Winter Diamonds

Denali National Park, Alaska
map of U.S. showing our winter, snow national park picks: Crater Lake, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Acadia and Denali

Only in Winter Vision: Northern lights—Aurora borealis—in the clear winter sky above a snowy field.
Activities: Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife watching, dog sledding.

Denali National Park offers winter on its own terms: a season of darkness, bracing cold, and quiet peace. The day may be as short as five hours, and the temperature a loud shout below zero.

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, try skiing the benches north of the park road. Or follow the creekbeds of Hines and Rock Creeks.

Backcountry options are infinite. The backcountry reservation system is suspended, so you have the run of the place, if you know what you're doing. You can follow in that great Denali tradition of dog sledding—provided you have your own team. Or you can just follow the dog routes on ski or snowshoe. Spectacular routes along the Alaska Range parallel the Denali Park Road. At the very least you owe it to yourself to visit the kennels.

As far as wildlife goes, there's plenty of winter action, including more than two dozen species of birds and many kinds of mammalian tracks in the snow. Bears hibernate during the winter, but they have been spotted as late as November and as early as March. But you'll be sharing the trail with moose. (Yield!) And if you're lucky, you may catch sight of packs of wolves as they search for winter-weakened prey.

More on Winter Sports at Denali
More on Denali National Park Main Page 

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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