6190 meters high and the mountain that towers beyond its surroundings further than any other on earth. The northernmost mountain on earth, the highest mountain in North America and thus one of the “Seven Summits”. Denali in Alaska, which was officially called Mount McKinley from 1917 to 2015, according to a2zcamerablog, is one of the most impressive mountains in the world and should not be missed on any trip to Alaska.
But it is not that easy to actually experience or even see the original and unique beauty of the summit in the national park named after it.
The Denali makes its own weather
Whether you can really admire Denali in all its glory is always associated with a little luck. Two thirds of the time it hides behind clouds and you can never say exactly when it will venture out of them again.
Apart from that, the climate at the highest peak in the Alaska range can be described as extreme. It is very cold on Denali, especially when the weather is free of clouds and rain. Temperatures above -15 degrees are rarely reached at the summit, values around -30 degrees are more common, with the cold record being around -73 degrees.
The winds that prevail on North America’s highest mountain make the temperatures appear even colder. Hurricane-like storms of up to 120 km / h are not uncommon. In the winter months, the 160 km / h fast jet stream moves over the Denali, the speed of which can be doubled due to the so-called Venturi effect, which can be observed, for example, when the wind gathers between houses. The months from April to June are considered the best time to climb or visit Denali.
A mountain that has to be seen
Even if the ascent of Denali is only something for absolute professionals, there are also many opportunities for the ordinary visitor to Alaska to take a look at the massive mountain, which with its rugged granite walls and wide glacier valleys seems to come from another world.
Sightseeing flight with glacier landing
A very special highlight and certainly the most impressive way to experience the unique mountains of the Alaska range and Denali is a sightseeing flight over the Denali National Park. During such a tour, passengers can marvel at the former Mount McKinley with its snowfields, glaciers and gorges from a bird’s eye view and get very close to it. If it is a flight with a glacier landing, you even have the opportunity to hike for a while through the icy, alpine world of Denali. An unforgettable experience.
Sightseeing flights are offered from Anchorage, Talkeetna or Denali Village and are available for between 200 and 500 euros. Helicopter and airplane flights are offered. Tickets are available here.
Good view from Talkeetna
Talkeetna, about 185 km north of Anchorage, is not only known for Stubbs, who is said to have served as mayor between 1997 and 2017, but also as a base camp for mountaineers who start their ascent from there. Due to its location at the foot of Denali, there are various points here where you have a particularly good view of the mountain.
On Talkeetna Spur Road
You have the first opportunity to take a look at Denali before you even reach the town. Because directly opposite the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge you will find a stop on the left, which offers a great view of the Susitna River and the peaks in the background with a height of about 900 to 1200 meters. And behind it – five times as high – the huge silhouette of Denali awaits.
In Talkeetna Riverfront Park
Another option for a breathtaking view of Denali is the Riverfront Park, where the wild glacial rivers Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna flow together. Here you can go for a wonderful walk and enjoy a great panoramic view of the Alaska range. A visit in the early morning hours is particularly worthwhile, when the sun rises purple behind the mountains, or when it bathes the sky in bright orange in the evening while it sinks behind the mountains.
From Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
If you want to combine the great view of Denali and the Alaska range with first-class cuisine and a pleasant stay, you should definitely book a night at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. The lodge is only a few minutes away from Talkeetna on a high cliff and offers a truly breathtaking panoramic view of the river valleys, the rugged peaks and the entire Alaska range with Denali in the center, especially on clear days.
Worthwhile lookout points in Denali National Park
Warning: most of these viewpoints cannot be visited by private vehicle. It is easiest to book a day trip or a multi-day tour at the National Park Service Visitor Center.
In Denali National Park there are several points from which one can see Denali well. There are, for example, the First Denali Viewpoint (about mile 9) and the Savage River Alpine Trail (mile 15), which offer great views. There is also a very good view of North America’s highest peak from the Polychrome Pass (mile 46) and the Eielson Visitor Center (mile 62). At the latter, those interested can also find information about Denali National Park and Denali itself. The most picturesque view of the mountain can be enjoyed at Wonder Lake (mile 85).
