Alaska Day 8 - Denali National Park - Hiking Mount Healy

Denali National Park Travel Blog

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A ground squirrel

Denali National Park has a strange and complex history. It was founded in 1917 as Mount McKinley National Park, and not because of this mountain, nor because of the landscape, but just to protect one of its species, the Dal Sheep. Only part of the mountain, which is the highest point of North America, was included in the park, not even the summit.

All Alaskans actually call Mount McKinley "Denali" which is an Athabascan (the language of the native Alaskans) word meaning "The High One" or "The Great One". Given the fact that President William McKinley, who the mountain was named after as a political statement, had no connection to Alaska at all the Alaska State Board renamed the mountain "Denali", the US National Board, however, still names it "Mt McKinley".

Hiking Mount Healy
Although Denali has two heads, the North Peak is 5934 meters (19,470 ft) height and the ultimate summit, the south summit is 6192 meters (20,320 ft) high, it is difficult to spot the giant. Denali is almost always hidden in heavy clouds. Only 30% of the tourists visiting Denali National Park will get to see him. The mountain was given its own protected state by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, when he created Denali National Monument.

In 1980, the most important step for the park was signed into law by, again, Jimmy Carter. By signing the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act he merged Denali National Monument and Mt McKinley National Park into one, adding huge portions of surrounding land as well. The name was changed to Denali National Park.

From the Denali Park Road
Besides that many other lands in the state were declared National Parks. Denali is now a mixture of National Park, National Preserve, and Wilderness, with in the south-east also supplemented by Denali State Park.

When Mount McKinley National Park was founded it was almost inaccessible. So the Park Service started building a 146-km (91-mile) long road into the park in the north-eastern section. The road starts at the entrance and ends at the Kantishna former mining district. The road is paved for only the first 15 miles. After that it is a dirt road which is only accessible on foot, by bike, or by shuttle bus. A limited selection of private cars can drive the road only four days per year and only after winning a lottery.

We started our day easy. The rain had stopped, but it was still a bit cloudy. Our first activity thus, was an extensive visit to the visitor center.

More blue sky coming in, just outside the park!
We took two presentations in which we learnt much about bears and wolves, and how to scare them away. When we started or hike next to the visitor center we were pleasantly surprised by an almost blue sky. We hiked the most strenuous hike available, on Mount Healy. A 10-km (6 mile) hike with a height difference of about 650 meters (2150 ft). This time we did not encounter a bear, but a ground squirrel.

We concluded the day by driving the 15 mile of the Denali Park Road. The beautiful weather gave a razor sharp images of the surrounding mountains. All but, of course, Mount McKinley which was stubbornley retreated in its clouds.

For a nice old picture of the entrance of the park somewhere in the 1930s see here!

More pictures below! 

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A ground squirrel
A ground squirrel
Hiking Mount Healy
Hiking Mount Healy
From the Denali Park Road
From the Denali Park Road
More blue sky coming in, just outs…
More blue sky coming in, just out…
Yes! The clouds made way for blue …
Yes! The clouds made way for blue…
Blueberry bushes in autumn colors
Blueberry bushes in autumn colors
More autumn colors
More autumn colors
View on the valley in the south
View on the valley in the south
Mountain Dew
Mountain Dew
A ground squirrel
A ground squirrel
A ground squirrel
A ground squirrel
Blueberry bushes in autumn colors
Blueberry bushes in autumn colors
Hiking Mount Healy
Hiking Mount Healy
View on the valley in the south
View on the valley in the south
From the Denali Park Road
From the Denali Park Road
From the Denali Park Road
From the Denali Park Road
From the Denali Park Road
From the Denali Park Road
From the Denali Park Road
From the Denali Park Road
The Denali Park Road
The Denali Park Road
The Denali Park Road
The Denali Park Road
Sunset just outside the park
Sunset just outside the park
GPS route of the Mt Healy hike (Gr…
GPS route of the Mt Healy hike (G…
GPS height profile of the Mt Healy…
GPS height profile of the Mt Heal…
Denali National Park
photo by: Vikram