At 20,322 feet (6,194 meters), Denali (formerly Mt McKinley) is North America’s highest mountain peak. Formed 60 million years ago, this snow-capped granite mountain is a part of the Alaska Range and features both a northern and southern summit, the latter of which is higher and climbed more often. In August 2015, US President Barack Obama used his executive power to rename the mountain from Mt McKinley to Denali, its Alaska Native name, which Alaskans had already been using for decades.
While no one successfully summited Denali until 1913 (the first attempt was in 1903), today it is climbed very regularly. Climbers typically opt for the West Buttress Route, which begins at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) and is known as the least technical route. Still, only about half of the people who attempt this trail make it to the top. Denali is not an easy climb, and preparations must be made to stay safe and avoid dangerous predicaments.
There are many ways to experience the mountain aside from actually climbing it, however. First of all, it’s within Denali National Park, so hiking the park’s trails can award spectacular views of the high peak. When entering the park, the peak will come into view as early as Mile 9. One of the most popular places to photograph the mountain is from Reflection Pond, which offers a serene and unobstructed view. Moreover, both a flightseeing tour from Anchorage and an off-road Jeep adventure in Denali National Park allow for photo-worthy views of the continent’s highest mountain.
The entry fee to Denali National Park is $10 for individuals and $20 for cars; however, if you plan to climb Denali there will be extra fees. The best time to visit the park is in mid-May through mid-September. You can reach the park via Alaska Highway 3 (aka George Parks Highway), with the entrance sitting about five hours from Anchorage.