Experience Denali from the water
A very special way to catch a glimpse of Denali is at Byers Lake and the Susitna River, among others. There, those interested can enjoy a breathtaking view of Denali and the Alaska Range in a kayak, canoe or during a guided raft tour and at the same time observe the diverse fauna of Alaska. Especially at Byers Lake you can find water birds like the trumpeter swan and the loon, majestic eagles hunting for fish, busy beavers and with a bit of luck you can see bears from the water.
View from Kesugi Ridge
In Denali State Park about 150 miles north of Anchorage, bounded by the Talkeetna Mountains to the east and the Alaska Range to the west, lie the Kesugi and Curry Ridge. It is an area at an altitude of only about 1500 meters with wide, undulating hills, densely forested river valleys and alpine tundra, which is ideal for hiking and at the same time offers a fantastic view of Denali, which is about 60 kilometers away.
See Denali from Anchorage
Anchorage has the best view of Denali from the international airport on a clear day or, especially in the evening, from the city’s picturesque Earthquake Park. Other great vantage points include Elderberry Park on 5th Avenue and the parking lot at Anchorage Market.
Take a look at Denali from Fairbanks
Denali can also be seen from Fairbanks. The best view is from the University of Alaska campus, near the University Museum.
Worthwhile places to take a break
Due to its sheer size, the giant mountain can also be seen from various parking lots, vantage points and sights. For example, the car park at Mount Baldy offers the perfect opportunity to look out over the unique landscape of Alaska and, on a clear day, to see Denali, which is over 200 km away. There is also a good view of Denali from the large Denali Viewpoint South car park and the Denali Viewpoint North campsite. The northeast side of the mountain can be enjoyed wonderfully from Broad Pass on the northern border of Denali State Park and the former mine path Trapper Creek & Petersville Road, which leads north from Talkeetna, offers a completely different view of the mountain giant. And if you want to combine history with a breathtaking panoramic view,
A mountain with over 40 different names
Denali is a mountain with a long history and many names. The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) currently has over 40 unofficial names for the largest mountain in North America. The current name is the traditional name, a word from the Athapaskan language of the Koyukon, which translates as “the great” or “the high”. The Russians translated this term from the North American Indian tribe into “Bolshaya Gora” (large mountain) during the colony of Russian America.
Later, when the Tsarist Empire sold Alaska to the United States (1867), in the late 80s and 90s of the 19th century, it was renamed Densmore’s Mountain after a gold digger until another gold digger finally tried to establish the name Mount McKinley, which this also succeeded. William McKinley, then a presidential candidate and finally the 25th President of the United States, brought the mountain named after him no luck. In 1901 he was murdered shortly after his re-election.
But the name stayed and was finally made official in the law establishing Mount McKinley National Park. At least until the Alaskan geography authority decided in 1975 to give the mountain its original name again out of respect for the traditions of native American Indians.
However, it was to take many years and it first required instructions from then Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in coordination with President Obama to officially change the name in the GNIS back to Denali on August 29, 2015.
Previously, the efforts had been torpedoed mainly by politicians from Ohio, the former home of William McKinley.
A trip into the history of North America’s highest peak
The Denali was first mentioned in the records of the British explorer George Vancouver from 1794. However, the first known attempts at ascent were not made until the beginning of the 20th century. It was the American-British researcher Hudson Stuck, the Alaskan Henry Peter Karstens and the Athabasca Indians Walter Harper and Robert Tatum who were able to climb Denali for the first time on June 7, 1963. Walter Harper is considered the first man on the summit of what was then Mount McKinley.
A first attempt to climb the extremely dangerous north face is attributed to James Wickersham in 1930, after whom the wall was also named (“Wickersham Wall”). A successful ascent over this route was only possible in 1963.
In addition, the Denali is also the content of what is probably the most detailed film documentary of a mountain climb by documentary filmmaker Martin Schliessler, who climbed the mountain accompanied by a team led by Ray Genet and filmed the entire ascent.