First Visit To Denali

Took about a week but we finally feel rejuvenated after the drive up here! Feels so nice to feel “all there”. 🙂

On Saturday we decided to drive up to Denali National Park to check out the magnificent 20,320 foot Mount McKinley. For those of you who are curious and don’t know (like me…) Denali is the Athabascan (original inhabitants of Alaska who migrated from Asia) name for the mountain. It means “Great One” or “The High One”. In 1896 a gold prospector decided to rename it McKinley in support for the presidential candidate William McKinley. McKinley became the 25th president a year later. In 1901 McKinley was assassinated.

There have been appeals to change the name back to Denali but so far they have been defeated and the name remains Mount McKinley, although up here in Alaska you will ONLY hear it referred to as Denali.

There ya go. A little history lesson. And thanks to Wikipedia I learned a little as well. Haha. Around here, though, people still call it Denali and I will as well…

BACK to our time at the national park. It’s a very interesting place. In all honesty we were a little disappointed…only because we are spoiled Montanans who are used to traversing the mountains on our own terms.

From the entrance to the park, Denali lies 90 miles inside. In your own car you can only go 15 miles. Yup. That’s right. That’s as close as we got to that beauty. The rest of the way you have to go by bus. They have all sorts of different buses you can take…but they all cost quite a bit of money. I think the cheapest one was $35 a person. At some point we will go back and take the bus, because of course we have to. And I think then it will be incredible. We were just disappointed because we were so far away! We did get to see Denali, so that was happy at least.

It was good that we went just for a little taste of it and we are definitely looking forward to seeing it more up close and personal next time. We’ll have to go on a weekend when we can camp and take the time to hike around and really enjoy the beautifulness!

I think the neatest part about going when we did was seeing all the run off of melting snow. The rivers are just breaking up which means lots of extra water and random waterfalls, rivers, etc. Pretty fun to see.

A few pictures for your viewing pleasure…

We climbed up a hill to get to these rocks so we could get a better view.
Oh man. We are so out of shape!


Denali just barely starting to peek out for us.


This is with Denali behind us. There was a little hike around this river that we started
to take…but…all the melting snow…our hiking shoes accidentally are on the barge up from Seattle…wet up to our knees…you get the picture. We turned around.
Moral of this story: If you come visit and want to see Denali, be prepared to bring lots of cash and time. Ha! Or just expect to see it from a long ways off. Which is still pretty. We found a place to look at the whole mountain range just a little outside of Fairbanks that was pretty incredible. I plan on taking the camera up there at some point and getting some pictures.


  1. Bethany, you are fortunate to see Mt McKinley… some people travel all that way up there, and never get to see it… clouds are ever present! We saw it a couple of times, but only from a far distance. We camped in the Park, and saw it one morning from our campsite. We happened to see it on our way to Fairbanks one evening also. We took the long bus ride all the way to Wonder Lake… do NOT go w/o mosquito protection…nets over your hats, and long pants and sleeves, and mosquito repellant… they are persistent little buggers! Lots of people on our bus got to Wonder Lake, at the end of the 90 mile ride and wouldn't get off the bus, because the mosquitoes were so thick. My son, and I were the only ones who got off to look around. Tracy and DIL decided they could see all they wanted to from the bus windows! Unfortunately, that was one of the days that McKinley was not visible. Good idea to go back and camp, and hike, but be careful of the bears! Never go w/o bear spray, or maybe a gun!! 🙂 Marilyn L


  2. Hey Marilyn! Ah! That's really sad it wasn't visible. I had no idea it was such a tricky little bugger. Like I said…Montana spoiled me!!! But I really do appreciate the perspective. I now feel honored to have seen it. We keep hearing about all the mosquitos. So far we've been able to avoid them except for a few here and there. I'm sure we'll meet more soon! And we definitely have bear spray…and James has a gun. 🙂


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