Park History

Park History


Mount McKinley National Park was established in 1917 to protect the unique and sensitive wildlife that inhabit the area. In 1980 the park boundaries were expanded, nearly tripling its size to include the winter grounds of the native Denali caribou and Denali, the highest point in North America at 20,310 feet. This expansion led to the renaming of the park, creating Denali National Park & Preserve, as we know it today.

Alaskan Natives and locals more commonly know Denali as “The Mountain.” The name comes from the Native Athabascans of Interior Alaska and translates to “The Great One.” With Denali’s high peaks and dramatic vertical rise, the weather surrounding the peaks can change quickly. Clouds often hide Denali from view, making North America’s highest point a treasured prize on your Alaskan adventure.

The abundance of untamed wilderness and unique wildlife make Denali one of the greatest natural places in the world. Here, you’ll have a chance to see grizzly bears, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, foxes, and wolves. Many smaller animals also inhabit the park, such as arctic ground squirrels, hoary marmots, pikas (small mammal with round body & ears, no tail), and snowshoe hares. With over 150 species of birds including arctic tern, American golden plover, arctic warbler, willow, ptarmigan, and golden eagles, Denali is a bird-watcher’s paradise.