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Denali National Park
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The Denali National Park Destination is located in southern Alaska and encompasses the entirety of Denali National Park. The park was named for Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, which stands at over 20,000 feet above sea level.[5] Originally the park was named Mount McKinley National Park when it was established in 1917; however, due to some local controversy surrounding its naming, the mountain’s name (and subsequently the park’s name) was changed to Denali, which in Athabaskan means “the high one.”[1] Tourists typically visit the park to simply view Denali and the other wildlife that exists there. “The big five,” as they are known, are among the most popular, being the five largest mammals at the park: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears. Others can enjoy the sled dog kennel situated at the ranger’s station, which is the only one of its kind in the United States.[5] There are few major towns or cities in direct proximity to the national park, with the largest city being McGrath to the west. McGrath has a population of about 300 people and has a number of businesses and other attractions, such as a grocery store, some restaurants, and the McGrath Museum, which details some of the region’s history.[7][6]

What Denali National Park is known for

As its name would suggest, the most notable location within the Denali National Park Destination is Denali National Park. The acreage taken up by the park totals over four and a half million acres, which does not include the over two million acres of Federally-designated wilderness also tied to the national designation. Denali, arguably the main attraction for many to the destination, is the tallest peak in North America at 20,310 feet tall. Among the things that one can do while visiting is take bus trips along the only road through the park, Denali Park Road. These tours are separated into two different types, namely narrated tour buses and non-narrated transit buses. A number of trails wind around the landscape, varying in difficulty, many of which offer unique vistas of Denali and other natural formations.[5]

For some, the most prominent draw to the area is mountaineering, specifically climbing and summiting Denali. Following the first completed climb in 1913, many people have traveled to the park to climb the mountain for themselves. In addition to climbing the namesake of the park’s moniker, other smaller mountains also offer climbing routes with peaks and ice walls that can be traversed. Another unique feature of the national park is the sled dog kennel located at its ranger station. The dogs can be seen at work throughout the year, with specific demonstrations offered to visitors in the summertime. People can also visit the kennels and see the various litters utilized by the park as well as the next generation being trained.[8]

The area surrounding Denali National Park is still relatively forested and uninhabited. Of the handful of towns within the region, few have a population of over 100 residents. The one exception to this is McGrath, which as of 2020, had a population of around 300 people.[7] McGrath could be considered the other tourist destination of the region, despite its size. This is because it features a number of lodging options, some restaurants and other shops, a store where one can stock up on groceries during their stay, and the Mcgrath Museum. Those who are interested in the history of the town or want to learn more about that part of Alaska in general can find relics and exhibits within the museum to learn more about it.[6]


For warm-weather travelers, the best time to visit Denali National Park is between early June and late August. This is because temperatures around this time typically peak near the low to mid-70°F. With that being said, this is also usually the wettest time of year for the destination, as precipitation peaks in July and tapers off by the end of September.[2] Many tourists also choose to travel to the region during spring, which the national park defines as being from “early to mid-April until May 19,” to see the mountains with snow or view other sights. Backpacking is also popular year-round so long as one procures a backcountry permit to do so.[5]

The entirety of Denali National Park is contained within the Denali National Park Destination. Much of the landscape has not been inhabited or developed, meaning there are few major towns or cities located in the destination’s defined borders. The national park, as well as Denali State Park, are situated in the east, with wilderness and some smaller census-designated places to the west. Some of the main bodies of water consist of Lake Minchumina to the north; McKinley River, which runs through Denali National Park; Kantishna River; and Kuskokwim River, among others. The closest major city to the destination is Fairbanks, Alaska, although it is not found in the destination; Mcgrath is the largest city found within the destination. As of 2020, the population of McGrath was around 300 people, with the median age of its residents hovering around 50 years old.[7]

Throughout the destination, particularly in the park, a number of different wildlife species can be observed. Some of these are mammals, such as moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears. These five mammals are often deemed “the big five” due to their popularity with tourists and their size in relation to the other animals within the region. Others are birds, including the great horned owl and various species of swan and goose. Among the most notable of all the species, however, is the Alaskan wood frog, the only known amphibian to call the region home. The frogs are able to survive the harsh climate by freezing themselves solid for the winter season and thawing in the springtime when the weather becomes warmer.[5]


Much of the notable aspects of human history with regard to the Denali National Park Destination date back thousands of years to prehistoric sites and hunting camps. Some of these sites, such as the Teklanika River site, have been dated by archaeologists to about 7000 BC, with others being labeled even older. Within the park itself, there are over 84 documented prehistoric sites. The Athabaskan people are attributed to being the main group in the region up until between 1500 and 1000 years before the modern era.[1]

Denali National Park was established as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917. The boundaries of the park were expanded a number of times over the years to include the entirety of Denali as well as the Mount McKinley Park Hotel and the Alaska Railroad. Eventually, the hotel, which opened in 1921, closed due to poor conditions in the 1930s, with the structure being completely destroyed by a fire in 1972. Controversy also surrounded the original naming of the park, as Denali means “the high one” in Athabaskan and referred to the mountain itself. Despite being renamed Denali National Park in 1980 following the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act, the United States did not recognize the name change until it was officially renamed in 2015 by President Barack Obama.[1]

As most of the region encompassed by the Denali National Park Destination is either the national park itself or untamed wilderness, generally speaking, there is not much of a “tourism economy” to speak of outside of simply exploring the terrain. The largest town, McGrath, could be considered a tourist hub for the region, with some restaurants and stores providing food and other items that may satisfy one’s “basic needs.” Aside from that, a museum within the town offers exhibits on the history of McGrath and the surrounding land.[6] 

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Denali Lakeview Inn is located near the city of Healy and about 15 minutes from Denali National Park. The property overlooks Lake Otto and various mountains in the area. There are twenty-one rooms on the three-story property, each one having access to a balcony or deck. Tara, the owner, strives to give guests a relaxing and comfortable experience during the patron's stay. Visitors have access to kayaks, bikes, and fishing poles offered by the inn. The Denali Lakeview inn provides a continental breakfast and recommendations for places to eat in the area. There are many trails for biking, hiking, horseback riding, and ATVs. There are jeeping tours in the region and rivers to fish by near the property. The northern lights can be seen at certain times of the year, and wildlife can often be spotted near the lake, most commonly moose. Tara purchased the property in 2018 but has been working in the hospitality industry for much longer. The property is relatively new, being constructed 25 years ago.

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Denali Touch of Wilderness Bed & Breakfast is located in Healy, Alaska. The property is surrounded by trees and woods, helping to provide a feeling of seclusion in the woods and away from the rest of the world. There are 10 separate rooms available to those who are hoping for a place to stay as they explore various areas of Alaska. The owners of the property hope that everyone who stays with them is able to feel comfortable and at home. They strive to keep the building and rooms clean and up to date for everyone who stays in them, with the additional hope that they will enjoy their accommodations. The property is open all year, with a busier season during the summer months of June, July, and August.

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Denali Dome Home Bed and Breakfast is a dome-shaped accommodation in Healy, Alaska. The bed and breakfast has eight guestrooms, each with a private bathroom, Wi-Fi, and queen or king beds. The property has ten acres with lawns, gardens, walking trails, a private driveway and parking lot, wildflowers, and mountain views. Denali National Park is the main attraction for many guests of Denali Dome Home Bed and Breakfast. In the Denali area, guests can raft, hike, drive ATVs, or fly in a plane or helicopter around or take a glacier landing near Mt. Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. Other attractions include golf, zipline, sightseeing, Husky Homestead, Fat Truck, photography tours, dog-team demonstrations, dog mushing, hiking, and exploring the park’s visitors’ centers.

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