable.
The park entrance fee is collected year-round and is valid for seven days. Most of the money stays in the park to improve visitor services and facilities. Interagency Federal Recreation Passes, like the Annual, Senior, and Access Passes, and the Denali Annual Pass, are also valid for entry.
Pets are allowed only on roadways and in some campgrounds. They must be leashed or physically restrained at all times and should not be left unattended. Pets are prohibited on buses, trails, and in the back country.
Wildlife activity may require areas to be closed to all entry for a few days to several months. Hikers are responsible for knowing current closures.
Bicycles are prohibited on hiking trails. Cycling is allowed in the campgrounds and on park roads and the designated bike path. Some shuttle buses have bicycle racks. Ask at a visitor center or check the park website for information to plan a cycling trip.
Denali has trails for both novice and experienced hikers. Trails are maintained in the park entrance area. Join ranger-led walks or take longer cross-country hikes on your own. Some of the best routes are on durable surfaces along ridge tops or gravel river bars. Streams can be cold, swift, and dangerous to cross. Sturdy foot gear is essential.
The park has six designated campgrounds. Stays are limited to 14 nights total. Group sites are available by reservation for nine to 20 people. Camping is prohibited in parking areas and on roadsides. Campfires are permitted only in certain campgrounds.
Additional information on camping can be found under the "Detail Map: Entrance and Visitor Center Area” section.
Overnight backpacking trips require careful planning and a back country permit, available only after an in-person orientation with a ranger at the Back country Information Center. There is a quota system for back country units. Many units require hikers to use bear-resistant food containers (provided). Pack out all garbage.
Campers must store all food and scented items, including sealed cans and bottles, in bear-resistant food lockers found in campgrounds, or in closed, hard-sided vehicles.
Hunting and fishing are allowed in some park and preserve locations, regulated by federal and state law. Discharging weapons is strictly prohibited in many areas. It is your responsibility to know and to comply with all laws and regulations. For more information consult a park ranger, visitor center, or the park website.
Mount McKinley and Mount Foraker climbers must register 60 days before starting their ascent and pay a special use fee. Call the
Talkeetna Ranger Station,
Talkeetna, AK 9 9 6 7 6,
The Park Road stays open to headquarters at Mile 3.4, and could be open farther into the park, based on weather conditions. The back country is reached by snowshoes, skis, or dog sled. Riley Creek Campground near the park entrance is open all year. Check at the winter visitor center for road status, weather conditions, and back country permits.
We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check the park website.
This exterior view of a portion of the Denali Visitor Center in summer depicts about a half-dozen visitors walking along a pathway with a log railing, and a porch roof with log columns and trusses.
The Denali Visitor Center Campus is 1.5 miles from the park entrance. At the visitor center explore the exhibits, talk to park rangers, and see the award-winning park film, Heartbeats of Denali. A bookstore, Morino Grill, and the Murie Science and Learning Center are nearby.
A building constructed into the side of a hillside covered with thin green low vegetation and shrubs. Stone walls and buttresses alternate with an exterior stairwell, solar panels, metal roof edging, and high glass windows and doors. Near the entrance, a U.S. flag flies at full staff.
Eielson Visitor Center, 66 miles inside the park, can be reached by shuttle bus. It exemplifies the park’s commitment to sustainable practices.
The Denali National Park Entrance Area Map depicts the first 3.4 miles of the Denali Park Road including paved roads, walking trails, visitor centers, transportation hubs, a campground, picnic area, and post office. The map is orientated with North at the top.
Park amenities are organized around a key intersection of the Denali Park Road with Alaska Route 3, also known as the Parks Highway, not far from the confluence of Riley Creek and the Nenana River. Placement of this location is near the right margin of the map about halfway down from the top. Alaska Route 3 travels north toward Nenana Canyon, Healy, and Fairbanks, and south toward Cantwell, Talkeetna, and Anchorage.
The Denali Park Road travels east to west from this intersection and provides access, in sequence, to the Denali Post Office, the Riley Creek Day Use Area, the Riley Creek Campground, and the Riley Creek Mercantile.
Near Mile 0.7 of the Park Road is the Wilderness Access Center, a campgrounds and transportation hub for tour and shuttle buses deeper into the park, as well as the Backcountry Information Center.
At Mile 1.4 is a roundabout that provides access to the Alaska Railroad Depot and an entrance to the main Denali Visitor Center Campus. The DVC is the official trailhead for as many as 14 walking trails throughout the park entrance area.
Continuing on the Park Road shortly beyond the roundabout is the entrance to the Murie Science and Learning Center, which also serves as the park's Winter Visitor Center.
More than two miles farther along up a steep hill at Mile 3.4 is the entrance to Park Headquarters and the historic Sled Dog Kennels. Placement of this location is near the lower left corner of the map.
This chart offers information about the location and amenities available at six campgrounds in the park.
All six of the campgrounds have vault toilets and campsites for tents. There is RV camping available at Riley Creek, Savage River, and Teklanika River campgrounds, but a limited number of sites can accommodate RV up to a maximum of 40 feet.
