After our cruise, Allan and I rented a car and drove to Denali National Park stopping in Talkeetna. We hoped that we would be able to see Mt. McKinley, the highest point on the North American continent at 20,310 feet. That’s more of a challenge than you might think. We stayed at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge for the views of Mt. McKinley and spectacular Alaska Range – on clear days. The views were spectacular! Talkeetna is a charming historic village located at the base of Mt. McKinley and is the staging area for over 1,000 climbers who attempt to climb Mt. McKinley. Talkeetna is said to be the inspiration for the fictional community of Cicely in the TV show “Northern Exposure.” The town keeps its mining history alive with renovated miners’ cabins used as lodging, shops and restaurants. Local artisans sell their wares at an outdoor market in the summer, and art galleries filled with unique Alaska gifts line historic Main Street. The Roadhouse, built around 1917, is one of the oldest establishments still in operation on Main Street in “Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna.” We had a great Alaska sized breakfast at the Roadhouse, which is a favorite among climbers. Numerous flightseeing tours are based in Talkeetna, offering amazing bird’s eye views of Mt. McKinley. We chartered a flight and were able to see McKinley up close and personal. It was awe inspiring.
From Talkeetna we headed to Denali National Park. We stayed at The Denali Princess. We were forewarned of the crowds in “Glitter Gulch” but it was perfect for us. Close to the entrance and the views from the deck were magnificent.
Mt. McKinley is often covered in clouds and only about 30% of visitors get to see the entire mountain. We were part of the 30% fortunate to see Mt. McKinley, not once, but 3 times.
There is only one way into the park – by school bus.
The local Athabaskan Indians reverently called the perpetually snow-covered mountain Denali, “The High One.” But in 1896, when the region was still marked as “unexplored” on official maps, a prospector dubbed it Mt. McKinley, after the presidential candidate he happened to be supporting.
The park was established as Mt. McKinley National Park on Feb. 26, 1917. The original park was designated a wilderness area, the first national park created specifically to protect wildlife, and incorporated into Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. The park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1976.
From the deck of our hotel in Talkeetna, from one of the visitor centers in the park and from the air.
NOTE: In 2015, Mt. McKinley was renamed to Mt. Denali to pay homage to the Athabaskan people who called the area home.