Denali National Park | Alaska, USA, 1998

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Denali (Mount McKinley) in the distance.

Distance : 44 miles (70.8 km) approx.

Avg. Time : 4 – 5 days

Start / Finish :

  • I started my hike at Toklat River Ranger Station (mile 53 on the Park Road) and finished at the Eielson Visitor Centre (mile 66).
  • The hike included four backcountry units – # 10, 12, 13 and 18.
  • For information on getting to and from the National Park, check out the following link from Alaskatravel.com.

Season : May to September

Maps / Info :

  • Denali National Park and Preserve is a big place. How big? The Park and Preserve combined equate to six million acres or 24,585km². That’s bigger than the state of Vermont. Bigger than Wales. Bigger than Israel (not counting the West Bank). That being said, it’s not even the biggest national park in Alaska – that honour goes to Wrangell St.Elias National Park.

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  • The Park is divided into 87 backcountry units; 41 of which have quotas to control numbers. If you’re wondering, the quotas are very low…away from the official Park Road and Campgrounds, you are unlikely to encounter anything resembling crowds in Denali National Park.

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  • Denali is grizzly bear country.  When organizing your permits / transport / cannister at the Information Centre, all hikers are required to watch a backcountry informational video  and attend a safety talk by a Park Ranger. For online information, see Bears / Animal Encounters in the HEALTH & SAFETY section of this website.
  • Supplies can be bought at the Canyon Market outside of the Park entrance, or at the Riley Creek Mercantile near the Riley Creek Campground.
  • Mt Mckinley (B-1) Quadrangle 1: 63 360 series covers the hike described below. All topographic maps for Denali can be purchased at the Information Centre.

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Route / Conditions :

  • Starting at the Toklat River Ranger Station head south and then SW along the western side of the the western branch of the Toklat River.
  • Continue along the river for approximately 8 miles before climbing SW to Green Dome (6388ft).
  • Head west for a couple of miles of spectacular ridge walking before descending to Thorofare River.
  • Ford the river, walk south for about a mile, ascend WSW up Contact Creek. Incredible views once the ridge is attained.
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Macpac Minaret

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Beautiful ridge section with views of Denali.

  • Descend via Intermittent Creek to the eastern side of Muldrow Glacier.
  • From here head south past Green Point (4235ft), skirting the true right side of Glacier Creek.
  • West of Sunset Glacier, I had to cut my hike short after tearing some ligaments in my left ankle. My original plan had been to continue on to Anderson Pass, before retracing my steps back to the confluence of Intermittent and Glacier Creeks.
  • From the confluence of these two creeks, head north for a couple of miles, and then NW across Copper Mtn.Bar, making a beeline for the now visible Eielson Visitors Centre.

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Overview :

  • Everything about Denali is big. The mountains, the rivers, the animals, the glaciers.
  • Besides the sheer size of things, the other thing I think of when it comes to Denali, is the following line from Tom Wolfe’s book, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test: “You’re either on the bus or off the bus.”  Say again? Let me explain. The vast majority of tourists visiting the national park ride the shuttle bus from one side of the park to the other. They stick to the main campgrounds, do a couple of day hikes, take some nice photos, but never stray too far from the park road.
  • To escape the crowds, grab a pack, get your permits/maps/cannister, and head for the backcountry. Denali is one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in North America; it would be a shame to come all this way and not take the opportunity to experience it on its own terms.

 

 

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