Denali National Park & Preserve FAQs

Attention Climbers: Visit nps.gov for information about mountaineering in Denali National Park.


Why does Denali have two names? Should I call it Mount McKinley or Denali?
In the native Athabaskan language, “Denali” means “the high one.” In 1897, a prospector named the peak Mt McKinley, in honor of president William McKinley of Ohio. The name received a great deal of criticism because McKinley had no actual connection to Alaska. In 1980, when Mt. McKinley National Park was expanded to establish Denali National Park and Preserve, the Alaska Board of Geographic names officially changed the name of the mountain to Denali. The US Board of Geographic names, however, still maintains the name Mt. McKinley. So outside of Alaska, the mountain is known as Mt. McKinley, but within the state it is called Denali.

 

What kinds of ecosystems can I expect to see in Denali National Park & Preserve?
The Alaska Range has governed much of the ecology within Denali National Park and Preserve. For example, due to the low elevation of the fall-line (a line at which the rock type between the high peaks and lowlands changes), Denali National Park and Preserve hosts very few forested ecosystems. Within these ecosystems, one will find mostly spruce and willow. The majority of the park, however, is covered in vast expanses of beautiful tundra, which hosts an incredible variety of birds, mammals, and arctic flowers.

 

How was the Alaska Range formed?
The Alaska Range is a 600 mile-long, curved mountain chain. Denali National park covers the highest section, straddling the range at roughly the center of the chain. Its formation is still being studied, and is often the subject of scientific debate. Its diverse topography makes it difficult to discern how these mountains began—while there are many notably large mountains in the range, these are interspersed between many small mountain passes and non-uniform terrain. The Alaska Range peaks are mostly sharp and steep, which is typical of a young mountain range; however there is other geologic evidence indicating that the range might be much older than some have hypothesized.

 

Why was Denali National Park and Preserve created—was it intended to protect some of the tallest mountains in the world, or some of the most diverse and fragile wildlife in the world?
In 1907 and 1908, Charles Aexander Sheldon, a renowned naturalist, observed the ecology of the area and became concerned that human presence was encroaching on the habitat of the beautiful and fragile Dall sheep population. He brought a petition to congress, and in February of 1917, the Mount McKinley National Park was established. This park was created for the protection of the diverse wildlife in the area, and the summit of Denali was not even part of the park. In 1978 Jimmy Carter created Denali National Monument, which did include the mountain, in honor of the tallest mountain in North America. In December of 1980, the Denali National Park and Preserve was created, combining McKinley National Park and Denali National Monument.

 

Are there fees for entering Denali National Park?
Yes, there is a $10 per person park entrance fee, which is good for 7 days in the park. Those who carry a National Parks Pass can enter for free, along with three guests. For more information on fees, permits and other park information, visit http://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm.

 

Is Denali tallest in North America?
Yes, Denali is the highest mountain on the North American continent. Measured from the 2,000 foot lowlands to its snowy summit at 20,320 feet, the mountain’s vertical relief of 18,000 feet is greater than that of Mount Everest.

 

Can we drive throughout the park?
Denali National Park and Preserve has one road, simply called the Denali Park Road, and it is the main avenue for visitors to see and experience Denali.

The road is 92 miles long, and only the first 15 miles of it are paved. That paved portion, leading from the park entrance to Savage River, is open during the summer for public (non-commercial) vehicles to drive. Summer travel beyond mile 15, which is hugely recommended, is by shuttle or tour bus, or under human power. The summer season in Denali runs from late May through early September.

 

Which weeks have the best weather?
Your crystal ball is as good as ours. If you do

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not mind colder temperatures, then early season (late April to early May) tends to have more high pressure days. As temperatures warm up in June, clouds become more common and bring precipitation higher in the mountains.

 

Is a weather forecast available on Denali?
Yes, the weather is broadcast nightly on FRS 1. However, forecasting weather for Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker is imprecise and difficult. Do not rely solely on the forecast; good judgment should always be used.

Visit http://www.nps.gov/dena for more information.