Mount McKinley

Mount McKinley is located in Alaska and is part of the Alaskan Range of mountains.  Locally, the name Denali means “the High One.”  The mountain is located within the boundaries of Denali National Park and Reserve.

Experts in conservation and nature from around the world including members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature voted on the natural wonders of North America.  On February 26, 2014 following the conclusion of the voting, Mount McKinley was declared one of the Seven Natural Wonders of North America.

You are invited to discover and explore Mount McKinley and Denali National Park and learn what makes it one of North America’s Seven Wonders of Nature.

What makes Mount McKinley a natural wonder?

Statistically speaking, Mount McKinley is the highest mountain peak throughout North America.  The summit reaches a peak of 20,237 feet (6,168 m) above sea level.  Furthermore, the base of the mountain rises 18,000 feet (5,500 m) making it the largest mountain from a base to peak that is above sea level.  The base for Mount Everest is found on the Tibetan Plateau which places the base at about 13,800 feet (4,200 m).  This means that McKinley has a vertical rise from base to peak ranging from 17,000 to 19,000 feet (5,000 to 6,000 m), whereas Mount Everest has a vertical rise from 13,800 to 17,100 feet (4,200 to 5,200 m).

Although some people suggest that McKinley has six different peaks, it really only has two significant summits.  The North Summit is the lesser of the two and reaches a peak of 19,470 feet (5,934 m).  The South Summit is the highest point reaching an elevation of 20,237 feet (6,168 m).

Denali National Park, home to Mount McKinley, extends across six million acres (24,500 sq km).  Mount McKinley is the iconic pinnacle of the park, however it is also famous for wildlife that includes grizzly bear, moose, reindeer, and timber wolves.

What are the best ways to see and experience Mount McKinley?

There are a few places where you can see Mount McKinley, but the primary way is through the Denali National Park access road.  Visitors are not permitted to drive their own vehicles.  Rather, travelers must make reservations with the park bus service,  There are a couple of different bus types, but the end result is the same.

Each bus will travel the Denali Park road stopping to view wildlife and key remote vistas.  Wonder Lake is the furthest point in the park and involves a six hour bus ride.  Eielson Visitor Center is the most popular destination, which provides a direct view of Mount McKinley.  The primary challenge with seeing Mount McKinley is visibility.  The mountain is visible only about 20% of the time during the summer months.

More adventurous and outdoor enthusiast can plan for hiking and backpacking in Denali National Park.  It is imperative to become educated on the wildlife and expectations of the park.  Visitors are also required to have a permit for overnight backpacking.  This type of adventure certainly provides one of the most intimate encounters with the nature of Denali National Park and Mount McKinley.

When is the best time to visit Mount McKinley?

The summer months of June through September are recognized as the high season and the best time to visit Mount McKinley.  June through August provides the months with the greatest concentration of wildlife.  September can still experience wildlife, but it will be more scattered.  However, September brings the fall foliage and the red and yellow carpet that blankets the valleys and hills of Denali National Park is stunning.

Mid July through most of August is when the salmon are spawning back up stream.  The grizzly bears are out in full storing up for the winter months.  Although, the salmon are not really near Mount McKinley, a trip to Alaska to see the mountain usually places visitors in the proximity of salmon activity.

What is Mount McKinley weather like?

Mount McKinley and Denali National Park can always expect long cold winters followed by a short growing season.  The wildlife is active during the summer months eating and preparing for the long winters ahead.  The summer months usually see temperatures in the 70s during the day, but Alaska and Mount McKinley weather is incredibly unpredictable.  It can beautiful one day and snowing the next even during the summer months.  It is fair to say that snow is not expected.

The coldest temperature recorded was -75.5oF (-59.7oC) which occurred in the heart of winter, however the record cold in the month of July was -22.9oF (-30.5oC).  Knowing the temperatures can reach these kinds of lows, sure makes the having the 70s be a blessing.

Photography Tips for capturing Mount McKinley

The number one tip for photographers who are set on capturing images of Mount McKinley is to have patience and plan for multiple days in the park.  Since the mountain is only visible 20% of the time, there is no way you can play to see it.  It could easily require multiple days into the park and even then there are no guarantees.

If you are on the Denali Road and have any glimpse of Mount McKinley, should stop immediately and take pictures.  It could be socked in with clouds at any moment.

If you are a photographer and you have tips or insights for capturing images at Mount McKinley, please submit them to Seven Wonders through the Contact page.