There is running water on tap at Riley Creek, Savage River, Teklanika River, and Wonder Lake campgrounds. There are flush toilets at Riley Creek, Savage River, and Wonder Lake campgrounds.
Riley Creek Campground at Mile 0.4 has 145 sites and is accessible to private vehicles.
Savage River Campground at Mile 12.8 has 32 sites and is accessible to private vehicles and to walk-in users by shuttle bus.
Sanctuary River Campground at Mile 22.6 has seven sites and is accessible to walk-in users by shuttle bus.
Teklanika River Campground at Mile 29.1 has 53 sites and is accessible to private vehicles with special permit and to walk-in users by shuttle bus.
Igloo Creek Campground at Mile 34 has seven sites and is accessible to walk-in users by shuttle bus.
Wonder Lake Campground at Mile 85.9 has 28 sites and is accessible to walk-in users by shuttle bus.
Denali is true wilderness. Before you venture into the park, read the safety messages in the free visitor guide Alpen glow. Grizzly bears and moose are dangerous. Crossing glacial rivers can be treacherous.
This map depicts all areas of Denali National Park and Preserve including paved and unpaved roads, trails, ranger stations, visitor centers, campgrounds, picnic areas, airstrips, railroad depots, and transportation hubs. The map is orientated with North at the top.
The map indicates three administrative sections of Denali, titled national park, national preserve and wilderness. Park and preserve areas total about two-thirds of Denali's total area and are mainly located on the north and south parts of the map. National park and preserve areas are similar in size to the state of Massachusetts. The area under wilderness designation is rectangular in shape and occupies the central portion of the map and is about one-third of the park's total area.
The shape of the park is divided diagonally, from southwest to northeast, by the vast Alaska Range, including the mountain known as Denali, which at 20,310 feet is the tallest peak in North America.
The Alaska Range has the highest elevations in the park and is primarily covered with snow and ice represented in white on the map. On either side of the range and slightly more dominate in the upper northeast section of the park are lower elevations, where there is sparse vegetation and tundra represented in shades of tan. At even lower elevations are forests and muskeg represented in green. The forested and muskeg environments dominate the northwestern diagonal section of the park and are approximately one-third of the entire park
Alaska Route 3 runs north-south. It is outside of the park, but parallels the length of park’s eastern border. Travelling north past the park, Route 3 takes you toward Nenana Canyon, Healy, and Fairbanks. Fairbanks is 90 miles north of the park. Travelling south past the park, Route 3 takes you toward Cantwell, Talkeetna, and Anchorage. Anchorage is 112 miles south of the park. Close to Route 3 and the southeastern part of the park is the National Park Service’s Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station as well as the Talkeetna Historical Museum and Railroad Depot.
Some campgrounds, rest and picnic areas, airstrips and visitor information are located up and down Route 3, but most visitor amenities are located at the main park entrance area where the Denali Visitor Center is located. This entrance is at the far northeastern border of the park approximately 140 miles north of the park’s southeastern border. It is in the tundra environment within the park and is at the northwestern bottom of the Alaska Range. Route 3 intersects with Denali Park Road, also known as Parks Highway, and continues north beyond the park. This intersection is close to the confluence of Riley Creek and the Nenana River located within the park. From here, the Park Road travels east to west and more than 92 miles west to Kantishna. During the main visitor season from May into September, access to private vehicles on the Park Road is limited at the Savage River at Mile 15, and most visitors see the rest of the park by tour and shuttle bus.
Campgrounds, rest areas, and historic ranger patrol cabins tend to be placed at intersections of the Park Road with key waterways, including the Savage River at Mile 15, the Sanctuary River at Mile 23, the Teklanika River at Mile 29, Igloo Creek at Mile 34, the East Fork of the Toklat at Mile 43, the Toklat River at Mile 53, and Wonder Lake at Mile 86.
The entrance to the Wilderness Access Center, a key transportation hub for tour, shuttle bus, and campground reservations, is located at Mile 0.7. A roundabout at Mile 1.4 provides access to the Alaska Railroad Depot and the main campus of the Denali Visitor Center. The Denali Visitor Center is the official trailhead for as many as 14 walking trails throughout the park entrance area. A short distance beyond the roundabout is the entrance of the Murie Science and Learning Center, which also serves as the park's Winter Visitor Center. The Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66, located near the base of Denali, is accessible to visitors by shuttle bus. The area surrounding the Denali Visitor Center is a hub for tour, shuttle bus and campground reservations. A smaller map detailing this area is above the larger map on the brochure.
The legend for the park map includes an arrow pointing North, and distance scales depicting both 20 kilometers and 20 miles.
A color gradient from white to dark green is labeled at intervals as "Ice and Snow," "Sparse Vegetation," "Tundra," and "Forest and Muskeg."
Separate boxes depict samples of unpaved road, primitive road, trail, and distance indicators.
Four pictographs depict ranger stations, campgrounds, airstrips, and picnic areas.