America’s National Parks system was created to preserve the natural beauty of the United States. Alaska is known as the Last Frontier. Put the two together and you have one of the most pristine National Parks in the entire system: Denali National Park.
Denali National Park and Preserve has been capturing the imaginations of travelers for a while so we want to give RVers a deeper look into this far-flung park including a brief history, what to do and where to stay at Denali as well as the optimal season to visit. You’ll be ready to brave this frontier in no time.
A Brief History of Denali National Park
Believe it or not, humans have been inhabiting the area around Denali for more than 11,000 years with several excavated sites around Denali showing signs of civilization dating back 8,000 years. A few thousand years later, 1906 to be exact, conservationist Charles Alexander Shelton recognized the beauty in the area surrounding Denali and wished to turn it into a National Park.
Shelton took the idea to the Boone and Crocket Club, but it wasn’t until they enlisted the support of Alaskans themselves that the National Park aim got moving. A bill was introduced to Congress in April of 1916, was finally passed on February 19, 1917, and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.
What to Do
Denali is not a park you can see in just one day as the Park itself occupies five million acres with another 1.3 million acres making up the Denali Preserve. Most of this area has been designated as wilderness area, making Denali a great National Park for the true adventurer.
Most people at Denali are there for a rugged experience so the most popular activities at Denali include hiking, biking, and camping. Most of the groomed trails originate at the Denali Visitor’s Center and can range anywhere from 0.2 to 9.5 miles. Denali is also set up for off-trail hiking with the Park Road and shuttle system able to make off-trail hiking not so intimidating.
Not all of Denali is about hitting the trails. If you prefer to experience Denali from the comfort of your vehicle then take the 92 mile Denali Park Road to get some great views of the park. Denali also offers shuttle tours as well as ranger-guided hikes so you can see the park in comfort and safety.
Other popular activities at Denali include wildlife viewing, meeting sled dogs, biking, flight-seeing (sightseeing on by way of plane) and climbing. Denali has something to offer for all types of outdoors people.
Where to Stay
There are no campgrounds within Denali’s boundaries that come with utility hookups so it’s dry camping or no camping. Riley Creek Campground is one of the more feature-rich campgrounds and is near a general store that sells camping supplies and food. Riley is also close to bathroom and showers as well as laundry facilities.
If you want something that has more creature comforts I would suggest The Denali RV Park and Motel. Sites at this park offer full utility hookups along with free cable TV and Wi-Fi access. The park also houses single showers, gift shop and camp store, laundry facilities, dump station and more, all in the heart of Denali National Park.
When to Go
Unless you are a seasoned cold weather camper, summer will be the best bet for Denali. The weather is much milder and you don’t need to worry as much about overcrowding. Denali is roughly the size of Massachusetts and sees roughly half a million annual visitors so there’s room for all even during peak season.
If you are adventurous, you can try Denali in the late spring. The weather may be chilly but not as bad as winter and you get to see some wildlife behavior and blooms that you will miss at Denali during other parts of the year. If you want to get away from it all, then there’s no better place we can think of with the size of solitude found at Denali National Park and Preserve.