Denali National Park
Denali offers abundant places to explore, with few established trails. Route-finding and trail-breaking are up to you. Difficulty levels may quickly change with snow conditions. You are free to ski, snowshoe, or dog sled wherever your interest, imagination, and ability can take you. Unlike summer, there are no closed areas in Denali during winter. Obtain detailed park topographic maps for backcountry route-finding or extended travel. Inquire at park headquarters about current travel conditions.
Skiing and Snowshoeing
For a relatively easy ski, sled, or snowshoe trip, simply follow the park road as far as you like. The smooth surface and often-broken trail make this a popular route until mid-March, when the road opens. After that, there may be snowplows or official vehicles on the road. When that happens, try skiing the benches north of the park road. Or drop down to Hines Creek. Follow it downstream to Rock Creek, and turn up rock Creek to return to the Park Road near Headquarters.
If you want to head into the backcountry, the options are infinite.
Mount McKinley is a world-class climbing destination. Although the south summit is the highest, most climbers have their eyes on the north summitNorth America's second highest peak (19,470 feet). At 17,400 feet, Mount Foraker is another world-class challenge.
Temperatures on the summits are severe, even in summer. Winter lows at just 14,500 feet can plummet below -95 degrees F! During storms, winds can gust to more than 150 miles per hour. Permanent snowfields cover more than 50 percent of the mountain and feed the many glaciers that surround its base. The mountain's granite and slate core is, in fact, overlain by ice that is hundreds of feet thick in places. Getting to the top of McKinley is not for inexperienced climbers.
All Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker climbers must register 60 days prior to beginning their ascent. Groups heading for other peaks are urged to register. There is a climbing permit fee. For information contact:
Talkeetna Ranger Station
P.O. Box 588, Talkeetna, AK 99676
Follow the trail to the kennels. You will see a trail heading off to the west. Options include: Follow the dog route that connects to the park road at several points. Continue straight ahead when the dog route forks to the right. Head west looking for a clear route downhill to Hines Creek. Follow Hines Creek downstream to Rock Creek and return to the road by Rock Creek (2 miles).
Dog Sledding - A Denali Tradition
Spectacular routes along the Alaska Range parallel the Denali Park Road. You will need to bring your own sled dog team and equipment since there are no commercial dog sled operations in the park. Please check with Denali's Kennels Manager to find out about current mushing conditions.
In 1921, Denali's first ranger patrolled the park by dog team in the winter. Today, the park's rangers continue that tradition, keeping watch over the park from the back of a dogsled during snow-covered months. Visit the kennels or look for the sled dogs on the trail during your visit.
Unobscured by city lights, the stars and aurora curtains brighten the dark winter night sky. Green is the most common color of Northern Lights.
There is plenty of winter action, including 26 species of birds and many kinds of mammalian tracks in the snow.
Bears hibernate during the winter. They have been spotted as late as November and as early as March.
Moose try to stay out of deep snow to ward off predators. Be careful on hard-packed trailseven though people make them, moose are possessive of these safe and easy passages.
Caribou move to their wintering grounds, to the north and northwest of the park road, early in the winter and journey back to calving grounds, inside the park, in early spring.
Packs of wolves may be sighted as they search for prey weakened by the demands of the harsh winter.
Dall sheep winter in the Outer Range, on the north side of the road, where strong winds keep exposed ridges free of deep snow.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication