Fall Rush

Experience Denali Park in autumn

A crisp breeze ruffles the fur of a tawny grizzly as it grazes in a patch of blueberries only yards from a busload of people. They whisper excitedly as camera shutters whir, but the bear is intent on its meal and pays no attention. After a few last photographs, the bus lumbers away, leaving the bear amid vivid red-gold tundra and a panorama of mountains capped with fresh snow.

Caribou with antlers held high trot across the road as the bus crests a hill, but they’re spared just a passing glance because “the mountain” is out and all eyes are on it.

“The mountain” is 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest mountain. Most Alaskans know it as Denali. The mountain is so massive it creates its own weather. Clouds often shroud it, even on otherwise clear days. But when it’s out, there’s no mistaking it, the crown jewel of the national park system in Alaska.

Denali, Athabascan for “The Great One,” sits at the heart of Denali National Park and Preserve, 6 million acres of spectacular subarctic wilderness pierced by only one narrow 92-mile gravel road. Much of the park is above treeline, with views that seem to go on forever in the crystalline air.

Julie Stricker is a freelance writer who lives in Fairbanks.

For the complete story, check out our September issue, at newsstands Aug. 21.

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