Alaska: Chugach Mountains, Alaska Range, Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley
After several months of being entirely too busy, I have finally found time to share photos from my June 2010 trip to Alaska, and have divided them into two blog posts. This one contains images of landscapes and wildlife from the region of southwestern Alaska that encompasses the Chugach Mountains and the Alaska Range, including Denali National Park, home to the highest mountain peak in North America, Mount McKinley (over 20,000 feet above sea level). [Edit: Click here for the other Alaska blog post with images from the Kenai Peninsula.]
Panoramic view of Willow Lake and the Wrangell Mountain Range, including Mount Drum (12,010 ft.):
Thompson Pass in the Chugach Mountains, known as a treacherous area for cars in the winter. That’s not hard to believe given how it looks in June!
Prince William Sound and the Chugach Mountains, as seen from Valdez:
Views of the Alaska Range from the Denali Highway, a 135-mile gravel road that leads to the Parks Highway and Denali National Park. Most visitors don’t travel this route, which is only open in the summer, but I highly recommend it for a true wilderness experience. As a bonus, it will really make you appreciate pavement!
The reward at the end of the Denali Highway is Denali National Park and Preserve, a 6 million acre oasis of wildlife, scenery and the highest mountain peak in North America, Mount McKinley (20,320 feet above sea level). Mt. McKinley’s vertical rise of 18,000 feet from base to peak makes it visually more impressive than even Mt. Everest, which has a vertical rise of “only” 17,000 feet. The national park that surrounds Mt. McKinley is accessible only via a single 91-mile road and shuttle bus system on the northeast side of the mountain, from which visitors are free to hike and explore on their own. In mid-June, sunset was after midnight and sunrise was before 4am with no real darkness in between, so there was no chance of being lost in the dark. Still, to cover any serious ground, hopping on and off the shuttle bus system was the best way to not wear myself out on those seemingly endless days. Despite the hurdles put in place to keep the park from being overrun by tourists, every trip to Alaska should include a visit to Denali National Park, and hopefully these photos will illustrate why.
The crown jewel of Denali National Park, Mount McKinley:
The only feature of Denali National Park that could top its mountain peak is its variety of mammalian wildlife, including this female moose (making eyes at me, I think):
A mother Grizzly bear and her cub:
I was fortunate to have a close encounter with a gray wolf, one of an estimated 60 in the whole 6 million acre park:
That’s all for now. Next week I’ll post photos from the beautiful Kenai Peninsula, which juts out from the southern coast just south of Anchorage.