|a l a s k a j o u r n e y . c o m|
|Denali & the Alaska Range|
Location/Climate: On George Parks Highway 1 mile north of Denali National Park and Preserve entrance. 12"/yr. precip., -22°F72°F.
Population: 200 (2.9 percent native), much larger in summer.
Travel Attractions: Access to Denali National Park and Preserve, rafting, hiking, flightseeing, tours, backcountry lodge access, travel services.
Getting There: Scheduled train service and van and bus shuttles from Anchorage and Fairbanks; vehicle access via George Parks Highway.
Information: Inquire with local businesses.
A mile north of the Denali National Park and Preserve entrance road is McKinley Park (sometimes called Denali Park)the main area of services for park visitors. Big and small hotels, gift shops, and a few restaurants and stores are strung out along the road. Buses of various sorts share parking space with RVs and smaller vehicles. Tourists, backpackers, and seasonal employees walk the road shoulders between sites. Nowhere in the state is there a more concentrated area of travel, tour, and seasonal employment activity.
The chief businesses of McKinley Park are certainly the Lynx Creek Store, mainly because it boasts the only gas pumps in town, and the wonderful Lynx Creek Pub, offering an outside deck, microbrews on tap, and unusually good pizza. Its a favorite hangout for seasonal workers, as well as for grubby mountaineers who want beer and pizza after an attempt on a frozen summit.
Bus and rail tourists arrive by the hundreds to stay in Aramarks McKinley Chalets or Princess Cruise Lines Denali Princess Lodge, both of which offer fine restaurants. RVers and car travelers fill the other lodges, cabins, B&Bs, and RV parks in July and August. Primitive, free camping options are accessible off the Parks Highway toward Healy to those with an experienced eye.
Several diversions are available, including half a dozen bars and restaurants, raft trips, helicopter flightseeing, occasional live music, primitive trails, and a 10-minute walk to wilderness. Most businesses can connect you with tours, lodging, shuttles, and advice. The Northern Lights Photo Symphony offers splendid multimedia presentations on the aurora borealis or Denali National Park, as well as a gift shop. Its across from McKinley Chalet Resort (683-4000, $7). The Alaska Cabin Night Dinner Theater offers two hokey melodrama shows a night with family-style meals at the McKinley Chalets (800-276-7234 or 276-7234, $40).
Note that McKinley Park closes up almost completely in the winter when its home only to a skeleton hotel-maintenance staff. Cantwell and Healy are the closest year-round settlements.
Where to Stay and Eat in McKinley Park
Denali Crows Nest, above road on east side, Denali Park, 683-2723. $100$150 cabins. Great views over Nenana River valley, Overlook Bar & Grill.
Denali Princess Lodge, Parks Highway, Denali Park, AK 99755, (800) 426-0500, rail tours 835-8907. Restaurant, bar. $140$280 rooms.
Lynx Creek Pub, Parks Highway, Denali Park, 683-2547. Great pizza and brews, good Mexican food.
McKinley Chalet Resort (one of Aramarks three Denali Park Resorts), (800) 276-7234. Okay rooms $130$200, restaurant.
McKinley/Denali Salmon Bake, Parks Highway, Denali Park, 683-2733. Typical salmon bake, paper plates, breakfasts. Tent-style cabins $70, regular cabins $110.
Sourdough Cabins, Parks Highway, Denali Park, (800) 354-6020, 683-2773. Nice cabins in the trees, not too close to each other, $90$150.