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Backpacker Magazine – August 2008

Denali National Park

Hike with grizzlies in this remote northern corner of Alaska's greatest park.

by: By Willie Karidis

Photo courtesy National Park Service
Photo courtesy National Park Service

Entrance Strategy

>> Getting There Alaska's two major airports are in Fairbanks (120 miles north) and Anchorage (237 miles south). If you're renting a car, take the George Parks Highway, the main north/south thoroughfare through the state, and follow signs to the park. Not interested in paying to let your car sit? The Park Connection motorcoach offers trips from Fairbanks to Denali ($56 one way) and Anchorage to Denali ($79 one way). (800) 208-0200,

>> Season Go during the two weeks on either side of summer solstice for 650 different blooming wildflowers, 167 migrating bird species, and 20 hours of daylight; August for stable weather and northern lights; early September for fall colors, fewer crowds, and cold, bug-free nights.

>> Gear Shop Denali Mountain Works, mile 237.5 on the Parks Highway, has bear spray and bear canisters. (907) 683-1542

>> Pre-trip breakfast Chances are you'll get your permit one day and leave the next. Storm the visitor center early (it opens at 9 a.m.) and then head to McKinley Creekside Cabins, Mile 224 on the Parks Highway, for a leisurely breakfast of meatloaf and eggs. (907) 683-2277;

>> Best frontcountry campground 147-site Riley Creek is the only frontcountry campground in the park, located just inside the entrance. Adjacent to mercantile and shower/laundry facilities. $20 drive-in, $12 walk-in/per night. (800) 622-7275;

>> Permits Backcountry permits (available at the Backcountry Information Center, 907-683-2294) are limited by daily quotas that vary in number from unit to unit, and you can only make reservations in person one day in advance. Allow at least two hours to plan your trip, watch the mandatory backcountry video and safety talk, and purchase your camper-bus tickets ($29 per person).

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