Denali National Park, June 2014

Back in Anchorage, after spending 4 days on St. Paul Island, I rented a car (Impala LT with 300 hp) and drove north toward Denali National Park (NP). Instead of booking accommodation inside the park, I decided to stay at cheaper motels nearby. After arriving, I went to the Denali NP Visitor Center, and bought shuttle bus tickets for the next three days. No private cars are allowed into Denali NP, except for the first few miles of the Denali Park Road and during a few days in the autumn. The shuttle buses stop for wildlife, and visitors are allowed to jump off and on and hike independently in the backcountry.

The first day I went with the bus to the Wonder Lake area and back, whereas the next two days I went to the Eielson Visitor Center. The last two days I went for walks inside the park. I even carried bear spray on my hikes, although I never ventured too far off from the park road. There were lots of bear scat on the park road where I walked, so it was probably smart to be prepared for bears. Hiking in Denali NP I did however not walk into any bear, but only saw one in the distance. The first day it was rainy, but I was lucky and experienced lots of sun on day 2 and 3. I even managed to get a glimpse of Mount McKinley, which is often hidden in the clouds. Mount McKinley is of course the highest mountain in North America, and really stands out from the rest of the peaks in the Alaska Range. In 2015, Mt. McKinley was officially renamed Denali, its original name, and a change asked for by the Alaska Legislature in 1975.

Wildlife watching in Denali NP was not as good as I hoped for or in line with for example the Yellowstone NP. The park is less densely populated with wildlife, and, except for species such as caribou and bears, I think all the shuttle buses keep wildlife away from the only road into the park. To increase my chances I went with the early buses all three days (6-7 am), but, in retrospect, it probably did not matter that much. I recon I saw most of the expected wildlife, and luckily we saw one grizzly bear relatively close-up from the bus. The other five bears I encountered in Denali were seen from a distance. But I did not see any wolf, and some of the other more interesting species. All in all, Denali NP was very scenic with rivers, valleys and snow-capped mountains, but wildlife viewing could have been better.


Denali / formerly Mt. McKinley (6,168 m)


A typical blonde Denali grizzly bear. Brown bears in Denali are much smaller than the salmon-eating bears along the coast. A typical male bear here weighs about 2-300 kg


Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos)


Grizzly bear, a more brownish variant. This individual was skittish, and ran away from the bus


A brown bear in the vast Denali wilderness


Dall sheep (Ovis dalli)


Moose (Alces alces)


Caribou (Rangifer tarandus)


Arctic Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus parryii)


Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus)


Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)


American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)


Snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) (photo taken through the bus windshield)


Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes fulves)


Red Fox


White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)


American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea)


Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) (photo taken just south of the park)


Common Raven (Corvus corax)


North-American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) (photo taken at 5 am)


North-American Porcupine


Ranger checking the shuttle bus at the entry point in Denali National Park


Denali NP


Teklanika River


Teklanika River


Teklanika Rest Stop (Mile 30.2)


Denali shuttle bus


Polychrome Pass. Area of 2021 landslides


Polychrome Pass stop


Denali view


Denali view


Toklat River


Toklat River Rest Area (Mile 53)


Denali riverbed


Scenic landscape


Eielson Visitor Center (Mile 66)


Eielson Visitor Center


Denali NP shuttle bus


Denali raod toward Wonder Lake


Wonder Lake (Mile 83)



Bear scat on Denali Park Road


In the Wonder Lake area


"Selfie" in the Wonder Lake area


Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)


Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) (photo taken south of the park)


The top airborne predator in Denali - the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)


Lapland Rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum)


Alaska state flower - Alpine forget me not (Myosotis asiatica)


Old-World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon ssp. aliaska)


Hiking in Denali NP. With bear spray!


A nice visit indeed !