Kids Note: Denali was National Park #59! It was the end of our yearlong journey. But even though this is our last National Park video from the trip, we have tons more National Parks and travel stuff to share! WE WILL CONTINUE POSTING WEEKLY with new content, pictures, advice, commentary, guides, planning info and even some new adventures to other NPS sites and parks abroad! So we really hope you stay tuned. And if you have any suggestions for what you’d like to see in the future, we’d love your comments below. We love doing the blog, and we want it to be a resource for you!
On Wednesday, we talked all about the drama of visiting Denali National Park and the pressure of seeing the North America’s tallest peak at 20,310 feet. But we’ve talked enough about that.
Today I wanted to showcase other unique and special aspects about Denali National Park that make it a true Alaskan (and American) treasure. Because, believe it or not, there is more to the park than just catching a glimpse of the mountain.
Here are just a few ways in which Denali is amazing:
- The name battle: In 2015 the name “Denali” was finally returned to the mountain. Although the name Denali had almost exclusively been used, and advocated for by first white explorers, lawmakers didn’t think it was descriptive or enticing to American tourists (ironically, Denali is translated as “The High One,” and can you think of anything much more descriptive?) Instead, the name “Mt. McKinley” was proposed to push the protection through Congress faster. I guess it worked, and the Mt. McKinley National Park was established, much to the dismay of native Alaskans. Finally, last year, Denali got its name back and simultaneously won a huge symbolic victory for Alaskans and the culturally-minded NPS.
- Sled dogs: Denali is home to the NPS’s only fleet of sled dogs. They live in park kennels, work all winter hauling supplies, and display their skills to visitors all summer. Rangers explained that higher-tech equipment like snow machines often break down, making these dogs the most reliable source of transportation during the winter.
- Mountaineering: Although most people see the summit of Denali from afar, a few visitors reach the top. About 6,000 climbers embark each May (the most optimal month) and about half usually summit. There is an average of 1 death per year, usually due to altitude sickness during descent. The mountain was first summited in 1913! The one-hundred-plus year history of climbing Denali is showcased at Eisleson Visitor Center in the park.
- Wildlife: Alaska’s wilderness is truly a different world, and a rugged one at that. Because vehicle use within the park is limited to a successful shuttle bus system, visitors often see wildlife up close from the comfort of a school bus window. On our 11 hour drive from the park entrance to Wonder Lake Campground and back, on separate days, we saw at least a dozen caribou, six grizzlies (including two cute cubs), Dall sheep, a golden eagle, marmots, and numerous elk. I think it would be hard to visit Denali (even if you are staying on the bus) and not see abundant wildlife.
Check out our Denali National Park video and get a glimpse of this magnificent, enormous and iconic park for yourself!