During the summer of 2015, I was fortunate enough to get a job near the boarder of Denali National Park in the interior of Alaska. The park encompasses nearly 6 million acres of land with the tallest peak in north America at its center, Denali, at 20,310ft. In the 4 months that I lived in this majestic place, I had the opportunity to experience a national park in a way I never have before. From land to sky, I saw Denali, and so can you. Here are 6 of the MUST DO excursions for your Alaskan adventure:
6. Hike to the top of Mt. Healy
When exploring Denali National Park, it doesn’t take long to realize that the access is limited to one area and that the park only has one road. From The Canyon area (around milepost 238), there are a multitude of hiking areas that are accessible by a free shuttle bus. These buses can be caught at most of the resorts in the area and give visitors access to a few main hiking trails, the visitor’s center, and the train station for the Holland America Princess Line and for the Alaska Railroad.
One of the most rewarding hikes that can be done in an afternoon, is the Mt. Healy Overlook Trail. It’s about a 6 mile round trip with a 1,700 ft elevation gain. It has some of the most beautiful views of the valley and gets a you a good introduction to the beauty of Alaska and Denali National Park
5. Hold Husky Puppies and Meet an Iditarod Champion
Head over to the Husky Homestead for a time spent holding puppies and hearing some Alaskan Dog racing history. You’ll also get the chance to listen to stories and create a dialogue with famous 4 time Iditarod Champion Jeff King, who is pretty funny to say the least! He is a very intriguing and entertaining speaker and it was enthralling to hear his stories about racing in one of the world’s most challenging races.
4. Land on an Alaskan Glacier
ERA Helicopters offers one of the most amazing flight seeing tours you’ll have the chance to get on, and if you’ve ever wanted the excuse to get into a helicopter, this is it. Landing on a glacier after taking a ride in a helicopter is one heck of an experience. You will get the chance to land on a number of different glaciers depending on the days conditions, but when you land, you’ll get to explore this world of ice and stone like never before.
3. Take A Denali National Park Bus Tour
Denali National Park is different from most National Parks because it is only accessible by personal vehicle 5 days a year. All other times of the summer, you can take a National Park Bus into the park. The only road in the park is 92 miles long, and while on your bus tour, you make many stops along the way, including the Eielson Visitor Center among many others. For a mere $51.00, you can take the bus all the way to the end of the road. Lots of opportunities to view wildlife, and the most of all, if you’re lucky, a viewing of the most elusive mountain out there, Denali.
2. Take a flight to the Arctic Circle
This was one of the first things that I did when I got to Alaska. From any of the hotels that are in the area locally known as “They Canyon,” staff from Northern Alaska Tour Company will take you to the airstrip in the city of Healy, which is roughly 10 miles north of The Canyon so you can fly onto your arctic adventure. I couldn’t believe all that I learned on my tour. We had the chance to meet a real “mountain man” who lived in the town of Wiseman (population 14). He told us about living in the remote Alaskan bush, what life was like living in sub-zero temperatures in the winter, and about raising his family in this small remote area. An unforgettable experience. Along the flight, you get to see some of Alaska’s wild places, and see the expanse of this great state.
1. See Denali up close and personal with a Summit Flight
One of the most magical experiences I had up in Alaska was taking yet another flight with Northern Alaska Tour Company, except this time it was toward the summit of the tallest mountain in North America instead up to the Arctic Circle. Our pilot, Nick, was AWESOME. Told us all about the topography of the area, weather patters, and of course, Denali. Even got to do a fly over the famous Chris McCandless bus! After hitting 20,000 ft, you put on oxygen masks and fly around the grand summit, and if you’re lucky, get a chance to join the 30% club, and see the tip top.