I believe most people think we have a view of Denali from our cabin.
We have a view of beautiful mountains that are part of the Alaska Range, but not “The Great One” or “The High One” (the Athabascan translations of Denali) As a comparison, our surrounding mountains in Healy reach between 4,000-6,000 feet, but Denali stands at 20,310 feet.
Thankfully, there are a number of viewpoints of Denali nearby where we live. Most often, we drive into Denali National Park & Preserve because we live close enough to the park entrance (20 minutes) and always enjoy our nature drives (and we really should take them more often). Around mile 9 on the park road is when you get your first glimpse and there’s a hike at mile 12 that gives another view. The windy and hilly park road dips in and out of the valley, so that means the view comes and goes.
Of course, the further you drive into the park, the better the views get because you are theoretically getting closer, however, private vehicles are only allowed past mile 15 during the off season, otherwise you have to take a bus during the summer season. The most iconic shot is at Wonder Lake around mile marker 85.
There are also spots along the Parks Highway (outside the National Park) where you have vantage points, both when you are driving north or south of Healy. Whenever we drive to Fairbanks, we always get excited when the mountain is out. Actually, one of my favorite views is south heading toward Talkeetna or Anchorage at the Rest Area around mile marker 120 or so. We have driven that far south all year, but have stopped there many times in the past.
It’s hard to imagine the enormity of the mountain without seeing it in person. I mean, from base to summit, it rises 18,000 feet. In the lower 48, the highest peak is Mt. Whitney in California at 14,505 feet, so the scope is almost unimaginable. I think most people come to Alaska and think they see Denali, because the Alaska Range is grand and gorgeous in itself, making up most of the landscape. But until you see Denali as the focal point dominating the surrounding landscape and showing its scale, it’s hard to imagine. I think the summer views are more pronounced than winter views because you can see the glaciated peak amongst the non-snowy mountains.
And not for nothing, but the mountain covers such a large area that it creates its own weather patterns. So more often than not, the mountain is shrouded in a thick layer of clouds. Which is why they call it “the 30% club.” The estimate is that only 30% of people who visit Alaska catch a glimpse of Denali in full view. Or sometimes if you just wait, the mountain will pop out momentarily.
I remember the first time I saw the mountain. Justin was working as a naturalist guide and doing research for his Master’s degree in the backcountry of Denali National Park & Preserve during the summer of 2003. So I went and stayed with him for a few days. I didn’t know how lucky I was at the time to see the mountain, but my first view was from Wonder Lake no less. I remember Justin saying to me, “do you see it? Isn’t it beautiful?” I was in awe of the scene, but then he tipped my chin up. Apparently I wasn’t looking high enough for the summit!
And, yes, for those who are wondering, Justin still plans some day to make another summit bid! He is 0-2, but three’s a charm???